Henry County IAGenWeb


Cholera in Henry County 1851

SOME LOCAL HISTORY. - An Account of the Scourge by Cholera to Henry County in 1851.
By Hiram Heaton.
There is an account in the history of Kentucky of a maiden who rushed out of a block house, which was surrounded by Indians, to an outbuilding and returned with a pail of water, there being no water in the block house. That was a brave deed, but in daring the missiles of the savages, the maiden knew that many a man and woman, and perhaps some particular youth, or possibly some rival maiden, would follow her daring with breathless suspense.

Such deeds may be done when one knows applause will crown success or poignant anguish will forever enshroud one’s memory. To defy death when there is none to applaud, or perhaps when all besides have followed the dictates of prudence, or fear, and have fled, is another thing.

In 1851, when the Cholera all but demoralized the people of the village of Rome, Iowa, one man maintained a cool courage and was able to render aid to the sick and dying and to give decent interment to the dead. Some account of that terrible visitation and of the experiences of that one man through that trying time may be of interest to the readers of “The Tribune”.

The year 1851 was an unusually wet one. Skunk River was out of its banks and the mills could not grind because of the high water. On the 8th of May, George Crawford arranged plans to go to Burlington for a load of flour. He engaged a man named Jackson to go with him with his team and wagon. Together they stopped at Judge Sample’s, a mile below Rome, now the home of Judge Sample’s daughter, Mrs. Wm. Davis. At Sample’s, Crawford made a few minute’s halt to induce a couple of travelers to accompany them instead of going by the stage, which was then the means of public conveyance. Crawford’s brother, then dead, had been the first husband of one of Sample’s daughters, but she had married again a man named Woodward, but the families continued very intimate, Crawford asked for Mr. Sample, and Miss Eliza, now Mrs. Davis, said her father was not very well, but there did not seem to be much ailing him.

Crawford and Jackson proceeded to a Mr. Lusk’s, where they lodged that night. At daybreak the next morning, Crawford enquired of Dr. C. A. Clarke, whom he saw returning from the direction of Rome, where he had been. When told to Sample’s, he enquired the nature of the illness, and the doctor said, it resembled the Cholera. Returning from Burlington with he load of flour on Friday, the 11th of May, Crawford and Jackson learned that Judge Sample had died and been buried. When opposite Woodward’s house, Mrs. Woodward came to the door and called them to come, her husband was dying and she was alone. Jackson drove on to Rome with the flour, while Crawford hurried to Mrs. Woodward’s call. Woodward drew his last breath as Crawford entered. While going about preparing the dead man for interment, Eliza Sample called for help from her door. The houses were not far apart, and Crawford and Mrs. Woodward hurried to her help, but were too late to see Mrs. Sample die.

Two days later a son of Sample’s died, and by this time, the plague and the fear of it had become so great that the only person Crawford could find to help him carry the body to the graveyard, which was but a short distance from the house, was a niece of the dead man’s. While burying their sorrowful burden, as well as they could, two men on horseback rode by and called to Crawford that it seemed a heavy task that he was performing. Crawford replied that it was and begged them to come and help. The man who had spoken, whose name was Swan, said he was afraid if he helped, he, too, would die. Crawford replied, “In that case, I will bury you.” Swan dismounted and gave the needed help; his companion put spurs to his horse. In less than five days Swan died and Crawford was as good as his word and buried him.

A man by the name of Rice was taken with the disease, or else was frightened, [for Crawford contended that many died of fright], and said he must die. Dr. Clarke said, “Well, you are going among your own neighbors.” Rice died contented. A man named Parks, being something of a carpenter, made coffins for the dead, and often he would make a coffin for a person while that person was yet alive. He, too, died and was buried in a coffin of his own making.

One of the saddest deaths was that of Penelope Glover. She was affianced to James Cain [sic: Kean?]. Cain took the Cholera, but Dr. Clarke had hope of his recovery. Returning from Cain’s to his home in Mount Pleasant, the doctor met Penelope on horseback at Big Creek. She inquired of Cain and the doctor gave her a favorable account and told her to return home, that she could be of no possible service to her lover. She persisted in her purpose, took the Cholera, and died. Cain had been removed in the meantime to his own home and when Penelope died, there was no one with her in the house. A coffin had been procured for Cain in the event of his death and in this coffin, intended for her lover, poor Penelope Glover was buried.

Within two weeks, Mr. Crawford helped to bury thirty-five persons, almost all of whom had been his friends and neighbors. In some instances he had been alone at the bedside of women when they died and had put them into their coffins and then buried them.

At the outbreak of the plague Dr. Clarke had foreseen its dread weight on the community, and had sent thirty children to Mount Pleasant to be out of its way, and also not to be a burden on the men and women who must contend with it. This fact accounts for so few children having died. He also took one patient to his own home in Mount Pleasant, where, under the care of his wife, Mrs. Sarah Clarke, now of Fairfield, the sick man recovered, but so great was the fear of the Cholera that the citizens almost mobbed the doctor in his house for bringing the man into town.

At the height of the terror Drs. Clarke and Bird induced two young men of Mount Pleasant to help nurse the stricken people, who in many instances were sadly in need of attention. These two young men were Harris Palmer and Mr. Shoemahn [sic: Shuman?]. The doctors promised to treat them as if members of their own families, and Mrs. Clarke washed their clothing for them.

That fear had much to do in causing the deaths, as Crawford declared, would seem to be true, in that Dr. Bird himself, father of Mrs. Babb, broke down under the strain and but for some vigorous language used by Dr. Clarke in his presence, seemed to be numbered with the victims. Bird was so shocked at Clarke’s profanity, so unheard of, and unexpected, that he forgot his collapse and recovered.

How faint is the recital of these terrible days. What man would not much prefer taking his chances in a bloodier battle than any of the great civil war to meeting the pestilence that walketh in darkness; this destruction which wasteth at noonday?

[“Fairfield Tribune”, Fairfield, Iowa, November 25, 1896, page 1]

Judge John Sample's Gravesite on FindAGrave

View map of Cholera Hill Cemetery from Google Earth

Transcribed by Pat Ryan White for Henry County IAGenWeb, July 2019.

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