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1851 Cholera Epidemic


Posted By: Debbie Nash - Volunteer (email)
Date: 3/1/2005 at 22:31:21

Wednesday, August 23, 1899
Page 6, Columns 3 & 4


Col. W. S. MOORE, of Des Moines, who was formerly a resident of Fairfield, read a paper on his "REMINISCENCES OF 1851," in which he described among other things, the cholera epidemic of that year in Black Hawk Township.

"....Keokuk at that time was not much of a city, judged by the number of its inhabitants or the size of the place, but as a wholesale business mart it took first place, its arteries of trade extending throughout the entire southern half of the state. All the retail stores of our now great Capitol City then and for some years afterwards, were supplied from the wholesale houses of the Gate City, and when the Des Moines river was not navigable by boats, goods were hauled the entire distance on wagons drawn by oxen, there being at that time not a mile of railroad west of the Mississippi River.....In April of that year 1851 I first set foot upon Iowa soil in the city of Keokuk.....

On the second of July 1851, cholera broke out in the neighborhood in which I lived in Jefferson County, six miles north of Fairfield, there being some 30 cases in the neighborhood. The fatalities, however, were confined to half a dozen families. At that time cholera was more or less prevalent in all parts of the United States, and was specially destructive of life in the cities and towns along the Mississippi River. It was brought into this, Jefferson County, neighborhood from Keokuk, by Michael SHAFER, a young man of the neighborhood, who was taken with it after arriving at the home of his father, having been at Keokuk after goods for the merchants at Fairfield. The father of the young man, Solomon SHAFER, and his mother, Polly SHAFER, and brother, Leander SHAFER, were stricken and died on July 3, 4 and 5, respectively. Michael SHAFER recovered and yet lives. In the neighborhood lived James L. HAYWOOD and Elijah STEVENS, who were brothers-in-law of Solomon SHAFER, the wives of the three men being sisters. Mr. and Mrs. HAYWOOD and two sons and a daughter, James H., Benjamin and Elizabeth were stricken and died - - the father and mother on July 11, James H. on the 10th, Benjamin on the 12th, and Elizabeth the 17th. Mr. and Mrs. STEVENS were taken ill with the disease and Mrs. STEVENS died suddenly on the 14th day of July. Mr. STEVENS also was pronounced dead and was prepared for burial, but subsequently came to life and died 20 years ago at the advanced age of 90 years. He is remembered as a jovial, kindly man, who enjoyed living, and the kind of person who would not yield to the grip of the grim monster prematurely, as it is evident he did not. The cholera spread among those people in consequence of their attention to their stricken relatives.....

Capt. D. L. HAYWOOD, a well known farmer living near West Grove, Davis County, is a son of James K. HAYWOOD, and to him I am indebted for the main facts in reference to the deaths in the HAYWOOD, SHAFER and STEVENS families.

In this case it is proper that mention should specially be made of a noble old hero of the neighborhood, Mr. Charles BLAKELY, who, upon the breaking out of the epidemic, at once threw himself into the breach, and nursed the stricken neighbors and assisted in their burial. He was probably the only neighbor, aside from relatives, who had the courage to enter the sick chambers, and he seems to have been providentially saved from attack by the fatal complaint. Charley BLAKELY was a one armed man, known to almost everybody in Jefferson County.


Jefferson Documents maintained by Joey Stark.
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