1873 Cholera Epidemic Began In Paducah


New York Times - 1874

Dr. Ely McClellan, United States Army, read a paper presenting an outline of the course pursued by the epidemic of cholera during the year 1873, in 21 counties of the state of Kentucky. The facts upon which the report is based, said Dr. McClellan, had been obtained by the narrative of and correspondence with some 50 medical gentlemen in the portions of the state which was infected.

The Kentucky epidemic opened in McCracken County and the city of Paducah. The reports of the epidemic, as it prevailed in Paducah, are meager from the fact that no record was kept of the cases which occurred in that city. It is estimated that the deaths from cholera, from May 23rd to July 24th, were 180. About two-thirds of this number were Negroes, a majority of the remainder were foreigners, but few white residents were affected.

The first case reported in Kentucky was that of a clerk in a tobacco warehouse, who came from Memphis, which was noted on May 23rd. The case terminated fatally in six hours. The next case was that of a woman, who had recently left Memphis, and a woman who nursed her was also attacked and died June 15th. A gentleman, 55 years of age, was taken ill with cholera in the same house in which the first cases occurred and died in a few hours.

From this time, the disease became an epidemic, and it continued in existence until July 24th. No cases occurred in the jail, hotels, or poorhouse. It is a noticeable fact that after the 25th of June, on which day the sale of vegetables was prohibited, the mortality among the Negroes began to diminish. This, however, did not apply to the German population, as they disregarded the law, and a consequence was that on each Monday a large number of this class was buried.

Dr. R. Saunders reports very strongly in favor of the hypodermic use of atrophia in the treatment of cholera.

In Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky, the first case of cholera was noted in the person of a white man, who left Gallatin, Tennessee, when the epidemic was prevalent at that point, and who journeyed to Bowling Green. The case was fatal. The second case was reported June 13th. Cases were reported after this, and from July 14th the disease became an epidemic. Eighty-six cases occurred in Bowling Green between July 19th and August 10th, of which 66 terminated fatally.

Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky, has a population of 1,240 souls. The first case of cholera that occurred there was on the 5th of June, when Ann Hayes, a Negro, was attacked. She recovered. On June 10th, another case was noted, but the first fatal case occurred on June 12th. Some 50 fatal cases were noted within 15 days later.

The cholera broke out in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky, on the 8th of June. From June 12th to August 16th, 21 fatal cases occurred in Louisville. Several cases occurred later, the epidemic dying out on September 8th.

Elizabethtown, Hardin County, Kentucky, located on the line of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, is in hourly communication with Bowling Green, Paducah, and Louisville. The first case of cholera occurred there July 8th. From July 10th to September 2nd, 41 cases of cholera occurred, of which 22 were fatal. Some residents near the town were fatally affected with the disease.

Maysville, the county seat of Mason County, situated on the Ohio River, suffered greatly in 1849 from cholera. But 17 cases were reported in the town this season; 11 were fatal.

In La Grange, Oldham County, Kentucky, cholera was an epidemic from the 17th to the 29th of July. Of 31 cases reported, 15 were fatal. The sanitary condition of the town was bad.

Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky, suffered from cholera, and several deaths were noted in July and August.

The cholera broke out in Taylor County among the Negroes employed on the Ohio and Cumberland Railroad, having been communicated by persons from Tennessee.

Among the Negroes, the cholera made fearful ravages. In Lebanon, the cholera found several victims. Lebanon is the county town of Marion County, and it has a large population. It is in direct communication with the infected towns and cities. The town is located in a swampy section, and the lower section was most infected. From September 2nd to October 1st, 116 cases were reported as occurring in Marion County, with 56 deaths.

The cholera was developed in the town of Lancaster, Garrard County, Kentucky, in August. It was confined chiefly to the Negro population. The town was in a miserable sanitary condition. The number of total cases which occurred is not reported.

The epidemic of the cholera in Lincoln County was chiefly in the vicinity of the town of Stanford. Cholera made its appearance in the town on the 29th of August. The sanitary conditions of the town were very bad. During the reign of the epidemic in Lancaster, many refugees fled to Stanford, thus communicating the disease. A number of fatal cases are reported.

The only record of cases occurring in Nelson County is found in the towns of New Haven and Boston. Both of the towns connect with Louisville and other infected cities by rail. They are in the heart of thriving farming communities. The disease broke out in New Haven on August 20th. It is supposed to have been communicated from Lebanon. In the vicinity, the cholera lingered until September 21st, and several fatal cases were reported. Boston is 30 miles from Lebanon. Several deaths occurred there in September.

In Adair County, the cholera was confined principally to the town of Columbia and vicinity. In 1833 and in 1835, the citizens suffered severely from cholera. The cholera last visited the place last August, and it was communicated from Marion County. Twelve cases were noted in the house, and eight of these were fatal.

The cholera visited Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, on the 30th of August, having been communicated from a near town. More than a dozen cases were reported.

Washington County was severely afflicted with the disease, it first making its appearance in Springfield, a town situated nine miles from Lebanon.

The history of the epidemic, as it occurred in Clinton County, is very meager. A Mr. Bryson, residing in the southern portion of the county, after his return from Nashville in the month of June, was attacked with cholera and died. Several other cases were reported in various parts of the county.

The inhabitants of Jamestown, Russell County, Kentucky, had been in communication with those of Columbia during the cholera epidemic at the latter place, and by this means the cholera was communicated.

Five cases occurred in the town of Harrodsburg, Mercer County, Kentucky, from September 6th to September 16th, but only one death occurred.

Reports show that in Bourbon County, on July 11th, seven cases were reported in the town of Millersburg, all of which terminated fatally in a few hours; 21 deaths occurred up to September 1st. The total number of cases for the whole season was 76, of which nine were whites. Several cases occurred in Paris.