Morbid Fact Du Jour for February 14, 2018

Today’s Contagious Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Between August and November 1873 Shreveport, Louisiana lost one-quarter of its population (or about 2,500 out of 10,000) to the third greatest epidemic of yellow fever to strike the United States. About half of these died and the other half fled, never to return. Almost all of the roughly 1,200 victims are buried at Oakland Cemetery, 759 of them in a mass grave called the yellow fever mound, in the cemetery’s southwestern quadrant. The number of victims in this mound may be lower than the true figure, since the number was calculated from newspaper accounts which were not completely accurate.

Marker from Oakland Cemetery.

The following is a circa 1935 account of the epidemic by Mrs. Geo. T. Martin, one of Shreveport’s pioneer citizens:
“It was in August of 1873 when the fever began to rage in Shreveport.  Some of
the families moved away temporarily but those of us who could not leave went
through the most horrible time that Shreveport has ever known.
“I was married on Saturday, Sept. 10, 1873.  On the following Monday my
husband was taken sick with the fever and I nursed him until Thursday
following, when I, too, went to bed with chills and fever.  There were at the
time about fifty people dying each day from this disease.  Dr. Dalzell, one of
the finest men our city has ever known, worked night and day among the sick
trying to check the death rate.  What we would have done without him and the
others who helped him, shall never be known.  Businessmen who could not leave
their work died by the score.  A newspaper clipping of one issue of the
Shreveport Times told of the heavy mortality in the business district.  The
business district was bounded by the levee, Crockett, Spring and Milam Streets
on one day, 12 men were listed as having been claimed by the fever.  Their
names were: Nathan Hoss, Willie Elstner, Jr., John Mundy, O.T. Collins, Henry
Prescott, James Hoss, Paph La Cossit (who married my foster sister), Chas. W.
Pomeroy, H.C. Silver, W. W. McCain, T.L. Walker, and a restaurant man.
“Graves were filled as fast as they could be dug.  All during the night horses
could be heard carrying the dead, and the moans and weeping of the bereaved
families swept over the town.  Girls who were well today were dead from the
terrible fever in a week’s time.  My husband was in the upper story of the
house where we were living at the time and I was downstairs.  ‘There were days
when I watched for them to carry up a casket for him, or maybe bring one to
me.  We were so sick, the plans had been made for our burial together.  As
fast as victims died, they were buried without much ceremony to ease the pain
of those left.  When entire families were swept out by the fever, their
clothes and everything in the house was burned.
“I shall never forget the day Whit McKeller died, I could hear him groaning
and crying out in his fever.  Nothing could be done to ease him.  He was in my
Aunt’s house at the time, and I ask Auntie often if he was dying.  She told me
that he was not, but I knew from her tone of voice that she did not mean it.
He died that day after he moaned and called out all day.  It was a fearful

Caring for the sick
“We lived on Spring Street at the time, and at night I could hear the distant
street car, with its strong horses pulling it, as it went down the street.
The fever continued well into the latter part of September and I remember how
joyful every surviving Shreveport was at the time to see cooler weather
approach.  My husband and I survived the sickness, but it was many months
before we were strong.  Nothing before or since has ever come to Shreveport to
leave such a trail of grief and suffering.”

Culled from: US Gen Web Archives and Oakland Cemetery
Generously submitted by: Jason Cole


Arcane Excerpts: Monsters

Here is another excerpt from Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s (of Corn Flakes fame) 1877 book,Plain Facts for Young and Old.


Monsters. — Defects and abnormalities in the development of the embryon [sic] produce all degrees of deviation from the typical human form. Excessive development may result in an extra finger or toe, or in the production of some peculiar excrescence. Deficiency of development may produce all degrees of abnormality from the simple harelip to the most frightful deficiency, as the absence of a limb, or even of a head. It is in this manner that those unfortunate individuals known as hermaphrodites are formed. An excessive development of some parts of the female generative organs gives them a great degree of similarity to the external organs of the male. A deficient development of the male organs renders them very similar in form to those of the female. Redundant development of the sexual organism sometimes results in the development of both kinds of organs in the same individual in a state more or less complete. Cases have occurred in which it has become necessary, for legal purposes, to decide respecting the sex of an individual suffering from defective development, and it has sometimes been exceedingly difficult to decide in a given case whether the individual was male or female

Such curious cases as the Carolina twins and Chang and Eng were formerly supposed to be the results of the union of two separate individuals. It is now believed that they are developed from a single ovum. It has been observed that the primitive trace… sometimes undergoes partial division longitudinally. If it splits a little at the anterior end, the individual will have a single body with two heads. If a partial division occurs at each end, the resulting being will possess two heads and two pairs of legs joined to a single body. More complete division produces a single trunk with two heads, two pairs of arms, and two pairs of legs, as in the case of the Caroline twins. Still more complete division may result in the formation of two perfect individuals almost entirely independent of each other, physiologically, but united by a narrow band, as in the remarkable Siamese twins, Chang and Eng.

In a curious case reported not a great while ago, a partially developed infant was amputated from the cheek of a child some time after birth.

The precise cause of these strange modifications of development is as yet, in great degree, a mystery.08

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