The following article is taken from a Fleming County newspaper (I do not have the name), giving accounts of the cholera epidemics from 1852 to 1855. So much of this type of information would be lost if it weren’t for reports of this kind, written by people who were there, or their children who were told these stories by their parents.
July 29, 1930
The Cholera Scourge of 1852-1855
The following account of the scourge of Asiatic cholera that visited Flemingsburg and Fleming County in 1855 was given me by Horace C. Ashton, October 28, 1925. He had a sound and capable memory.
The first case was on County Court day of June. The victim was Mrs. Patrick Maley. It was never discovered how she caught the disease. As soon as it was known that there was a case of cholera in the town the people quickly dispersed.
Marcus Wallace died of the disease, the family deserted the house and L. W. Andrews, Isaac Demint and a son of Ben Young gave him burial. Young died the next day. Mr. Wallace’s wife died, as did her brother-in-law. Ben Wallace and his wife lived where Hord Armstrong now lives, although the house was not completed at that time. Thomas Wells later finished it.
The following were some of the deaths: Dr. Charles Hart, Dr. R. M. Grimes, Dr. E. O. Bell, uncle of Ed Kenner; William McDonald, father of the late Arthur McDonald; Dillon Bridges, Benjamin Harbeson, Burdman, a carriage painter. Samuel Stockwell, who had retired to Bell Grove Springs, dispatched a note to Dr. E. O. Bell, inquiring if it would be safe for him to return to his home in Flemingsburg. The doctor replied that the disease had abated, and all danger had passed. Sad to relate, the doctor took the disease and died, the last victim of the scourge. The large majority of the deaths was among Negroes and foreigners. Several Irish families lived in dwellings where Dudley Garage now is, and where the clerk’s office now stand, were taken by the disease. Six slaves of Benjamin Harbeson were buried in one day. Seven slaves of Maj. Wm. H. Darnall died. L. W. Andrews, Isaac Demott, David McGavitt, Ike and Dave Vansant buried the dead. Peter Burke dug the graves and conveyed the bodies to the grave yard in a one-horse wagon covered to imitate a hearse. Altogether there were 117 deaths in the county and of these 47 were in town. A large majority of the population of the town fled to escape the fatal disease. Grass and weeds grew in the streets until they looked like the fields.
C. L. Dudley informs me that there were some cases of cholera in Flemingsburg in 1852. He says:
‘In 1852 my father, Joseph Dudley, lived at the intersection of Mt. Sterling Avenue and Water Street, where Wallace Peck now lives. John Pratt, a blacksmith, lived next door where George Faulkner now lives. Mr. Pratt had three sons, James, William and Edward. I played with William in the afternoon and the next day he took cholera and died the same day. His younger brother, Edward, died with the same disease. Mrs. Pratt, their mother, fell a victim to the same malady. A Negro man who worked for Mr. Pratt, at his trade, died also. I was eight years of age. William Pratt was some older than I. There were doubtless other deaths in town, but I cannot recall who they were.’
Mrs. Harriett Dudley Ashton remembers that Mrs. Pratt left an infant, about one year old, that was taken into the Dudley home and cared for till Mrs. Perrine, who lived near Elizaville, a near relative of Mrs. Pratt, took the child and reared her to womanhood. Mrs. Perrine was the mother of two deaf and dumb daughters. Mrs. Ashton also remembers that the Sunday before William Pratt died that he with others was in the old grave yard, now our cemetery, William climbed up into a large buckeye tree, gathered a number of buckeyes and threw down at the root of the tree and said, ‘When I die I want to be buried there,’ and it was done as he requested. Mrs. Ashton says that when the cholera was raging here in 1855, Thomas Botts and Jackson Darnall each would kill a mutton on alternate days and bring it to her father’s home where it was cooked, and thence was distributed to the homes of the suffering people.
At the siege of the cholera in 1855 the late Arthur McDonald, father of Hargis McDonald, was stricken. He was about 18 years old and clerking for Bishop & Morris, where the Oddfellow’s building now stands. He was given up for dead, and a man came to the home to take his measure for his coffin. The doctor, appearing on the scene at this juncture decided that he was not dead, and administered to him an enormous dose of calomel, which saved his life. It was through violent vomiting and purging that cholera operated, and usually only a few hours were endured by the patient.
The most effective remedy for cholera was sulphate of copper, arsenic and camphor in very minute doses.
During the cholera of 1855, Captain L. M. Cox and his brother, Judge Cox, took their families to Mayslick, but they remained in Flemingsburg, occasionally visiting the families. John Cox, now living in Flemingsburg, son of Judge Cox, was only three years old at that time, but gives many details of their stay in Mayslick. This is remarkable.
Dr. R. M. Skinner says that J. W. Ball and an aunt, Miss McAtee, were attacked by cholera in 1852, at Esculapia Springs in Lewis County, and recovered. These cases were rare.
The Louisville Daily Courier, Jefferson County, Kentucky
Friday, August 17, 1855