File submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County Heritage Page by Robert D. Mumford, 26 August 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

The Cholera Epidemic of 1873,
in Lincoln County, Missouri.

In this country, there have been at least 4 major outbreaks of cholera: 1832, 1849, 1866, and 1873. For the period between 1849 and 1854, no twelve-month period went without an outbreak somewhere in the United States. In the 1849 epidemic, Lincoln County suffered only a few isolated deaths.  Its only a guess, but one of those few may have been my ancestor, Thomas Mumford, who disappeared from the records in 1849. In the outbreak of 1865 - 1866 not a single death was recorded, according to the Troy Herald.

The story would be quite different in 1873, however.  By the Troy Herald's count, between 15 & 20 persons died from cholera that year. The outbreak started in late June and deaths continued into August. By my own count of obituaries published by the paper, there were 26 deaths. I have attempted here to list all that died, along with any articles about the cholera, which have historical and genealogical value. I don't believe the paper accounted for all deaths, especially of those from "the county."

I hope you find something about your ancestors in these pages. At the least, they should give some insight into what life was like in Lincoln County at a time of great stress and suffering. I have tried to emulate the newspaper format the best I can. I feel it adds to the experience. I have replaced any text that I could not read with question marks: "???" , and text that I did not have in my copies is marked with periods: ".....". My apologies for missing text, my copies were not the best.  

-- Robert L. Mumford

      Charles E. Rosenberg: THE CHOLERA YEARS, c. 1962 & 1987, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

      The Troy Herald, Troy Missouri. Issues from July 2nd thru August 13th, 1873. From the microfilm at the Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia, Missouri.


     The Cholera – This disease is in our midst. According to the general opinion of medical men, it is not the true Asiatic Cholera, nor is it epidemic. It is the same form of disease that first made its appearance in this country at New Orleans and Memphis. In these two places, the attack has been milder, and the mortality less than if the visitation were of the true type. We have had several cases with four deaths in town, and there have been fatal cases in other parts of the county. The later cases have not proved so fatal as the first examples, indicating that the disease has become more mild, or that greater care and precaution are taken. It will be noticed that all diseases of this class, summer complaints, dysentery ad the like, will assume, more or less, some of the distinguishing symptoms of cholera, with a strong tendency to run into this disease.
     We mention these facts in order that our readers may understand something of the disease with which they may have to deal. Every one should be prepared. The utmost care should be taken that dwellings be clean and properly ventilated. An astringent preparation should be kept in the house ready for immediate use.
This can be had from the prescription of a physician. The following is an excellent formula: equal parts of the tinctures of opium, camphor, capsicum, peppermint and rhubarb – dose ten to twenty drops in wine glass of water. It may be used when a physician is not at hand to prescribe. Powdered ice, freely administered will be beneficial. At the commencement of the disease, use the above remedies, and immediately call a physician. If no physician can be had, continue the treatment; in case of sinking, use mustard to the stomach and extremities, and alcoholic stimulants internally. Avoid all quack nostrums. Above all remember that fear kills two out of three fatal cases. Fear is also a prominent exciting cause of the disease. With the proper attention paid to hygiene, we think but little danger is to be apprehended.


- Sanitary Regulations - The council met on Thursday last and appointed a sanitary committee consisting of James D. Brown, George W. Colbert and John McDonald. It is their duty to make a thorough examination of the town, and to report to the town marshal all nuisances, cases of deficient sewerage, ventilation, and the like. The Marshal will notify trhe owners of the premises upon which the nuisances are found, and if not abated in a given time, will be acted upon by the council at the expense of the owners. We understand that the examinations of the committee thus far have revealed an astounding amount of filth and putrefaction - a condition most favorable to the spread of disease at any time, but especially so now when cholera morbus prevails to such an extent, and its symptoms resemble so much the real asiatic cholera. The work of the committee is an onerous one, and it may be that some nuisances will escape their notice. It will be well, therefore, for our citizens to aid them by information, and every other means in their power. This work is a most necessary one, and upon its faithfull performance depends, in a great measure, our preservation from the scourge that threatens us.

- DIED -

SHIRKEY - June 25th, 1873 at ? Hotel, In this place, of Cholera. Samuel Shirkey, aged about 60.

VERDIER - June 25th, 1873, at his residence in Auburn, this county, Cholera Morbus., M. D. L. Verdier.

LAY - June 28th, 1873, at his late ?, in this place, of Cholera Morbus, Cornelious (?) Lay, aged 48 years, 6 months, ? days. Mr Lay was a native of Pulaski Kentucky. He moved to this state 20 years ago.

WORSHAM - July 1, 1873, of ? disease, Mrs. Frances, wife of Capt. Worsham.

ROGERS - July 1, 1873, at his residence in this place, of Cholera, Josiah W. Rogers, aged 38 years and 25 days. He was a native of New Hampshire.


      ........... CAKE & ROGER'S TANNERY      .....concern has lately met with a sad ....death of one of its proprieters....J. W. Rogers, who was taken.....midst last week by cholera. .......this loss will double the ......abilities of the surviving will go on as here-....

CRUMP & WING      The delicate health of Benedict Crump, and his recent death, coupled with the public and agricultural duties of F. Wing, have prevented this store from keeping entirely up to its former standard for some months past, although it has maintained an average above ordinary country stores. The death of Mr. Crump necessitating a settlement of and administration upon the co-partnership estate of this firm, the store is not in full trim, but will be ready by the time the busy season sets in.

DR. S. T. EAST      Dr. East has been in the drug business here for the past six or seven years, and the reliability of his house is well known. He has a magnificent store, and keeps, outside the regular business, pictures and frames, literary publications, periodicals, and notions without number. Dr. East is a graduate of medicine, and is therefore very particular and correct in preparing prescriptions. Both of our drug stores are doing a good business.

- DIED -

HOLCOMB - July 8, 1873, at the residence of her husband four miles north of Troy, of cholera morbus, Mrs. Perilla, wife of Hardin Holcomb, aged 37 years.

BIRKHEAD - July 4, 1873, at the residence of her son, J. M. Burkhead, Esq., three miles east of this place, of dysentery, Mrs. Joanna Birkhead, aged 81 years, 11 mos. and 7 days.

FRAZIER - July 5, 1873, in this place, at the residence of his grandmother, Mrs Henry Martin, of cholera infantum, little Harry, youngest child of Mrs. Celia Frazier, aged 2 years, 5 months, and 15 days.

WHITESIDES - July 6, 1873, at his late residence nearAuburn, of cholera morbus, Jacob Whitesides, at an advanced age.

FRAZIER - July 7, 1873, at the residence of her husband in this place, of cholera morbus, Mrs. Sarah, wife of Wm. Frazier, Esq., aged 40 years.

CARTER - July 7, 1873, in this place, at the residence of her grandfather, Capt William Worsham, of cholera morbus, Miss Sarah F. Carter, aged 17 years and 23 days.

BRAGG - July 7, 1873, at the residence of his father in this place, of cholera morbus, Henry, son of Wm. Bragg, aged 20 years and 22 days.

MARTIN - July 8, 1873, at her late residence in this place, of cholera morbus, Mrs. Mary A. Martin, aged 64 years, 5 months, and 8 days.


     Our Little Town has been visited by a scourge unparalleled in its history. The Cholera for the past two or three weeks has been terrible in its ravages, and the rate of mortality has been frightful. In the previous visitations of this dread disease into this country, Troy has been comparatively unharmed. In 1849 when the cholera was more generally distributed and its effects more fatal than at any time before or since, we had a few deaths, but they were isolated, and created no general feeling of alarm. In 1865-6 not a single death was reported from this disease. It was not strange therefore that we should feel easy notwithstanding the report that came to us through the newspapers of the existence of the cholera in some of the southern cities, and of its expected advent in St. Louis. What gave further assurance to this feeling of safety was the fact that in the opinion of the best medical scientists of the country the disease was a distinct type from the true Asiatic cholera, wanting its virulence and lacking its rapid propagation by contagion and infection; and that it was nothing more than malignant cholera morbus, cholerine or sporadic cholera. It was considered that the scope of the disease would be limited and circumscribed, and that the spread would be soon arrested.
     This feeling of security was soon dispelled by the sudden appearance of the fell monster. On the 24th of last month the first case was reported; it was a fatal one. The next day another fatal case. A respite of a day or two followed by many cases of that class of disease invariably attendant upon cholera, then one of the true type which through timely aid recovered, and one terminating in death. This brings us to Saturday, June 28th. The following week there were two deaths and one severe case that recovered. This led our people to hope that the worst was over. A few families had left town through fear of the disease; but the general feeling of the town was that little danger was to be apprehended. The town council had met and inaugurated sanitary measures. A committee had been appointed to examine and report nuisances, and these the marshal was to order the owners of the premises to promptly abate.
     On the Monday following (July 7th) this insidious disease manifested itself with increased fury - the deaths on that day numbering three. The exodus of our population now began in earnest. In a short time at least half the inhabitants of Troy had fled. The mortality was unchecked, and the close of the week recorded eight deaths from cholera.
     Dr. McFarland of Clarksville who is about to remove to Troy was
telegraphed to and came at once to assist the physicians of our town. Drs. Ward, ?Hutt?, Bourland, and McLellan, who though wearied and almost exhausted with constant watching were ever ready to minister to the wants of the afflicted community. It is but right that the self-sacrificing devotion of these conscientious members of a noble profession to the cause of suffering humanity in this trying hour, should be recognized and commended. It is no less proper that just praise should be awarded to that noble band of nurses who. forgetful of self and danger, have been engaged day and night in their ministerations of mercy at the bedside of the dying. While many cases are unknown to us, we mentionthe following names as most conspicous and untiring in the work of relieving the agonyand soothing the last hours of their fellow creatures: Misses Hattie White, Sarah J. Fentern, Mollie Wells, and Messrs. R. A. Trail, W. A. Knapp, W. T. Baker, James Linihan, W. B. Thornhill, Joe Ellis, Porter E. Norten, James King, and J. L. Van ?Wers?.
     In addition to this self-imposed task, Mr. Trail has faithfully performed all the onerous and difficult duties placed upon him as town marshall by the sanitary comittee. To his prompt and thorough execution of the orders of this community many of our citizens doubtless owe their lives. But few can have an adequate idea of the magnitude of his labors in clearing the town of the offensive nuisances that have been the fruitful sources of the disease. Laborers were few and hard to obtain and in the general demoralization were not disposed to work. Under every discouragement the work of purification has gone on, and we believe fully accomplished. This and other measures have been largely instrumental in arresting the course of the disease. With four-fifths of our people gone, and the town cleared of everything that can foster and spread the germs of infection, we believe and hope that the disease has spent itself.
     Our town for more than a week has presented a most melancholy appearance. The streets have been almost entirely deserted. The business houses mostly closed and business of all kinds, except that of the druggist and undertaker, suspended. Persons from the country venture into town only upon the most urgent demands. The effect of the sudden change from busy, bustling life and activity to the solemn funereal stillness was simply appalling. With some of us the silent houses, the deserted streets, with a figure now and then flitting past with the invariable question, "Is ----dead? Any new cases?" and the ever replenished fires of coal on the street corners placed by the order of the mayor to dispel the noxious emanations, required no vivid imaginations to recall recollections of besieged and despairing camps in the late war. 
     The speculations as to whether or not the disease be the true Asiatic cholera, we regard as but little importance to our readers. It is as rapidly fatal, and of the fact that it is as infectious, there can be but little doubt. Of the well marked cases in the corporate limits of Troy, fourteen out of eighteen, nearly seventy-eight percent-have died. The best medical treatment with the most attentive and careful nursing seems to have had but little effect when the disease had taken firm hold upon the system. We have lost two per cent of our entire population and a true ratio, taking into consideration the mortality while the town has been nearly stripped of its inhabitants, would be a much greater per cent - how much greater it would be hard to estimate.

Report of the Sanitary Comittee.      The following is the report of the sanitary committee. This committee we desire to say, have been most efficient and prompt in the discharge of their duty. The thanks of the citizens are due them for what they have done:
     The sanitary committee of the town of Troy beg leave to make the following report:
     1st. That the town has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, and that they have caused to be burned upon the streets two hundred bushels of stone coal besides a large amount of wood. They also desire to state that the citizens generally have cheerfully responded to the order of said committee by cleaning and disinfecting their premises.
     2nd. That there has been but thirteen deaths from cholera in the past fifteen days, no deaths within the last four days, and no new cases to report.
     3rd. That thirty-four families and a considerable number without families left town, but fortunatel, however, but one physician, and his place is now ably filled in the person of Dr. McFarland, of Clarksville. We only allude to this matter because of the impression prevailing in the county that we have no physicians in Troy.
     We trust and we believe that choilera has taken its departure; and we hope that the people of the county who have been deterred from visiting us on that account, will once more enliven our streets and business houses with their presence.
     John McDonald,
     G. W. Colbert,   }Committee
     James D. Brown,
     Troy, July 15th.

- DIED -

BROWN - July 9, 1873, in Grafton California, Wade, grandson of Jas. D. Brown, Esq., of this place, in the fifth year of his age.

HART - July 9, 1873, at the residence of her father in Troy, of cholera, Rose Ellen, oldest daughter of Joseph Hart, aged about 16 years.

HART - July 10, 1873, of cholera, Mary, last surviving daughter of Joseph Hart, aged about 11 years.

HART - July 11, 1873, of cholera, Temperance, wife of Joseph Hart.

MARTIN - July 10, 1873, in this place, of cholera, Miss Josephine A. Martin, daughter of the late Mrs. Mary A. Martin, aged 26 years and 2 months.

SYDNOR - July 12, 1873, at the residence of her late husband two miles south of Troy, Mary Florence, wife of Thomas Sydnor, in the 24th year of her age.

MORAN - July 12, 1873, at the residence of Wilfred Lee, Esq., three miles west of Millwood, of cholera, Bridget Moran, aged about 15 years.

JAYNES - July 13, 1873, at his late residence, two miles south of Troy, of cholera, Henry Jaynes, aged about forty-five years.

SPRINGSTON - July 13, 1873, at the residence of her father, Peter Springston, in this place, of cholera, Albertie G. Springston, aged 8 years, 8 months, and 27 days.

GIBSON - July 13, 1873, at his late residence two miles east of Troy, of cholera, Henry Gibson, colored.


     The hope expressed in our latest issue that the cholera had abated its fury has been realized. Since then we have had but one death in town, and but one other well marked case of the disease. The measures suggested by the sanitary committee have been faithfully carried out and every precaution has been taken by the town authorities and our citizens to prevent its recurrence as an epidemic. With the present regulations in force we consider Troy as safe as any other place.
     It is likely that the disease will manifest itself occasionally until autumn, but we are satisfied that the cases will be isolated and that the cholera will not rage again as an epidemic. We are further satisfied that from now there will be no greater danger of contracting the disease in Troy than elsewhere. The reason for this is plain. The disease invaded this place in exactly the same manner as it did other parts of the county. That it became epidemic here, while sporadic elsewhere in the county, was due entirely to causes which offered a nucleus for its evolution and spread. This hypothesis is based upon the latest researches of medical science. These causes, thanks to our sanitary regulations and the exertions of our citizens, no longer exist. Our town has been thoroughly disinfected and cleansed of everything that could generate noxious gases, or be the vehicle of infection.
     As yet but very few of those who left to escape the disease have returned, and our streets are still deserted. Persons from the country shun us as much as ever, and only venture in on the demand of important business. While we commend their care and prudence, we must represent that so much of it as makes them regard Troy as a breeder of pestilence, is unnecessary. It is furthest from our intention to say or do aught that would inspire false confidence, or cause the proper care and precaution to be abandoned. On the contrary we have, from the first approach of the disease, warned our readers of the necessity of the tmost care and vigilance. We still recommend the same measures of precaution, and the same attention to hygiene. We believe, however, that the time has come when the absentees may safely return, and the people of the county resume their business relations with us. In this view we are supported by medical advice.
     Many exaggerated reports of the ravages of the cholera have been circulated, the effect of which has been to create unnecessary alarm in the minds of the people, and false
impressions concerning our actual condition. The continued circulation of these reports will work much injury to the business of the town; hence the necessity on the part of our citizens or removing false impressions by spreading reliable information as to the health of this place. We have, since the commencement of our affliction, kept our readers fully posted as to the extent and the mortality of the disease, and privately, whenever occasion offered, justified and advised the exodus of our population. We are not therefore open to the imputation of endeavoring to decieve when we reccomend the return of our citizens and the resumption of broken business relations.
     To sum up: Troy is as safe from the cholera as any other place; that the disease ceased to exist here as an epidemic on the 11th of this month, and that the cases we have had since that time, and those we may yet have, are sporadic, such as are liable to occur anywhere; and finally, that so long as our present sanitary regulations are enforced, the cholera will not appear here as an epidemic, because the propagating germs have been effectually destroyed.

     All the fools are not yet dead and there is no law in this country against a man being as big a fool as he can. A man, whose name we have not heard, saw a neighbor of his preparing to come to town and gave him a dollar to buy some coffee. After some conversation the neighbor remarked that he must hurry up as it would be night before he could get to Troy and return home. "You going to Troy?" asked the man in great alarm. "Yes." "Why, I thought you were going to Truxton. G'e'my dollar back. Don't fetch me any coffee from Troy; don't come on my place after going to Troy." And after getting back his dollar, he incontinently fled the presence of the man who was so rash as to venture to Troy.

     The Montgomery Standard thinks that the cholera at this place was probably caused by some impurities in our town spring, from which, it says, nearly all our citizens use water. In this out con-temporary is doubtless mistaken. Not the half of our citizens use water from the town spring, and not a death has occurred in any family during the epidemic that used that water exclusively. The water from our town spring is cool, clear and wholesome, with so little mineral in it that it is with difficulty detected. The disease was brought about by other causes, the air was heavy and damp, and during its prevalence the wind blew from the east and southeast, which to many systems is very enervating.

     It has been suggested to us that in our last week's paper, we neglected to do justice to two of our citizens who with a truly commendable, self-sacrificing spirit, devoted themselves during our affliction to the good of the town and the preservation of the property of the citizens. It is well known that the corps of nurses and the posse of the marshall engaged in executing the orders of the sanitary committee, left no available force to keep within bounds the huge coal fires that were kept burning upon the streets to dispell miasma and purify the atmosphere. In this emergency, Sim Thornhill and John McDonald, with sleepless vigilance, gaurded the fires noght after night until the exigency was past. It is to their forethought and care that we owe our preservation from the probablility of a conflagration that would have been as destructive to the material prosperity of our town as the cholera has been to the lives of its inhabitants. We repair this omission with pleasure, believing, as we do, that that merit wherever found should be recognized and commended.

      We give as far as we have been able to ascertain the places our absent population now "ressides:" J. R. Know, Elias and Wm., Norton Colorado ; Dr Waddy and family, Princetown, Kentucky ; Fred Wing and family, Austin Wing and family, Jacksonville, Illinois ; Chas. Wing and family, Arcadia, Iron County ; J. M. McLellan's family, Sedalia ; Mrs. Withrow and family, T. W. Withrow and J. R. Knox's family, Ottumwa, Iowa ; R. H. Norton, St. Paul, Minnesota ; J. F. Brown and family, Jonesburg ; N Ackerman and family, and J. B. Allen's family, Warrenton ; Dr. East's family and Mrs. Chas. Wheeler, St. Charles ; H. W. Perkins and family, St. Louis County ; E. N. Bonfils and family, Prairieville ; J. Creech, Calhoun County, Illinois ; R. D. Walton and family, Truxton ; John Henry and family, St. Louis ; Leonard Henry and family, St. Charles ; Geo. Gentry, Mrs. Poensalot and family, Mel. Glore and family, W. H. Swan and family, Chantilly ; Mrs. Wm. Norton and family, Wright City ; Rev. Mr. Robinette and family, Martinsburg.



BIRKHEAD - July 11, 1873, at his residence 4 miles east of Troy, of dysentery, John M. Birkhead, in the 48th year of his age.

BOURLAND - July 18, 1873, at the residence of her husband in Troy, of cholera, Mrs. Judith A., wife of Dr. Jos. W. Bourland, in the 28th (?) year of her age.

CHANDLER - July 19, 1873, at the residence of her husband, 3 miles east of Troy, of cholera, Mrs. Matilda A., wife of R. M. Chandler, aged 33 years, 6 months and 3 days. The same day, of cholera infantum, Charles, youngest child of R. M. and M. A. Chandler, aged 1 year, 3 (?) months and 24 days.

     We have recieved a late copy of Der Wahre Fortschritt, edited and published by Gustav Bruere, St. Charles. It is a neat seven column paper, well edited and claims to be the organ of the German element in Missouri. It takes several items from our paper, which contain reliable news; but when it follows the example of some of our contemporaries and gives flying rumors, it is as far from the truth as any of them. The following extract which we translate is a specimen :
     Families flying from Troy bring fearful news about the cholera in that village. There have been in the last two weeks over fifty-five deaths from this dreadful disease, in a town of not more than seven hundred inhabitants. Constable Lay and the partner of the county clerk, Mr. Cake, count amoung the deaths. Every business house with the exception of one hotel and one drug store, is closed. The whole town has a death-like appearance, and everybody who can possibly afford to leave has already gone.

PERSONAL –      J. F. Bennett of St. Louis, formerly editor & proprietor of the Pleasant Hill (Mo.) Review and later on the staff of the St. Louis Times, has been in Troy and vicinity for several days, looking up life insurance. His special business was to settle the policies of the late Messrs. B. Crump and J. W. Rogers.

    Little Charley Jackson was thrown from a donkey, which he had been riding about town, on Sunday, and severely bruised and cut about the face. He now wears a mask of sticking plaster.


     During the sojourn of Mr. Bonfils and family near Prairieville while the cholera was raging here, somebody who hadn't the fear of God, the law nor cholera in his heart, entered his house and stole a large quantity of sugar, coffee and flour.

    There will be no camp meeting this year on the ground between this place and Wright City. The committee having the matter in charge met a short time since and determined to defer it, on account of the unhealthy season.

     Last week there was but one fatal case of cholera in this place, and one or two cases which recovered, showing that the disease is modified in its virulence, and is no longer epidemic. There have been no new cases since. Our refugees are returning, and the town presents a more cheerful aspect that it has for several weeks. People from the country are also beginning to visit us, and Troy is fast assuming the even tenor of its way.

Angling for a Prescription. --The principles of many of our good templars wilted at the approach of King Cholera. We believe the rules of the order do not prohibit the use of alcoholic liquors for medical purposes..........


MARTINEK-July 24, 1873, in Troy, of cholera, Max. Martinek, aged about 45 years.


CHOLERA - Troy and vicinity has been pretty severely afflicted with Cholera. Between 15 and 20 have died from the disease in the town alone; among them some of the most respectable and influential. It has disappeared as suddenly as it came. About 40 families left, but few of whom have returned. All could do so with safety now, as the disease has disappeared. In connection I would say that I am indebted to Messrs. Cake & McLellan, clerk and deputy clerk of the county court and real estate agents, and Dr. Mudd of the Herald for the information given above. TRIX.

The case of Samuel Groshong, Lewis Wiggin and George Foster, charged with bridge burning, was called up on Saturday-last and dismissed for want of proof. Foster was the only defendant present, Wiggin having died of the cholera some two or three weeks ago, and Groshong being taken the previous evening with severe cholera morbus.


GROSHONG-WITCHER- On Thursday, July 31, 1873, at the residence of the bride's mother, by the Rev. Francis M. Birkhead, Mr. Clement Groshong to Miss Anne M. Witcher.

File submitted for USGenWeb/MOGenWeb Lincoln County Heritage Page by Robert D. Mumford, 26 August 1998.  Link change or update: 4 Dec 1999

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