Memphis in the Plague, letter to the editor of the Telegram [Digital Version]

Bibliographic Information

DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Memphis in the Plague, letter to the editor of the Telegram (October 13, 1878)

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Title: Memphis in the Plague, letter to the editor of the Telegram [Digital Version]
Funding from: Funding for the creation of this digitized text is provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Author: DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893
Statements of responsibility:
  • Creation of digital images: Center for Digital Scholarship, Rice University
  • Conversion to TEI-conformant markup: Tricom
  • Parsing and proofing: Humanities Research Center and Fondren Library, Rice University
  • Subject analysis and assignment of taxonomy terms: Alice Rhoades
Publisher: Rice University, Houston, Texas
Publication date: 2010-06-07
Identifier: aa00184_11
Availability: This digital text is publicly available via the Americas Digital Archive through the following Creative Commons attribution license: “You are free: to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work; to make derivative works; to make commercial use of the work. Under the following conditions: By Attribution. You must give the original author credit. For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. Any of these conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder. Your fair use and other rights are in no way affected by the above.”
Digitization: Page images of the original document are included. Images exist as archived TIFF files, JPEG versions for general use, and thumbnail GIFs.
Provenance: This collection was given as a permanent loan from Charles McBrayer of the DePelchin Faith Home in 1973.
Description: 1 clipping, letter to the editor, "Memphis in the Plague"
Source(s): DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Memphis in the Plague, letter to the editor of the Telegram (October 13, 1878)
Source Identifier: Kezia Payne DePelchin letters, MS 201, Box 1, letter 11, p. 95, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University. Contact info:
Description of the project: This digitized text is part of the Our Americas Archive Partnership (OAAP) project.
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Languages used in the text: English
Text classification
Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Correspondence
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Yellow fever--Tennessee--Memphis
  • Memphis (Tenn.)--History--19th century
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Memphis (inhabited place)

Memphis in the Plague.

The following letter from Mrs. De
Pelchin, of this city, was written in
Memphis, and has only recently been
able to get through the blockade. Although
the incidents described are
somewhat out of date they are nevertheless

Editor of the Telegram:

I believe I can now write to you without
fear of offending the Board of Health,
and think that you will be glad to hear
from the exiles on this side the river. I
have been sick for a few days, but the
Howards took good care of Texas, and I
expect to report for duty to-morrow morning.
The fever is not so bad in the city, is
spreading out into the country, and many
a happy family who thought themselves
safe in the distance have been rudely
awakened to the knowledge of yellow fever
being in their midst, by the strange
sickness and death of one or two of the
family. The fever in the suburbs is very
malignant, the black vomit, and the most
of it I ever saw. By the way, I have
thought since I have been here the ancients
must have seen the yellow fever,
and from the black vomit taken the idea
of the river of Death, being the black river
Styx. There has been enough in Memphis
to float the boat of Charon.

Memphis in Egypt, among the sands of
the desert, is not more lonely than this her
modern and beautiful namesake. For the
Arabs take the negroes, and the picture is
complete. I walked the length of Vance
street, from Charleston depot to Hernando
street, a distance of nearly a mile, and
returned; met three white people, about
twelve colored. The beautiful houses
along this street were empty or left to negroes.
The flowers flung their sweetness
on the desert air, the jays screamed noisily;
and later, as I returned, the owls
hooted in the parks. It put me in mind of
the prophecies of desolation found in the
Bible. All is lonely. The hearses go alone
without any other carriage. The dead are
taken quietly out and placed in their narrow
homes without a word. No one laughs
and no one cries. No one seeks for sympathy;
for all know that every heart in
Memphis has as much grief as it can stagger
under. If this is a scourge, truly "the
wrath of the Lord is a terrible thing."

Already the furnace of affliction has refined
many. The generous donations—
the sacrifices of life made by those who,
unacclimated, came to help when it was
almost certain death. Those who met at
teachers' meeting on Saturday afternoon
may remember Mr. Miller, the quick witted
mathematician and scribe. I met him
last at the Market Street Infirmary. How
cordially he greeted me. In a few days
his name was on the death roll. Let us
hope it is on the bright roll of life in another
world, for "He that loseth his life
for my sake shall find it."

The two doctors from Texas, Forbes, of
Round Rock, and Manning, of Austin, are
dead. Dr. Tryon is the only one from
Houston I have seen, although Dr. L.
Bryan called on me with a letter sent to
his care. I was from home. Dr. S. O.
Young was reported sick. I went immediately
to inquire about him, for his
mother's sake, but he was soon well. Of
nurses: Mrs. Heckle was with me one
night; I was sick; we have a room together,
only we don't often occupy it; she
has gone to Decatur, Alabama; she is
well thought of. Mrs. Bliss and daughter
are at Collierville. Mr. P. Salvi and wife
were here. Mr. S. died of heart disease.
Mrs. S. I have lost sight of, but she was
well and on duty last week. The [...]

Everything is conducted as well as possible
in such exciting times, for so many
of the Howards have died and been sick,
and there are so many negroes, each clamoring
to be heard and attended to. The
expenses of the Association are $5000 per
day. When a druggist dies the Howards
have to set up a drug store. The superintendent
of the cemetery died or was sick;
the Howards took charge. As the saying
is, they run the town. Great as the distress
is now, the want this winter will be
fearful. This is truly a "stricken city."
Sympathy did more to make me sick than
overwork. I worked for a week for a mother
and daughter, and then had to array them
for the grave. The two hearses came together;
a son-in-law of the lady and I
walked over to the graveyard, and beside
two new-made graves of the previous week
they were laid, four out of one family, two
left. In two days more I witnessed the
funeral of two young men, the hope of
their parents. The suppressed grief of the
aged father wrung my very soul; three
others of the family were sick; he dared
not make a sound. I must close. To-day
I went to church for the first time in Memphis.
McDalyell was the minister. He is
here as minister and doctor. I was very
glad to see him. He is kind to the sick
and desolate.

I just received two Telegrams (newspapers)
via New York, just a month old.

Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
Available through the Creative Commons Attribution license