Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Houston to her sister, Sallie Payne, January 27, 1879 [Digital Version]

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DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Houston to her sister, Sallie Payne, January 27, 1879 (January 27, 1879)

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Title: Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Houston to her sister, Sallie Payne, January 27, 1879 [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
  • Creation of transcription: Amanda York Focke, Asst. Head of Special Collections, Woodson Research Center
  • Conversion to TEI-conformant markup: Tricom
  • Parsing and proofing: Fondren Library, Rice University
  • Subject analysis and assignment of taxonomy terms: Melissa Torres
Publisher: Rice University, Houston, Texas
Publication date: 2010-06-07
Identifier: aa00184_24
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Provenance: This collection was given as a permanent loan from Charles McBrayer of the DePelchin Faith Home in 1973.
Description: 11 handwritten pages and news clipping, reflections on her time in Memphis, thoughts and recommendations
Source(s): DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Houston to her sister, Sallie Payne, January 27, 1879 (January 27, 1879)
Source Identifier: Kezia Payne DePelchin letters, MS 201, Box 1, letter 24, p. 176-186, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Description of the project: This digitized text is part of the Our Americas Archive Partnership (OAAP) project.
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This text has been encoded based on recommendations from Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines. Any comments on editorial decisions for this document are included in footnotes within the document with the author of the note indicated. All digitized texts have been verified against the original document. Quotation marks have been retained. For printed documents: Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. No corrections or normalizations have been made, except that hyphenated, non-compound words that appear at the end of lines have been closed up to facilitate searching and retrieval. For manuscript documents: Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved. We have recorded normalizations using the reg element to facilitate searchability, but these normalizations may not be visible in the reading version of this electronic text
Languages used in the text: English
Text classification
Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Correspondence
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • Yellow fever--History--United States
  • Disease outbreaks--History--United States
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Houston (inhabited place)


Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin to "My dear sister" [Sallie Payne], January 27, 1879


My dear Sister

Already I find I have no lost anything even in
pecuniary view by giving my time to the fever stricken city
of Memphis. Scholars were waiting, and I have made a good
beginning: So many ask me questions of the treatment
and have so much to say about the doctors. I will
say they worked hard; if they failed it was not because
they did not try. The rows of graves in Elmwood show
that they gave all human beings could give. Greater love
hath no man than to lay down his life: The disease
was malignant. Sometimes the instructions were not
carried out. Oftentimes, the patient had had fever
too long. Sometimes they the doctors found fault with nurses
without finding out if they were to blame. that might
be anxiety; and in one instance I told you of, the Doc—
was then taking the fever and died in a week.—
Human nature; and especially man's nature, tries
ever to lay the blame on some one else. If that
someone else is a woman, so much the better. That
example was set by Adam and comes down
in unbroken line to the youngest descendant as
curiousity is said to come from Eve: We were glad


enough to get a Doctor for the sick, and I am not at
all inclined to join in any tirade against them. As
far as renumeration was concerned, they received $10 per
day, and had rooms and board, also a buggy and horse
and driver,—and since then have received a gold medal
a piece. The fee, I heard in Memphis, was $20 per day, but
$10, I know from a physician, himself belonging to the
Howards'. I still think if no one had charged any thing
it would have been better. I know many would have gone
for nothing if no one else had received anything. Our
board lodging expenses, of course.—I do not suppose the
Howards got any more; they were citizens of the place.
How very much the railroad companies gave; No one would
lose by thus giving. "He that giveth to the poor handeth
to the Lord." that is the very best investment and be—
, if the people in Memphis we waited on were
not poor, they needed that attention that oftentimes
money cannot buy;

What great lesson was is to be learned from this
terrible epidemic whose consequences are so
far reaching. We live in a Republic, a form
of government of God's choosing, for he gave
it to his people of Israel and when they went


astray, who more severely punished? What are our sins as
a nation. We have no King on whom to lay the blame, to
make us sin. Each one is a sovereign responsible being.
Do we render strictly to God the things that are
God's or to Caesar (which is any government) the things
that are Caesar's? In speaking of this calamity as a
punishment, I would say to those who escaped, Don't
dear Sister States gather up your righteous flounces
and stepping gingerly along say what awful
wicked people those folks in Tennessee, Mississippi
and Louisiana must be to be so scourged, remember God
Chasteneth whom he loveth, and purgeth every son
whom he receiveth. Our prayers to be spared were
answered, our turn may come next if we bring
not our thank offerings. A collection may come
round for them. The grasshoppers take more in one
season, than Texas gives the Lord in ten years.—
Where were tithes given as freely as gifts to the fever
sufferers just as the Egyptians gave the Jews their
gold when the mighty hand of God was on them.
Too often we turn away from the terrible lesson.
Where will as much be given to charitable purposes
or even scientific works, as will be spent on the
approaching Carnival on Mardi Gras. It makes me


shudder. How can New Orleans so lately scourged
so desolate thus dance over the ashes of her dead!
Some say it is over now, no use to grieve, but stop,
the cold weather has come. The fever is over, but
are not hearts desolate yet? Whose feelings do we not trample
on by such thoughtless gaiety.

What if the pure snow wreaths wrap the bluffs of the
Mississippi. Will it bring back the dead? What is it to
the orphans like little Arthur Calhoon if the icicles reflect
the colors of the rainbow. With the impress of his
mother's last burning kiss upon his cheek, the
constant watching for his father's foot fall that
never comes, the light of his life is shaded forever—
What matters it to the Mother bereft like Rachel
weeping for her children and refusing to be com—
, that the plague is stayed? To her the
gay pageant of Mardi Gras is but a mockery
of her woe. Do the sad broken hearts in Sena—
and Granada rejoice of over the winter
that kills the fever. Their loved ones are gone,
and when Spring returns and birds again seek
the sylvan shade, and flowery mead their loved
ones come not
they may call, but their lost
darlings answer not again. So it may be with
those who escaped this year. —let us lay it to


heart and apply our hearts unto wisdom. How often I thought
of that Eastern legend of one from another world coming
to Earth he saw all the works of science and admired
the wisdom of men, but when he saw a graveyard,
he asked what is this? When told it was the last resting
place and man must die, then he wondered at the
folly of those who did not spend their time preparing
for the great change. I do not wish to be thought
misanthropic, we should study nature's works more.
within her labratory may yet be found the remedy
or preventive of yellow fever. Our lives are short at best
we have no time to waste on mere frivolities. The com—
to labor six days, is as imperative as to rest
on the seventh. A study of nature leds leads us into compa—
with Him whose ways are unscrutableRegularized:inscrutable.
A few words about Nurses.— First they should be accli—
. The city authorities should at Railway
Stations positively refuse to admit those who have
never had the fever, unless they have passed through
several epidemics. Some never take it. The theory in
Texas is, those who have it far South can go to
a more northern latitude as nurses, but to go
further south one is liable to take it again.
West Indians are often free from it, or never have


a second time. I had it in childhood, lightly. I have
been through eight epidemics, have always nursed some
what, not perhaps as steadily as in this last. This time
it was pretty well tested if I would take again. I took
no preventive. At first I took some white mustard
seed, every day. it is said mustard seed steeped in
whiskey is a preventive. Mr A. Whitaker gave me
a package on leaving Houston,
but so many begged a little of me, it was soon gone.
I took it minus the whiskey. One line of conduct
as a preventive I followed. — I always took a change
of clothing, for night, I only wore the same suit
twelve hours. I then hung the one taken off in
the wind in another room, or out of doors. in
the morning I changed again. It only took a
few minutes. Besides I usually got some one
to sit with my patient while I took a bath
every day. Oftentimes my clothes when I took them
of even after twelve hours, smelt horribly of the
fever, but twelve hours out of doors took it away.—
I had clean clothes just as often as possible.—
I sometimes used alcohol outwardly. I took my own
comb brush and towel with me. I brought and lost or
used up several tin cups.— I could not bear to drink


out of anything used for the sick.

Next, a Nurse must be unselfish. No disease is more exacting
or trying than yellow fever. One Nurse should take
directions from the Doctor and any one who relieves her
should be willing to be guided by the one in charge as
what sh one has done may be undone. I was impressed
with this on one occasion, a Nurse came to relieve me for
a short time. I told the nurse what was to be done.
I think I spoke politely, he cut me short by saying
you need not trouble yourself to tell me what to
do I take no orders from any but the doctor.—
Very well I replied then I'll wait until the doctor
comes which I did.—

It seems almost superfluous to say unselfish when
so many rushed in unacclimated, when it was almost
certain death. I can hardly account for this sacrifice
of life. Sometimes it looked like sympathy
run mad, but it was noble. It was condemned as
rash at the same time it was glorious.—

It may not always be necessary for Nurses to do what
I did in disinfecting, but if no one else will do it,
for charity's sake do it. By all means prevent
the spread of the disease. I have the satisfaction
of knowing it was not spread by any neglect


on my part. If any were kept from taking the
fever by my exertions, God alone knows. — As for
it not being my place to do it, Christ tells us
a disciple is not above his master. His king—
was not of this world but he did not say
when the lepers came to him, I came only to
save your souls, go to the priest & doctor to be cleaned.—
Many lessons we had to learn from this epidem—
. For my part if I had any pride it is gone.
If I went with conceit, it is taken out of me.
If I felt I knew any thing, I feel that as Socra—
answered the Oracle, the wisest is
he who sees he knows nothing.

One thing I watched for in Memphis and as
so much was said about disinfecting, not
leaving bodies too long, was a death test, where
the body was washed and dressed. Any signs
of life would probably be detected, but half
the horrors of the epidemic as it is in


cholera, lie in the one thought: premature burial. I never have known of a
case, and when they are dead, they are as dead
in one hour as in twelve or twenty four. I did
intend when I went over to look for some test, but
in those I saw die, corruption set in so quickly—
as not easily to be mistaken. I make these remarks
because we all shrink for such things, the dead
are sacred to scratch or cut them is horrifying.
But this must be faced as well as all other horrors
of an epidemic.

My letters now are done at an end, my task is
done as I trod over the platform to leave the
scene of conflict how many sad sad thoughts
came to my mind. Where are those who came as
anxious to give a cup of cold water to feverish
lips as I was. Where were all those from Little
Rock who crossed over when I did to help in this hour of need.
Not many called for transportation who came
when I did
they have their passes from the Great
Master up to the Spirit land. They have visited


the sick and gone to their reward.

I do not feel that I did any more than my duty. I ran
no risk in taking the fever. In pecuniary view
though not rich I was not in want and on my
arrival home I found a testimonial awaiting me
that more than repaid me. But Texas though free
from yellow fever has suffered truly. "Thou hast
all seasons for thine own Oh Death!" One of those
who bid me Godspeed on my leaving who I well
remember said "God bless you and bring you safe
home" is gone. If you had read our papers you would
have seen his name for his death sent a thrill of
horror through the whole community. Mr Adolph
Shacktrupp was called out as if on business
and shot down on his own doorstep. He was witness
in a case of horse stealing. That was his only crime—
and since I have returned my faithful friend
of many years, E. H. Cushing has died. he it was
. To him and his wife I am indebted for the
testimonial I spoke of. So unexpectedly awaiting me


I have received letters from friends at a distance
congratulating me on my return in safety.—and
I do feel thankful to God for sparing my life
and health. How everything was ordered for my benefit.
He leadeth my may well be my song— Still the
remembrance of the awful
scenes of the great epidemic have cast a shadow
on my heart that will never pass away.—

Your loving Sister,
Kezia de Pelchin

Cost of Yellow Fever.
[Newspaper Clipping]

The report of the Memphis Howard
Association gives some interesting information.
It is taken from the Appeal
of January 5. Total donation
from all the states:

Southern States  $115,200
Northern States 285,212
Total $400,412

Of this Texas is credited with $11,400 30.

New York was the largest donor,
giving over $56,000.


April 1—Am't in secretary's hands $ 22 50
Aug 31—Proceeds of sales of $15,000 
U. S. bonds 15,890 62
Dec 31—Interest on bonds 1,211 00
Donations, per exhibit A 400,412 54
$417,536 66

Dec. 31—Paid to nurses $185,666 52
Dec. 31—Paid for supplies 74,432 91
Dec. 31—Paid for drugs and medicines 39,233 95
Dec. 31—Paid to physicians 39,225 80
Dec. 31—Paid donations to other points 19,457 05
Dec. 31—Paid board physicians and
18,131 30
Dec. 31—Paid expense account 14,636 88
Dec. 31—Paid transportation and
10,265 12
Dec. 31—Paid burial account 10,520 50
Dec. 31—Paid infirmary account 4,220 50
$415,790 53
Balance on hand $1,746 13

This was only at Memphis; every
other Southern town and city has its
terrible record.

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