Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 8, 1878 [Digital Version]

Bibliographic Information

DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 8, 1878 (October 8, 1878)

File description (Bibliographic Info)Encoding description (Editorial Principles)Profile description (Subject Terms)
Title: Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 8, 1878 [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: Amanda York Focke, Asst. Head of Special Collections, Woodson Research Center
  • 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_09
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: 11 handwritten pages, writer is now ill, tired, writes of deaths of doctors and nurses, other friends and other employees of the Howard Association
Source(s): DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 8, 1878 (October 8, 1878)
Source Identifier: Kezia Payne DePelchin letters, MS 201, Box 1, letter 9, p. 75-85, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University
Description of the project: This digitized text is part of the Our Americas Archive Partnership (OAAP) project.
Editorial practices
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--Mississippi River Valley--History--19th century
  • Yellow fever--History--United States
  • Disease outbreaks--History--United States
  • Howard Association (Memphis, Tenn.)
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Memphis (inhabited place)



My dear Sister.

I have made a short trip this time I returned
because I was sick. I do not think I have the fever, but
am worn outheart and soul. I think of the time when in
Houston, I went home tired out with watching: dear
mother was ready to care for me, and now alone in a
strange city, the words ring through my ears: "None like
a mother can charm away pain, From the sick soul
and the world weary brain," I said, "alone in a strange city
yet not alone for God is here and his promise is as
one whom his mother comforteth. so will I comfort thee:"
But I must not get in a melancholy strain. I came into
town this afternoon. I went to the Office. Mr. Murray
wanted to take me out that minute. I said "no. I am
not well enough." There was a letter for me from
Sewanee, that told me of a package of clothing.
sent to me. I did not know where it was. Mr. Murray
went with me to the express to get it: I then told him not to send
for me to go on duty until the next evening, so
here I am. Mrs C's letters are such a comfort to me.


I actually kiss them. when I see the loved handwriting; and
now a few articles of clothing I needed so much, and we cannot
buy anything here. - Last week I noticed several items in the
papers that made me feel sad. but everythin is sad, only some
things are sadder than others.- I learned why Mrs Grehan's
Doctor never came; it was Dr. Bartholomew, he died.
So the next time he went that way, he was carried
out to Elmwood: Dr. Easley is dead. You remember he
came from Little Rock. at the same time I did. He
and the nurses who came with him are nearly all dead.
There were three I met several times the first fortnight I was
here, Misters Carr. Dickerson. and Trigg. The rest I knew very
little about, though they came to help. in the great calamity.
Arkansas, the Volunteer State has done her part. in this
epidemic, but few will return. back over the Mississippi
to their homes. They have gone on, over the cold stream
of Death, let us hope to a brighter, and better country.
Another one too is gone, this time from Houston, J. E. Miller.
He died about Oct 4. in the Market Street Infirmary;
and little Ira Ammonette, dear child, he was an
angel before he left this world.- One night while


sitting up with Jennie Morrow. I thought so much of the Or-
home. I could not get it out of my mind. I knelt down
by the bed and prayed for the little ones and Sister Frances.
for you know I have no one here to talk to. so when any
thing weighs on my mind I kneel down and tell it to God.
Sometimes I fear he is angry with me; yet I know he is
merciful. In the morning Sister Frances, headed the Death
Roll, I was shocked I thought she had had the fever.- Little
Fannie. and I told you of died. her twin sister Nannie
died the same day; I hope I may walk with her in Paradise.
Within the last ten days, the ranks of the Howards have been
thinned: Mr. Lonsdale. fell at his post of duty, a faithful sol-
. Mr. Fisher also from that department. while Anderson and Frieeson
two of the hardest workers are sick.- there are doubtless
others equally worthy. I can only mention those I know.-
Of those who die we can only know they have gone to their
reward and the gratitude of those they have served keep
their memory green. Of those who live. the prayers of the
poor they attended to will help them as much as the Doctors
prescriptions for Man is immortal till his work is done."-
though I hope. they will never have to work through


another such an epidemic:

As I told you I was to go out five miles into the country. It was
a beautiful morning. and all the way along, even in out of
the way places. Col Edmondson said here, or there they had the
fever. an ambulance full of nurses were going to be distrib-
to those who needed them; The family I was going to
is named Taylor, might well think themselves exempt
from the fever. the house was in the open country; they
lived as it were within themselves: had no communication
with town. but in an old house not far away, a man
had wandered from town and laid down to die, thus
was the fever brought to their neighborhood. The cook and
her child were first taken sick, O on Friday and Saturday.
On Sunday night, two eldest sons were taken, within
the same hour: When the colored people were taken sick
it appeared more like a common chill: indeed it is
hardly ever so bad with negroes.- with the young men it was
more violent: a physician was quickly summoned. with
no avail, the eldest age .24. died. before the end of the
week, the second. 22 was dying when I got there; he died
that night. The eldest was rational to the last. praying in


in a way that made great impression on those around him
the second one. was delirious, almost wild to the last.
Mrs Taylor. two more sons. also her brother were down. one little
girl about thirteen was thought to be taking the fever. but
I think it was fright at seeing so many taken sick; and
knowing her brothers died: They had abundance of nurses.
5 male and Mrs Bocking and I . (Mrs Bocking was from
New York. an agent for celerine. she was loud in is praises
but whether it turned out anything remarkable I cannot
say.) like all other specifics in yellow fever. it cured
all who did not die anyway Still as celery is good for
the nerves. there is some reason to suppose it good.)
but being so far from town were obliged to have plenty of nurses out
there. they treated the nurses very well. Mrs Bocking had been
with Mrs Taylor; so the Doctor wanted no change made. Mrs
Taylor's eldest daughter sat with her to relieve Mrs B;
There were yet to take the fever. Mr. Taylor and Five chil-
, and a sister of his who. was at present keeping
house: the youngest child Helen the baby and pet of
the household. was six years old; These all took quinine
every day to keep the fever off: In Houston all such
preventions are thought worthless.- and I think proved
so in Memphis. where they had a fair trial.


Sunday afternoon I sat with Frank. one of the sick
ones. he seemed to like me. very well, and as he was rather
hard to please with his nurses. Mrs L. his sister asked me to
sit up with him at night. A colored man, Alfred was
in the room. to wait on him. I was to give medicine
every half hour. The room was warm, still, and as dark
as possible, Frank was restless would throw his arms
out. I stood beside him to watch him, he told me
to sit down, as soon as I stood up he was worried. to
please him I sat down.- I looked at my watch, it want-
ten minutes to medicine time: Frank turned over
flung his arm out. that moment his brotherinlaw came in.
went quickly past me, and covered him, he went out
came back. asked me what time I was to give the med-
, I told him, he accused me of having been asleep.
I Said "it yet wants five minutes of medicine time
I looked only five minutes before;" I suppose he
was not satisfied, as he sent down another nurse
to take my place; this mortified me. but if
I did nod I deserved the reproof; The family
said no more about it, but the nurse who was sent
down made a great deal over it, though as Alfred
said, he got a chance to eat all his lunch up.


The family were not to blame. for being anxious. the
fever. had begun by being so very fatal. As I was
not wanted, I took a blanket laid down on the
carpet and slept until five in the morning. - At eleven
Sunday night the second brother Park died, he was
perfectly furious about an hour before death he knocked his
nurse over, and could with difficulty be gotten back
to bed: by ten the next morning, the hearse was
at the door: the children were gathered into one room
I staid with them: Having taken off their shoes, the
nurses. went up stairs and brought down the body of
Park, the coffin was outside: The grief of the Father
and sister Mrs L. was heartrending to behold. No sobs
no cries, all suppressed, choked down for the sake of
the sick, as none of those now sick knew of the death
of Park; The nurses up stairs put the room to rights. it
looked neat. but I proposed to Mrs L. that the rooms should
be fumigated. I saw that if the clothes, towels. all
that was used around the sick, were not washed and
cleansed, more of the family would be taken sick.-
Mrs L. said she had had the fever. I proposed to
her. we should fumigate the rooms where her
brothers had died, first taking out all clothes,


towels. that had been used. I had the beds. and mattresses
taken down into the woods.- opened every cupboards, ward-
, put a pan of sulphur in the middle of the
room.. set if closed every window and door, set fire
to the sulphur. I watched through a keyhole,
that it burned a little, not too much:- The beds were
taken down into the woods.- As I told you before I object
to burning beds. in this case. I knew the fumes would
blow back on the house; There was one colored
man not a nurse, on the place. he dug a hole
buried the mattresses. The feather bed. I put
across, logs. down in the woods, fumigated it
and the pillows with sulphur.- I burnt the
worst clothing and bedding, one article at a time; so
as to prevent smoke; I then took the clothes. the
towels ofout of Frank's room. put them in soak;
in water, I tried to get hartshorn. . As I did not choose
to use concentrated lye on chloral, as one of the nurses suggested.-
I knew my hands. would not be fit to teach
music, after using such. preparations; I left them
to soak out of doors. all night, then there was a
negro woman in the neighborhood, who would
wash them after they had been disinfected.


I passed them through two waters, put them in a basket.
one of the other nurses. put them in a wagon they were
then taken off the place. to the washerwomans: I felt
easier after they were gone. I could not bear the idea
of the other children. (and they were sweet lovely child-
.) taking the fever if it could be prevented; I
also. cleansed every thing, I thought could have fever
clinging to it in any way: just as I was through
one of the male nurses, came to me. said how much
extra do you get for washing up those things, I told
him all the money in Memphis could not hire
me to do it, besides, if we wait on the sick with
a charitable motive, not to save their money, but to give
them attention that money cannot buy.- to me it does
not matter what I do.- indeed I feel if I can only be
of some use in staying this awful plague. I am willing
to do anything. I will humble myself before God
if He will only hear my prayers for the recovery of
those I nurse.- The first three I nursed got well so
did some children at the Church home. Since that
my luck has turned, except with Mrs Grehan.
Still when I look around me it is the same
everywhere, and when I told the Howards once


that when the colored people helped to lay any one
out, they wanted extra pay. they answered, It was
expected that when a nurse was sent to a patient
the probability was they would have to lay them
out. It was the exception they got well, not the
rule: I think this time must be something like the
Deluge. the people must die, the fiat has gone forth
but many repent in the last moment, and many
a soul is saved who hitherto had lived carelessly,
one look at the crucified one. the hurried heart felt
prayer is heard. God is always more merciful than man.
I felt as I prayed for their souls. God heard and answered
that prayer, though that for the body was refused.-
Those I nursed liked to have me near them. I hope to
meet them in heaven. where all mistakes forgiven. love
purified, we shall walk in the light of perfect day.-
By twelve o'clock today: I began to feel sick. I inhaled
some sulphur. smoke. I knew it was not fatigue for last
night, I only had to get up every little while to give
the little girl who was neither sick, nor well, some
milk; as I do not see I am needed; as Mrs Taylor
is getting better; I told them I would go home direct-
after dinner: I ate dinner with a good relish. but


but my bones ache. I spoke to Mrs L. told her I was indeed
sorry if there was any cause for faultfinding when I sat up with
Frank; "She said of course they were anxious. as I knew
they had reason. but as he was decidedly better. he cer-
had not been neglected; She thanked me for
disinfecting the rooms and clothing, and her Aunt said
it was a weight off her mind, for she had never
had the fever. and did not dare to touch the things.
I think she was sorry to have me leave; They sent
me into town in the spring wagon. and here I am.-
I will close this letter and try to rest; I feel very sick
but do not think I have the fever.- I have taken cold.
and indeed I do get so sorry for people. it breaks
me down.- Dear Sister goodnight. perhaps I
may never write you another letter.- but I hope you
will get this one.

your loving Sister.

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