Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 6, 1878 [Digital Version]

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DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 6, 1878 (October 6, 1878)

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Title: Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 6, 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_08
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: 7 handwritten pages, writes of traveling from one place to another, entire family with fever, describes the death of the mother and daughter
Source(s): DePelchin, Kezia P. (Payne), 1828-1893, Letter from Kezia Payne DePelchin at Memphis to her sister, Sallie Payne, October 6, 1878 (October 6, 1878)
Source Identifier: Kezia Payne DePelchin letters, MS 201, Box 1, letter 8, p. 68-74, 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
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • Memphis (inhabited place)



Dear Sister

Here I am again in my little room, a few minutes
allowed me to write. I am asked for, and taken from one
place to another would to God I could feel I was doing
some good; do I not pray aright: I would willingly
humble myself perform the most menial offices for
any one, I say constantly send me to the poorest, I will
go anywhere, do anything. I am willing to wait on colored
people, as well and faithfully as on white. if I can only see
them get well. Mr. Johnson is the name of the gentleman
who came for me. I went out on the cars. found the place
readily; Mr. J. wanted me for his mother in law Mrs Morrow.
The family had moved from their house in town, out
here, to be out of the way of the fever, had brought only
what was thought to be necessary for a few weeks.- But the
first one taken was Mrs Johnson who had not beenout-
the gate. She died in less than fortyeight hours.
then a younger sister died, the mother was bowed down
with grief. She took the fever. and before I reached there in
the afternoon another daughter. about 16. was also down.


There were two sons. young men, one just recovering, . the other still up
and about: Mr. Johnson and I sat up with the sick ones that night.-
in the morning a colored nurse was obtained to help me. She was
willing: but had so much sulphur assafedtida . etc etc
. besides the pure African scent that neither mother, nor daughter,
could bear her around them: This family was much attached to
each other: when I staid with Mrs Morrow: a few hours. she begged
me to go to Jennie. her daughter. then if I did anything for
Jennie she would say. you wait on me so nicely: now I'll
be still if you will go and wait on mother; Such
self-forgetfulness. in this fever was rare; The Doctor,
a relative of one of our Houston Doctors, was very at-
. a creole nurse was sent. She was a good nurse
I got along with her very well. (Some of the nurses
were unbearable, did nothing but find fault with
every-one else.) She waited on Mrs Morrow, I waited on
Jennie; I loved them both as soon as I saw them
and waited on them accordingly: At breakfast table
Mr. Johnson asked a blessing. I can't tell how sur-
I was. I had lived such a hap-hazard sort of
a life. for the last few weeks. I hardly knew if I was


in a Christian country: or indeed if I was in this world
or in another. Jennie was very ill. how she suffered; She
perspired. but her head ached fearfully.- on the third day
her head ache ceased, but the temperature was not lowered.
the thirst continued. I had seen these symptoms before
and feared the worst. O what is this hidden fatal chem-
, that works inwardly, silently turning every-
to death, that silently gnaws the vitals
and writes the Death warrant, not in red like
the laws of Draco. but with just as sure destruc-
. its warrant is written in black. black as
midnight. the pure ice water is turned to ink
color in a few minutes: I slept a few hours as
I got a chance. as did the creole. Almira. Thursday
the other brother was taken: Everitt was convalescing.-
Friday night Mr. Johnson said he would watch. I
looked too tired: I told him he was just as badly
off. but we neither of us could bear to leave her.-
I said "I will take this rug. and sleep on the floor
in the room. you can then call me if necessary.-"
Jennie was then taking a little wine and water.


she was so weak. She said to me in the day. "hold me
what makes me tremble so." She then was showing symp-
of black vomit. I slept soundly on my rug till
midnight. I was called by Mr. Johnson. I jumped up so
suddenly. I fell over on my hands. but I was awake. the
bed was as if several bottles of ink. had been thrown
around, I threw my arms around her exclaiming
my darling, has it come to this, I cannot describe
how dreadfully I felt, I had so prayed for Jennie's
life. was it aught that I had done that God would not
hear me.?- Sweet Jennie Morrow her lovely features
were distorted, her fair skin was changed to a brazen
tone, I laid her down , and in that strange look
this disease gives its victims. no one would have
recognized the lovely girl. Mr. Johnson exclaimed, "Is it
possible this is our Jennie." She had begged so that
the wind might blow on her. now I opened the window
near her bed, but she shrank from it. Almira came
in just as I closed it; She said "why do you shut
that window she's not dead" I replied; "I see she
does not like the cold wind" She continued


at the hospitals; they put them out in the cold wind
when there is no longer any hope. then they die quickly
. I shuddered as I thought of it. they died fast enough nei-
do I think the creole would have done it. for she was.
kind to her patients. That I should serve Jennie so, was far
from my thoughts: I knew. it had been done, but did
not attribute it to so unworthy a motive. Jennie
was now insensible and we knew that the Doctor had
given the mother up the night before, though he still
tried every remedy possible by morning both began
that hard breathing and screaming, the sure forerunner
of Death. Jennie threw up quantities of black vomit
which the mother did not. a narrow hall separated
the two rooms. The creole nurse said that they pant like
two race horses; a race for life indeed it was, who
should reach the end of their mortal career. and
enter the pearly gates first. The youngest went first,
the mother soon after. not knowing what calamity
had befallen her; but to her now it was a blessing.
would she not be surprised to find her darling in
the spirit land before her? Both mother and daughter


recovered their sweet look in death. Almira and I dressed
them both nicely Mrs Morrow in black. Jennie in white.
The colored people always wanted extra pay for laying out the
dead, but when they found I would do it, they would
help me: Two hearses came up one white, the other black.
And these two lovely women, who in other days would
have had a crowd of mourners around them, were dressed
by stranger hands. and laid silently away.- Everitt
knew his loss, but for his brother's sake (who is now at the worst
stage of the fever.) he kept quiet. this silent suppressed grief
how terrible it is, I daily see persons with colorless faces.
and dry eyes. I know they have lost all that makes life
worth living for. but hearts are turned to stone and
eyes refuse to weep. Mr. JhoJohnson and I walked
over to Elmwood; were there before the hearses
as they had to go some distance round.- The graves
were close together: and there were the two new-
graves of the other children, thus in life
they were beautiful, and in death they were
not separated; In going to the funeral I first
noticed the monument to Mattie Stephenson;


I had never before heard of the youthful martyr,
how many this time braved the pestilence unacclimated!
No service was read, but as we turned away Mr. Johnson
repeated the words, "I am the resurrection and the life"
it was an echo of my own thoughts, a young lad
Willie Graham, a friend of
the family. rode up, he had lost is mother two
weeks before; The moon rose. before we reached the house
again. I found it was too late to go to town, so stretched
myself on the floor to sleep. I slept that heavy sleep that the
weary, and heartsore sleep. I was covered with blankets
but a window was open. this morning when I woke I was
stiff. There were beds enough in the house, but so many had been
sick, we had taken two spare cots to lay out the dead on
This morning is the Sabbath I reported at the Office. and
at ten o'clock Col Edmondson is to take me out to a
family 5 miles in the country. I have heard much of
Col. Edmondson being so very kind to the sick. and
afflicted but have never seen him.

your affectionate Sister.

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