Lee County Illinois
Newspaper Articles


CHOLERA EPIDEMIC 1854

Contributed by Joan Achilles


July 27, 1854

Death in its most frightful form swept through our heretofore healthy town like an avalanche, carrying away, within 24 hours, eighteen souls. It is a sad duty we are called upon to perform--that of recording the death of some of our best citizens; who but just a few days ago were among us, sharing the pleasures and vicissitudes of this world. Ah, how true it is that in the midst of life we are in death. But we all have reason to thank our Eternal Creator that in the midst of death we are in life.

There had been a few deaths from cholera previous to this, among them, Mrs. Alanson Smith, and tow or three reilroad hands, but it made its appearance as an epidemic July 21. On Saturday, the 22nd the cholera broke out in full force; and during Saturday night large numbers of the inhabitants left town to go into the country. The next day 14 persons lay dead in the town. Not a sound on that mournful Sabbath day, save that made by the undertaker's hammer, disturbed the quite of the village.

Here is a list of the deaths during the epidemic, made out by doctors Everett and Abbott:

Mrs. Patrick Duffee and child
Michael Harris
Mrs. Jacob Craver
Wm. Lahee
Daniel Brookner and wife
Daniel Brookner Jr.
John Finley
Joseph Cleaver (postmaster)
______ Cleaver (cousin of Joseph)
John Keenan
Mrs. Cooley
_____Marsh
Mrs. Owen's child
John Connels
John Barnes
Elijah Dixon
Wm. Patrick
Benj. Vann
Mrs. Scheer
Cyrus Kimball and wife
Israel Evans
Mrs. Catherine Dailey
Mr. Peck
Edward Hamlin
Roderick McKenzie and wife
Mrs. Huff
Mr. Jones
Mrs. C. Johnson
Owen Gallagher
E. Boswick
(making in all 34 deaths between July 20th and August 7)


From the Dixon Evening Telegraph - May 1, 1951:

A cholera epidemic, described as "death in its most frightful form' swept through Dixon in the summer of 1854. On July 27, The Telegraph reported that within the space of 24 hours, 18 persons had died.

"Sunday, the twenty-third day of July, eighteen hundred and fifty-four" The Telegraph said, "will long be remembered by the citizens of Dixon."

There had been a few deaths from cholera previous to this, but it appeared as an epidemic in July. On Saturday, the 22nd, the epidemic broke out in full force and during that night large numbers of the inhabitants left town to go into the coutnry. The next day 14 persons were dead. Of that frightful day, it was reported; "Not a sound on that mournful Sabbach day, save that made by the undertaker's hammer, disturbing the quiet of the death-like village."

Almost as rapidly as the epidemic began, it subsided. The newspaper attempted to calm the panic caused among the citizens by reporting that "it is an erroneous report that all caes have proved fatal. Many who were severely attacked, have recovered."


Dixon Evening Telegraph Feb. 28, 1976 -
A cholera epidemic hit Dixon during the summer of 1854, taking the lives of 34 of the city's 2,000 residents. At the height of the plague, 19 persons succumbed in a 24 hour period. It was suspected a cholera plight might be under way in June of that year but it could not be confirmed.

However, during july, the incidence of those being afflicted with an acute disorder of the digestive tract caused by infection became widespread. Among reasons advanced to explain the rapid spread of the malady were the lack of proper medical attention and the lack of knowledge about the disease. Dixon at that time did not have a hospital and had only two doctors.

In August of that fateful year it was reported doctors were treating cholera victims with powdered charcoal and whisky and The Telegraph on Aug. 3, advised readers to shake an ounce of whiskey until it foamed and drink it three times a day and to avoid all excesses. At one time a charnel house, which is a designated place to collect bodies before common burial, was suggested if the disease continud to cause increased numbers of deaths.

At Oakwood Cemetery a large plot was readied to receive the bodies of victims which is located a short distance within the main entrance and is north of the center cemetery road. A series of trenches was dug and the remains of the dead were placed in them and then covered with lime and earth and were left unmarked.


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