Monmouth Historic Inn

1848 Scarlet Fever Outbreak

May 28 2014 | News

Today is the first half of a letter written by Eliza Quitman to her son, Henry Quitman.  Of note is the mention of the Scarlet Fever outbreak in Natchez in 1848. I find most interesting the "medicinal" ways Eliza recommends fighting this disease.  Until next week . . . .

Washington Feb. 19th 1848

My dear Henry

                We returned yesterday from our trip to N.York and upon our arrival here had the pleasure (though a sad one to receive a large package of letters from our children and friends at home.  I say a sad pleasure because they contained the intelligence of the Scarlet fever being at Natchez as an Epidemic and too of a malignant character.  It has caused me the greatest uneasiness about you and your dear little sisters.  I am truly rejoiced that our kind and excellent Cousin Mary sent them out to Franklin where I hope they will remain until all danger from the disease has passed.  You say truly my dear Henry that no Mother could be kinder than she is to you and your sisters.  I knew it when I selected her as your Mother for the period of my absence.  I hope you give her the respect and duty of a Son as well as the affection.  I look upon her and Mr. McMarran as my dearest and most cherished friends.  I have heard of persons taking the Scarlet fever more than once or twice so that you must be careful of it.  It is a contagious disease of the same nature as Measels.  I believe it is never infectious only contagious, that is it is communicated by the touch and clothing not by the air, except in a room where persons are ill with it and that may be prevented by having vessels filled with Chloride of lime setting about the sick chamber.  If you should take it, do not take any harsh or violent medicine, but take Castor Oil, Magnisim and such light medicines.  Drink plentifully of Saffron and Chamomile tea warm to throw the disease out upon the skin.  Keep comfortably warm, and be extremely careful not to catch cold.  Remember by keeping the bowels  freely open and the eruption out upon the skin.  Keep comfortably warm, and be extremely careful not to catch col.  Remember by keeping the bowels freely open and the eruption out upon the skin there is no danger to be apprehended. It is a disease like Measles and small pox which have a certain time to run their course, must not be controlled but alleviated, the fever should never be broken, because it will not be except by the utter prostration of the patient and then of course there is but little hope. I know this disease well, so remember what I say. I have not written so frequently to you my son as your Sister has done, for the reason, that she has more time than I have. She is not so frequently engaged with company as I am, I often entertain them whilst she is writing letters, my presence is generally indispensable, not so with her and as for your Father I believe he has given up letter writing altogether. I do not think he has written a solitary letter home. We had a very pleasant jaunt to N.York and Phila. did not accompany your Father to Albany as the river was closed. Your Cousin Agustus came down to N.York to see us, he is I think much changed since I saw him.