Wednesday, 16 August 2017

1885 - Memories of Cholera

It had been thirty years since the last cholera epidemic had hit the city of Hamilton, but in March 1885, there was still at least one man who remembered it clearly, and who had claimed he had found a cure for the dreaded disease :
 “ ‘It was at the time of the last cholera scourge that the incident I am about to relate took place.’ So spoke a veteran yarn-spinner as he threw himself back in an armchair at the fire station last night, took his pipe from his mouth and prepared for business.
“Half a dozen chairs were pulled up around him and half a dozen faces assumed the appearance of deep interest. “ ‘I was living east, about five miles from the city, at the time, and had a pretty snug place for those days. The cholera had broken out in the city and several deaths had already occurred. I had been through the plague once before and knew too well what it was, but, living in a healthy part of the country and having no close neighbors, I didn’t feel at all afraid. But I had a nephew – a strapping young fellow of 19, and as healthy as a hickory nut. He was awfully afraid of the disease and more than once hinted to me that he would like to come out and live with us – he lived in the city – till it had disappeared, but my house was none too large for my own family, and I didn’t invite him to come out. I was not surprised, however, to see him, one day just after dinner, coming up the walk. I went out to meet him, and we sat down together. He was greatly agitated, and said that he felt he was going to have the cholera. It didn’t take long to persuade me that he was right, for the symptoms soon came upon him. I couldn’t keep him with us. What was I to do? Years before I had seen soon curious cures effected. I told him I couldn’t let him stay with us, but would do what I could for him. I got a glass of liquor – what sort I can’t exactly remember – and put it in a cholera mixture which almost every family kept ready for use. He drank it eagerly enough, and I then told him he must get home the same way as he came, only faster. He wished to stay but I drove him out, and told him he must run every step of the way. He started off on a good run, and I followed on horseback. I urged him on, not allowing him to rest on the way at all. His nerves were strung high with excitement, and he didn’t require much urging, however. He ran almost every step of the way, and when he got home, I directed that he be put to bed and kept warm. These directions were followed, and a doctor was called in. He examined the boy and declared that he certainly had cholera, but was cured. I have always held that the run drove the disease from him in perspiration, and if ever it should come again, and I should become a victim, I will certainly use the same medicine. However, I have seen enough of it and would rather that I shouldn’t have to try the experiment again.”1
1 “A Five-Mile Race : How a Hamilton Boy, Many Years Ago, Ran Away From Cholera.”
Hamilton Spectator.   March 12, 1885.

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