In the summer of 1865 a typhoid epidemic swept small towns throughout America.
Every member of my great-great grandfather Clinton Eggleston’s family in Aurora, Ohio, came down with the fever.
It’s impossible to tell where it came from, though the highly contagious disease could have been brought by soldiers returning home from the Civil War. A war in which more than twice as many soldiers died of disease than of battle. Diarrhea was their most common killer, followed by typhoid and typhus.
The Eggleston home became the family’s personal hospital, with all of them bed-ridden and neighbors sitting vigil and doing what was necessary to keep the family alive. Clinton decided professional medical help was necessary, and hired a male practical nurse to provide what meager care there was available then.
The nurse no doubt applied cold towels to keep fever down, changed sweat-soaked sheets, fed them broth, and did what he could to keep them calm through delirium and pain.
They lived at that time in a new home on a farm in Aurora, Ohio, only a few miles southeast of Cleveland, which was then no more than a large village that had been founded only 40-odd years previous. To the other direction, the house was about a quarter mile from Clinton’s father’s house, where he settled in 1809, building first a log cabin and then a two-story frame house.
The first of my great-great grandfather’s family to perish was Abigail Hickox Eggleston, beloved wife and mother. Seven year old DeWitt and ten year old Frances, my great-grandfather, recovered, but their older sister, Mary, did not, yet lingered a month or more longer than her mother had.
Recovery for the others was complete, and my great-grandfather suffered no long-lasting ill effects from the disease, other than the tragic loss of mother and sister, who I am sure he mourned for all his life.