“YELLOW JACK” YELLOW FEVER. 1878
d n english
Before we get into the story of Yellow Fever I want to touch on the Smallpox epidemic.In 1877 citizens in Madison Co.were required to take a Smallpox vaccination. Individuals who were infected with Smallpox were forced to move to “Pest House” were they stayed until the were cured or dead. There were guards outside each house to prevent anyone from leaving. Doctors would go around the County to make sure all citizens were vaccinated. Unfortunately Dr. John Chester never followed his own advice and died of Smallpox. In 1918 there was another smallpox outbreak but it was soon under control only 60 cases were reported.
Soon another epidemic came to Tennessee called “Yellow Jack” Yellow Fever in 1878. The city fathers overruled the mayor and paid for railcars of disinfectants and 300 barrels of lime to aid the disinfecting all the homes in the county. Because of the failures made during the Smallpox epidemic everyone was more mindful of preventive measures.This is a story I uncovered while I was doing some research at UT Medical back in the early 70’s . I followed it up with interviews with some of the members of the Chickasaw and Choctaw elders that were in West Tennessee and Northern Mississippi.They told me stories of how their ancestors passed down stories of how they taught many a settlers about the nature way of healing.
I was told when the yellow fever epidemic broke out their elders had instructed some of the residents and white doctors on what to do. They told them to construct pyramids made of mud and pine cones ( the natural oils in the pinecones was the key) as night approached they were to light a fire burning the pyramids. The next day they would build another pyramid.The officials and many landowners listened and did just as the were instructed.
Guards would be posted around the major roads and trails not letting strangers into Madison Co. The pyramids were 8 to 10 feet in diameter and 20 to 30 feet high. One of the Memphis Newspapers reported “A plume of smoke covered the county as a protective shield, keeping the fever at bay,”
It was not common knowledge at the time but mosquitoes was one of the ways to spread the fever. By burning the pine cones and other precautions the mosquitoes were kept away and Madison Co had fewer cases of yellow fever than the neighboring counties. They kept burning the pyramids for months until the fever was under control.
I am so glad we live in this time even though we had to put up with covid.