Yellow Fever in Hempstead, Texas

In Hempstead, the first reported case of the yellow fever occurred when a man named J. L. Vorhees, a traveler from Galveston who arrived sometime in August, died shortly after reaching the town. Hempstead was under quarantine at the time, but Vorhees somehow managed to evade quarantine officials upon arrival. Many of the town’s residents believed that the yellow fever wouldn’t reach Hempstead, so they turned a blind eye to the visitor’s telltale symptoms. Local doctors initially misjudged the cause of Vorhees’ death, claiming that he died from overindulgence in alcohol. It is now thought that he was, in fact, the first to bring the fever into the town, although travelers from multiple coastal cities might have transported the disease—and its winged carriers—into Hempstead as well.

After Mr. Vorhees’ death, fever broke out in Hempstead and it proved devastating to the region. People continued to travel to Hempstead and other surrounding towns from Houston and Galveston, carrying the fever with them. Many of the sick who arrived in Hempstead from Galveston died in the city within the first few days. On September 6th, a federal officers who was stationed in Hempstead contracted the fever, and towards the middle of the month several other soldiers came down with the disease as well. In all, 55 cases and 29 deaths were reported out of an estimated strength of 110 soldiers. The fever burned on in Hempstead until early December, when it claimed its last victim and finally abated. 

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