The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1867

The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1867 explores one of the most devastating events in the history of the Lone Star State. Originating in Indianola in June, the virus spread by way of infected persons to Galveston and then across East-Central Texas. Millican, Huntsville, La Grange, Brenham and Chappell Hill, Alleyton, Hempstead, Goliad, Navasota, Victoria, Montgomery, and Houston were all hard hit. The virus did not finally stop until November 26th with the first frost of the year. By then, approximately 4,000 Texans had died, which suggests that close to 40,000 had become infected.

The disease would dramatically change many of these towns, as industries were slow to recover, prominent families never returned, and colleges began to think about relocating. Reconstruction efforts were seriously undermined, as yellow fever took the life of Assistant Commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau, General Charles Griffin, in Galveston, and approximately 393 United States soldiers across the state.

Cincinnati, Texas

Situated along the west side of the Trinity River in northern Walker County, Cincinnati was an important river port and ferry crossing during the nineteenth century. The settlement was founded by James C. Dewitt, a veteran of the Battle of San…

Yellow Fever in Indianola, Texas

The yellow fever epidemic of 1867 first made its appearance in the port town of Indianola, Texas in early July. The fever first reached Indianola when the disease traveled from Vera Cruz, Mexico to the port town via boat. Upon arrival, a gentleman…

Yellow Fever in Galveston, Texas

On the eve of the great Texas yellow fever epidemic, Galveston was the largest city in Texas with a population of approximately 22,500, and served as a shipping and receiving hub for the rest of the state. The port city’s prosperity was to be…

Yellow Fever in Houston, Texas

In August of 1867, the yellow fever blazed into Houston. This was not the first time the gulf city had experienced the fever—every mosquito season was accompanied by the threat of widespread sickness and death—but it was to become the deadliest.…

Yellow Fever in Navasota, Texas

“In 1867, Navasota seemed to be in a state of healthy growth and prosperity: trade was quite large and brisk. Numbers of buildings had been erected and many more projected. Our population was pleasing. Early in the summer the physicians encountered…

Yellow Fever in Huntsville, Texas

On September 5, 1867, shortly after Huntsville declared the recent string of yellow fever attacks an epidemic, “a general panic ensued.” By the end of the month, families hid in their homes or had fled to the country, schools had dissolved,…

Yellow Fever in the Penitentiary

There are multiple theories as to how the yellow fever made its way into Huntsville during the summer of 1867. One of the town's inhabitants, a man named George Robinson who founded the Huntsville Item, speculated that the fever accompanied a…

Yellow Fever in La Grange, Texas

From August to November of 1867, the yellow fever epidemic ravaged the little town of La Grange, decreasing the town’s population by nearly a fifth. As the bodies began to pile up, the people of La Grange had to make use of mass graves to stay on…

Yellow Fever in Anderson, Texas

Anderson, located ten miles northeast of Navasota, is the county seat of Grimes County and was once the fourth most populous town in Texas. Taking advantage of the stage lines which ran through his property, English immigrant Henry Fanthorp ran an…

Yellow Fever in Bryan, Texas

Bryan, located northwest of Millican, was like many East Texas towns begotten by the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. The construction of the H&TC, which began in the 1850s, led to Bryan’s founding along the railroad’s proposed route. The…

Yellow Fever in Millican, Texas

Millican, a town in southern Brazos County, was decimated by the 1867 epidemic. The fever hit the town later than it did Huntsville, but by September 9th the postmaster sent one last telegraph to Houston to notify them that he was fleeing for fear of…

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…
The 2017 undergraduate and graduate students of Sam Houston State’s Public History classes would like to thank the following institutions and individuals for help with this project:

The Department of History at SHSU
SHSU Special Collections and Archive
Sandra Rogers of the Texas Prison Museum and Archeological Steward of Walker County
The College of Graduate Studies at SHSU
The Center for Community Engagement at SHSU
The Walker County Historical Commission
The Deeds and Records Division at the Walker County Courthouse
Special Collections at the University of Texas at Arlington