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.

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 Jacinto, and was part of a land grant of 1,280 acres…
View Story | Show on Map

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. A commercial city whose lifeblood was cotton and…
View Story | Show on Map

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, businesses had closed, plantations had gone under…
View Story | Show on Map

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 stranger by the name of Mynatt into town. A few days…
View Story | Show on Map

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 railroad was to connect Bryan to Houston by passing…
View Story | Show on Map

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…
View Story | Show on Map

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