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Bulloch History by Roger Allen
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    Bulloch County and the City of Statesboro fell prey to almost every major disease that ravaged the rest of America during the 1800’s., including “yellow fever,” “Smallpox” and Influenza."
“Yellow fever” was the scourge of many southern cities. Called “Yellow Jack,” it attacked the heart, lungs and kidney. The medical community gave it two scientific (Latin) classifications: Febris Typhus Icterodes or Febris Cum Nigro Vomito.
    According to medical sources in the mid-1850’s, “Yellow Fever” was spread three ways: “Urban” (or person to person); “Jungle” (or animal to human); and “Savannah” (either animal or human to human).
    The first recorded instance of “Yellow Fever” in coastal Georgia was reported in 1808. This was followed by epidemics of various proportions during the periods of 1817-1821, 1826-1828, 1850-1858, 1876 and 1893.
    In Savannah and the surrounding countryside, the mere mention of another episode of “Yellow Jack” caused entire segments of the population to panic, with a resulting fleeing to the areas of Bulloch County and even further inland.
    The number of these refugees is astounding: In 1820, fully 6,000 of Savannah’s residents fled the city, while in the case of the 1876 epidemic, 5,000 of the city’s residents fled inland. Many stayed at camps set up at railroad depots.
Station 4 on the Central of Georgia railway’s main line, also known as Oliver Station, reported four deaths from “Yellow Fever,” two of whom were troops guarding the refugees. A number of Bulloch Countians who had been to these towns contracted the disease.
Small pox
    In July of 1898, a number of residents who lived in and around Swainsboro contracted small pox. It all began when one of Dr. Bell’s sons contracted the disease while in an Army Camp, and escaped from the quarantine camp and returned home.
    Bulloch County Commissioner Hagin immediately sent Emanuel County Commissioner Warren a letter informing him “a 15-day quarantine of Swainsboro was now in place, and that no one from Swainsboro could attend the regional Teachers Institute in Statesboro the next week”.
    On March 6, 1903, the mayor and council of Statesboro created the position of city physician and health officer, and selected A.L.R. Avant as the man for the job. His challenge: prevent smallpox from ravaging the city.
    Everyone was to be vaccinated. Those who refused the vaccination and those diagnosed with the disease were placed in confinement. All public gatherings, including church services, were banned for several weeks.
    On March 6, 1903 the paper reported that only two cases of smallpox had been confirmed (J.F. Fields and J.G. Blitch). It explained that J.F. Fields, whose illness was first misdiagnosed as chickenpox rather than smallpox by Doctors Sample and Mooney, had probably infected others.
    On March 13, 1903 the paper announced that the City Marshall Dempse Barnes was being dismissed for carelessness. It seems he had entered the house of J.G. Blitch, a violation of his own strict quarantine orders.
Finally, an article was printed in the paper on March 27, 1903 in which City Health Officer Avant responded to a number of wild rumors. He assured residents that amongst other things, no one had had to have their arms amputated after receiving a smallpox vaccinations.
    On February 19, 1904 the local newspaper reported that, “Smallpox is reported pretty thick in some sections of the county”. It went on to say that the one confirmed case was someone who had not been vaccinated during the 1903 smallpox epidemic.
    As a result of that fact, on February 23, 1904 Statesboro’s Mayor G.S. Johnston announced in the newspaper that all residents of Statesboro and the outlying areas must be vaccinated immediately, or suffer dire consequences.
    The last reported occurrence of this disease during that period took place during 1922. Three white persons had contracted the disease: Professor E.V. Hollis at the First District Agricultural School, the young son of W.L. Morrison of the Standard Oil Company, and K.P. Davis, a machinist. The paper stated “as to the colored folk, a total of seventeen suspicious cases had been identified and were being closely observed.”

Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at
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