Minden Press-Herald

Oct 02nd

Minden in May, 1882

Not every Echo of Our Past must be some great watershed event in the history of our community. On occasion it is very interesting to examine the local events of a typical period without earth shaking happenings.

This week's column will look at the local events in Minden in May 1882, 129 years ago, as they were reported in the pages of the Webster Tribune.

In those days, May was the month for city elections, but in 1882, the elections were not a big news story. Mayor P. W. Paul and the other city officials were returned to office without serious opposition. In fact, Mayor Paul won his race by a vote of 108 to 1.

The interesting part of the single dissenting ballot is that the opposing candidate, J. W. McDonald, had brothers, sons, and male cousins eligible to vote here in Minden.

Unless the single ballot was an unsolicited write-in vote, it would seem a family meeting might have been in order after the votes were totaled.

Regular features of the newspaper give us a little glimpse into everyday life in the Minden of those years.

Each paper carried the scheduled mail runs, which were still executed by the stage line operated by Christopher Chaffe. Mail to Minden from Shreveport arrived each day at 5 p.m. and outgoing mail to Shreveport left each morning at 8 a.m.

Incoming mail from Monroe was received each morning at 8 a.m. with the mail bound for Monroe leaving each day at 5 p.m.

A second mail route ran from Minden to Vienna (then the seat of Lincoln Parish) via Mt. Lebanon, Arcadia, and Walnut Creek.

The incoming mail on this route arrived in Minden on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. while the mail sent from Minden on the route left Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6 a.m.

Mail bound for Coushatta via Buckhorn (near today's Heflin), Ringgold and Loves' Lake arrived in Minden at 7 p.m. on Monday and Thursday at 7 p.m., the outbound letters on this route were dispatched at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday. If the letters needed to go on to Natchitoches, there was a daily mail route from Coushatta to Natchitoches.

The final fixed route out of Minden ran to Eden, Ark., via Dorcheat P.O., Shongaloo and Cypress Fork. Mail coming to Minden on this route arrived at 7 p.m. on Saturday and the outgoing mail was sent on Friday at 6 a.m.

It's good we have a simpler system of mail dispatch today, as those different times would be very confusing.

A major social event had been held in Minden on May 1, 1882. The Long Springs Company had invited the residents of Minden to their resort for a May Day picnic.

Attendance was reported to be several hundred at this event. Music for the occasion was provided by the Bellevue String Quartet, and at 1 p.m. a "most sumptuous" dinner was served by the ladies.

The Long Springs Company had erected the framework for a large hotel that was expected to turn the site into a popular summer resort.

The paper offered the thanks of the "young gentlemen" of Minden to the storeowners for closing their businesses so the men could attend the event.

The Webster Parish Grand Jury had just finished its spring session and Foreman O. L. Noles turned in this report to Judge R. C. Drew of the 2nd Judicial District: "We have carefully investigated every case presented (the majority of which were trivial offenses) and the evidence insufficient to warrant us in finding true bills. We have examined the parish jail and find it kept in good condition and prisoners well fed, but the building is insecure for the safe keeping of prisoners. We think the location of the jail a very bad one, as the deep gullies around it would afford places of concealment for any number of persons who might desire to aid prisoners to escape. We find the fireplaces of all of the rooms in the courthouse in bad condition. We find the books and papers of the Clerk's office in unusual good order; also the office of the Sheriff, which office needs a new desk. The public roads are in as good condition as we could expect, after the recent heavy rains. We would suggest that in preliminary trials before justices they be instructed to require witnesses to give bond for their appearances at court."

Interestingly enough, the insecure status of that jail would become an issue later in September 1894, when a mob blew a hole in the side of the jail and lynched the notorious outlaw, Linc Waggoner.

The jail remained in use, with the hole repaired until 1909.

During May 1882, alarm spread through Minden as several cases of some sort of fever, labeled by a few as scarlet fever were reported in the community.

The fear of the disease intensified when on May 4, two young people in Minden succumbed to disease. Mary Belle Cosby, the 12-year old daughter of Mrs. M. E. Cosby died at the residence of Dr. D. B. Hamilton while under his care.

That same afternoon, Henry Crichton, eight-month old son of Adam and Jesse Crichton also was claimed by death.

In its next edition, The Minden Democrat, the rival paper to the Herald, called for an investigation of the "prevailing fever" in Minden and its "great fatality."

The paper suggested that the local doctors were not able to stem the tide of the disease, and perhaps outside help should be requested to stem the "epidemic."

In its edition of May 11, the first after the two recent deaths, the Herald also commented on the health problems, taking a less reactionary stance than the alarmist comments of the Democrat, Editor Moses Fort wrote:

"Who shall decide when doctors disagree? A mysterious disease has been traveling through this country for the last eighteen months or more, and scarcely a family has escaped it. It has proved itself very contagious, and has well nigh spent itself for the want of a material. For the want of a better name, it is commonly called Roseola, although it is evidently not that disease. It has for the most part been very mild, running its course in three or four days.

"One of our doctors has given it a foreign name, but most of the physicians pronounce it a mild form of Scarlet Fever. We have been reading up a little on Scarlet Fever, and find a mild form answering exactly to the prevailing epidemic that has been so universal among our children. From this mild form there has sprung a few cases answering to the higher grades.

"In our family there were generally in each case two days that the symptoms of Scarlitena were strongly marked. Our last and most severe case answered to a 3rd variety of Scarlet Fever, producing large ulcers in the throat, without the scarlet color or rash. The balls of the fingers have peeled off as in Scarlet Fever since recovery.

"This disease went through our schools, and very few if any have escaped it. We believe there is now not a case in the vicinity. The two children that have died, it is said, had a complication of diseases.

"If this disease was really Scarlet Fever, then it is evident we have nothing to fear from that disease for all have had it and are now well. Those sections of the country that is has not yet visited are in more danger of it than we are at the present time."

After this editorial comment had been written, the paper received a letter from Dr. Hamilton, objecting to the position taken by the Democrat. The local physician wrote:

"My attention has been called to an article in the Minden Democrat of last Tuesday, referring to the ' prevailing fever in Minden and its great fatality' which gives a very incorrect idea of the present health of our town. True, two children died on Thursday last and I suppose the third. Being the attending physician of the precious jewel taken from my own household and also the sweet lovely babe of Mr. and Mrs. Adam Crichton, I believe I may properly speak of their deaths and causes. I have not at any time believed, nor said directly of indirectly, or do I now believe, that Mary Belle Cosby had or died from Scarlet Fever. Not thinking myself infallible I instituted such precautions as I thought wise and prudent, not wishing anyone to come to grief through mistake of mine, if such had been the case. I hold to my first diagnosis, it was not Scarlet Fever.

"In reference to the dear babe I say now, as from the beginning of my attentions, that the trouble was from teething and its consequences; that it died on the seventeenth day of its illness, in the meantime "cutting" its four middle incisor teeth. The health of Mrs. Cosby's two remaining children was never better, and on inquiry of various parties hear of no sick child or children in Minden, and it certainly has been several months since a white child was buried in our cemetery before Friday last.

"What other gentlemen may have seen, I know not - but I do know that I've seen no case which I would suppose to diagnose as Scarlet Fever. To suppose that 75 to 100 cases of that scourge to childhood should occur, before it was though of is not complimentary to the diagnostic competency of the profession in Minden and I think a very improbable supposition. Rothein is avail in various places as my journals inform me and has prevailed for sometimes. It attacks old and young, and those having the Scarlet Fever previously find it giving no protection against this. The College has never been healthier than for the past six of eight weeks - no disease of any kind reported to me.

"I believe the above a plain statement of facts." The next several issues of the paper mention no more cases of the fever and apparently the panic passed in Minden.

As May drew to a close, thoughts in Minden turned to happier topics, the good news that a railroad line was being planned to connect the town with the VS&P railroad at Lanesville (Sibley) was confirmed by May 18 and at the end of the month the town was looking forward for the week long graduation activities of the Minden Female College.

Each day and night was packed with musical, dramatic and literary performances in the college concert hall.

So there is an everyday Echo of Our Past from May 1882, 129 years ago.

The world has changed but yet, we still worry about the security of our jail, the pace of mail delivery, town-wide celebrations, the health of our community's children and graduations are still significant events in the live of our town.

So the everyday Echoes still live and are equally if not more important than those watershed events in the fabric of life in our community.

John Agan is a local historian, an instructor at Bossier Parish Community College and a published author. His column appears Fridays in the Minden Press-Herald.






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