days later, as the same disease developed among his crew, the terrible fact
that it was yellow fever broke upon the town. Nemesis had overtaken them
and many felt the pestilence was a direct visitation upon the wickedness of
Up to this period St. Joseph had been considered the most healthful
spot in Florida. At this season of the year, however, the marshy lagoons and
swamps were filled with lukewarm water. Here bred clouds of small, dark
mosquitos of the genus Anopheles, the only agent that carries the dread
germ of yellow fever from one human being to another. At this time nothing
was known about the source of infection, there was no idea of how to guard
against it, and people of all ages were stricken without warning.
Even after the dread disease was recognized, medical science
could not provide a cure nor even alleviate the suffering. For those
attacked it meant almost certain death.
All business stopped as the epidemic gripped the town and spread
into the surrounding territory. Racing, gambling, and drinking were given
up. Ships slipped quietly away under cover of darkness. Helplessly the
residents saw their families decimated, and panic seized the citizenry.
Many fled to the country only to die in the forest and swamps. The scores
who packed up and left had no thought except to put as much distance as
possible between them and St. Joseph. Legend says that many even left
the dinner dishes on the table in their mad desire to get away.