Today, we complete our discussion of the 1888 yellow fever outbreak that caused widespread panic in North Florida.
By the Oct. 28, 1888, meeting, the City Council was ordering that all trains from the east not be allowed to enter the corporate limits of Live Oak, nor could any passengers, train crews, or other matters be allowed until further notice. The mayor was instructed to use all diligence and to employ sufficient forces to carry out the Council’s directions. In addition, the minutes reflected that “all parties who have been (in) contact with Mr. White be sent to quarantine camp.” Which “Mr. White” was not addressed in the minutes.
Later in the day, the City Council met again, this time to order that all religious or other gatherings be dispersed until otherwise ordered, and that the marshal see that this order was carried out. Dr. Carroll, the mayor, resigned during the same meeting, probably to focus his efforts on dealing with patients.
A special-called meeting was held on Nov. 1, and the marshal was instructed to disburse all crowds and congregations of all kinds in the streets. A slew of officials continued to resign, with no reason given in the minutes. Possible reasons included taking care of ailing family, dealing with the health hazard in some commercial way (like practicing medicine) or simply quitting out of fear for their own safety.
By the middle of November, the yellow fever scare was apparently dying down, as a previous Live Oak City Council order dispersing all religious and other gatherings was revoked. On Dec. 3, the City Council officially revoked all quarantine ordinances and orders. The town of Live Oak and the rest of Suwannee County seemed to settle into a feeling of normalcy; even some of those who had resigned from their government positions to apparently deal with the epidemic returned to their posts (including Dr. Overstreet).
Although there were some financial aftereffects (such as payment for extra guards to work the railroads and quarantine camp), life carried on. The Florida State Board of Health was created the following year, largely as a result of the 1888 yellow fever epidemic.
More history next week!
Eric Musgrove can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 386-362-0564.