Among local historical records at the Logan County Public Library is a copy of a lengthy letter dated August 10, 1835. Rebecca Washington, who lived at Gordonsville, wrote this letter to her daughter in Arkansas describing the cholera epidemic that had struck Russellville and Logan County at that time.

It was believed that a sailor who came up the Mississippi River from New Orleans brought the disease to Russellville and it quickly spread. Many who died are buried in the Caldwell/Morton/Littlejohn Cemetery between First and Second Streets.

Since the world is experiencing the coronavirus epidemic, I thought excerpts from Mrs. Washington’s letter would be of interest.

“The cholera has been among us, and death has been doing fearful work ... That horrible disease has nearly subsided in Russellville, but it has left a great house of mourning. It broke out three weeks ago with great violence; in 24 hours there were nine widows left to mourn the sudden death of their husbands ...

Poor Louise Caldwell has lost all her children but one... indeed, it seemed for a while that all of the inhabitants would be swept off ... it was with greatest difficulty they could be buried. William Curd with two others dug six graves and buried the persons they were for in one day with their own hands.

Mr. George Brown was quite well at dinnertime and ate a hearty dinner. By four o’clock in the evening he was buried. The printer and all the magistrates died, the postmaster and clerk were at the point of death; every store shut up, their owners either dead or fled into the country. Altogether I never heard of such a scene of calamity in my life.

I thought in all probability I should never see you again, but thanks to the God of Mercies, we (our family) are all this far saved.

The merchants are beginning to open their stores ... All Main Street and the two main cross streets were entirely deserted by their owners ... A great many strange men were seen prowling about the deserted lots ... in the broad day. What hardened wretches.”

A copy of the entire letter may be read at the Logan County Public Library.