Remember that scene in “Gone With the Wind” in which Scarlett and Melanie are reading through the list of killed soldiers? The Tarleton twins are on the list, but thankfully – for Scarlett and Melanie – Ashley isn’t.
I think about that scene every time I see a list of yellow fever deaths in a historic Louisiana newspaper. In the 1800s, newspapers were probably your best avenue of information. No phones. No internet. Just the Post Office and newspapers.
The Baltimore Sun reported this in 1853:
Indeed, the Thibodaux Minerva in that same year revealed that yellow fever deaths were a big seller:
Think about it. In less than two months’ time, there were 224 burials in Thibodaux. I doubt you’d want to go visiting with that much death. You relied on the newspaper for news of who had succumbed.
That same Oct. 1, 1853, issue of the Thibodaux Minerva contains a sad tribute to 4-year-old Margaret Ann Guyther, the daughter of Margaret V. White and James A. Guyther. Little Margaret Ann died on Sept. 7 of yellow fever. Making her death really sad is that her sisters Malvina and Caroline died shortly before her. Their parents buried three children in a brief span.
My grandmother was very fond of her own grandmother Merante Aucoin Montet Gauthreaux. Apparently Merante was very kind to her, and there weren’t many people who were kind to my grandmother during her Dickensian childhood.
What amazes me about Merante is that she was able to be a bright spot in a young girl’s life despite her own tragedies. Merante was the 13th child of Ludfrois Aucoin and Amarante Felicite Gautreaux. She was born when her mother was 45. Shortly after her first birthday, her father died.
The Aucoins were a large household. In addition to rearing their own children, Ludfrois and Felicite reared Ludfrois’ son by his first marriage and Felicite’s orphaned niece.
Catholic records weren’t the best in St. Mary Parish during the 1800s. Of the 13 children, I’ve only been able to find a marriage record for Merante, sister Celestine and brother Adrian.
Merante married Pierre Paul Montet in 1868. They had at least four children (possibly more): Rosa, Felonie, Gabriel and Oleus (my grandmother’s parrain). Pierre Paul had been married previously (to an Elizabeth Snell who just faded into history), and had two boys: Oscar and Desire.
Celestine – older than Merante by six years – married Apollinaire Frioux. They had at least four children: Villeo, Ernestine, Florestine and Felonise.
Of these 10 children from the blended families of the two sisters, only three would live to adulthood.
Yellow fever arrived in St. Mary Parish in the late 1870s, and it was merciless.
Nowadays, you don’t hear much about yellow fever. According to the CDC, it’s transmitted through mosquito bites (who hasn’t been bitten by mosquitos?) and it leads to fever, chills, severe headaches, vomiting, fatigue and weakness.
In 1879, at least 95 people died of yellow fever in St. Mary Parish. The dead included Merante’s sister, nephew, nieces, husband, half brother and her own children. Not surprisingly, burial records are scant. The priest likely was overwhelmed.
Here’s a list of St. Mary’s dead from the U.S. Mortality Index (I’ve bolded everyone who’s in my family tree):
Volsen Aucoin (Jean Baptiste Valery Aucoin, son of Francois Malo Aucoin and Marie Boudreaux)
L.E. Aucoin (Ludfrois Heli Aucoin, son of Ludfrois Aucoin and Henrrique Isabel Blanchard)
Mary Blanche Breed
Symmthia Buniff (Symphenie Johnston who married Benjamin Buniff in 1874)
Judith Alice Cary
F C Chase
Pauline Dellucky (the wife of Etienne Delucky; the Deluckys married into the Bourg family)
Severen Dupuis (Severin married to Victorine Augustine Aucoin)
Amylie Dupuis (Amelie, daughter of Severin and Victorine Aucoin Dupuis)
Henry Dupuis (son of Severin and Victorine Aucoin Dupuis?)
Celestine Faerie (Celestine Marie Aucoin Frioux, daughter of Ludfrois Aucoin and Felicite Gautreaux; wife of Apollinaire Frioux).
Gustave Faerie (possibly a brother of Apollinaire Frioux)
Villion Faerie (son of Apollinaire Frioux and Celestine Aucoin)
Ernestine Faerie (daughter of Apollinaire Frioux and Celestine Aucoin)
Pauline Faerie (probably Felonise, daughter of Apollinaire Frioux and Celestine Aucoin)
Clennie Faerie (most likely a daughter of Apollinaire Frioux and Celestine Aucoin)
Ferdinand Fellrath (son of Antoine and Caroline Fellrath)
Albert Geisler (Albert Geissler who immigrated from Germany in 1867)
Sophie Hattendorf (Sophia Forstl Hottendorf, wife of John Hottendorf).
M L Hayes
G A Hilbreth
L O Hilbreth
P P Monte (Pierre Paul Montet, son of Pierre Paul Montet and Emerante Emeline Braud; husband of Elizabeth Snell (first) and Merante Carmelite Aucoin (second))
Desire Monte (son of Pierre Paul Montet and Elizabeth Snell)
Rosa Monte (daughter of Pierre Paul Montet and Merante Carmelite Aucoin)
D Monte (probable daughter of Pierre Paul Montet and Merante Carmelite Aucoin)
Louise Monte (Felonie Louise Montet, daughter of Pierre Paul Montet and Merante Carmelite Aucoin)
Jas H Morehead
Wm B Mullens
Felix Sennett (Felix Senette, husband of Leodicia Erwin Robertson)
T M L Whitner
H F Whitner
Carry A Wooster (Carrie Agusta Wooster: daughter of Nathan and Mary Wooster)
The 1800s were a tough time to have children in Louisiana. Many children died during childhood. For the Green family, death came especially frequently.
The New Orleans daily Democrat, October 21, 1878
The following are the names of the persons who have died of yellow fever on the Armant plantation in St. James Parish: John Humble, Germany; Emma L. Green, Geo. G. Green and Johnnie Green, children of J. C. Green, manager of the Armant plantation; Luke W. Conerly Jr. and Emma Eloise Conerly, children of Luke W. Conerly from Pike County, Miss.; and young Mr. Compton, assistant overseer from Rapides parish.
All of Mr. Green’s family have had the fever and all of Mr. Conerly’s family except his wife and child – four months old – in all, 18 cases and seven deaths. Those who died had black vomit.
In addition to the above there have been a large number of cases among the negroes, with some 12 or 15 deaths, principally among the children. There are a few cases yet prevailing on the plantation. The fever is gradually spreading in the parish, particularly on the east side of the river. It has also broken out on the Carroll plantation in St. John parish. Pioneer of Assumption – Nov. 8, 1879
Our former parishioner and friend J.C. Green, Esq., visited his plantation here on a sad errand.
The object of his visit was to see his promising son committed to the grave in Christ Episcopal Church cemetery. Mavor C. Green died suddenly of heart disease at the early age of 19 years and 7 months, regretted by all who ever knew him.
He is the seventh child lost by Mr. Green within the past twelve months. Only one child is left to the deeply afflicted father. If ever a parent deserved the sympathy of his friends, Mr. Green does and he has it from them all.