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Dumfries Cholera

The first death from cholera in Dumfries, Scotland, occurred on the 15th of September. For the 1st of October the record showed fifty-six new cases and twenty-three deaths, while the next day it reached its culminating point, rising to fifty-five new cases and fifty-four deaths. Fatal cases continued to occur daily till the 30th October, which proved a blank day; and by the middle of November the disease had fairly disappeared. During its stay it desolated scores of homesteads, leaving 'many a sweet babe fatherless, and many a widow mourning,' and sometimes sweeping whole families into eternity. As officially reported, 837 persons were attacked, of whom 421 died; but the number of coffins made, and the heavy sexton's bills, as based upon the burial-roll, went to shew that the real deaths were greater in number and probably not fewer than 550. The sister burgh of Maxwelltown suffered about as much, population considered, the cases there having been 237, and the deaths 127. Beneath the turf, on which we now gaze - kept green even in winter by the rich soil below - at least 350 coffined bodies were laid, piled tier upon tier, with quicklime scattered between. The cavity was made eighteen feet deep, and extended as the demand for accommodation rapidly and fearfully increased, and the grave-diggers had to ply their implements in harmony, with the dismal Deathstave; T gather them in; I gather them in!'

William McDowall, 1815-1888.

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