19th Century Disease Facts

Smallpox Letter

19th Century Disease Facts

  • There were no cholera outbreaks among transcontinental railroad workers in Utah. Newspapers of the time reported widely on events associated with construction of the road.
  • Cholera is spread through contaminated water, and can be avoided by drinking only water that has been boiled. While the Chinese may have been drinking some unsterilized freshwater, they favored tea.
  • There were several episodes of smallpox among transcontinental railroad workers in Utah. Is it possible the story just got twisted, and it was actually a smallpox outbreak? Probably not, since those were pretty far to the west, and did not kill many Chinese workers.

Letter from Charlie Crocker to C.P. Huntington January 20, 1869

“. . . the small pox completely [immobilized] our track laying force and they could not have laid much more if they had it — as very nearly all the white men left the work and most of our best foremen also. We are breaking in the Chinese and learning them as fast as possible....

“. . . in the midst of trouble Stro (----?) sick with a very bad cold and afraid it was the small pox as the symptoms are very similiar. Men running off scared out of their senses.”