logo: Kansas Heritage

Ford County Historical Society
Dodge City, Kansas

Fort Dodge: A Letter, 1867

(from Fort Dodge, Sentry of the Western Plains, by Dr. Leo E. Oliva;
art by Jerry Thomas, Kansas State Historical Soc. © 1998)

[This excellent book on Fort Dodge (available through the Kansas Heritage Center) tells the story of the military post, illustrated with historic photographs and sketches. Special attention is given to the medical history of the post, background for the Kansas State Soldiers Home that occupies the site today. The cholera epidemic of 1867 was a tragic time at the post, described in the book as follow:]

     The only serious epidemic at Fort Dodge was the outbreak of cholera in 1867, a disease that affected travelers on the overland trails and soldiers and civilians at most of the military posts in Kansas. During July and August there were thirty cases of cholera at Fort Dodge, seventeen civilians and thirteen soldiers. The post commander, Major Henry Douglas, was one of the first cases, and his wife and sons also were stricken. A total of twenty died at the post, including the wife of the post commanders, Isadore (Issie) Bowman Douglas. She left her husband with three young boys.

     Major Douglas described the impact of the disease in a letter to this mother-in-law, dated August 12, 1867:

"On Friday the 26 July the cholera broke out in virulent epidemic form at this Post. It came upon us like a clap of thunder. I was the first and only officer seriously ill with it.... I suffered intensely but the kind attentions of friends, medical skill, and above all the constant attention of my darling wife, and a sturdy constitution, I was brought safely through the dangerous stages of the malady, but left me utterly prostrated...On Tuesday evening Issie was taken sick....I was again & again dosed with morphine & other poisons, utterly prostrated, helpless & torpid. I did not know that Issie was dangerously sick until about 1/2 hour before her death. The Drs. deceived me, they said to save my life. They may be right but I thought it very cruel. A soldier whispered into my torpid ear that the surgeons were deceiving me that Mrs. D. was very low....I tried to rise but could not. I called out. It was useless.... I sank back in a state of semi insensibility. I know nothing more. They informed me that she died at 10 minutes past 12 on August 1st.... I lingered on between life & death, utterly reckless which way the scale turned, medical skill and the assiduous care of friends brought me to a state of convalescence, and here I am a wreck of my former self, scarcely able to drag one foot after the other or hold the pen with which I recreate this sad story."

(Ford County Historical Society, Inc.)

Return to Ford County Historical Society Main Page

Kansas Heritage Group Website