Disaster and Calamity: Fever


Heroes arise from the strangest of places.

Near the end of the 19th century, a fever tore through Cross and most of the eastern seaboard. It was reminiscent of the Yellow Fever that decimated New England in 1778, and I was fearful of the damage that might occur in a larger, more closely packed community.

The fever seemed to be straight forward enough at first. Those stricken with it fell ill, and their temperatures rose.

But the temperatures didn’t stop rising.

Boils formed on the skin, rising to almost an inch in height and twice that in diameter. The black liquid which exploded from them when they were lanced stank of decay and scorched the flesh of both the sick and those who were treating them.

Melvin James, owner of the Standard Ice company, was the first to strike upon the treatment which saved so many lives in Cross. When he was delivering ice to the Howard family on East Street, he heard young May Howard weeping and begging for relief from the fire in her body. Without fear of the disease, Melvin struck off a chunk of ice, knelt beside the six-year-old girl, and placed the ice on the closest boil.

It sank almost instantly, as did the dozens of others that he used the ice on.

Word was sent to his sons and nephews, and suddenly ice was being delivered to every house in Cross where a sick person lay. All day and night, horses raced to and from the Standard icehouse.

Within two days, every victim was on their way to recovery.

Cross had not lost a single resident to the strange disease.

The James’ are remembered to this day, and they are the reason why ‘James’ is such a popular name amongst the families of Cross.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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