Yellow Fever Hits Beaufort…

In 1817, a “fever” hit Beaufort taking several of Beaufort’s wealthy inhabitants, like Reverend William Potter of St. Helena Episcopal Church.  What is not known is the number of those less wealthier who were stricken ill with the disease.  Born 1782, the Reverend was one of the one sixth of Beaufort’s population who died in that wave of the epidemic.

What we know of this, we learn from letters like Hetty B Heyward’s letter to her mother on September 13, 1817, she writes:

“We all continue quite well, and I believe the town is becoming a little more healthy, – I had a visit from Mrs. Finley the last week, the Doctor had frightened them a little by a fit of the fever, – – as he had been very much among persons with the yellow fever, they thought of course he could not escape, but he has got quite well and I dare say is as busy as ever. I was perfectly astonished to hear that you consented to the Girls going to Pinckney’s Island, and Hope they won’t get sick but I think they deserve to have the fever and ague the whole Winter.”

At times in the letter Hetty B. Heyward seemed relieved that the worst of it may have been over.  She seemed happy and optimistic.

But in 1871, the yellow fever would strike again.

A newspaper account from the period, reports:

B. S. Sams, son of M.M. Sams had been sick for fifteen days when a New York Times Reporter that year in September published an article entitled, “Yellow Fever at Beaufort – State of the Case.

The article cites the Beaufort Republican, a popular newspaper of the day  records that there were two deaths due to the fever.

  • Mr. Stern of Whitehall, walked from Whitehall to Beaufort and after the first few days he had black vomit and died.
  • Mr. Patterson was sick a week
  • Middleton Stuart, Jr. was sick ten days

But, South Carolina’s last recorded outbreak was in 1878 in Beaufort.

An Annual Report by the South Carolina State Board of Health of South Carolina revealed in 1871 yellow fever was brought to to the town of Beaufort in 1871 by a pilot who went aboard a vessel at quarantine at St. Helena and played cards with the mate, the vessel having yellow fever aboard. He came to Beaufort sick and acknowledged this before he died. That year Beaufort had 40 cases of Yellow Fever.


Source: A History of Yellow Fever. The Statehouse Report. April 22, 2016.

Source: Annual Report of the State Board of Health of South Carolina
By South Carolina State Board of Health, South Carolina General Assembly


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