1849 Cholera Epidemic Paterson, NJ

By Annita Zalenski

In 1849, when the second wave of cholera swept through the United States and England, the cause of the illness was still unknown. Many thought that the disease was atmospheric in origin. Dr. John Snow, an English physician, was determined to find why cholera seemed to affect mainly the poor neighborhoods of London. By mapping the location of each death and the water source for each household he discovered that many of the victims obtained their water from one particular pump. Realizing that the water was related to the illness, Dr. Snow removed the pump handle and stopped the London epidemic. It took years before his theory was accepted.

A Board of Health had been formed in Paterson during the epidemic of 1832; however, it was not active in 1849, when cholera reappeared in the city. At the township committee meeting on May 21, 1849, it was “Resolved, That Doct Frederick S. Weller Town Physician, John Avison overseer of the poor, John K. Flood, Town Clerk, Henry Close, superintendent of streets, and Charles H. May, President of the Town Committee, be requested to act as a Committee in reference to the general health of the Town, and to draw up a report and address to the inhabitants of the Township on the subject and relative to the apprehended appearance of the Cholera among us.”

Throughout the epidemic, the local newspaper often published symptoms of the illness and encouraged residents to seek medical help at the first signs of the disease. The newspaper tried not to alarm the citizens but kept them well informed about the progress of the epidemic. The following newspaper articles and death lists were extracted from Records of the Township of Paterson, New Jersey, 1831-1851: With the Laws Relating to the Township: Extracts from Contemporary Newspapers, and Notes, Compiled and Edited by William Nelson, 1895.

Paterson Intelligencer, June 6, 1849:


We learn from the physicians of the Town, that a few cases of malignant cholera have occurred – but nothing to justify fear or create alarm. Only two fatal cases have occurred; one, Mr. Adams, was a person of temperate and good habits, but of feeble constitution and precarious health, and whose death would not be unexpected at any time. The other was a person of extremely intemperate habits, who would probably have fallen a victim to any disease with which he was attacked. The other cases have readily been managed and relieved by proper medical treatment.

By this time, every man, woman, and child, who can read, hear, or understand, must know that the first state of the disease is characterized by a looseness of the bowels, generally unattended by pain. In this state the disease is most readily curable; but if allowed to run on unchecked, it soon becomes unmanageable, and death follows. In all the sudden cases we heard of, on inquiry, we find that the first state of the disease, characterized by the looseness of the bowels, had been present for some days, but been neglected, as there was no pain. Let everyone know that life or death may depend upon stopping this looseness as soon as it appears.

At any of the regular drug stores may be found the proper remedies, the basis of all which is some form of opium. Let no family be without some laudanum or morphine ready at hand in the case of need. We again repeat that there is at present no cause for alarm – that the disease appears to be mild, and if not neglected in its early stages, its as easily relieved as most other epidemics. That the disease is in our community, and that the mysterious choleraic poison is diffusing itself in this locality, cannot be denied – the cases may probably increase, but this disease is more amenable to treatment that formerly – its nature and stages are better understood by the medical profession – and all authority proves that in its early stages it is curable – but let the first symptoms be checked. Life or death depends on this.

By the end of July cholera was rampant throughout the United States. President Zachary Taylor declared August 3, 1849, as a nationwide day of “Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer.” The following proclamation by New Jersey Governor Daniel Haines was published in the Paterson Intelligencer, August l, 1849.


By the Governor of New Jersey.

WHEREAS the President of the United States, in consideration of the prevailing pestilence, has set apart FRIDAY, the third day of August next, and recommended that it be observed throughout the United States, as a day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer; and whereas I believe that the people of this State recognize the obligations of a Christian nation publicly to acknowledge their dependence upon Almighty God, and humbly to bow beneath the strokes of his afflictive providence, and fervently to supplicate his mercy; I do therefore hereby cordially respond to the sentiments expressed by the Chief Magistrate of the Union, and unite with him, in recommending to all the citizens of the State, the due and proper observance of the day named; and that abstaining from their worldly pursuits, they assemble themselves in their respective places of public worship, there with humble confession of sin and thankful acknowledgment of past mercies, unitedly and fervently to implore the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, to remove from us the scourge with which we are afflicted and speedily to restore to us the inestimable blessing of health.

Given under my hand at the city of Trenton, the twenty-sixth day of July, in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and forty-nine.


One hundred and ten Patersonians died during the epidemic. On September 26, 1849, The Paterson Intelligencer published “a list of the names of all the persons who died of cholera in this town, from the 30th of May last up to the 10th inst.”


1849 Cholera Death List

(The names have been arranged alphabetically. The “Number” column refers to the order in which the entry was published by the newspaper.)



NUMBER                                          NAME                                                AGE

1                                                          Adams, Thomas                                  41

18                                                        Allen, Edward                                     52

64                                                        Barrow, Alice                                      30

27                                                        Bradley, Eliza                                     25

109                                                      Brandt, Edward                                   24

6                                                          Brown, Thomas                                  24

61                                                        Cadmus, Henry T.                              43

17                                                        Campbell, Jacob                                  1

15                                                        Campbell, Margaret                            3

16                                                        Campbell, Rebecca                              30

14                                                        Campbell, William                              45

80                                                        Canas, Patrick                                     6

79                                                        Candell, John                                      32

30                                                        Carnton, Michael                                39

75                                                        Carnton, Michael                                28

7                                                          Clark, William                                     13

10                                                        Close, Catherine                                  18

11                                                        Cronow, Barbara                                 33

103                                                      Cutley, Jane                                        71

36                                                        Delangle, Thomas                               27

101                                                      Doherty, Martha                                50

108                                                      Doremus, Ralph G.                             40

98                                                        Douglass, Archibald                            2

52                                                        Drake, Albert T.                                 37

49                                                        Feltman, Jacobus                                16

45                                                        Female, name not furnished                30

82                                                        Franklin, Mary                                   1

19                                                        Garabrant, John                                  19

104                                                      Garrabrant, Garret                              Unknown

69                                                        Gedney, Mary                                    49

73                                                        Gillen, Catharine                                 52

29                                                        Gillespie, John                                    50

77                                                        Haden, Francis                                    3

96                                                        Harrison, Betty                                   12

70                                                        Harrison, John                                    58

94                                                        Harrison, Samuel                                 4

78                                                        Heney, Bernard                                   25

37                                                        Hickett, Joseph                                   50

43                                                        Jackson, Betsy                                    50

44                                                        Jackson, Frank                                    51

89                                                        Johnson, Wm. H.                                42

40                                                        Jones, John                                         31

26                                                        Keane, Jane                                         6

4                                                          Kelly, Bridget                                     25

72                                                        Kelly, Edward                                     54

106                                                      Kenneday, Mary                                36

105                                                      Kenneday, William                             45

68                                                        Kentworth, Sarah                                37

66                                                        Kentworthy, Sarah A.                        Unknown

84                                                        Kerns, William                                    2

46                                                        Laird, John                                          41

91                                                        Lamb, Mrs.                                         50

67                                                        Lee, Thomas                                       41

76                                                        Lodge, William                                    45

85                                                        Mackling, Catherine                            32

107                                                      Mager, William                                   19

32                                                        Maloy, Bridget                                   13

20                                                        Marrian, Thomas                                24

39                                                        Marsh, Agnes                                     46

83                                                        McCann, Bridget                                30

21                                                        McCardle, Susan                                 24

53                                                        McCoy, James                                    6

35                                                        McFey, John                                      34

25                                                        McGinnis, Patrick                              81

54                                                        McGrotty, Nancy                              33

51                                                        McKivar, James                                  13

24                                                        McManis, John                                  28

23                                                        McManis, William                              2

31                                                        Mellory, Peter                                    31

5                                                          Merrian, Thomas                                Unknown

65                                                        Metcalf, Martha                                 Unknown

57                                                        M’Grechan, Margaret                         59

42                                                        Miller, Rachel                                     14

41                                                        Millhaw, Ellen                                    49

93                                                        Moss, James                                       48

74                                                        Mulholland, Catharine                        Infant

32                                                        Norman, James                                   6

59                                                        Orr, James                                           28

99                                                        Palmer, Mary                                      12

100                                                      Palmer, William                                   6

90                                                        Patterson, Thomas                              39

56                                                        Plates, Henry                                      37

55                                                        Porter, Thomas                                   39

102                                                      Post, John                                           23

28                                                        Rafferty, Hugh                                    66

3                                                          Redmond, John                                   34

38                                                        Richardson, Wm.                                Infant

12                                                        Ricker, Cath. Jane                               19

22                                                        Ripple, William                                   Infant

34                                                        Riseley, Philip                                    27

63                                                        Robertson, Sarah                                 2

87                                                        Ryan, Patrick                                      39

95                                                        Schuyler, Benj.                                    1-1/2

92                                                        Scofield, Mary Ann                            46

33                                                        Semidt, Jacob S.                                  49

2                                                          Shorrock, Ann                                     29

13                                                        Sindle, Eliza Ann                                25

81                                                        Skelly, Thomas                                   23

9                                                          Skinner, Mary                                     30

71                                                        Smith, Felix                                         70

110                                                      Stimson, Ephriam I.                            45

62                                                        Stott, Lucy                                          4

58                                                        Stubert, Hester                                    13

97                                                        Thompson, Thomas                           3

8                                                          Turner, William                                   48

60                                                        Van Emburg, H’y.                               31

50                                                        Vosger, Martin                                    39

88                                                        Vreeland, John                                    50

47                                                        Wilden, Sophia                                    47

48                                                        Wilhelm, John                                     29

Also published were the names of sixteen people who died in Manchester.


NUMBER                                          NAME                                                AGE


14                                                        Baker, Harman                                    45

3                                                          Bamper, Lodiwick                              67

1                                                          Bannar, Samuel                                   63

2                                                          Berry, John                                         45

12                                                        Conover, Samuel                                 29

5                                                          Demarest, Garret H.                           46

6                                                          Demarest, Kesiah                                78

11                                                        Dykman, Richard                                32

16                                                        Eskie, Sarah                                         32

10                                                        McCall, Sarah Jane                             32

4                                                          Messenger, John                                 45

9                                                          Stagg, Cornelia                                    35

7                                                          Van Voorhis, Abraham                       55

8                                                          Van Voorhis, Kesiah                           39

13                                                        Weymer, Catherine                             42

15                                                        Weymer, George                                 47