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|In late winter 1850, cholera came calling in Concordia|
DURING THE EPIDEMIC, THE LAW FIRM OF STACY & SPARROW WAS PROPSERING
In mid-February, 1850, a Catahoula Parish man, Mr. Rowton, was in and out of Trinity almost daily. At the time, an outbreak of cholera and a rising backwater had cast the entire population into a mood of melancholy and fear.
Concerned with the rising waters, Mr. Rowton decided to move his family to the pine hills of Catahoula west of Trinity. Rowton was, said Dr. Andrew Robert Kilpatrick, a Black River planter in Concordia, "a large, corpulent (fat) man, of general good health and regular habits."
But before the move to the hills was complete, Mr. Rowton "was seized" with cholera "and died suddenly" on Feb. 23, 1850. The family wrapped his corpse in a blanket and put it in the back of their wagon so they could bury it in the highlands of Catahoula. By then, all of the family was sick including the wife and children of Rowdon's first born son, the Rev. T.A. Rowton.
On the trip to the hills, old Mr. Rowton's wife, his adult daughter and a black woman died. The rest of the Rowtons survived.
On March 2, another victim treated by Kilpatrick was a "delicate girl" who "had been laboring under both thoracic and abdominal derangement for more than a year." Kilpatrick identified the woman as Miss C.J., and noted that her "father had been in Trinity during the height of the disease, and saw several cases, and assisted in some attentions to the sick and dead."
His daughter, treated by Kilpatrick for about 15 hours, died, The deaths of Mr. Rowton, and Miss C.J. due to cholera were among many, including eight Trinity residents who had previously died.
Almost every family suffered from the disease, which first broke out in New Orleans in December of 1848 and spread up the Mississippi and westward to California. Other deaths were also reported locally on Little River in Catahoula, including several slaves "on Mr. Glenn's place," and the 10-year-old child of Captain Spencer.
THE LAW FIRM OF STACY & SPARROW
Kilpatrick said the cholera "made its appearance on the plantation of Messrs. Stacy & Sparrow, on Brushy Bayou, ten miles east of Trinity, about the 11th of March, and also on a place of Gen. Sparrow's, about five miles east of this, both in the parish of Concordia, and both at the time mostly overflowed."
Stacy and Sparrow were two of the most prominent attorneys in Louisiana at the time. Together and separately the two men owned a great deal of land in Concordia Parish and elsewhere. The spot on the road known as "Stacy," at the crossroads of U.S. 84 and La. 129 between Ferriday and Jonesville, is on part of the old Stacy & Sparrow plantation.
David Stutson Stacy, age 48 in 1850, was born in Maine in October 1803, the year of the Louisiana Purchase. Graduated from Bowdoin College in 1829, he traveled to the South, and taught at an academy in Baton Rouge for a time while studying law. Later he moved to Iberville, established a law practice there with Zenon Labauve, before settling in Vidalia in the 1830s. In 1839, he married Mary Jane King of Claiborne County, Miss.
In 1840, Stacy survived the Great Natchez Tornado. He was in the courthouse at Vidalia with Judge George Keeton when the killer twister hit. Keeton died. Stacy crawled out of the rubble. Stacy was said to have "unerring judgment...a mind strong and comprehensive, and under the most perfect discipline." All considered him "courteous, cheerful, genial, and generous."
Edward Sparrow, age 39, was born on Dec. 19, 1810, in Dublin, Ireland, and grew up in Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Kenyon College and moved to Concordia Parish while still a young man. He served as sheriff from 1834-1840.
Kilpatrick said that in the early 1851 Sparrow "bought out three small settlements (in Concordia) from white men who owned no Negroes and has put a force of twenty-five hands in the place, and has cleared much land, and built a good gin house, together with other buildings."
Sparrow was noted for his charisma as well as "his great knowledge of human nature, and his magic influence over men." In 1847, Sparrow led a group of men, known as "Sparrow's Volunteers," raised in Concordia and Adams County, to fight the Mexican War. He became a brigadier general.
He would become recognized throughout the South long after the senior Stacy's death.
In 1841, Stacy and Sparrow formed a law partnership, and what an association it was. In Stacy's obituary, it was noted that during the two men's 14-year partnership "there was scarcely a case of any importance, civil or criminal, in the courts of Concordia, Tensas, Madison and Carroll, and sometimes in Franklin and Catahoula, in which they were not engaged." The partnership was called "a powerful association."
A portion of the property owned jointly and individually by Stacy and Sparrow had been part of a Spanish land grant authorized by Gov. Baron Carondelet on behalf of the Crown to Louis Bringier in 1796 for services performed for Spain. The Bringier grant, said Concordia historian Robert Dabney Calhoun, was the largest in the parish, about 34,000 acres, and one of only two involving land along Black River. The other involved about 1,000 acres.
Bringier conveyed the property to his son, who lived in New Orleans and like his father, never resided in Concordia. The son later went into bankruptcy and in a sheriff's sale the grant was purchased by Thomas Curry and Rice Garland for $5,000 (less than $7 per acre.) Additional property transfers and sales muddied the waters and legal issues arose.
So much so that in 1844, Curry and Garland sued the government for confirmation of title and won in a case which went to the U.S. Supreme Court. This grant, according to the historian Calhoun, included property from the east line of Moro Plantation to the Tensas River, down the Tensas and Black to Lismore eastward to the west side of Horseshoe Lake and northward "to within a quarter mile of Cross Cocodrie Bayou."
THE CHOLERA IN CONCORDIA
In 1854, in yet another court proceeding concerning the grant -- William C. Micou vs. Stacy -- the property of Sparrow, Stacy and others within the Bringier grant was recognized as legitimate. From these two court cases clear title to a huge chunk of real estate in the western portion of Concordia was established.
It was in the homes and camps of whites and blacks on part of this property that Dr. John W. Calhoun found himself at work in 1850 treating cholera.
"On the 12th of March," Dr. Calhoun wrote in the September 1850 issue of the Charleston Medical Journal that after "the cholera made its appearance on the plantation of General Sparrow. I was sent for on the day following. On my arrival I found one Negro dead and two others in the stage of collapse."
Sparrow's plantation was located in the Frogmore area, four miles east of the land he owned jointly with Stacy.
Dr. Calhoun had read numerous medical articles by physicians in Europe and the United States but "was at a loss which of them to adopt. I finally, however, decided upon a trial of the salt and mustard emetic, but no beneficial effects followed." He also gave phosphorous in large doses, "brandy and cayenne-pepper internally," but nothing seemed to work.
The overseer of Sparrow's had been treating patients based on methods recommended by Dr. S.A. Cartwright of New Orleans, formerly of Natchez. Cartwright was considered an authority on cholera and yellow fever, but his purported expertise on the health of blacks has been totally discredited.
"The weather, during the prevalence of the epidemic," said Dr. Calhoun, "was very cool and damp, with the wind from the northeast. The Negroes were very much crowded, and badly housed. With the hopes of arresting the malady, they were moved into 'camps' in the woods, as soon as could be erected; but the change failed to check it (although in other cases the removal has been followed by success); perhaps on account of the disease being latent, at the time, in their systems."
Kilpatrick said 60 cases of cholera were treated on the properties of Stacy and Sparrow and that 12 people died.
On March 20, Mr. Trunzler's family, eight in all, was stricken. His 25-year-old son was attacked first and Dr. Kilpatrick said the son had previously been on the "place of Gen. Sparrow helping attend some of the cases." Dr. Quail, who had treated many cholera patients himself, "was called to attend this family."
The melancholy mood was prevalent everywhere, said Kilpatrick. In addition to the cholera, the water was steadily rising and more and more ground going under water. The weather was cold and on March 27 "there was a great fall of snow."
Dr. Quail had little success at first but eventually improvement was shown in all the patients. But Mr. Trunzler, an old man, "relapsed," and died on April 6. He was buried the next day, April 7.
On April 8th, a slave belonging to Charles Gibson, who helped dig the grave of Mr. Trunzler, became ill with cholera as did the entire Gibson family. Staying with the Trunzler family at the time were W.M. Barfield, his wife and child. They, too, became ill.
Dr. Quail attended all and all recovered.
James Crossgrove died on March 29 and John Kennedy's daughter passed away on March 30. Mr. Kennedy had been on the Crossgrove place during the illness of that family.
"These two cases I am told," said Kilpatrick, "were treated by a young German homoeopathist brought out from Natchez. What he gave, I am unable to say."
On April 1, Kilpatrick was called to the Kennedy place. As Mr. Kennedy and family mourned the death of his daughter, he and his 10-year-old son fell sick with cholera. Kennedy soon recovered, but his son was deathly ill "having frequent discharges, and the stomach ejecting everything," said Kilpatrick. Slowly, the boy recovered his health.
Such were the dark days for the doctors and the sick and suffering all throughout the river country. Skies were heavy with rain, sleet and snow. The water was steadily rising and real estate disappearing. Hearts were heavy. People fell to their knees both in sickness and in prayer for relief.
This great scourge of cholera would be remembered and talked about for decades to come. From New Orleans up to this region and westward to California, thousands died.
END OF FAMOUS PARTNERSHIP
As for the lawyers, Stacy and Sparrow, their association soon ended.
Stacy died in Concordia March 6, 1857, at the age of 52. His obituary noted that his "life has been a scene of varied, useful and important business prosecuted with patient, cheerful, and untiring labor. More than 30 volumes of decisions of the Supreme Court of this state attest the extent and success of his practice."
Most amazing was "the vast amount of office business transacted" by Stacy "without the assistance of clerks, and his labors were prodigious."
In 1852, Gen. Sparrow moved along Lake Providence in Carroll Parish. He bought Arlington, an antebellum home which still stands today. During the Civil War, the house served as headquarters for several Union generals. U.S. Grant visited the home during the Vicksburg campaign.
Sparrow was a delegate when Louisiana seceded from the Union in 1861. He and Louisiana Attorney General Thomas Semmes served as the state's two senators in the Confederate Congress, Sparrow being the senior senator.
Sparrow served during the duration of the war and was chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs. He was on the committee that designed the now infamous Confederate flag and during the war, he once personally presented a letter from Catahoula Parish planter, Gen. John Liddell, to Gen. Robert E. Lee with ideas concerning the Rebel defense of the South in the region west of the Mississippi River.
Sparrow lost his fortune during the war but hung on to Arlington. He died on the Fourth of July, 1882, at the age of 71.
Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Felix Poche said of Sparrow: "In his day, General Sparrow was one of the lights of the Louisiana Bar, and an advocate whose honesty and delicacy of purpose were only equaled by the enviable reputation which he enjoyed throughout his whole career."
But in 1850 during the cholera epidemic, David Stacy and Edward Sparrow were famous men and their law firm sought after. Concordia, in fact, was quite influential politically at the time thanks in part to these two men and the parish's ties of the governor at the time, Joseph Walker, who once owned Whitehall Plantation south of Vidalia.
These circumstances, added to the cholera outbreak and the high water, made 1850 an eventful year in the history of Concordia Parish.
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