Project Canterbury

The Sisters of St. Mary at Memphis:
with the Acts and Sufferings of the Priests and Others Who Were There with Them during the Yellow Fever Season of 1878.

New York: Printed, but not Published, 1879; 62pp.

transcribed by Elizabeth Boggs
AD 2000-2001

pp 1-51

IT is with deep emotion, and inexpressible reverence and tenderness, that I undertake the task of compiling, from letters, notes, and memoranda which have been placed in my hands, a brief narrative of the acts and sufferings of our beloved in Christ who died of the pestilence at Memphis last year. The motive which leads many to wish for some permanent record of these things cannot, it is thought, be misunderstood by any ingenuous mind. No one could for an instant suppose that it was intended to honor, hereby, the holy departed. Their souls are in the hands of God, and their reward is with the Most High; no one of us could add to the radiance of their crown, nor are we worthy to pronounce the eulogy on such sublime devotion. But the glory of their sorrows and their victory is the common property of the Church; and if it be true, that when one member suffers all the members suffer, and that, when some of us are enabled by God's grace to do noble deeds, the honor may be shared by even the humblest brother of those heroic souls, then may we all claim it as of right that we should know what has been accomplished. And again, we need the help that comes from reflection on the power of religion and the mysteries of Divine Providence. Scenes such as those which this brief memorial discloses are mirrors of eternal things. The story of Memphis is like a reflection of the story of Calvary. The love of Jesus Christ, in the fullness of its constraining power, is exhibited in those, who, having forsaken all to follow and possess Him, shrank not from the supreme test of their sincerity, but laid down their lives at His bidding. That love should speak to our hearts ; as we read of these fruits of divine faith, our own love should kindle, and our faith should be strengthened; the supernatural world is brought very near to us; it seems more real, for a season, than this.

There is another reason why some account of these things should be given. It is said by the skeptical theorists of our day, the philosophers of naturalism and materialism, that self-devotion in a religious life is a past idea; that it pertains to an overstrained and false enthusiasm; that women have no mission now to lift them above the average level around them; that there is no place among us for those who seek a perfect and entire consecration to our Blessed Lord after the type of the noble spirits of other days. In answer to such sayings, we deem it sufficient to lift, for a few moments, the veil which hides the very things which the rationalist, and the worldly thought it impossible to find at the present day, and to show them, by visible instances, that we have among us a heroism and a devotion worthy of the grandest ages of the Church, known to God, and ready to shine forth as the sun when occasion should be given. "By their fruits ye shall know them," said our Lord; and by this we are assured, that the faith of these our beloved in Christ was the true faith, and that the power which sustained them was indeed supernatural and divine.

So then I proceed to the task of drawing this simple outline of a marvelous history; yet with the design of letting the actors in it tell their own story in their own words. The hands which have arranged these materials before me, have done their work with trembling; and the eyes that traced the autograph records of those fearful hours, the touching correspondence, the hastily penned memoranda of days of sorrow, have been dimmed, from time to time, with tears.

By way of introduction to the more immediate subject, reference must be made to the beginning of the work of the Sisters of St. Mary, in the city of Memphis. It commenced in the year 1873. The Right Reverend Charles T. Quintard, Bishop of Tennessee, sought and obtained the permission and consent of the Bishop of New York that the Community of St. Mary should send some of their members to Memphis, to found a school in that place, and to take charge of an institution known as the Church Home. In August of that year, a little band arrived, consisting of Sister Constance as the Sister Superior, Sister Amelia, Sister Thecla, who had just made her profession, and Sister Hughetta, then a novice. Sister Amelia was placed in charge of the Church Home; and preparations were made to open, in the ensuing month of September, a boarding and day school for girls, the bishop having given up his own residence, next to the cathedral, for that purpose. Scarcely had this work been commenced when the yellow fever appeared in Memphis, and was soon pronounced epidemic. The Sisters immediately wrote to New York, for permission to remain in the city and nurse the sick; the request had been anticipated, and consent was granted; and so they who had had no experience in epidemic disease, and whose special work was that of teaching, found themselves at once employed in novel duties in the face of a frightful visitation.

Sister Constance took the lead. One of the Community, writing of those now distant days, says:

"Sister Constance went out first to the sick. Before she reached the house to which she was going, she was met by a young girl weeping and in great distress. She said her sister was just taken with the fever, that they could get no doctor, and did not know what they ought to do for her. My Sister went immediately to the sick child, did for her all that could be done, and ministered to her wants daily till her recovery. - My Sister always loved to speak of this little Louise as her first patient."

A soup kitchen was at once begun in the Sisters' House, and during the epidemic, soups, broths, gruels, and tea were made daily for the sick, and distributed by the Sisters on their round of visits. Sister Amelia was placed in charge of the Church Orphan Home, to which children left orphans by the fever were sent. The work of the Sisters consisted in visiting the sick, supplying nurses, medicines, and delicacies, speaking words of comfort and strength, offering prayers, and, in some cases, performing the last offices for the dead. They had under their charge some sixty cases, of which only eight terminated fatally. During that time, the Rev. George C. Harris, Dean of St., Mary's Cathedral, celebrated the Holy Communion daily, and the Blessed Sacrament was also reserved for the sick and dying. Other clergy of the Church assisted Dr. Harris in his work, aiding and strengthening all by their zealous labors.

The fever ceased at length, and the Sisters resumed their proper work of teaching. The school was opened late in the autumn, and has been maintained to this day, with the desired measure of success.

But, writes one of the Community, "that epidemic of 1873 seems now like a faint foreshadowing of the one through which we have just passed. The distressing scenes witnessed in the first were replaced by overwhelming sorrows in the second, while the pain and sadness of the one were intensified into most bitter suffering and anguish in the other."

We come to the fatal year, 1878, When it became known that the yellow fever was in New Orleans, the Memphis Board of Health desired the establishment and enforcement of a rigid quarantine; before this could be effected it was too late, and in the month of August the fever was again pronounced epidemic in Memphis.

I quote again from the writer from whose letter I have already given extracts:

"For several days previous to this a panic convulsed the whole city. Thousands left on the trains, whilst thousands of others escaped in carriages, wagons, carts, and even on foot. On Wednesday and the three following days, on any road leading out from Memphis, could be seen a procession of wagons, piled high with beds, trunks, and small furniture, carrying, also, the women and children. Beside these walked groups. of men, some riotous with the wild excitement, others moody and silent from anxiety and dread. The scenes at the depots were wild and exciting to the highest degree. A friend wrote back to us from Louisville: ' We were unable to get standing room on the trains on Wednesday and Thursday, but we left on Friday, at midnight. The scene I witnessed at the depot could not be pictured. We were nearly crushed in obtaining our places. At last the over-crowded train moved off amid the loud and heart-rending cries of those left behind. I was told that a child and an old person were trampled to death near us on the platform.' By the middle of the following week all who desired to escape and had the means of doing so were gone, and the city was still and death-like. There was something wonderfully moving to the soul in this contrast -- this change from wild and terrible confusion to the calm stillness of the deserted streets, the closed stores and houses, the rapid passing of hearses and wagons with the dead. As we went to and from St. Mary's in visiting the sick and dying, we met very few persons excepting the physicians and officers of the Howard and Relief Associations on their round of duty."

When the fearful disease thus broke out again in Memphis, Sister Constance, Superior of the Work, and Sister Thecla, were absent. They had gone for a vacation after the close of the school, and for a brief rest, to the Mother House, St. Gabriel's, at Peekskill, on the Hudson. It was there, on the 5th of August, that the news reached them that the fever was epidemic in Memphis, just two weeks after their arrival in the North. Without an hour's delay they made their preparations, bade their dear companions farewell, no more again to see their faces in this world, and took their way back to the scene of desolation and death. They stopped for a little while at Trinity Infirmary, 50 Varick Street, New York, to make arrangements with Sister Eleanor, the Superintendent, for the forwarding of money and supplies, and thence, on the evening of the 17th, they departed. The Rev. George H. Houghton, D.D., Rector of the.Church of the Transfiguration, in New York, and Pastor of the Community, went to the Infirmary, and there, in the chapel, commended them to the merciful God. Alluding to this, in a brief address to his congregation on Sunday, August 25th, he said:

"A week ago yesterday I commended to the protection of Almighty God two of the Sisters of St. Mary, just as they were setting out on their return to Memphis, from whence so many that could were fleeing. Two weeks before they had come on to New York for needed rest and refreshment. News came of the breaking out of the yellow fever. Without delay or hesitation they went back to the post of duty and of danger, and, it may be, of death. I have had a varied experience, and have witnessed much, but I have seen no braver sight than that which I saw in Varick Street, in front of the Trinity Infirmary, when, just at evening, I blessed those Sisters sitting alone in the carriage which was to take them to the train for the journey to Memphis. Is it much for us who are to come, please God, into. no such peril of death, to fill their hands with such things as they need for the sick and the dying and the destitute? If it be more convenient, send to me whatever you will, good friends, and there shall be no delay in its reaching the Sisters."

They arrived in Memphis on Tuesday, the 20th August. "My Sister's first words to me were," writes one of those who met them on their arrival, " 'How could I ever have left you! I have been so unhappy, but I am so happy now.'" When they were told of a plan proposed for the .Sisters to sleep in the country, out of the infected atmosphere, and to work in the town only during the day, they rejected it with much feeling, saying, " We cannot listen to such a plan; it would never do; we are going to nurse day and night; we must be at our post."

The little band of devoted souls whose history during those dreadful days and nights we are about to read, consisted of the following persons:

The Rev. George C. Harris, D.D., Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral
The Rev. Charles C. Parsons, Rector of Grace Church;
Sister Constance, Superior of the work at Memphis
Sister Thecla, teacher in St. Mary's School ;
Sister Hughetta, teacher in St. Mary's School;
Sister Frances, in charge of the.Church Orphan Home; Mrs. C. Bullock, residing at the Sisters' House;
Miss Margaret Murdock, residing at the Sisters' House.

To this number were afterwards added:

The Rev. Louis S. Schuyler;
The Rev. Wm. A. W. Dalzell;

Sister Ruth, from Trinity Infirmary, New York;
Sister Helen, from Trinity Infirmary, New York;
Sister Clare, of St. Margaret's, East Grinstead, England.

Besides these, mention is to be made of William Armstrong, M.D., and Major Mickle, residing with Dr. Harris.

The residence of the Sisters was at NO. 352 Poplar Street. The house stands 'next door to the cathedral, and is mentioned in the following letters as "St. Mary's." It was turned, by degrees, into a dispensary and a store-house of supplies. In addition to this, they had the Church Orphan Home. Later, as the disease spread and the number, of deaths increased, the Relief Association made an earnest appeal to them to take charge of the "Canfield Asylum," which they did, August 29th, as will hereafter be related more fully. The daily celebration and the daily offices were maintained in the cathedral during the prevalence of the sickness, excepting at brief intervals when the priests were either ill or dead, and others to take their places had not yet arrived.

Pursuing the design of letting the brave and patient sufferers of those days tell the story in their own language, I give here a series of brief notes found among the papers of Sister Constance after her death, together with some of her graphic letters. The memoranda were evidently intended for her own use exclusively; they were on loose sheets of paper, and jotted down by the bedside of the sick or while going to and from the Church Home and the Asylum. They end with the day when Dr. Harris was taken ill, after which there seems to have been no heart nor thought to write, nor any spare moment.

"Tuesday, August 20.

"Arrived. Streets white with lime; wagon loads of coffins. A sad coming home. Sister Thecla called at night to Mrs. C., Charleston Depot (describe)."

" Wednesday, August 21.

"Waiting… Mrs. C.'s case worse. Sister Thecla up all night."

"Thursday, August 22.

",Mrs. C.'s funeral. Louisa's husband ill."

"Friday, August 23.

"Mary McG.'s case. That visit to the Gs… Evening Lights.

"Sunday, August 25.

"A strange, sad Sunday; weather dull and damp; drove in at 6 A.M. from Church Home. Two celebrations, 7.30, 9:30. Vespers appointed for 5:30. No one present, even the clergy called away. , Two more of the Ms. taken down, a son of Mrs. L.'s, Louisa's baby, and Dr. R. Sister Thecla found three unknown persons insensible without attendants in houses on High Street. Dr. E. reported ill at his office. Sister Hughetta and I called and found he had been carried to the upper story of the cotton press and was doing well. Called to see Mrs. H., prepared her for baptism. Dr. Harris baptized her at 11 A.M. On my return called on Mr. N., reported dead ; found him, though ill with fever, just starting for Alabama; much excited-and hardly himself. Dr. Armstrong reports that Sister Frances and Minnie S. have the fever. Went out and made everything comfortable in the Infirmary. Called on the Gs.; five sick there; very obstinate and without nurse. Applied in vain to Howards for nurses. Called on S. family; four in one bed, no nurse; six applications to us for nurses unfilled. Sister Thecla sat up with Mrs. H. and Mrs. Bullock at Church Home."

"Monday, August 26.

"Miss I. reported ill. Miss N., Miss. V. (found her with negro man for nurse), Mrs. S., Mrs. C., no nurse. Howards apply to us to nurse the McKs. Sat up at Church Home. Mrs. Bullock sat up with Mrs. H. Sister Hughetta very ill all night, sent for Dr. Armstrong."

"Tuesday, August 27

"Sister Thecla sent for to Gs. Armle dying. All better at Church Home. Secured good nurse. Charlie W ill. received $20, Mr. Olmsted, $50, Mrs. Fairbanks, $85 from Dr. Houghton (much trouble in getting it). Sat down to acknowledge donations when Sister T. reported Mr. C just taken with chill, no nurse. Went with her to attend to him. Met five or six negroes, tried to secure nurse, they said they I were mighty jubious about this here fever,' would not go. Mr. C. better, but wife very ill. Called on Sally K (colored), ill with fever. Dr. Harris sent me to F. family I took Mrs. Bullock. Met man with a telegram, who stopped us and said, ' Read that.' I read, 'Father and mother are lying dead in the house, brother is dying, send me some help, no money,' signed Sallie U. Man said,' Will you go to that poor girl? We went at once. Found small neat house, pretty young girl in mourning, one corpse on sofa, one on bed, tall young man in bed, delirious, rocking himself back and forth, scarcely clothed at all, rough negro nurse, horrible atmosphere, crowd of negroes round the gate, would not help. I told them of the danger of their standing there—general scattering. I sent for undertaker and promised to come back. Came out desperately sick and hurried on to Fs. (searching for nurses all the way), found mother sick, eight days; child sick, two days, father just down, pretty little house, no nurse. I did what I could. Came home for beef tea and nurses. Took back tea. Sent Mrs. B. to Howards. She returned in the midst of the loveliest sunset (one notices these things so strangely), with two fairly efficient Mobile nurses. Dr. Harris sent a bed; we moved the father, put up bed ourselves, no man would come in, made all comfortable for the night, went on to Cs. with other nurse. A negro ran after us, calling, 'There's an Episcopal sick in here.' We went into a dirty grocery, found three sick, two in one, bed. I just crawled home and fairly dropped into bed, first time for three nights. Sister Thecla sick all night."

"Wednesday, August 28

Sister Thecla called to Gs. before we were up. Mattie dying. Man just come to beg a mattress, they had burnt up all his things. We made our confession. Hurried out to F, to C., to the Us. (two bodies still unburied, horrible sight and air fearful; complained to Board of Health; got policeman to bring undertaker). C. and F. fairly comfortable. Mrs. F. and Lucy will probably die. Summoned to Mrs. A.'s, down with fever, four little children, baby starving, drove all about for milk. Sent Sister Thecla to her; sent Mrs. Bullock for nurse. The horse has lost all his shoes, no blacksmith in the city. Dr. Houghton sent $889. Called to see Mr. Parsons, and to arrange to take children at Canfield Asylum from the camp and the fever districts."

Here, by way of explanation, it should be stated that the "Canfield Asylum" was not a church institution, but a home for colored orphans. As the disease advanced in its fatal progress, it became necessary for the city authorities to make provision, if possible, for the orphans thrown on their hands. They accordingly decided to take the Canfield Asylum, and make it a general receptacle for those unfortunates, without distinction of race or religion; and the Relief Association addressed an earnest appeal to the Sisters -of St. Mary to take charge of the institution. This, with great reluctance, they at length agreed to do ; and, as the Asylum was situated in a place which was considered safe from the disease, and as it was thought that the risk would be slight in staying there and watching over the children, it was decided to telegraph to the Mother House for additional help from the Community, so that the Sisters already in Memphis might pursue their work in the infected districts, without the additional care and responsibility which the entreaties of the city authorities had prevailed on them to assume. To resume Sister Constance's narrative:

"We went out to the Asylum in the carriage. Curious sight! Negro in charge had locked the front door and gesticulated fiercely at Mr. Parsons. Wagon of furniture at the door. We were obliged to drive back to the city. Dr. Harris finally settled the matter-we went out again."

Another Sister writes of this affair as follows:

"The Relief Association appealed to the Sisters to receive the children being now daily left orphans by the fever. For this purpose the Canfield Asylum was taken and opened August 29th. It was furnished and mainly supported by the Relief Association. My Sister [*] placed me in charge, till a Sister should arrive from New York for that purpose. The opening of this Asylum was attended by unpleasant circumstances. On our way to the Asylum we were met by a mob of men, who stopped our carriage and protested against the children being brought from the infected districts to their neighborhood. One man said, 'I have brought my wife and children here from the lower parts of the city to save them from the fever, and I won't have these orphans brought out here.' And the leader flourished a roll of paper which he said was from the Mayor, then proceeded to read aloud portions of it in violent language. Sister Constance listened to each man's complaint, and then said with great calmness and gentleness, 'Sirs, is it possible that you would have us refuse to these children the very protection you have obtained for your own ? We do not propose to make a hospital of the Asylum; if any of the children are taken ill with the fever, they shall be carried immediately to our Infirmary at the Church Home.' Her words, and still more I think her gentle, sweet tones, produced a marked effect upon the excited men. Noticing this, I said quickly, 'Are you not willing to trust the Sisters?' A few said, 'Yes, we are,' and all gave way, when my Sister ordered the driver to proceed. The next day we opened the house, and, in twenty-four hours, received twenty-six orphans ; in four days there were fifty children in the Asylum."

To resume Sister Constance's notes:

"Quiet evening; all together for the first time. Dr. Harris and Mr. Parsons here. We made list for the Asylum. Curious how cool we all were. Poor Mattie G. dead. Dr. Green dying."

"Thursday, August 29.

One hundred and nineteen new cases, among them Charles W.'s father, and S. W., our best nurse. Mrs. Bullock gone to buy furniture for the Asylum. Sister Thecla and Sister Hughetta both out. Rainy and damp. Gunpowder exploded to clear the air. At night burning bedding everywhere, leaving black piles in front of the houses. Curious pictures - negroes round watermelon carts.

"Old Mr. H. ill.

"One cares so much for the lovely weather, the evening light; one sees such exquisite pictures everywhere. It seems almost heartless to care for them!

"Busy all day at the Asylum. Four Romish priests dead, seven Sisters ill.

"Telegram from Dr. Houghton: 'Two or three Sisters start on Saturday.' The risk is almost as terrible as the need. May God have mercy on them, and on me! I could almost dread the responsibility of having sent for them, if the declining to send were not worse. Sister Thecla ill. Dr. Harris so kind."

"Friday, August 30


"Sister Thecla better and hard at work. Miss Murdock arrived to-day. A long damp drive with Sister Hughetta for nurses. Fearful odors in the streets. We were asked to take Market Street Infirmary to-day."

"Saturday, August 31

"Lovely weather. Thirty-two children in the Asylum. Two children ill at the Church Home. Sister Frances better. J took baby Clara C., beautiful child, to the Asylum. At Mrs. F.'s I found the nurse ill on the floor. Lucy died. Mrs. Brown (good nurse) came to-day. Endless calls for soup all day. W.'s nurse came to complain of the corpse unburied. Park & Tilford's donation came. Our pantry looks like a grocery.

"Mr. H. dying. His young daughters, E. and B., here. Young Mr. H. with burning hand; his last words to me: ' I am down.' Fanny S. dead."

* * * * * * * * * *

[*] "My Sister" is always used by the Sisters when speaking with or of a Sister Superior.

Here ends the sad little diary. "It was on that day that Dr. Harris, ‘the wise and holy priest upon whom we depended daily for direction, and for much of our strength,’ was stricken down with the fever. The event of his illness marked a great change in our work; the aspect of everything was altered. Up to this point our hearts had been full of hope that our strength would be spared us to the end." So writes one of the community who came back from death.

When the request for assistance was received at the Mother House in Peekskill, a general desire was felt to go to the aid of the brave women at Memphis. Earnest requests for permission were addressed to the Mother Superior, and the selection from those eager volunteers was not made without difficulty. It was determined, however, to send two Sisters, whose experience at the Infirmary of Trinity Parish, in the city of New York, as nurses of the sick, both in that hospital and outside among the squalid poor of the Fifth Ward, appeared to have fitted them for the duties required of them. These were Sister Helen and Sister Ruth. Sister Ruth was in retreat at St. Gabriel’s at the time that the summons arrived. She left it at once, and set forth with her companion on the 31st of August. She wrote to a friend:

"The telegram came, asking for more helpers, before I had time to offer myself; but the Mother has chosen me, and you know how gladly and unreservedly I give myself to our dear Lord. Pray for me, that in life, in death, I may be ever His own."

The auxiliary party of volunteers consisted of the Sisters already mentioned, and Sister Clare, one of the Community of St. Margaret's, East Grinstead. They set forth from the Infirmary on the evening of Saturday, the 3ist day of August, receiving, before their departure, the benediction of their spiritual father in Christ. The following letters from Sister Constance show with what anxiety their arrival was expected. Reference will be found in them to cases mentioned already in her diary.

"August 29.

"I telegraphed to you yesterday in great perplexity and with much doubt. They sent us the orphans so fast that we cannot keep them in the one outside room we dare to use here. And we have taken the Canfield Asylum and are fitting it up roughly for them as a sort of quarantine house, carrying them over to the Home as fast as we dare. They brought in six this morning—miserable dirty little things—one only ten months old. I send to you at Mr. Harris's and Mr. Parsons' most urgent request, hardly feeling that I ought to take the responsibility of asking you to put any more of the Community into such certain peril. Still they will be safer than we all. Everybody is down, I think—our opposite neighbor, Mr. Holt, is just taken ill, and his son says he has worked too hard, to have any chance—he was working with the Howards.

"Yesterday I found two young girls, who had spent two days in a two-room cottage with the unburied bodies of their parents, their uncle in the utmost suffering and delirium, and no one near them but a rough negro drayman who held the sick man in his bed. It was twenty-four hours before I could get those two fearful corpses buried, and then I had to send for a police officer to the Board of Health, before any undertaker would enter that room. One grows perfectly hardened to these things—carts, with eight or nine corpses in rough boxes, are ordinary sights. I saw a nurse stop one to-day and ask for a certain man's residence—the negro driver just pointed over his shoulder with his whip at the heap of coffins behind him and answered, ' I've got him here in his coffin.'"


"Dr. Houghton's telegram has just reached me. I am not sure if I am glad or sorry—the need and the risk are both so great. The Sisters who are coming shall have the best care.

"We shall send them out at once to the Canfield Asylum, and one (if three come) to the Church Home. Sister Frances needs some one to oversee her recovery and to put the house in thorough order for her. She is doing rather less well to-day, very impatient and restless and fretting at her enforced stay in bed. I wanted an egg for her, which she might have eaten, but not an egg can be bought in town. I trust to your prayers for ourselves and the dying."


"Worse and worse reports—more of the Howards ill— friend after friend dead or dying; Mr. M. just reported ill.

"Your dear letter received, so many thanks to Miss Messenger and the Guild for their help. No fresh cases at the Home, none yet at the Canfield Asylum. Sister.H. remarkably well. Sister T. fairly well. I am perfectly so. I feel as though the prayers at home would guard them all.

"Four Romish priests died to-day, and one Sister.

"Your loving


"Your telegram brought me a kind of Brightness, but I cannot help a great deal of anxiety for Sreter Helen and Sister Ruth, my sense of duty in the matter is so divided between the feeling that I ought to secure all the help I can for these poor suffering people, and the fear for those who come. I will guard them to the utmost; but they know and you know tha,t they are offering their lives. I am glad to have the East Grinstead Sister. They are trained nurses, and she will be invaluable. I will not send for the Clewer Sisters if I can help it. Dr. Houghton telegraphed to know if I wanted them. But on Monday if the fever spreads I must send, for we shall want all the help we can get. Cases that are nursed seldom die. Most of the dead have died of neglect or utter ignorance on the part of their attendants. The panic is fearful to-day. Eighty deaths reported, and half of the doctors refuse to report at all. We found one of our nurses lying on the floor in her patient's room down with the fever, another is sickening. Our ward visitor was here just now to give me some directions about to-morrow, 'For I am down,' he said. When I said something cheering he put a hand that fairly burned me on my wrist and asked me to feel his pulse if I could. He is a bright, brave young man, our opposite neighbor; his father is dying, his two poor sisters are here asleep, and I am sitting up waiting till Dr. Harris calls me to go to the old man with these two poor girls. There is little hope that the change which must come to-night will be for life, but I suppose it will not come before twelve. Mr. Parsons had a chill this evening; I shall know before twelve whether it was the chill. I really believe that Dr. Harris and I and the two negro nurses are the only well persons anywhere near. Mr. Brinkley's gardener and his son are ill. Dr. Armstrong has shut himself up for the night declaring himself worn out. Sister Thecla and Miss Murdock are in bed worn out with last night's nursing and watching. We like Miss M., who came to us from Ohio (she has had the fever), so much. Sister H. is well; Sister F. much better; no more cases at Church Home, none at the Canfield Asylum, where there are thirty-two children gathered from the infected houses. This is the dreariest night we have had. If anything happens to Mrs. Bullock and to me, will you take care of little Bessie? Mrs. Bullock has helped us bravely, working like one of ourselves, and never shrinking. She was with me in the most pestilential room I have yet had to enter, and I never saw her hesitate. The calls for food and wine are incessant. I have been on my feet almost the whole day, for our old cook would not do a thing if one of us did not stay with her, whenever we could be spared from the sick. A nurse has just been here to say that he will not stay another night with his two patients—a father and daughter—if the dead mother is not buried. The body has been there for nearly two days, and no undertaker can be found who has time to bring a coffin. We are absolutely forbidden to touch the dead even if a coffin could be found. Dr. Harris is all that earthly strength can be to us, but he is far from strong. I do not think he even hopes to get through. Pray doubly for us now, dear mother. I think of the Sisters who are coming and of those who are praying at home so constantly.

"Your loving CONSTANCE, S. S. M."



"They called me at twelve to go to Dr. Harris. He had a chill and terrible fever. No doctor could be had for ten hours. Mr. Parsons did what I told him, and the doctor was satisfied when he did come. I could not have had a more overwhelming blow in the midst of my work, so much depended upon his daily supervision."

It was on the 20th of August that the Rev. Dr. Harris and the Rev. Mr. Parsons, on whom it devolved to maintain the church services and to minister in sacred things to the sick and dying, sent out an appeal for help in the following terms:

To the People of New York


The undersigned are constrained, under the urgent needs of the case, to represent to their brethren of other localities some of the features of the general distress brought upon the City of Memphis by the terrible pestilence that now overshadows it.

The present visitation of the plague, although not unlocked for, is characterized, from its very beginning, by a suddenness and violence in the form of attack that has hitherto been unknown. The city has been quickly forsaken by all who feel that they can go away, but there is a large population who are obliged to remain, and whose circumstances are such as to leave them utterly destitute of means with which to combat the fever. Business is effectually suspended, and the larger part of the working people are almost without food. We are applied to for help.


—To feed the hungry, who can earn nothing.


—To provide for the barest necessities of the sick.

Third—To minister to the dying.


—To bury the dead.


—To take immediate care of the children who are made orphans by the ravages of the fever. These little ones cannot at once be taken into the Church Home, and it is our wish to establish a comfortable refuge where they may be detained and cared for until it is safe to transfer them to the Home.

To meet all these requirements we have absolutely nothing, and there is nothing that we can look for, unless the hearts of our brethren are touched by this plain statement of our wants.

We are not justified in looking for anything less than a prolonged and trying struggle with the fever in its worst form, accompanied by its most heart-rending incidents. In this view we offer an appeal for aid from all who are able to give us help.

Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral.

CHARLES C. PARSONS, Rector of St. Lazarus and Grace Church.
MEMPHIS, Tenn., Aug. 20, 1878.

Encouraged by the liberal response to this call for help, the two faithful priests worked together with unflagging zeal and devotion, night and day, until the 29th of August, when Dr. Harris was prostrated by the fever. Mr. Parsons was then left alone. The brave soul that had fearlessly confronted death on the battlefield, in the military service of the United States, faced with similar resolution a far more frightful foe. The following letter from Mr. Parsons, addressed to Bishop Quintard, gives a striking and terrible account of the situation of affairs in the devoted city:

Letter from the Rev. C. C. Parsons to Bishop Quintard, received September

5, 1878.

"MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. I, 1878.


"I have just received your letter of the 28th, addressed to Harris. I reply at once. We cannot yet tell how he is, because his case has not yet developed. The doctor promises that it shall be very light, but Sister Constance and I are not so hopeful. He is very quiet and in fact lethargic to-day, and this alarms us both, as it is not a usual feature of a good case. I telegraphed you to-day, and shall do so every day until he is decidedly better.

"It is almost impossible to find the time to write a detailed account of all our work. Our pastoral duties extend from one end of the city to the other, and include all classes of people. It is incessant. I must hasten this letter to its close, because I have so many visits to make. Sometimes they pass away, or into a final state of unconsciousness, before we can reach them. So poor Tom Darey died yesterday, and, at almost the same moment, Walter Oakley also. A large number of those to whom we minister are utter strangers to us until we reach their bedside. Friday I was called to see, at the Whitemore House, a sick family consisting of a mother and two children. I drove there as quickly as possible. They were bringing down stairs the remains of the son. In a little room at the head of the stairs the faithful Mobile nurse had composed the body of the little daughter in death, and on the bed hard by the mother was breathing her last. The same evening I rode in haste to Mosby Street to communicate a dying girl. You know how short the distance is, and yet before I reached the house there were three instances of persons dying unknown given me, with piteous appeals to procure their immediate interment. My dear Bishop, the situation is indescribable. Last night when I was trying to give our dear Harris some relief, the message came to me that old Mr. Holt, across the street, was just dead; that his daughters had been taken over to the Sisters, and his son, one of the most devoted of the Howards, was borne from his bedside in a raging fever. I went there as soon as possible, and found that there was scarcely a hope of saving the son, although he is now in the hands of an excellent Charleston nurse. Why, it is a perfect waste of death, and destitution, and desolation all around us here. People constantly send to us, saying, 'Telegraph the situation.' It is impossible. Go and turn the Destroying Angel loose upon a defenseless city; let him smite whom he will, young and old, rich and poor, the feeble and the strong, and as he will, silent, unseen, and unfelt, until his deadly blow is struck; give him for his dreadful harvest all the days and nights from the burning midsummer sun until the latest heavy frosts, and then you can form some idea of what Memphis and all this Valley is, and what they are going on to be for the next eight weeks.

"The Sisters are doing a wonderful work. It is a surprise to see how much these quiet, brave, unshrinking daughters of the Divine Love can accomplish in efforts and results. One of the most exacting and important of their duties henceforth will be to maintain the Asylum for all the destitute children and orphans of the city. In two days, already, thirty-two have been sent to them, and within a short time the number will be named by hundreds. Harris and I were charged by the Citizens' Relief Committee with the duty of organizing this charity, and we took immediate advantage of your authority to locate it in the Canfield Asylum. For our general work we have several excellent nurses in our employ, and for the Home and the Asylum one of the best physicians of the city, because we are bound to have fever cases among children taken from infected homes. We need all the contributions we can receive in money, clothing, or provisions.

" My clear Bishop, I must close my letter, because there is so much before me for the rest of the day and, perhaps, the night. If Harris gets up this week I shall try to have him go off for a little while. He ought to have thorough repose to gather strength for the rest of his devoted work.

"I am well, and strong, and hopeful, and I devoutly thank God that I can say that in every letter.

"I beseech your prayers for us, and I am, ever,
"Yours faithfully and affectionately,


Soon after writing this letter, Mr. Parsons was stricken with the fever, and for a time, there was no priest to be had, and the Sisters were left alone with God. The account of those terrible days is drawn from the memoranda of one of the survivors of that storm of death.

"Sunday Morning, Sept. I.

"My Sister came to the Asylum to advise me in some matters there. She then told me of Dr. Harris's illness; she said, 'We have almost no hope.' We then spoke together for a few minutes of the Eternal Joy awaiting him, us also, it might be. My Sister returned to her work. A number of children were brought to the asylum that day; I had but one lady to help me. Every child brought in had to receive a carbolic bath and be dressed in clean clothes. Two of the children were taken ill with the fever that day. It was not till evening that I remembered that it was the Lord's Day; all days alike were His."

"Monday, Sept. 2.

"Sisters Helen and Ruth arrived from New York, and with them Sister Clare, of St. Margaret's, from Boston. They rested at St. Mary's that night, and on Tuesday morning Sisters Helen and Ruth came out to the Asylum. Sister Clare went to the Church Home to assist Sister Frances in the Infirmary, where several were already down with fever; Sister Frances had recovered from a light attack of the fever.

"I took, that day, from the Canfield Asylum, a young girl ill with the fever to the Market Street Infirmary, which was opened that day; she was the first patient. I shall never forget the countenance of one of the two gentlemen—I think both were physicians—who carried the girl from the carriage up to the ward; it was so expressive of terror and dread that it made me admire him all the more for doing his duty.

"Being now released from my charge at the Asylum, I returned to the still more pressing duties at St. Mary's, where hundreds now came for relief, and calls for the Sisters to go to the sick had become so numerous, that it was impossible to attend to half of them. I remember feeling, for a moment, almost overcome with heart-sickness, as I saw some go away with the unsatisfying promise that the Sisters would come to their dying ones the next day, one day too late. We could obtain no nurses that day or the two following, for any amount of money, and the Sisters had made more promises than they had time to fulfill. It is sometimes said to me now: 'The Sisters worked themselves to death unwisely; why did they do so?' A look into one of those disappointed faces would have been a better answer than any I can give. 'Unwisely!' When, in each sick and dying person the Sister beheld her suffering Lord! How could she hold back, from fatigue, or weakness, or wisdom!

"About two o'clock that afternoon Sister Constance came in. It was with difficulty that I could persuade her to remain long enough to take some much-needed food. As she sat down she said: ' Sister, I am hungry all the time, no matter how much I eat: I am so very well.' While taking the refreshment, she told me of the place she had just left. I think I can remember her very words, for ail her words spoken to me in those last few days of her life, and the very tone of voice in which she spoke, are so impressed upon my mind that I can never forget them. She said: 'I have just been at Mrs. F.'s ; you do not know her; she is a sweet little woman ; she will die. I took her a good nurse; I found her husband and child just taken ill. I persuaded her husband to leave the sofa in her room and to go to bed in the next room. While the nurse attended to him, I put the little girl to bed in her crib; she is such a cunning little thing. As I tucked her in, she put one little arm under the pillow and through the bars of the crib and said in the sweetest little voice: "You can't get that arm under."' She then went on to tell me of the Us., but Sister Thecla came in hastily and called me. She said: 'Sister, give me some garments in which to bury a girl: I have given away everything I have. This is the fourth in the same family that I have seen die. I have commended the soul of each into the hands of God. The father is still up and doing all he can. I promised to prepare the body for burial.’ ‘Dear Sister,’ I said, ‘you must not do too much in that way; promise me that you will not.’ ‘I will do just what you think is right,' she said sweetly. As she turned away with the garments she said, ‘Oh, it is heart-breaking! One can do so little.'

"That afternoon I spent with a friend whose whole family, six in number, were all ill with the fever. At sunset I went to Dr. Harris's. The Rev. Charles C. Parsons had been taken ill with the fever that morning at Dr. Harris's house. I saw Mr. Parsons first; he was very cheerful. The room was very warm. I offered to do him some little service, as fanning him, or putting up the mosquito net, but he said, quickly, 4 No, no, I beg you will not; indeed, I could not let you so fatigue yourself.' I looked at his nurse; she whispered: ‘Let him have it his way; I never saw any one so unselfish as he is.'

"Up to the time of Mr. Parsons' illness, we had had the daily celebration of Holy Eucharist in the cathedral: now we had no priest on duty."

It is readily to be imagined that the illness of the devoted priests came as a terrible trial to the Sisters, and that they gave them all the time they could spare. They relieved one another in watching by them night and day.

"I do not know what work was done by my Sisters that day, but it must have been very exhausting. Sister Thecla looked worn out when she came to take my place in the sick-room at sunset, and upon returning home I found Sister Constance and Mrs. Bullock completely exhausted. I entreated my Sister to let me sit up with Dr. Harris in her place and let her rest; she replied, ‘I shall keep you from the night work as long as I can, you have not the strength for it.’ I replied, ‘I cannot remember, but is there not a special promise to those who lay down their lives for the saints?’ Her answer was the sweetest smile, and a soft murmur, ‘Very blessed!’ She went herself, and forbade me to go."

On Saturday, the 7th of September, Charles Carroll Parsons died; the first of the fated little band to fall. His was one of those brave hearts that know no fear; and his death was the death of a Christian hero. The outlines of his history are well known. A graduate of the U. S. Military Academy, he was appointed second lieutenant in the Fourth Artillery, in 1861. He served through the war with great gallantry, winning his commission as captain in the regular army, with the brevet of lieutenant colonel. In 1868 he was ordered to West Point, as an instructor in the Academy. Soon after he began the study of theology, and in 1870 took Holy Orders, being ordained to the Diaconate, and subsequently to the Priesthood, by the Right Reverend Bishop Quintard. After serving as Rector of St. Mary's Church, Cold Spring, Putnam Co., N. Y., and subsequently at the Church of the Holy Innocents, Hoboken, N. J., he went to Memphis, where he was Rector of Grace Church and Canon of St. Mary's Cathedral. When the fever broke out, he kept his post, and worked with all his might till the end came.

"On the 3d of September," says Bishop Quintard, in a memorial sermon preached before the Nashville Convocation, "he made his last visit to the sick-bed of his dear fellow-laborer, Dr. Harris. He spoke words of encouragement and cheer, and left him to celebrate in St. Mary's Church the Blessed Sacrament. It was their final parting. They were never to meet again on earth. Even when smitten down he was mindful of my anxiety, and telegraphed me, ‘Dr. Harris is somewhat better; I am down with light attack. It is madness for Mr. Wilson to come here.’"

On the sixth of September he entered his Father's house which is above, entered it as a little child; and as he caught the vision of the far-off land, he cried, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."

Mr. Wilson was a clergyman who had volunteered to go to Memphis, on hearing of the illness of Dr. Harris and Mr. Parsons.

Major Mickle, writing from Memphis, November 15th, 1878, to the Right Reverend the Bishop of Tennessee, says:

"I love to cherish the memory of him whose life so fully exemplified the highest type of manhood, the Christian gentleman, the faithful friend, and the devoted pastor, in all of which characters it was my rare good fortune to know him. When I call to mind the calm serenity with which he received the Master's summons, the utter absence of all indications of doubt or fear, ay, the triumphant expression that lit up his countenance when I spoke of the martyr's crown that awaited him, I cannot but believe it was given him in that hour to see the fruits of his life and death.

"Some hours before his death, and while his mind was yet clear, he received the announcement of his approaching dissolution without a shock, and with the simple ‘trust that he had done his duty.’ Like the first Christian martyr, almost his last words were, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’"

Mr. Parsons was perfectly conscious. As death approached, there being no clergyman with him, he calmly read for himself the last commendatory prayer in the office for the Visitation of the Sick, and thus resigned his soul to God. He died at half-past ten o'clock, on the evening of Friday, September 6, at No. 346 Poplar Street, the residence of Dr. Harris, and was buried the following day, at Elmwood Cemetery, in the private lot of Mr. John G. Lonsdale, Jr. There being no clergyman, Mr. Lonsdale read the burial service.

When it became known that Dr. Harris was very ill, and that Mr. Parsons was dead, numbers of priests offered their services to the Bishop of Tennessee; some twenty or thirty in different dioceses sought his permission to go to the fated city. Of these volunteers, the first to reach the place was the Rev. Louis S. Schuyler. It happened that he was at the beautiful St. Gabriel's, at Peekskill, holding services for the Community of St. Mary, when the news came of the death of Mr. Parsons. It was early in the morning, as he left the chapel, after the celebration, that he heard what had happened. The resolution was instantly taken to go to the help of the Sisters and their sick and dying people. In vain did friends protest against what seemed to them a reckless procedure; in vain did they beseech him to abandon the design. It may be said of this young priest, that the spirit of his profession had so sanctified and exalted him, that nothing could have been added, save that glorious end to which he pressed forward, the offering of his life to the Divine Master. He thought of nothing but the plague-stricken town, the ghastly scenes, the sorrowful faces, the holy religious in peril without sacrifice, or sacrament, or priest; and he sped on his way to do what he could, leaving the issue in the hands of the Lord. The soul of the martyr beat in that delicate frame, and urged him onward, with an enthusiasm which our age cannot by any possibility comprehend. Cold criticism, perhaps even censure, are the meed which God's saints may expect from the men of their generation ; and these have not been withheld in the case of that pure and noble soul.

Upon his arrival in Memphis, on the eighth day of September, Mr. Schuyler found the Reverend Dr. W. T. W. Dalzell, already there; another brave spirit, full of the love of Jesus Christ, and tender sympathy for the suffering. Dr. Dalzell reached Memphis on Saturday evening, September 7th; Mr. Schuyler on the afternoon of the following day. For five days they had been without the services of a priest; the Rev. Dr. White, of Calvary Church, was in or near the city, but was prevented by age and ill health from performing the duties of his sacred office; and shortly afterward he also was attacked by the fever.

And now the end was conning to the two Sisters on whom had fallen, thus far, the heaviest of the burden. Sister Constance and Sister Thecla were both stricken down in one day, Sister Constance first. On her had devolved such responsibility, such care as the Superior of the work, as were alone sufficient to occupy all the thoughts, and to these she added such zeal and efficiency in the day and night work, that it is a wonder how she ever accomplished the half of what she did. It was hers to overlook everything; to decide for others, and give them their orders; to keep the accounts of three houses; to receive and disburse all moneys that came, to receive and distribute the supplies; to answer letters and conduct the correspondence; to cheer her companions, to set them an example of courage—in short she bore the weight of everything, and was the center and heart of all. But the heart was too full; it broke, at last, with its sorrows; and of these the greatest was, no doubt, the sight of the priests, on whom they had leaned next to God, falling, apparently stricken with death. It was the apostle's injunction, "to know them which labor among us, and are over us in the Lord, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake." (I Thess. v. 13.) The command was literally fulfilled; and that was the last work which the two Sisters were permitted to do ere they entered into their eternal rest. On Wednesday night Sister Constance watched by Dr. Harris; Sister Thecla was partly with Mrs. A. and partly with Mrs. G., then dying. On the following Thursday, one of the Sisters, returning from a sick-bed at I o'clock P.M., found Sister Constance in the parlor at St. Mary's, resting on a sofa.

"I knew at once that she was very ill. She insisted that it was only a slight headache, and would not listen to my entreaties that she would go to bed, but continued dictating letters (acknowledgments of receipts of offerings, goods, etc.) to Mrs. Bullock, who sat writing at her side. Her face was flushed with the fever; she allowed me to get a pillow and make her somewhat more comfortable; but she talked of resuming her work among the sick as soon as possible. I called in Dr. Armstrong as he passed the house. ‘I have not the fever,’ she said to him, ‘it is only a bad headache; it will go off at sunset.’ When told that she must go to bed, she called Mrs. Bullock to her assistance, to spare the Sisters. They were about to place her on a comfortable mattress ; she refused, saying,' It is the only one you have in the house, and if I have the fever you will have to burn it.' It seemed as if she would keep her pledge of poverty to the last.

"Within the same hour in which we put her to bed, Sister Thecla came in from the death-bed of a poor woman. She said at once, calmly and quietly, ‘I am so sorry, Sister, but I have the fever. Give me a cup of tea, and then I shall go to bed.’ Like Sister Constance, and for the same reason, she refused to have the mattress; the same practical spirit animated these two brave, thoughtful women.

"I was obliged to tell each Sister that the other was ill, as each wanted the other to come to her.

"I asked Sister Thecla if she would like Mrs. V. to nurse her. Mrs. V. was a motherly woman, and one of our best nurses. She replied that she would prefer to have her, adding, ' But you must come to me very often, Sister; will you come to me as often as you can, and say the prayers for me? We have no priest. Oh, what shall I do for the blessed sacrament? I have no strength without it.’ ‘We have the reservation, dear Sister.’ ‘Yes, I know.’

"When Dr. Armstrong came in, at eight o'clock, he pronounced both Sisters ill with the fever. At nine that evening Flora Grey, the only other member of our household, was taken with the fever; her mother had died that morning. The next morning, Friday, September 6, both Sisters were very ill, their fever very high, Sister Constance unconscious most of the time. She said to me once, ‘I shall never get up from my bed.’ I sent for Sister Clare to come from the Church Home to assist us in nursing."

The history of these days shall be continued by extracts from a letter from Sister Ruth, addressed to the Sisters at Trinity Infirmary, in New York:

Saturday, Sept. 7.


"I will write and try to explain clearly about everything. Sister Constance and Sister Thecla were taken with the fever the day before yesterday, and Dr. Armstrong told us this morning he has no hope for either one: they are very ill. Mr. Harris is better. Mr. Parsons died this morning. Of course Sister Hughetta and Mrs. Bullock (a lady who is to them what Mrs. Crane is to us) are with the Sisters night and day, and can think of nothing else. . . . We are helpless and do not know what to do nor how help can come. There are nearly fifty children here now; we have no clean clothes, and it is utterly impossible to get any washing done. There is no one to send for supplies, and no stores are open. An old negro cooks for us, and his wife takes care of six little children: to-day one is dying with the worst form of the fever, another has sickened, and the nurse has locked herself in her room and will do nothing. Sister Helen, Miss Robinson, and I have to sweep the house, wash the children, and nurse the sick. It looks utterly hopeless, and all we can do is to go on until each one drops. A box of clothing is at St. Mary's, but there is no way of getting it here; no wagons of any kind; and it would be just the same with provisions.... Money is quite useless; there is plenty of money here, but it buys no head to plan, no hands to wash, nor the common necessaries of life.

"4 P.M.

"Have just sent Miss Robinson to Church Home, and now am quite alone. Sister Clare gone to nurse our Sisters. Miss Waring, our New York nurse, raving with fever. . . . We know how eager you all are to help us, and we prize the thoughtfulness and love, but it is almost as if we were utterly isolated. Those outside can do so little. I do not fear the fever, but I know we shall all have it. The only ray of sunshine is, that it was right to come; and we are here; so we go on with tired but thankful hearts. I am writing by the bedside of a sick child, and in great haste. Dearest love to all.

"Your Sister,

"5 P.M.

"The doctor says Sister Hughetta will have the fever tomorrow; Mrs. Bullock also threatened. Sister Clare and I the only workers now. Twelve fever cases at Church Home Infirmary. I do try to be brave and trustful. Another child just down with fever. Howard Association promise to send two nurses if possible."

To resume the narrative interrupted by this letter:

"Both Sisters continued to grow worse: Sister Thecla suffering very much, and so bravely; Sister Constance listless, and most of the time wholly unconscious.

"On Friday night Mr. Parsons died.

"Saturday morning, my Sister looked up at me, and said, ‘Two clergymen will be here;’ after a pause she added, ‘and Jesus will be here.’

"She spoke often of the orphans, uneasy about them. Sometimes she repeated Latin verses; sometimes it was her accounts that disturbed her mind; but in all her delirium she was sweet and gentle; her voice always soft and low.

"On Saturday morning the Rev. Dr. Dalzell arrived from Louisiana. On Sunday morning he celebrated the Holy Communion in my Sister's room. As he approached her bedside, he said: ‘Dear Sister, I have come to bring you the blessed sacrament of our dear Lord. Do you desire to receive it?’ With a bright look and clear voice, she answered, ‘Oh, so very much!’ At the foot of the chalice lay the beautiful white roses which had been sent by some friend to Dr. Harris, and which he had told them to take to the Sisters' House. We seldom saw flowers there; no one had time to gather them.

"After this, Sister Thecla seemed strengthened and better; but Sister Constance was evidently passing away. At intervals she seemed conscious, and repeated again and again the V. and R.,

‘O God, make speed to save us,
‘O Lord, make haste to help us;’
then the Gloria.

"On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 8, the Rev. Louis Schuyler arrived from New York, and came directly to the aid of the Sisters. For four days he worked with deep earnestness and a mighty spirit of love; then, on Thursday, the 12th, he too fell a victim to the fearful fever.

"That Sunday was the most melancholy that can be imagined. Some two hundred new cases reported, and as many deaths. The constant messages from the Home and the Asylum were most distressing, because I had no means of sending the help they implored. All the world seemed passing away; the earth sinking from under our feet. I could not pray that the lives so dear to me should be spared, but could only say, again and again, ‘To them that have no might He increaseth strength.’ My physical strength was leaving me, and my worst fear was that I should be stricken with the disease before my Sister's soul should have entered into its rest. This fear was realized late in the evening. All through that night I could hear from my room her low moan. At about midnight she exclaimed, ‘Hosanna!’ repeating it again and again more faintly. This was the last word. But still she continued the low soft moan of one unconscious, though not in pain, till at 7 A.M. St. Mary's bell rang out on the air. At that clear sound, which she had always loved, whose call she had never refused to answer, the moaning ceased; and at 10 o'clock A.M. her soul entered the Paradise of Perfect Love.

"They robed her in her habit; they carried her to the little chapel, with those same fair roses resting on her bosom. I do not know why I think so much of the sweet flowers, unless it is that a thing that is fair and bright will take a wonderful hold upon the mind at such a time, when all else is dark and distressing; and they seemed to come into the scenes of those days as a sweet cadence that repeats itself in sad music. I am grateful for them as I am for the few things that brought any joy in those dark days; the beauty that lighted up my Sister's face, the felt presence of the angels around her, the reality of those words, Behold the Bridegroom cometh!

"In the chapel, bright with many lights, the service was said, and then she was taken to Elmwood, where now her body rests."

Here follow extracts from a letter to the Mother Superior from Sister Ruth, herself so soon to follow :

"September 10.

"We did not think that our first letter home would be so sad. Our hearts ache, and we have not many words; and yet you must know all. Yesterday morning, dear Sister Constance entered into rest, about 10 o'clock. She was tired out long before she gave up. The day before she died she received the Blessed Sacrament and made her responses all through the service. . . . Later in the day she asked for one of Dr. Neale's books and one of Father Benson's, but gave them back, saying, ‘I can't read a word.’ She was unconscious several hours before she passed away. Dr. Dalzell was with her and read the commendatory prayer. Mrs. Bullock and Sister Clare dressed her in her habit, girdle and all. I went down to the House in Poplar Street the moment word came that God had taken our Sister to himself. I sat beside Sister Hughetta for some time and wrote some telegrams for her, then went down and arranged the chapel for the funeral. Rev. Mr. Schuyler read the service, and Sister Frances, Sister Clare, Mrs. Bullock and I went out to the grave. Sister Thecla knows nothing about it. She is a little bit better, but the doctor gives no hope. Sister Hughetta knew all, and later in the day was fainting away every few moments. She and Mrs. Bullock had taken the entire charge of Sister Constance, and now Mrs. B. and Sister Clare watch over her; they feared she would not live through last night. . . . You may trust me to write all, though my heart aches for you and shrinks from giving you such pain. Sister Clare is well, but of course tired out. She is still at St. Mary's. None of our Sisters could be tenderer, truer, and wiser than Mrs. Bullock. I know you love her for all she has been to our Sisters. We did not let Mr. Harris know that Sister Constance was so ill, but Mr. Schuyler went to him yesterday and told him all. He said, ‘My work here is done: the whole of Memphis was not worth those two lives’ (Mr. Parsons and our Sister). Mr. Schuyler left him sobbing like a child."

A postal card from Sister Ruth, Wednesday, September 11th:

"Have been at St. Mary's all day. Sister Thecla very, very ill. Of Sister Hughetta the doctor has more hope. Sister Clare, Mrs. Bullock, and two nurses are with them. We have daily service once more.

"Among things needed for the sick, lime juice and tamarinds; any acid is so good. The city is desolate. Every one who is not ill says, ‘It is only a question of time.’ Each day we dread news from St. Mary's, and each night thank God that one more day has gone. We know you are working for us and with us; still write often."

Few know what a wonderful life it was that ended, for this world, when Sister Constance died. It was one long and entire consecration to Christ and the Church; and the strength with which she met the fearful trials of those last days, directing, sustaining, and cheering her devoted companions, and working day and night to spare others, was a supernatural strength. She was but thirty-three years old when called away; a woman of exquisite grace, tenderness, and loveliness of character, very highly educated, and one who might have adorned the most brilliant social circle. All that she had she gave without reserve to her Lord, asking only himself in return as her own. A clergyman who knew her when she was a Unitarian and unbaptized, writes of her as follows:

"I could talk with you for an hour of that beautiful story and blessed end. One may rather pause and listen very reverently to the voices which come from the spirit life to the spirit's ear, as the past is calmly reviewed. Other priests have known that soul more recently, perhaps more thoroughly, yet it was given to me to know it in the first revealing of holy truth, and the first knowledge of the Saviour's love, the first gliding out of the darkness into that precious light which bathed it ever afterwards. Of the many scenes which I recall, two will always be fresh and clear in my thoughts, her baptism on St. Peter's Day, when it was mine to hear the vows, and to pour the water of the new birth; and the early morning when her novitiate began. You know through what trials she found her way to the Sister's life, and what heart-aches she was called to know, as part of the price which she paid for her high privilege. Yet this one trial in its long continuance seemed to be all which God laid upon her. Again and again she wrote to me or said to me, ‘No shadow has ever fallen upon my life as a Sister.' I pause now awhile and gather up for my own guidance the dear teachings which she has left for us. That singleness of motive; that forgetfulness of self; that rare cheerfulness and ready obedience and sincere humility, how these were blended with stanch fidelity and high courage and the quiet firmness, which works or waits, which fights or suffers, which guides or obeys, which gently ministers or calmly dies, because the soul trusts in God, and only lives for him."

The week that followed the death of Sister Constance was one of special trial, sorrow, and darkness. On Tuesday, September 10, the good physician, Dr. Armstrong, of whom mention has been made so often, was attacked. On the following day, Mrs. Bullock, Sister Clare, and Major Mickle were stricken down. On Thursday the 12th, the brave and noble soul of Sister Thecla entered into rest. It has been already told, how she came in, on the afternoon of the 5th, and, quietly telling them that she had the fever, lay down and commended herself to God, refusing any but the poorest accommodation, that she might be like her Lord in her death. The rooms of Sister Constance and Sister Thecla adjoined, yet neither knew of the extreme illness of the other. Sister Thecla was conscious until the last day; her sufferings were very great, but she was wonderfully patient through it all. One day a friend went into her room to see her; she looked up and said, "Oh, why did you come? I was thinking of heavenly things." Then she closed her eyes, and again raising them said, "I was with Jesus, and you have disturbed me." One of her companions, writing of her that day, says:

"Sister Thecla’s whole soul is set on her Lord; her first thought when stricken down was of him."

On the following day, at 9 P.M., the same Sister writes:

"One day more has gone, dearest Mother, of the five that must probably pass before we can know with any certainty the end of the deadly attack under which our dearest Sisters lie ill. Both are dangerously ill to-night. Dr. Armstrong has made his fourth visit to-day, and will return in an hour with Dr. Mitchel for consultation. ... I never saw dear Dr. Armstrong so distressed as when he left. I felt from the first that dear Sister Thecla would be very, very ill. I cannot help feeling that she is very near that Eternal Rest for which she has sighed and longed for years. Unselfish, faithful Sister! I know no one of whose salvation my soul is more assured."

Her last words were, "Oh, I want to see Jesus." And so He showed Himself to her in the blessed light of the eternal day.

That same fatal 12th of September, Sister Ruth was taken ill, and the Rev. Mr. Schuyler. Then followed deaths one after another, as the little band thinned and dwindled away.

On Saturday, September 14, Dr. Armstrong died.

On Monday, September 16, Mrs. Bullock died.

On Tuesday, September 17, the Rev. Mr. Schuyler died.

On the same day, a few hours later, Sister Ruth died.

As one reads the record, one seems to hear the slow tolling of a passing bell, and with it the refrain, Beati mortui!

So went those dread days.

What Dr. Armstrong was to them, may be inferred from letters and memoranda such as I have already quoted from. "The beloved physician!:

"Dr. Armstrong is surely one of the kindest men in the world. He has been here some two hours, equal in value to two weeks in ordinary times." (From a memorandum made at midnight, in the room of a dying Sister.)

And Mrs. Bullock was as one of them also, in heart and soul, for life or for death.

"I must tell you again, how brave and tender and good Mrs. Bullock is. She is an excellent nurse, and does so much that even the professional nurse cannot do. My Sister and I have promised her that if she dies of the fever we will take dear little Bessie here at St. Mary's as our own child. If we here all die you must take her, dear Mother, as our gift. She has many relations; but her mother's first wish is to have her brought up in the Church, and her second that she should be a Sister."

And then the sweet, gentle, holy soul of Louis S. Schuyler was taken home. His was a brief but glorious record,. Such marvelous things as were shown to us in the acts of that true martyrdom are not to be comprehended by the world; "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." There are, it appears, those to whom the spirit of Schuyler was that of a visionary and an enthusiast, his thoughts wrong thoughts, and his end foolishness. Let them alone till God open the eyes of those blind that they may see, and send light into their darkened souls to know the truth.

The Rev. Dr. Dalzell writes thus of him:

To the Editor of


I snatch a moment to send you the inclosed notice of the death of our dear young brother, which appeared in The Appeal of this morning. I may add to that, that he died as martyrs die, rejoicing in the Lord, regretting nothing but the short time he had to work for the glory of his adorable Saviour. To the Church belongs the sacred record of his noble self-devotion ; to others the most sacred utterances of his dying hours.

Allow me to say to my brethren from whom I have received kind letters and generous aid, that I will make due acknowledgment through THE CHURCHMAN as soon as possible. To-day things look brighter, and I trust that a short time more will change the situation materially for the better.

Memphis, Sept. 19, 1878.

Among the dead of yesterday we find the name of the Rev. Mr. Schuyler, of Hoboken, N. J., who came here a volunteer to do what he could to help his brethren of the Episcopal Church. He was in Memphis hut a few brief days when the pestilence claimed him for a victim, and yesterday he passed away to receive the reward which awaits the brave and the just. While on duty he was of great help, as the Rev. Dr. White, of Calvary Church, and the Rev. Dr. Dalzell, of Shreveport, were the only Episcopal clergymen to attend to the innumerable and every-day increasing wants of the members of the Church. The Rev. Dr. Harris, of St. Mary's, was still in the agonies of the fever, and the Rev. Mr. Parsons, of St. Lazarus and Grace Church parishes, had just been laid away to rest. Nothing daunted by these tidings, or the sights which greeted him on every hand, he went to work, did all that he could, all that was possible to any man in his position, labored until the last moment, counting himself nothing in presence of the calamity which has awakened the profoundest sympathies of the world. He died, as many others have done the past few weeks, that others might live. The Church will cherish his memory as that of a martyr, and the people of this city, when they come to enumerate the names of those who succored and helped our stricken ones in time of trouble, will blazon his in letters of living light.

The following beautiful tribute to his memory was addressed to his mourning father by the wardens of the House of Prayer, Newark, N. J.:

September 20, A.D. 1878.
To the REV. MONTGOMERY SCHUYLER, D.D., St. Louis, Mo.:

REVEREND AND DEAR SIR—When it was known that it had pleased Almighty God to take out of this world the faithful soul of your son, the Rev. Louis Sanford Schuyler, lately ministering in the House of Prayer, the authorities of that church, being convened, directed us to address to you a letter in their behalf and in behalf of the whole parish, setting forth the love and honor in which your son was held among us when living, and the extraordinary mingling of pride and grief with which we contemplate his valiant death.

We are bidden to cause a copy of this letter to be recorded upon the minutes of the Vestry, in lasting memorial, and to be printed in the public journals as a necessary tribute to the most exalted virtue.

Your son's ministry in our parish through the last summer, in the temporary absence of the rector, was full of unsparing labor and generous devotion.

In all holy offices he was constant. His work among the sick, the poor, and the afflicted, was unceasing and full of Divine comfort. No duty was ever left unperformed, no cry of distress ever unheeded by him; no pains unsoothed which he had power to allay; no griefs unstayed, nor penitents unshriven.

He went about doing good. His beautiful and gracious life was a humble imitation of Jesus Christ. He taught us by example the Divine precept, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Now he has perfectly wrought out the Divine ideal and authoritative definition of love—" Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." May he rest in peace, and perpetual light shine upon him.

Sir, we cannot approach you with ordinary terms of condolence. The grief and loss are uncommon, but the assuagement and consolation are uncommon also, and it is impossible for us to treat as a mere affliction the issue of that splendid courage and high devotion which have made your son's life and death memorable and illustrious. We pray God to have you in his holy keeping.

We are, reverend and dear sir, your most obedient and most humble servants,

Wardens of the Parish of the House of Prayer.

The awful state in which the city was left, during these, days, may be imagined on reading an account given by Dr. Pease, and published in the New York Tribune, as follows:


WASHINGTON, Sept. 12.—Dr. Pease, Dr. Ramsay, and Mrs. Wallis, who left last week for Memphis as part of the company of physicians and nurses, have returned. Their services were declined on account of the fact that they have never had the yellow fever.

Dr. Pease says that the horrors of the pestilence are beyond description. He has passed through four yellow-fever epidemics, one at Bombay, two at New Orleans, and one at Key West ; but he has seen nothing to compare with the death-stricken aspect of Memphis at the present time. The wealthy have almost all departed, leaving the poor to shift as they may for themselves, and to the horrors of the plague are added those of a condition approaching to famine. The provision stores are all closed, and the only way to obtain supplies from them is to break them open, which is sometimes done. All the drug stores except three are closed, and it is difficult to get medicine, even when medical attendance has been had and prescriptions written. The banks are open only one hour a day. The commissary depots established by the Howard Association are besieged by throngs of negroes, many of whom come in from the surrounding country, risking the pestilence in order to get free provisions.

No vehicles are seen on the streets except the dead-carts and the doctors' buggies, with an occasional hearse conveying the remains of some wealthier victim. At night the streets are here and there lit up with the gleam of death fires, which burn in front of houses which contain a corpse, though not of every such house, for many a victim dies alone, after suffering unattended, and there is no one to put out the customary signal. Persons taken sick on the streets crawl into unoccupied tenements, and their corpses are afterward discovered by the odor. Many are found dead in the public parks or under the fences. The bodies of the dead accumulate for want of adequate burial force, and trenches are then dug, in which great rows of coffins are deposited side by side, and one on top of another.

Dr. Pease states that the peculiar smell of the pest in the city can be discerned at a distance of three miles. There is a great deficiency of competent nurses. Out of 1,100 employed, Dr. Langstaff informed Dr. Pease that only about seventy-five are really efficient.

It was Sister Ruth's turn next to go home. She had been sent, on her arrival in Memphis, to the Canfield Asylum, and had positive orders not to come into the city except to the daily celebration. She writes as follows, on the 10th, from the Asylum:

"Sister Frances is well. At the Church Home Infirmary there are about twenty cases of fever. Sister Clare will go back as soon as possible, and there are two good nurses there. We have sent four of our sick children there. One very bad case died here and was two days unburied. We try to be careful, but with the hard work and such dirt— with the children coming from the fever districts and taken ill here—it is quite as bad as if we were in the city. If help is needed at St. Mary's, I will always go. It does not seem possible that any human power can shield us from the fever but if we can only keep up a little longer, until the others are better, or taken safely home, I shall be so thankful. All we can do is to work faithfully and quietly and bravely while the dear Lord bids us work, and then to lie still in his holy hands, and know it is all well.

"The New York nurse who came with us is dying.

"Generous gifts of money, clothing, and provisions come from all parts of the land. We need earnest prayers more than anything else. There will be a daily celebration now, and two priests to visit the dying. We have plenty of money, and nearly $4,000 in the bank now, and checks coming all, the time; also boxes of provisions and clothing, which are very acceptable.

"Sister Clare has been a great help. She was one of Dr. Neale's children.

"We have a dirty negro to cook for us. I live on soda crackers and water, and wash my own cup and spoon; but nothing like this matters if only our dear Sisters are given back to us. The earnest, ceaseless prayer is our only comfort.

"I have just whipped a big boy for tying up a goose and beating it, and filling the babies' mouths with red pepper. With forty such children, our hands are full. I will telegraph the moment any message comes from St. Mary's. Pray for me. I am so glad to be here, but sometimes I am heart-weary and almost hopeless.

"With earnest love,
"Your child in Christ,

Dear, tender heart, so full of love! And she was loved in return, by all who knew her. There are many recollections of her at Trinity Infirmary, though she was there only for a year. In addition to her duties inside, she visited the outside sick, and won their affectionate attachment wherever she went. She had many adventures, and there was a certain quaint, merry temper in the little woman which made her fully appreciate the odd people she met, and made it a charm to hear her tell of her trials on her rounds of duty. She had an antipathy to fish, a perfect horror of the touch of their cold, clammy scales and fins. One day, while far from the Infirmary, a fishmonger, seeing her come out of a poor body's house in a low, dirty street, presented her with three or four fish from his cart. She knew not what to do; but fearing, in her sweet consideration, to offend the honest fellow, she took the fish, with a terrible inner struggle, and succeeded in getting back to the Infirmary with her frightful load, where, throwing them down in the hall, she fairly cried aloud for joy at her release from the detested objects. The children of the poor were devoted to her. One summer afternoon she had leave from Sister Eleanor to give a little party, in the garden, to the poor children with whom she had become acquainted in sick calls. Observing others from the street looking wistfully through the railings, she went out and fetched them in also to her little feast. After that, wherever her feet passed on the mission of mercy, she was often greeted with smiles and salutations by unknown street children, who, as they said, had been at "Sister Ruth's party."

But the end was now to come to that sweet, pleasant young life. She was taken ill on the I2th, the day on which Sister Thecla died. On the morning of that day she wrote her last letter; it will be read with mournful, tender interest:

"Thursday Morning.


"When Sister Helen and I came in to the celebration this morning we learned that Sister Thecla is dying, Sister Hughetta very much better, and Sister Clare and Mrs. Bullock both ill. We telegraphed to Dr. Houghton for permission to come here and care for our own dear ones. Then I went up to Sister Clare. . . . She seems only to have a light attack, and if all goes well will soon be up again. I went afterward to Mrs. Bullock; she was very ill, and was suffering intensely. She seems to us all like one of our own. . . . Dr. Armstrong is ill now. As I came out of Mrs. Bullock's room I met Dr. Dalzell, the Southern priest. He is such a true priest, and also wise and practical in all his ways, and I talked to him frankly, telling him that we wished to be here, and asking for his counsel. . . . He is doing all that priest, physician, and friend can do—he is everything to us all, and we will work where and as he bids us. We will telegraph every day about every one. It does seem impossible for one person to escape this fearful disease, but with God nothing is impossible, and whatever comes is his holy will.

"Money and boxes come to us all the time; we can open no boxes for a few days; the noise disturbs the sick, and we are all too busy; but we have enough things for the present.

"We think of the earnest, ceaseless prayers, and we lift up our hearts with new courage. I am not very well, but it is nothing like the fever; I only need to keep still a few days. . . . My own dear Mother, I know how each message we send makes your heart ache; but I know it is right to be true, for you trust me to tell you all.

"With dearest love to all,
"Your child in Christ,

"+RUTH, S. S. M."

After an illness of six days, on the i8th, Sister Ruth followed her companions, and entered into the rest of eternal, peace. She was twenty-six years of age, and had been professed only one year. A dispatch was received at Trinity Rectory bearing these words :

"Sister Ruth entered into rest last night.
"Beati mortui.
"Only Sister Helen remains to be smitten of the fever.
"Sister Hughetta and Sister Clare are doing well."

A letter came also from the Sister Superintendent of Trinity Infirmary to the Rector of the parish, as follows:


"You have probably already heard to-day's heavy tidings that God has taken home to himself our dear Sister Ruth. Her short life has closed, as her Sister's life began, in devotion to God's poor and suffering. Only a year ago, in July, she was professed; but in this one year she has brought comfort to many suffering ones, and helped to lead back those who had strayed far out of the way. Many of the poor speak of her as the ‘Sunbeam’ that came to brighten their lives. Her last words, as she went off, were, ‘You will be good to my people;' and her first letter repeated the same message. Yet she was ready to leave her favorite work when God called. The same brave, single-hearted sense of duty breathes out in all her letters. I have the last one here, if you have not seen it. We can easily say, in this sad world, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; but it is very, very hard to say, when those who, we thought, would do Him such service are taken, Thy will be done."

On the day that Sister Ruth died, the Rev. Charles R. Huson arrived from Florida, to assist in the work. In a few days, however, he was stricken down; after a dangerous illness he recovered. Sisters Hughetta and Clare also came back from the valley of the shadow of death.

Sister Frances had the charge of the Church Orphan , Home. Early in the season she was attacked with the fever, but recovered. Had she then gone away, her life would have been saved; but, like the rest, whom the same indomitable spirit appeared to animate, she refused to leave her place, and returned to her duties. On the 1st of October she was again taken ill; on the 4th, at three o'clock in the morning, she died, having truly given her life for "the children of God," whom she had loved so dearly and served so faithfully. It was the last of those noble and heroic sacrifices. All the children in the Church Home, but four, were ill with the fever; thirty being down at one time, and twenty-two died. No wonder that their devoted nurse insisted on staying with them to the end.

After this the weeks passed by. The poor, stunned, scarce-recovered survivors of the storm did what they could, according to the strength that was left; till the early frosts of autumn came, to put an end to sorrows more than human nature could have continued to endure but for the mercy and pity that stayed the plague at last.

And now that it is all over, shall we say that we are left with nothing except these brief and imperfect records, and a tender memory of those who are passed away? Is it not true, that, although dead, they speak to us more distinctly than before, that they are actually more powerful than when among us, and that, in the spirit, they are present with us still ? Side by side they are lying far away in the cemetery, at rest after the dread ordeal of those fearful days, and from that lowly bed in the dust they rule our hearts, and come forth to visit us in our dreams and help us in our pilgrimage. Whoso is wise* will ponder these things; and dark must be the mind, and cold the heart, which cannot read in all this the loving kindness of the Lord. Ever since Christ came among us, there has been taught, in the dark regions of the earth, a full sweet Gospel of Catholic truth, apt to fill every want of man, and addressing itself to intellect, conscience, affections, and will. It has its creed, its characteristic spirit, its own ideas, just as human philosophies are known by their own special principles and postulates. Of this men hear by the hearing of the ear; they compare it, coldly and critically, with rival systems; to them, ere it has moved their souls, or until God's Spirit has brought it home to them, it remains a mere theory to be discussed with others. But the time comes when the Holy Ghost shows us, in some startling manner, what that Catholic System is; and then dispute and argument cease, and the powerful agency, distinctly beheld in its mode of working and its legitimate results, becomes a test of all that look on, and unveils the thoughts of all hearts. Even so, the Cross of Jesus Christ disclosed what was in the minds of those who beheld it; some saw it with love, some with curiosity, some with indifference, and some with aversion. Here among us, also, has the likeness of the Cross been set up in the persons of those our brethren and sisters in the Lord, each one of whom might have said with truth, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." And this has also caused a revelation of the state of those who beheld their acts. But we have looked with love and solemn joy on this late scene of crucifixion; to us it has been a preaching of holy truth, attested by such fruits as compel anew our assent and deepen our convictions. They witnessed to Him in their life and in their death, and we know that their witness is true. Then may their faith be also ours; as they thought, so may we think; and as they walked, so let us ask the grace also to walk, if it be God's will. And when we muse on all those things, a flood of thoughts overflows the soul; thoughts of love, peace, tenderness, sorrow, wonder; but last and chief of all, thoughts of gratitude to Him who hath showed us all this in His righteousness, the reality of priesthood, the mysterious efficacy of sacraments, the strength of faith, the patience of saints, the completeness of self-sacrifice, the joyfulness of hope, the steadfastness of loyal hearts, the warmth of divine charity, the sufficiency of Jesus Christ, the living and life-giving power of the Spirit, the vanity of the world, the triumph over the fear of death, the dawning splendors of the eternal day. All other thoughts are lost at length in that of thanks to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the unspeakable gifts from heaven to men.

Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will to men. We praise thee, we bless thee, we worship thee, we glorify thee, we give thanks to thee, O Lord God, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty.

O Lord, the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ: O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer. Thou that sittest at the Right Hand of God the Father, have mercy upon us.

For thou only art holy, thou only art the Lord. Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

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