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and to consult with Dr. Johnstone as to the best means of obtaining addi. tional medical aid : he was also solicited to address His Majesty's Privy Council, and to implore them to send help without delay. In all these sad commissions he happily succeeded.
On his return home he found the number of cases greatly increased, and every thing growing worse. His situation that day, as the spiritual guide and adviser of his afflicted people, and as a Christian Minister, was truly afflicting. The morrow was the day of holy rest; the day when the rich and the poor “ take sweet counsel together, and walk in the house of God as friends;" the day when Christians throughout the world kneel at the Throne of Grace, and with united voices, in the name of their common Saviour, supplicate for support, and protection, and forgiveness. And he was about to close the doors of the sanctuary against his dying parishioners in an hour like this; in an hour when human skill and human aid were utterly powerless; when, if ever, it might be hoped the most hardened wretch alive might be prevailed upon to fly to the Cross of Christ for refuge, and for pardon. “ Was it,” he says, “at such a time, that I could refuse to my flock, even for a single Sabbath, the consolations of public worship? I will not attempt to describe what it cost me to come to such a determination. I seriously considered the step I was about to take; I paused long before I decided.” At length, at eleven o'clock at night, having offered up a fervent prayer to God to direct him aright, he sent to the press a letter to his parishioners, announcing the necessity of this painful determination, and exhorting them to keep the day with holy solemnity in their respective abodes, and with united prayers and supplications to implore the God of all mercies to turn away from them this grievous calamity. The Dis. senting ministers generally took the same precaution; and the Board of Health entreated the Lodges and Benefit Societies not to attend, for the present, any funeral whatever of their members.
The minister's address produced an extraordinary sensation amongst the inhabitants. From this time they were impressed with the belief that the pestilence was contagious, and, consequently, with the necessity of avoiding all unnecessary risks. This had not been the case previously; but Mr. Leigh has no hesitation in stating, that such an impression was very important. “Upon the disputed question," he says, “ of the contagiousness or non-contagiousness of this tremendous scourge, it is not fitting that I should enter; still, the duty I owe society bids me declare, that not the smallest doubt remains upon my mind as to its contagiousness in a place where the epidemic exists." From this time, the clubs and benefit societies consented to forego the custom of attending the burials of their respective members ; crowds of people were no longer collected to see the funerals pass along the streets ; the relatives and friends of deceased persons were content to have them interred as soon as possible after death; and in numberless instances they refrained from performing the last sad office of affection, and did not follow them to the grave at all; or, if they did, acceded without a murmur to the regulations suggested for their observance : having seen the bodies consigned to the earth, and covered with lime, they left the burial ground, not waiting to hear the solemn service of the Church, which from that time was read only three times dailyearly in the morning, at noon, and late in the evening.
The Board of Health had great difficulty, at first, in inducing the poor to attend to the now well-known premonitory symptoms of the disorder, which, when observed, and judiciously treated at a very early stage, the fatal attack was in numerous instances prevented; but an inattention to the premonitory symptoms rendered recovery, in its more advanced stages, almost hopeless. The difficulty of impressing this truth upon the minds of the poor was not removed till a Dispensary had been opened, where they might apply for instant relief, free of cost, in case of any suspicious indications.
On the 19th, Sunday, the anxious pastor rose from his bed with a heavy heart, and only to hear distressing tidings. One of the medical gentlemen who had arrived from Birmingham had been at the hospital, where he found every thing in the utmost confusion; the person in charge, appalled by his situation, had run away; and the nurses could not direct the stranger to find what he wanted for the patients. The condition of the medical gentlemen of the town was such, that from them no help could be expected. The bells of the church were silent; the gates of the house of God were shut. It was indeed a sad beginning of a melancholy day. But the hour of family prayer proved a solace to many a heart, and Mr. Leigh found, upon diligent inquiry, that this memorable day was observed in the most devout and reverential manner.
It would enlarge the narrative too much to notice many individual cases, but the following may be mentioned as an illustration of the appalling celerity of the disorder. Ann Shepherd, in the absence of her husband, who had gone to seek employment at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and in the laudable endeavour to help him in supporting herself and two young children, engaged herself as a nurse at the hospital. On the 19th, she asked permission to attend the funeral of Hannah North, a particular friend; when she reached the house, finding that the body had not been put into the coffin, and that the neighbours were afraid to go near it, she ventured to perform the fearful office. Immediately after the burial she returned to the hospital, and complained to the surgeon in charge that she was ill. He ordered her to be bled, but she said she would first go home and take off her mourning. She never left her home again, and before morning was a corpse.
On the 21st, Mr. Leigh sent a letter to the Editor of the Wolverhampton Chronicle, in which he says : “ The state of Bilston continues frightful in the extreme, without any abatement of the disease whatever. Our distress has been increased by want of medical aid, all our professional gentlemen having been worn out by fatigue and exertion. So long as they had the strength they were most active, and we feel much indebted to them. Since Saturday, by the kindness of some of the medical gentlemen in Birmingham, especially Mr. S. Cox, we have had aid from that place. We have also written to the Central Board, and the Lords of the Council will send us a physician from town. When, and where, this most awful visitation will end, God only knows: here it is unhappily increased by the wretched condition of the poor. We help their starving state in the best way we can. We relieved last week, from a subscription raised amongst the inhabitants, 814 families, and we are still proceeding with the same good work, our fund amounting to 2001. It has been quite impossible to transmit a correct list of cases to the Central Board, the medical gentleman not having had time to make them out. But this I may say with truth, and I tremble whilst I give you the statement, that from the third of this month up to this morning there have been 1,200 cases of Cholera, and 240 deaths, within the township of Bilston*. In this wretched situation I earnestly implore the prayers of your readers to Almighty God on our behalf.”
On the 22d, at the meeting of the Board of Health, the death of
• The whole number of cases ultimately amounted to 3,568, and of deaths to 742. The average number of all the deaths in the place, during the same time in the four preceding years, was under seventy.
Frederick Charles Procter, one of the surgeons, was announced. This gentleman was a widower, 29 years of age, in full health and vigour, and he fell a victim to his humane exertions amongst the poor, to none of whom he refused his services so long as his strength remained, whether they were likely to pay him or not. This is the more worthy of being recorded, because his circumstances were far from good; and he left behind him an interesting little girl, seven years of age, without a single relation able to assist in supporting her. She has since found an asylum at Christ's Hospital, by the nomination of Sir John Key, Bart., to whom the Rev. T. Dale had mentioned the afflicting circumstances of the case. The ladies of Mr. Dale's congregation at Denmark Hill, Camberwell, have taken charge of another orphan, Rebecca Sutton, whose parents died within a few days of each other, leaving eight children, five of them under twelve years of age, entirely destitute.
The death of Mr. Procter, joined with the alarming situation of the other medical men, threw a deep gloom over the meeting of the Board of Health, which was increased by an announcement that the disease was making fearful havoc at the parish poor-house. Between that and the hospital there was an open yard; but, to prevent any unnecessary communication, a separate road had been formed, at some expense, by which the patients were admitted to the hospital without going through the yard at all; and orders had been given, forbidding any intercourse between the one place and the other ; but they were not observed as they ought to have been, the bed linen of the sick having been imprudently taken from the hospital to the poor-house to be washed. From that date every attempt to stay the progress of the pestilence amongst the wretched inmates had been in vain; and eighteen out of forty-three perished within a few days. To prevent all communication in future, a partitionwall was erected between the poor-house and the hospital, and no case occurred in the poor-house afterwards.
The arrival of Dr. Macann, who had been sent from the Central Board in London, in some degree dispelled the general gloom. High and low, rich and poor, were soon led to regard him as having been sent by Providence for their safety and deliverance. From the hour he came to that of his departure he was incessantly employed in the faithful discharge of his duties, in prescribing and carrying into effect measures for arresting the progress of the disease, in unremitting attention to the sick and suffering poor, and, what was of the utmost importance, in restoring confidence to the trembling inhabitants. By night, as well as by day, these were his constant occupations; and the almost immediate change in the condition of the people proved how wise and salutary his arrangements were. Neither did he confine himself to Bilston; the whole of the surrounding district shared his advice, and reaped the benefit of his services. At Dr. Macann's urgent suggestion, a Dispensary was immediately established, where the inhabitants might receive instant advice and relief in case they should be attacked with the slightest symptoms of malady. A statement of the beneficial effects of this establishment is given in Dr. Macann's tables and observations.
Amidst many afflicting circumstances, there were two peculiarly distressing to the mind of the anxious pastor. One was, the impossibility of visiting the sick, and affording them spiritual consolation. No human strength could have supported it, and the attempt was not made; indeed, he was called upon only once. The other regarded the burial of the dead. A particular spot, attached to St. Mary's Chapel, had been set apart for the interment of all persons dying by the pestilence ; and to have departed from this regulation would have been dangerous; but
Cuper Operov N. 181
the continual solicitations of surviving relatives to permit the bodies of the deceased to be interred in what they very justly termed their family burial ground were extremely distressing. “I knew,” says Mr. Leigh, “the desire to be so natural, and so intimately connected with the best and dearest affections of our being; I remembered that passage in the word of God, when I am dead, lay my bones beside his bones;' I examined my own heart-I found the self-same feelings there; and yet a sense of duty bid me do violence to all these suggestions, and say no to every application. I generally succeeded in convincing the parties of the necessity of this painful denial, and they kindly yielded to my wishes without complaint. In one instance I failed; and the result shocked me so severely that I did not recover from it for many days. The friends of Mr. Procter were anxious that his remains should lie by the grave of his wife, who had died about four years before. I could not comply, and assigned my reasons as gently and as tenderly as I knew how. The request was repeated, and at length became so urgent that I was compelled to be peremptory in my refusal. The consequence was that the body (although Mr. Procter was a member of the Church of England) was interred in the burial ground belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists. I was alarmed by this intelligence; I trembled for the effect it might produce amongst the lower classes of my parishioners; I saw nothing in its train but discontent and danger. Happily, however, and providentially, the good sense of the people prevented them from following the bad example. This occurrence is introduced to shew how important it is, in any pressing emergency, that persons of every rank should acquiesce, without a murmur, in whatever regulations may be recommended for their observance. The good of all is the object; dissatisfaction and disobedience cannot fail to do serious mischief, and may possibly incapacitate those who are most anxious for the general safety, from doing any thing effectually to secure it.”
The funeral of Mr. Procter was followed by the death of Mr. Waterhouse, another of the medical practitioners. This gentleman perished in the thirty-third year of his age, leaving a widow, with four young children, in circumstances of the greatest difficulty and distress. We mention the circumstance in order to add Mr. Leigh's anxious wish, that "some charitable Christian, who sees this melancholy list, would extend the hand of mercy to one of these little ones,' as Sir John Key so humanely did to the orphan daughter of Mr. Procter.”
The pestilence was now sweeping every thing before it; neither age, nor sex, nor station escaping. The number of cases and deaths on the 23d exceeded that of all previous days; of the former there were 148, of the latter 50. Manufactories and workshops were closed; business was completely at a stand; women were seen in a state of distraction running in all directions for medical help for their dying husbands, husbands for their wives, and children for their parents; the hearse carrying the dead to the grave, without intermission either by night or day; those inhabitants who possessed the means quitting their homes, and Aying for safety to some purer atmosphere; those who remained, seeing nothing before them but disease and death.
Among the memoranda of the 24th we find the following :-" I have to record on this day acts of tenderness and regard on the part of a poor woman, Mary Bayley, which are an honour to our nature, and confirm my previous statement of the kindly and humane feelings which the poor in this district evince towards each other. Elizabeth Bayley, sister-in-law of the above, and wife of William Bayley, a miner, perished, aged 28; on the same day a daughter, Rebecca, aged 12; on the 27th, William, the father, aged 34; on the 30th, Elizabeth, another daughter, aged 5; and on the 3d of September an infant, Mary, aged 5 months. Mary Bayley, upon the death of her sister-in-law, seeing the helpless condition of the little babe just mentioned, made an effort to save its life. She had an infant of her own about the same age; without a moment's hesitation she became the mother of the motherless ; she took it to her own bosom, and nursed it at her own breast, with her own offspring, till it died. But this was not all. There was one, and only one, spared out of this sorely smitten family, an orphan boy, William, three years old; and he instantly found a home, a father, and a mother, under the roof and in the persons of this Mary Bayley and her husband, Thomas Bayley. The history is not even yet completed. Whilst the pestilence was raging in this house of woe, no person except Mary Bayley ventured to approach the dwelling; she made all their bed in their sickness,' and actually laid out each of them on the bed of death. At length she was attacked by the disease herself, but recovered, and, by the mercy of Almighty God, is still alive,-an example of Christian kindness and Christian fortitude rarely to be met with in the world.”
“ On this day also perished, aged 56, Elizabeth Rowley, a most respectable neighbour and highly respected friend. She had been preparing, like many others, to leave the scenes of desolation by which she was surrounded, and, with her husband and her children, seek, as she fondly hoped, some safer spot. The clothes were packed up; every thing was in readiness for the journey. At that hour the destroying angel entered the dwelling, and in that very night the children lost a kind and indulgent parent, and the husband a faithful and affectionate wife."
Mr. Leigh and his affectionate partner, who had shared his arduous labours, were at length worn down by fatigue and illness, and considerable fears were entertained for their safety; but it pleased God in his mercy to preserve them from the pestilence, and they soon recovered.
On the 27th there were 270 applications for relief at the Dispensary, the beneficial effects of which began to be manifest. The hospital also, and the house of recovery which had been fitted up, were in a most efficient state; and the provision-house was supplying thousands of the starving population twice a week with food. But how were these expensive establishments to be continued? The funds were already exhausted, and the town was unable to furnish more. Yet to stop these works of mercy was certain death : such a course presented not only the terrors of the pestilence, but of famine for its companion. As a last resource Mr. Leigh determined to make an appeal to the public benevolence, with earnest prayers to Almighty God for its success. He accordingly addressed a letter to the Editor of the Wolverhampton Chronicle, in which he says : “ With a heart full of anguish I send you the following statement :-The pestilence continues its ravages amongst us in a frightful manner. Since its appearance on the 3d instant, up to the present hour, 530 of the inhabitants have been swept away, which is, as nearly as possible, one twenty-seventh part of the whole population. Well might I implore, last week, the prayers of your readers to Almighty God for our deliverance! I earnestly implore them still; but, sir, my parishioners crave pecuniary aid also......Our necessities are increasing every hour, and our resources are fast failing us. Three hundred pounds have been granted to the Board of Health out of the poor-rates, but this sum will not pay for the coffins of the dead. All kind of business is at a stand. Nothing reigns here but Want and Disease, Death and Desolation ! If I had strength, I would send this tale of woe to the editors of other papers; but I have not, and must leave it to their wellknown humanity to copy it from yours. Once more I implore your readers to offer up their prayers to Almighty God for our support and our deliverance; once more I implore alms from all who have the means.”