Yellow Fever was no stranger to Memphis and her people. The last great epidemic occurred in 1879 with 2000 cases and 600 deaths. The Rhodes family lost three of their family within days of each other in August 1879.
New Cases, Unofficial
The Howards reported the following cases last evening, having supplied them with nurses:
Lizzie Rhodes, 20 years, Sam Rhodes, 11 years, and ---Rhodes, five years, were also supplied with nurses. This family left their residence on Main Street at the outbreak of the fever, and removed to a house on the Raleigh road, near Camp Father Mathew.
Originally reported in the Memphis Daily Appeal, August 21, 1879
--Dr. Tyner writes the following about the Rhodes family: "They have not been in Memphis for four weeks. The brother at whose house they are now at is a dairyman, and is in the city every day. The bedstead and mattress used by one of them is one upon which a woman died last fall on Beale street with yellow-fever. They are all extremely sick. One of them (Sam) has black vomit, and is probably now dead." They are three miles out on the New Raleigh Road.
Originally reported in the Memphis Daily Appeal, August 22, 1879
Elmwood Burial Records lists the following Rhodes family interments for August 1879 in the Chapel Hill Section of the cemetery:
Sam Rhodes - age 10, interred August 21, 1879
A.L. Rhodes - age 8, interred August 22, 1879
Lizzie Rhodes - age 20, interred August 24, 1879
On February 9, 1889, almost twenty years after their deaths Sam, S.L., and Lizzie were moved from Chapel Hill and re-interred in lot 171 1/2, Evergreen.
A search of the City Directories reveals that Taylor Rhodes was a dairyman and lived on the east end of New Raleigh Road. Taylor was the older brother of Sam, A.L. and Lizzie. With that information I was able to discover that the Rhodes family had been living in Tipton County in 1860. Merdica (might possibly be Mordecai) Rhodes was 36 years old, a farmer, from North Carolina. His wife was Mary J. Rhodes, age 30 born in Tennessee. At that time they had the following children: Martha age 12, Maria age 10, Taylor age 8, Elizabeth (Lizzie) age 6 and Frances age 1.
Living next door was Soloman A Rhodes age 35, from North Carolina and his family. Elizabeth age 33 from Virginia, Mary E age 12, Ann R age 9, Sarah A age 4, Martha age 5 months. There was an adult male age 49 named Blackburn Rhodes in the household as well.
The following comes from the First Report of the State Board of Health, Nashville TN, 1880.
Three cases occurred three miles out from Memphis on the Raleigh road, in a family named Rhodes. The family consisted of father, mother and seven children, all of whom were refugees from Memphis except the oldest son, Taylor Rhodes, at whose house they were staying. When the first case occurred, August 17th, they had been out of Memphis four weeks. The father had been in once or twice for a short time. Taylor Rhodes being a dairyman, was in the city every day. The premises were about two hundred yards from Camp Father Matthew, but there seemed to have been no communication with that place.
A bedstead and mattress used by the family belonged to a man named Stevit, the partner of Taylor Rhodes, and whose wife had died on this bed in 1878, of yellow fever. The mattress had stains upon it resembling black vomit. This was brought from Memphis in March, 1879, and was used by Mr. Rhodes and his wife; but Sam, the first of the family attacked in 1879, slept on a pallet nearly under this bed; the stains of the black vomit being on the part of the mattress nearest where Sam slept. The premises were also tenanted in 1878 by a family in which one of the children had a typical case of fever.
Thus there were three ways in which the infection could have been conveyed. Sam Rhodes, aged 11, was attacked August 17th, at 4 p.m., had black vomit on the 19th, and was totally unconscious until his death on the 21st. he also had suppression of the urine. Miss Lizzie Rhodes, aged 19, was attacked August 18, and her condition continued favorable until the death of her brother, when her nervous system became so pronounced as to render her recovery hopeless. She died on the 23d with black vomit.
Arnold Rhodes, aged 5, was taken on August 20th, and died in forty-eight hours from the time of his attack. All these cases were very malignant.
The family were isolated as well as possible, disinfectants were freely used, and the bedding and clothes used were burned. No further infection ensued.