From the Missionary Herald.
Extracts from a letter of Mr. Williams, dated January 1st, 18343
Sickness among the People.
At p. 24 some account was given respecting the distressing sickness that prevailed among the Choctaws and in the mission families during the last fall. Some further statements are here added, showing the trials to which the mission families are subjected in prosecuting their work, and the need they have of the prayers and sympathies of their Christian brethren and sisters.
The sickly season just passed has been one of great distress to the poor Choctaws, and others in this country. Sickness commenced early in July in some places, and continued to increase, though it did not become general, until about the 20th of September. A great rain, just before that time, caused an uncommon overflow of the streams, which was succeeded by very warm weather. The change in the atmosphere was such, that almost the whole population was soon prostrated. Bilious remittent and intermittent fevers prevailed. Of those who reside immediately on the large streams, not more than one in twenty escaped the fever; and of the whole population, only about one in fifteen. A small proportion of cases terminated fatally;-as nearly as I can calculate, one fifteen part. Many, very many lingered in distress three and four months; and some even five months, with but little intermission. I never witnessed such a time.
Myself and family suffered more than for fifteen years previous, so that we were unable to render much assistance to our sick neighbors. Indeed we were very destitute of medicine either for ourselves or others, as our supply from Boston did not reach us in season.- Our beloved brethren and sisters at the other stations, and their people, have also suffered exceedingly.
Our meetings were for a time necessarily suspended, and our schools closed. Almost all business was completely stagnated. The poorer and more ignorant classes resorted by scores, and even by hundreds, to the houses of their doctors, so called, where they lay round about, in some instances for weeks, exposed too often to the burning sun, the midnight air, and drenching rains. Among the deceased, I have to record nine of the dear flock which the Great Shepherd had committed to my care; concerning all of whom, we are permitted to hope they are now at rest where the inhabitants shall not say, I am sick, ' there shall be no more pain. It was said by many that the sickness, which prevailed the first season among the emigrants, was owing to the change of the climate, and would be limited to one summer. But there has, in fact, been little or no difference this season between the former and the latter emigrants.
Under date of December 27, 1833, Mr. Hotchkin, who resides about 20 miles from Mr. Williams, remarks:
The Choctaws, as well as all others, have suffered extremely the past season from sickness. So much sickness has not been known since the country was first settled by the whites. In this neighborhood, which embraces 400 or 500 souls, but a single child is left under a year old. On Little River the mortality has been greater among adults. The Lord in his holy pleasure has laid his rod among us. Some of us have been sick since the first of July. I hope he will accomplish in us all that he intends by these afflictions and make us like the gold that is seven times tried.
Mr. Williams proceeds to notice the
State of feeling among the People
It was hoped that these chastisements of their heavenly Father would have a salutary influence upon those who have been taught that 'afflictions come not of the dust, neither do troubles spring out of the ground; but it is to true, that even believers have in many instances, become lukewarm, and comparatively lifeless. Some indeed have exposed themselves to church censure. They had been much longer than usual without the public means of grace, and a kind of mental stupor has accompanied the languor and debility of their bodies.
We have not been able to have a communion season since the middle of June, until about three weeks ago.- On the 6th December, we commenced a sacramental meeting at the meeting house near this place which closed on the 9th. I was assisted by the Rev. Mr. Orr of the Methodist connection and by brother Wright from Wheelock, so that we were enabled to have considerable preaching. On the Sabbath there were probably 400 persons present, though some were still sick, and two at least were brought on their beds. Six adults were added to our church on this occasion; five of whom had been members of the Mayhew church, and the sixth was a new convert. During the administration of the ordinances a deep solemnity pervaded the assembly; and in the evening after two discourses, nine came forward, apparently with deep feeling, to converse, respecting the salvation of their souls. We were refreshed with some drops, which we fondly hoped bespoke a plentiful shower of grace. As yet, however, we mourn its absence.
The schools which were closed on account of sickness are still vacant, with one exception. Miss Clough has taken the native school on the east of the river, about mile and a half distant. We have built her a small cabin near the school house which she occupies and board herself. The other schools west of us have been delayed on account of inability on the part of the people to finish the school houses, so as to make them comfortable for winter. They will probably both be in operation by the middle of this month. We had hoped to have had the society and labors of our late brother, Josyln in the English school in this neighborhood but God has ordered it otherwise, by calling him from his service on earth, to the employments and felicity of the heavenly state, just as he was about to re-commence his labors among the Choctaws.