Downtown Convoy on a quiet summer afternoon; over 150 years ago, in 1854, this small town was one of terror and abandon as a deadly scourge swept through the town, killing many. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)
Downtown Convoy on a quiet summer afternoon; over 150 years ago, in 1854, this small town was one of terror and abandon as a deadly scourge swept through the town, killing many. (DHI Media/Jim Langham)

CONVOY – In the summer of 1854, a terrible scourge, the Asiatic Cholera, became an epidemic through Van Wert and surrounding counties and in many places, the mortality rate nearly wiped out the whole of small-town communities. In Ohio, the greatest fatality rate was in the Black Swamp Region, Tully Township of Van Wert County, notwithstanding.

The Convoy Historical Book of 1975 states that the disease was very quick and death was so sure that people sometimes left their home if some members of the family had the scourge, returning cautiously only to feed and care for the ill.

“One instance is recorded of the burial of a man whose wife was too poor to buy a coffin,” states the history. “She consulted some of her neighbors as to what she should do. They suggested that a white oak tree be felling, a six to seven foot length be split in the middle, each half hallowed out, and the body be placed therein.”

“These plans were carried out and the next day a funeral procession consisting of four men, two women, a yoke of oxen and a sled bearing a strange-coffined corpse proceeded to the grave at the headquarters of the Blue Creek,” added the 1975 History.

In Auglaize County, it was stated that the Asiatic Cholera epidemic spread across the county and arrived in June of 1949. Many children were orphaned with no one to care for them. It was reported that in Minster that the deaths were so rapid that all bodies, in crude coffins, were gathered twice a day and taken to the cemetery for burial without benefit of mourning or religious ceremonies.

By the time another severe outbreak of fatal influenza roared into the county in 1918, the Ohio Board of Health set up a special code of rules to deal with the illness. Among them were the following:

There were to be no public gatherings in churches, schools, lodge rooms, dance halls and other places.

All public funerals were prohibited. There were to be no clubs or other meetings in private homes or assemblings in all places. There was to be no spitting on sidewalks, on walls, or floors or public buildings and public conveyances.

“All persons who are coughing or sneezing shall hold a cloth or paper handkerchief over their faces. Township health officials are authorized and instructed to carry out these provisions. All cases of epidemic influenza are to reported to the State Health Commission,” stated the Convoy Centennial History.