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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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Text for Page 256

              [newspaper clipping]
nightmare story of Mr. George Cable of a
leper secluded for years in a house in New
Orleans turns out to be no novelist�s fancy,
but only a small part of the terrible fact.
The annual report of the Louisiana Board of
Health for 1880, just issued, contains a de-
tailed statement of the progress of the Asiat-
ic leprosy in that State during the last cen-
tury.  It was brought in 1680 to the West
Indies by the negro slaves and thence to
Louisiana.  In 1778 this disease was so prev-
alent among the blacks, together with the
African elephantiasis, and another equally
horrible, named yaws, peculiar to the
Guinea negroes, that a hospital for
lepers was established in New Orleans.  At
the present time the majority of lepers in
that city are found to be whites, of French,
German and Russian extraction.  The disease
seems to be hereditary, and certain families
are known to be infected by it, and are
shunned as corpses would be could they walk
and move and spread about the contagion of
death.  The mother of one of these families,
when the disease showed itself, was deserted
by husband and children, and nursed until 
her death by a young girl who now is a vic-
tim to it.  An Italian Catholic priest who
attended cases of leprosy in the Charity Hos-
pital is nw dying of it in the same house.
New Orleans, it appears, has no separate asy-
lum for these incurable patients, and they
are received into the Charity Hospital, and
placed in the crowded wards, to scatter death.
  The president of the Board of Health has
made a personal investigation into the extent
of this disease, even venturing into the death-
ly swamps of the lower Bayou Lafourche.
This whole district, he states, is several feet
lower than the turbid bayou, sloping back in-
to cypress swamps liable to constant over-
flow from crevasses.  The poor Creole inhab-
itants live in low huts surrounded by wet
rice fields, living upon fish and fish-eating
birds.  They are separated from the rest of
the world and have intermarried for gen-
erations.  So impregnated with disease is
this remote region that some of the exploring
party were struck down on reaching it with
violent hemorrhages and fever.  Of all
foul corners of the world it is the fittest for
the disease mose dreaded by man since the
beginning of the world to hide with its prey.
Below Harang�s Canal, President Jones
found Asiatic leprosy existing in different
generations of six families.  Some of these
wretched creatures have been driven out
from human habitation, and are living apart
in the swamps, dying of decay. In some in-
stances their flesh had become as insensible
as bone, and they were able to handle fire
with impunity.  It was impossible to make a
correct estimate of their numbers, as a rumor
spread among them that the searching party
had come to carry them off to an uninhabited
island of the sea, and they hid themselves,
their friends, too, refusing to tell their names
or number.
  In self-defence, if for no more humane rea-
son, the people of Louisiana should provide
a refuge where these accursed beings may be
isolated and sheltered.  The disease is as in-
curable and as contagious as in the days of
Moses.  The only other place where it exists
on this continent, we believe, is in New
Brunswick, near the Bay of Chaleur; the
lepers there are contained in a hospital in a
lonely spot known in the surrounding coun-
try as the Valley of Hell.  [New York
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