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Report of the Committee Appointed to Investigate the Causes and Extent of the Late Extraordinary Sickness and Mortality in the Town of Mobile

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
That they have carefully attended to the duties assigned them, and have examined all the wharves, the docks, and vessels, the buildings and lots near the river, as well as in other parts of the town, and find in their examination numerous local causes, which, under the co-operating influence of the late season, might, in their opinion, have produced the fever, independent of the supposition of its foreign importation. Some of the most prominent we will mention, and first, the condition of the wharves, built with hewn timber, closely laid, confining the water within the outward dimensions of the wharves, and filled up with rotten logs, bushes, shavings, and other vegetable matter, covered lightly with swamp mud of earth, presenting to view an immense mass, in the most noxious state of decay. Two of these wharves, about 450 feet in length, and 30 to 40 in breadth, were commenced in the spring, and the work of filling them up with logs, mud, and bushes, was carried on during the summer, till the storm on the 28th July, and the sickness of the workmen put a stop to it. They were, however, nearly filled up to the length and breadth mentioned, and to the depth of four to ten feet, and the surface of about a third part covered with pieces of swamp marsh, cut in convenient sizes for the purpose, and marsh mud. When the committee viewed these wharves, the sight was most disgusting, and the smell so offensive, that they felt their health endangered by delaying about them. The other wharves, five in number, also deserve a more particular notice. Three of them appear to be built upon the plan of the former; and with like materials, two are partly built upon piers, giving a more wholesome circulation to the water. One was built during the spring and summer, but chiefly destroyed by the storm of July, the others from one to four years since, each of them, affording a mass of decaying vegetable matter, from 200 to 400 feet in length, 25 to 30 in breadth, and 3 to 10 in depth, covered with a thin layer of earth, or mud. Such a quantity of noxious materials collected together in a state of decay, must necessarily produce miasmata, and mortal disease.