From the time of the first European settlers in Texas, yellow fever was a serious concern. Transmitted through mosquitoes, epidemics in the summer months were prevalent in coastal cities all over North America in the nineteenth century. At the time, the cause was unknown with no effective treatment. Symptoms rapidly progressed from fever and pains in the extremities to vomiting to jaundice to death. The mortality rate varied during outbreaks from thirty to eighty percent of those infected. Between 1839 and 1867, at least nine yellow fever epidemics in Galveston resulted in a large number of deaths.
When yellow fever struck La Grange in August 1867, many citizens left town hoping to avoid the disease. Within a few weeks, as homes with "yellow jack" were quarantined and businesses closed, La Grange appeared deserted. In some cases, entire families were lost as caregivers fell ill after tending the sick. Indiscriminate to age, race or class, the disease struck the wealthy and prominent as well as the poor. Several doctors, the district judge, the sheriff, and both the district and county clerks were among its casualties. While yellow fever affected many communities, its toll on La Grange was catastrophic with fatalities estimated at over 200, fifteen to twenty percent of the total population. Evidence of the epidemic may be seen
in the Old La Grange City Cemetery where a large number of gravestones show deaths from August through October 1867. However, the outbreak was so overwhelming that many victims lie unidentified in mass graves in the northeastern corner of the cemetery. These victims remind us of the once-devastating disease and its effect on early citizens.