Monday, March 26, 2018

Tuberculosis on the Outer Banks

By the late nineteenth century tuberculosis was raging throughout Europe and America. Tuberculosis (sometimes called consumption or the white plague) struck a number of Outer Bankers (many of whom traveled to Black Mountain, NC*, for a cure), as illustrated by the following few examples.

Ocracoke native John Wilson McWilliams (b. 1869) left the island sometime after 1910 for Black Mountain to relieve his tuberculosis.

On Wednesday, January 27, 1927, siblings of  M. W. Gilgo of Portsmouth Island (who "had been very sick of tuberculosis for a long time") were called to his bedside. Mr. M. W. Gilgo died at his home on Portsmouth on Thursday at 10:30 a.m.

Fannie W. Midgett (b.June 4, 1897) of Buxton, NC, died of tuberculosis in Black Mountain, NC, on Nov. 19, 1925. In 1921 she was admitted to Cragmont Sanatorium. Fannie Midgett kept a diary from Jan. 1, 1921 to June 13, 1921. You can read her diary here.

Cragmont Sanitorium

I am not aware of any recent cases of TB on the Outer Banks. However, although by the mid-twentieth century there were signs that tuberculosis might be totally eliminated, a resurgence of the disease occurred in the 1980s.   In response, the World Health Organization issued a declaration of a global health emergency in 1993. Every year, nearly half a million new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis are estimated to occur worldwide.

This past Saturday, March 24, was World TB Day.

According to Wikipedia,  "March 24 commemorates the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch astounded the scientific community by announcing to a small group of scientists at the University of Berlin's Institute of Hygiene that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus."

Wikipedia goes on to state that  "At the time of Koch's announcement in Berlin, TB was...causing the death of one out of every seven people."

* Black Mountain (near the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains, 15 miles east of Asheville) had a least two tuberculosis sanatoriums"
  • Cragmont Sanatorium was established in 1906 to treat “all classes of consumptives.” Rates were $20 to $35 per week, and the sanatorium had a capacity of 30 patients. 
  • The Pines (est. 1901) was for “incipient and moderately advanced cases.” Rates were $30 to $30 per week, including nursing and medical attention, and they had a capacity 15. Rooms were advertised as "large, sunny and well ventilated."
Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a history of Village Craftsmen (1970 - the Present). You can read the Newsletter here:

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:55 AM

    That diary was sad. Looking out the window watching it snow, not having enough warm clothes to wear, constantly taking her temperature, waiting for letters to arrive, dealing with an upset stomach. Now I wish she would have gone into some detail regarding the stomach issues. I mean did she have toilet troubles, gas, issues with tossing her cookies? It was vague but curious as to the sensibilities back then. She was willing to share some personal matters and as a reader I was wondering how if it was related to her TB.