This letter was written from Alexandersville, which is now part of West Carrolltown, Montgomery County, Ohio. In 1833, it was a thriving new village on the Miami & Erie Canal with plenty of water power from the presence of two locks. Family history says that brothers Horace Pease (1791-1875) and Perry Pease (1797-1863) opened a distillery to make wine from apples and peaches in the village in 1827. They were joined by their brother George Pease (1798-1880), in the enterprise shortly thereafter and he ran the distillery while they focused on setting up a flouring mill. These Pease brothers of Alexandersville, and Edward Pease (1792-1850) — also mentioned in this letter — were the sons of Joseph Pease (1766-1842) and Elizabeth Pierce (1766-1829) of Suffield, Connecticut. Two sisters, named Bathsheba Pease (1810-1888), and Mindwell Pease (1801-1857), are both mentioned in this letter. Another sister, Elizabeth Pease (1805-18xx), was the wife of John Hughs whose family also lived in the same vicinity.
In writing to his widowed father, George relates the tragic deaths of several children in Montgomery County, Ohio in the summer of 1833. The families were struck by the cholera which “raged” in Cincinnati during 1832-1833, and spread up the Miami Canal to the canal towns by tradesmen and canal laborers. George’s immediate family was afflicted; he and his first wife, Ellen Wheatley (1807-1839), lost their infant daughter, Mary D. Pease, on 12 July 1833. Other deaths recorded in this letter include George’s nephews, Horace Hughs — who died on 4 July 1833, and Joseph Pease Hughs, who died on 16 July 1833.
George also reports that most of the hired hands at the distillery — mostly German emigrants — had suffered from the disease, causing their workforce to wax and wane between 3 and 12 hands.
Addressed to Mr. Joseph Pease, Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut
August 5th 1833
We received Bathsheba’s letter in due time. We are sorry to hear of Mindwell’s ill health but pleased to hear that it is so healthy a time in Suffield and that our family are as well as could be expected for the sickly time of the country. The bowel complaint has been among us about six weeks — with cholera — and bilious fever. About the middle of June, Perry [Pease] & [John] Hughs went to Cincinnati where Hughs found his brother very sick and brought him home with him. He remained about two weeks, recovered, and went back. Hughs’ children were soon taken with the bowel complaint, but nothing alarming till the first of July when the disease took a different appearance. Little Horace Hughs was attacked with violent vomiting and purging on Tuesday night, 2d of July, and died Thursday night at 11 o’clock Friday. He was buried. It was not till Friday we were alarmed. It was then too late for we had all been there with our children. Perry, little Joseph, and Caroline, with himself, all had it but all recovered.
My little Mary was taken Sunday night. I went for the Doctor Monday but he could not come till Tuesday when he found the disease beyond his reach and had all the appearance of malignant cholera. I was sick so as to be up about half the time while the doctor was here. Hughs came for him. His little Joseph had got the disease. Tef who lives in the cabin on the hill by me had a little girl the age of nine. She was taken Monday night. The doctor went over from here but could do nothing to help.
The alarm now became great although people came in to help, to nurse the sick. Our little girl love her sickness with great patience, took the breast till Thursday about eight o’clock in the evening. She had some spasm through the day. She retained her senses rill two o’clock Friday morning when she was taken with violent spasm and died quarter past two o’clock, 12th July. We buried her the same day. I was able to go out but not well. The child on the hill died the 14th, 10 o’clock. Hughs’ Joseph was no better. Perry’s family were so bad they go not go. Alfred ¹ has been the greater help in nursing the sick but his little girl took it which left none but Horace to help down there and Edward up here (his family have escaped by not being amongst Horace’s family).
Monday night, my wife and I went down to Hugh’s and found Joseph in great pain, his legs and arms cold, and still purging. People all tired out. We took charge of him that night which like to have finished me. He was struck with death about midnight but continued living and dying till next evening, Tuesday the 16th at 11 o’clock. The disease worked alike upon all.
Mary Markin was down to the first burying, but I did not send for her but warned her to keep clear from here for some time. She is not in good health but has had not much of this complain. Her child is well and husband. The complaint is now general. Our hands — most of them — have had it. Some are yet very low. If it had not been for the German emigrant, we could not have left the distillery going. We hired all that came. Sometimes we has 12, sometimes 3.
I was taken morning after watching with Hugh’s child and have not been much out since. The first attack of the disease is the most horrible I have ever felt. It appears to attack the nerves and so much at the same time. The doctors were very much frightened and did not know what to do. Their medicine at first done no good. They then shifted their practice and have done better since. Dayton is about as healthy as the country. Centerville had several cases of cholera last week — some proved fatal in six hours, other twenty-four. Cincinnati has been visited worse than ever about the same time we were and the disease assumes so many different appearances they do not know what to do between here and there. The scarlet fever is very bad — equal to cholera.
Our families mow have all recovered their health but not their strength. Sister Hugh’s situation, withal their sickness, made us all afraid she would not get through, but she has shown greater fortitude [than] would be expected. Our feelings can better be conceived than described. The weather is a little cooler now and we hope the disease will yield more to medicine than it has heretofore. I shall write soon again if I live and we all join in sending love to all friends.
We still work 125 bushels per day, have about 900 hogs — about as good as last year — have built a small addition to the still house, the yeast room, built a large stable in the lot between Perry & me. They are now going to build a brick house for boarding the hands out near the turn of the road. Prices have failed for about nine thousand dollars. What there is will be sold today. It is probable this have acted the rascal some. It has caused almost as much excitement as the cholera. Most of the logs is in Dayton. Horace has put in two more room of stores and built a store house for whisky, cooper’s shop of brick, three small dwelling on the same side of the canal by him. They have laid out a street up to the bridge.
— George Pease
¹ This may have been the same Alfred Pease (1793-1870) who is buried in Evergreen Cemetery at West Carollton, Ohio, next to his children, Seth Pease (1824-1869) and Alfred Pease (1836-1838). Alfred, the elder, may have been a brother of this same Peace family from Connecticut.