This article appeared in the Pensacola Commercial in 1882. For local historians, this was the first time anyone had seen references to refugees in Holt. No one knew who the refugees might be.
After a little digging, Tracy Curenton, chairman of the board of directors of the North Okaloosa Historical Association which governs the Baker Block Museum, made the connection between Holt’s refugees and the yellow fever epidemic in Pensacola in 1882.
According to a New York Times article dated Sept. 2, 1882, the state of Alabama quarantined against Pensacola, stopping all train traffic as well as mail and supplies.
Mobile suffered its own yellow fever epidemic between 1819 and 1858. The Azalea City didn’t want to take a chance on infection from fleeing Pensacolans.
At the time of the 1882 epidemic, Holt was about the end of the railroad line as it slowly made its way from west to east between 1881 and 1883. People fleeing yellow fever in Pensacola couldn’t go west or north into Alabama because of the quarantine and appear to wind up in Holt because that was as far as the railroad may have gone at the time.
Toward the end of the epidemic, the New York Times reported 783 cases of yellow fever in Pensacola, including 78 deaths, in a small news note on the front page of its Sept. 30, 1882, newspaper.
The 1882 yellow fever epidemic in Pensacola wasn’t the first nor the last for the city. And Holt played a small part in this footnote to history.
Special thanks to the Baker Block Museum for providing the original Pensacola Commercial article above.
Editor’s Note: If you have a photo of an old Holt memory, send it to Holt Enterprise News for Throwback Thursday at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to include the date and what the photo is about.