Bahamas Governor John Gregory took ill with yellow fever on Monday. Got worse on Tuesday. Rallied on Wednesday. Declined on Thursday. Died on Friday. Buried with honours on Saturday 30th July 1853. Remembered at Church service on Sunday. And that was the end of ‘Honest John Gregory’.
Bahamas Governor Gregory, like the man who’s funeral he attended, one Captain Mostyn, of H. M. 3rd West India Regiment, contracted a fever so virulent that it took both men, from the picture of health, to the grave, in less than a week in July 1853.
Gregory and Mostyn were victims of either the deadly Yellow Fever or Typhoid Fever. Both were quite common in The Bahamas during this time. Yellow Fever was the more likely culprit as the very day of the Gregory’s burial, the Nassau Guardian newspaper printed the following article on the recent ravages of yellow fever on a boat that docked at Antigua.
“Yellow fever still exists to some extent in most of the West India Islands. At Antiqua it had committed great ravages, but the latest advices from that island announced that it was subsiding. The epidemic prevailed so alarmingly at St. Thomas, that the Commander of the Royal Mail Steamer Panama, which had called there for coals, determined to receive supply from the ships alongside, rather than moor the steamer at the wharf. not with standing his precaution the Panama had left St. Thomas but one day when the much dreaded disease made its appearance on board and carried off 4 victims out of the 11 persons attacked. The sick were in “encamped” on deck as soon as they were seized, wetted with Sir William Burnett ‘s disinfecting fluid, and the most unremitting medical treatments were bestowed upon on them. Out of the 8 persons who recovered, three had black vomit.”
Yellow Fever is a hemorrhagic disease which is spread by mosquitoes. Yellow fever thrived in warm, humid places with dense populations or groups living in densely occupied areas. It is occasioned by jaundice, chills, nausea, headaches, fever, convulsions, delirium and profuse bleeding from eye, mouth and ears.
In the 1800s, places like New Orleans, other Southern cities and the West Indies, became ideal breeding grounds for yellow fever spreading mosquitoes. Half of those who contracted yellow fever, would die from it. The worst year on record in New Orleans was 1853 — 8,000 of the city’s residents died.
Drawing depicts the stages of Yellow Fever 1820
The first outbreaks of disease that were probably yellow fever, occurred in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean, on Barbados in 1647 and Guadeloupe in 1648. Four illustrations showing the progression of yellow fever. Etienne Pariset and André Mazet, 1820.
Typhoid Fever was acute intestinal infection caused by the salmonella typhi bacteria and spread by ingesting contaminated food and water or through close contact with someone that was infected. Patients developed skin lesions called “rose spots,” diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, respiratory distress, fever, and general malaise. By 1864, the death rate for typhoid fever was 60%.
FEVER TAKES GOVERNOR JOHN GREGORY– NEW PROVIDENCE, JULY 1853
Captain Moystn, had only recently arrived on New Providence, with the M. M. 3rd West India Regiment. The fever that killed him, was waiting for him in Nassau. Captain Mostyn took sick of fever on Wednesday 20th July 1853. He died on Saturday 23rd 1853. Buried Sunday 24th 1853. The funeral was attended by Governor John Gregory, Aides-de-camp, several Members of Council and other gentlemen including officers of the Garrison.
Gregory attended the funeral on the Sunday, and fell ill with fever, the very next day.
THE DEATH NOTICE OF GOVERNOR JOHN GREGORY
“It is our painful duty to record this evening the melancholy intelligence of the death of our highly respected GOVERNOR. His Excellency was attacked with fever on the night of Monday last and was considered by his medical attendant, the Hon. Dr. Kirkwood,, who was called in on Tuesday, to be dangerously ill. The day after, Wednesday, the fever subsided and the most sanguine hopes were entertained of His Excellency’s recovery. On Thursday, however, a change for the worse took place, and another physician, the Hon. Dr. Chipman, was called in for the purpose of consultation. The most unremitting attention was bestowed by…… that medical school could devise for the recovery of the governor, all the while proved unfortunately unavailing. His Excellency gradually declined until yesterday afternoon, when he breathed his last amid the regrets not only of his immediate family, but of every member of the community.”
“Immediately on the intelligence being made known, the flagstaffs of the Government Offices, the Forts, the various Consulates, and the shipping in the harbour evidenced signs of mourning, the flags being lowered halfway, and the bells of the Churches and Chapels being tolled in testimony of the esteem in which His Excellency was held. We very sincerely condole with his amiable family in the loss they sustained.”
“His Excellency ‘s remains were interred at Potter’s Field this evening. The funeral procession left Government House at 6 o’clock. The body was carried into Christ Church, where a portion of the burial service was read by the Ven. Archdeacon Trew, the remainder being performed at the grave. Minute-guns were fired from the Water-battery, and the bells of Christ Church, Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, and all the other places of worship in town, tolled so solemnly as the mourners passed along. The following was the order of the funeral procession:-“
John Gregory, for whom the famous Bahamian landmark, Gregory’s Arch is named after, was buried in Potter’s Field, Nassau. He is probably still there now. Gregory had been Governor from 1849 until his untimely demise on Friday 29th July 1853. By all accounts he was well liked, honest and considered a highly capable man.
Gregory’s Arch, Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas named after Governor John Gregory who died of Yellow Fever at Government House on Friday, 29th July, 1853
Why Governor John Gregory was called Honest John Gregory. https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gregory-john-2123