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The Dutton family’s journey out West was full of many hardships, including the danger of disease. One of the most prevalent diseases of this time was smallpox, which took the lives of many people in the 1800s.
Along with smallpox, cholera was another disease that affected the wagon train’s journey out West.
While the Duttons managed to stave off these diseases, not everyone else on the caravan was so lucky.
*Please note, none of this is medical advice and was not written by a trained medical professional*
How Did Smallpox Affect Characters in 1883?
At the beginning of 1883, we see Shea Brennan mourning the death of his wife and daughter who both died of smallpox.
His deceased daughter is shown to have painful boils across her body, and while grief-stricken, Shea burns down the house.
After the agony of losing both his wife and daughter, Shea heads out to take his own life. However, he is stopped by fellow Pinkerton agent, Thomas.
Shea, along with Thomas, agrees to lead a caravan made up of European immigrants and the Dutton family to Oregon.
Prior to leaving, Shea, along with others, checks all the travelers for smallpox. Unfortunately, one man is discovered to have smallpox, so the man and his wife are told to leave town.
If he is seen again, Shea tells the man he will kill him, as within days the smallpox virus will devastate the caravan if the couple stays.
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Cholera in the 1883 TV Show
While smallpox was one of the biggest threats the travelers of 1883 had to worry about, there were other dangerous diseases as well. Cholera was also a serious threat to the caravan as well.
Cholera is a bacterial disease usually spread in contaminated water or food. The symptoms include severe diarrhea and dehydration, and if not treated it can be fatal.
In 1883, a group of travelers become ill with cholera after drinking water straight from a river near Forth Worth.
In addition to cholera and smallpox, infections were another serious issue travelers had to worry about. Elsa Dutton died after getting an infection from a contaminated arrow she was shot with.
Life on the caravan was not for the faint of heart. As well as diseases and infections, there was also the threat of getting shot, scalped, or injured.
Several unfortunate travelers met their demise at the hands of violence or accidents.