Pest House Cemetery, Lamar County, TX


The Pest House Cemetery does not exist anymore. It would be in Block 150 in the city of Paris of the Lamar County Road Map produced by American Drafting and Services revised December 1993. Six graves are known at the Pest House at this time.

THE PARIS NEWS, January 24, 1965: 'Gravestone Reminder of Pest House. A weathered tombstone, marked with the name of one Pat. R. Brittian, stands in silent witness to the hustle and bustle of the City of Paris compound on West Hickory Street. Nearby are the unmarked graves of a dozen other pioneers of Paris. And if the City Compound is a strange place for a graveyard, then the story behind it is even more strange. Brittian and the unidentified others died in the City Pest House, which stood a few feet away- of the feared black smallpox shortly after the turn of the century. With no known cure for smallpox, the victims of the early 1900's were simply exiled to the pest house or quarantine house to expire or recover, whichever their fate might be. And because the disease was so contagious, the dead often were buried within the confines of the Pest House limits. The City of Paris Pest House, a simple, frame structure, was known to exist on city property just north and west of where North Main Street and Hickory Street now intersect, about 1900. Smallpox victims were isolated there. Paris citizens, and even relatives of the ill, were obliged to give the Pest House a wide berth. Typical of these victims was Patrick Reuben Brittian. A native of Georgia, he left home in 1902 and came to Ellis County, Texas, where he secured employment with either the telegraph or telephone company. The work brought him to Paris, putting up lines. Brittian was living at the old McCormick Hotel here when he contracted smallpox. He was isolated in the City Pest House, and died there on February 7, 1903. they buried him just outside the Pest House limits. The marble monument, which still stands among the unused water meters, and other stockpiled City of Paris equipment, was erected by a sister, Lizzie Brittian. There is no known record of how many Parisians died in the city pest house, and how many are buried in the small, abandoned graveyard nearby. Buck Blair, a longtime City of Paris employee, said at least a dozen graves were located when a motor grader was used to improve drainage in the compound. Lamar County, too, constructed pest houses during these years when those who contracted communicable diseases were virtually exiled. Doctors didn't know what to do for them, but they did know the diseases-- primarily smallpox-- were contagious. The known treatments were administered by brave doctors who went into the pest houses to see their patients. Judge A. W. Neville's writings taken from a Paris newspaper Feb. 2, 1900, told that 'the pest house built by the county has been finished and is ready for patients. The building of two rooms and a hall between has two brick chimneys. There was smallpox in Lamar and Fannin Counties and Delta County had a quarantine that prevented traveling salesman from any place stopping there...' Later, the Judge wrote from the City Health Officer's report of May, 1902, that 'Paris has for some years supported detention houses where smallpox cases were confined and guarded and fed by the city...' The Pest Houses were effective, for those who lived. And one longtime Parisian, Mrs. F. J. Kuykendall Sr., recalls the experience of her husband's recovery from smallpox in the County Pest House some 45 years ago. 'We laughed about it later,' she recalls. 'But at the time it was deadly serious. My husband, who was a traveling salesman for Morrison Company at the time, came in from a trip through Oklahoma one day with a high fever. 'Honey, I've been exposed to smallpox,' he told me. 'Now here's what I want you to do.' 'Then he told me that he was making arrangements to go to the quarantine house, or pest house. Dr. T. C. Geron was his doctor. When he went out there, the only other person there turned out to be a family friend, Walter Barnett. The weeks that followed were a real experience, but fortunately, both survived, and none of the rest of us caught smallpox.' She ran the risk of smallpox herself to tend to his needs. The trip to the Pest House was a feared one, just as smallpox was a feared disease. But in the years which followed, medical science developed a vaccine, and learned more about isolating communicable diseases. The pest houses disappeared. They had served their grim purpose. And only the gravestones like that of Pat R. Brittian remain to remind Paris of the smallpox threat of its early days. - Bill Thompson.'

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