Typhoid | Prairie Public Broadcasting


Typhoid Fever

Dec 18, 2020

Before the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, or the coronavirus of 2020, North Dakotans dealt with other outbreaks of illness. On this date in 1887, the St. Paul Globe reported that John Richards, the Burleigh County Registrar of Deeds, was seriously ill with typhoid fever. The late 1880s and early 1890s were particularly bad for outbreaks of typhoid, which was also known as mountain fever.


Typhoid is caused by bacteria associated with human waste. In the fall of 1893, Crookston had several dozen cases of typhoid, and as a precaution, authorities on this date flushed the city’s backed-up sewer main into the Red Lake River. Bad idea. 

Practically every downstream neighbor was affected, from farmhouses to small towns. Grand Forks, which had about 8,000 residents, was hit the hardest, with a typhoid outbreak about a month after the Crookston flush. Grand Forks drew its drinking water from where the Red Lake River met the Red River.