Frequently, negative external events impact a politician's term in office. The way the person responds demonstrates their character. In the case of Mayor Thomas J. Carlile, who died Oct. 29, 1878, the yellow fever epidemic of that year proved the greatness of his character.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1832, Carlile joined the Union Army when the Civil War began. He was promoted to major and served the latter part of the war in Chattanooga as a quartermaster. Instead of returning home, Carlile decided to move his wife and family to Chattanooga.
Over the next 10 years, Carlile was involved with the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. He also became involved in city politics, being elected alderman several times.
In October 1877, the citizens of Chattanooga elected Carlile to a one-year term as mayor. In his inaugural speech, he discussed themes recognizable to current Chattanoogans, such as the economy and education. What was not on his mind was yellow fever.
However, early in 1878, yellow fever was ravaging many Caribbean islands. The situation prompted President Rutherford B. Hayes to sign the Quarantine Act. Despite the law, a quarantine station south of New Orleans, thinking a ship from Havana, Cuba, was free of yellow fever, allowed it to enter the port. Sadly, from there, travelers took the fever throughout the Mississippi River Valley.
Thinking the Chattanooga environment would not support yellow fever, the town invited refugees from Memphis to come here. The yellow fever came, too.
Carlile and the town council were not idle during the summer. They ordered the sewers to be cleaned and banned hogs from the streets. At his last meeting, on Aug. 24, Carlile requested and received funds from the council to provide money for refugees.
Unlike many who fled, Carlile remained in Chattanooga, performing his duties, visiting the sick and dying and attempting to encourage all he saw. Sadly, he became infected in late October. He was the last of the 366 Chattanoogans who succumbed to the fever. His colleagues and friends remembered him as a hero. His remains rest in the National Cemetery.
Other historical events that occurred during the week of Oct. 28:
—Oct. 28, 1863: Battle of Wauhatchie occurred.
—Oct. 29, 1860: Stephen A. Douglas, presidential candidate, spoke in Chattanooga.
—Oct. 30, 1887: Grace Memorial Church in South Chattanooga was dedicated.
—Oct. 31, 1849: The two parties digging the railroad tunnel at Tunnel Hill met.
—Nov. 1, 1872: Union Passenger Station, located on Ninth and Market, opened.
—Nov. 1, 1913: Hales Bar Lock and Dam began operation.
—Nov. 2, 1876: The local YMCA was incorporated.
David Schmidt is an avid history buff. He and his family moved to Chattanooga several years ago. He has fallen in love with the community and its history. You can contact him directly at email@example.com. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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