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October 6, 2016 / Joanne Yeck

The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part XLI


Charlie Forbes Dangerously Ill

Summers in Virginia brought serious illnesses and the summer of 1904 was no exception. On August 17th, The Times-Dispatch reported that Charlie Forbes had contracted typhoid fever, which was frequently fatal. The front page story, recapped Charlie’s arrest and incarceration, explaining that over the last few days he had developed “a grave case of typhoid fever” and now lay “dangerously ill in his cell.” He was sustaining a temperature of 104°. Dr. Garland Lightfoot Morris, the county physician, attended Mr. Forbes, did everything in his power for the young man, and announced that his case was severe. Charlie’s sister, Janie, remained by his bedside, nursing him. According to the newspaper, she was assisted by her “faithful colored woman.” The article also commented that the jail was old, with wooden floors, many decayed in places and, although it was kept scrupulously clean, there was “something about the building to suggest an unhygienic condition.” Ultimately, contaminated water was blamed for Charlie’s illness. The Times-Dispatch continued:

It is a matter of speculation as to how young Forbes contracted the dread disease. His board is good. He is supplied from the table of the Spencer Hotel, which is noted for its good table. Some think it is the water which he is supplied with; and this is probably the case. During the trial last month many of the visitors, including a number of lawyers engaged in the case, complained considerably about the water of the place, and before court adjourned, quite a number of people were taking medicine.

Charlie Forbes was not the only prisoner who was suffering. E. C. “Cliff” Wooldridge was also complaining. His heart had grown weak, his pulse was difficult to find. A physician told the newspaper correspondent that his debilitation might be due to a serious nervous condition. Both Wooldridge and Forbes were accustomed to strenuous outdoor activity and confinement was debilitating. The reporter observed, “Wooldridge is a man not yet sixty years of age. Since his confinement he might well be taken for a man 10 years older. His nerves are terribly shattered.”

No mention was made concerning the health of the two African-American prisoners, Banks and James.

On August 30, 1904, The Times-Dispatch reported that Charlie Forbes was much improved. It had been twenty days since he contracted typhoid fever. Dr. Morris expected his patient to be entirely well and able to stand trial on October 11th. Likewise, Wooldridge had entirely recovered from his nervous disability.

Coming Next: Letters From Buckingham Court House

Need to catch up? Click here for The Famous Forbes Case of Buckingham County: Part I

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