A Whole Family Swept Off

New York’s 1832 cholera epidemic centered on the built-up tip of southern Manhattan Island, but the 1849 outbreak reached even outlying areas. In the rural town of Gravesend, Long Island (today a neighborhood in southern Brooklyn), one farmer and his entire family—his mother, wife, and children—died in the span of six days. Ferdinand Van Sicklen’s wife, Eleanor/Ellen (Stoothoff) Van Sicklen died on August 18, 1849. His son, Cornelius, died the same day. His mother, Maria (Johnson) Van Sicklen, died on the 21st. Ferdinand died on the 23rd, followed by his married daughter, Eleanor/Ellen Maria (Van Sicklen) Stillwell. (All lie buried in the landmarked Van Sicklen Family Cemetery on Gravesend Neck Road in Brooklyn.) While the accompanying account from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of Saturday, August 25, 1849 misspells the family’s surname and takes much poetic license (Ferdinand in fact died of cholera and not from despair), it illustrates vividly the frightening speed at which the disease claimed victims.




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One Response to “A Whole Family Swept Off”

  1. Albert C. Simmel, Jr. says:

    It is even more tragic when you consider that , with some basic precautions, it is a relatively easy disease to avoid. I was surprised to see that the warning flyer of the time almost stumbled upon the solution, but not quite.

    I understand that the only survivors of that family were the two in-laws, Jaques Stillwell, husband of Ellen Maria Van Sicklen and Johanna Lake, wife of Cornelius Van Sicklen ( and that Jaques & Johanna later married one another). I wonder what it was that they did differently from the other members of the family.

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