J. Henry C. Helmuth wrote a memoir of his experiences as a Lutheran minister during the 1793 epidemic entitled Short Account of the Yellow Fever in Philadelphia for the Reflecting Christian. The diary he kept during the epidemic is at the Lutheran Seminary in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia. It is in German. Some years ago I paid a young German scholar, whose name I've misplaced, to translate some of it. An article on Helmuth's experiences, "Pastoral Heroism in a Panic," by Tappert, appeared in the Lutheran Church Quarterly in 1940. I've highlighted the parts of the translation that I find interesting. Some passages show how active the church remained (more evidence that there was not a general flight from the city).
11 Sept.: Visited the old Beck, but he was unconscious. Buried Mrs.Deis and later a child from Campt[own?]. Talked to two people at the funeral, Ritter and Karcker, about religion. At noon was asked to come to the Frontstr., visited also the sick girl of Schwaap's. In the afternoon again to Krehre's son. Buried the old Mrs.Kempf and Mrs.Dewis. Made a poem about the present hardship of the town. Late at night was asked to visit a man named Tryon who felt very humble. ["Verlegenheit", religious meaning]
[entries for Sept.12-15 missing]
16.Sept. Monday I am afraid that today the number of burials will exceed yesterdays. Schmidt preached in the morning service, the church was very full. Visited Kraser's son, then Henzmann's wife, then Diderich's son and a woman in Spiels and the corpse of the young Schubert. In the afternoon in Crostsum's[?] Alley - to a Selber-Gut Peter Hartmann's wife. Six or seven more corpses. A lot of work till late, came home very tired. At night again to the Zucker-Alley at 8th Str to visit a sick person. Met Dr. Duffield there.
17.Sept. Tuesday Weather changed, fresh wind from the north. Will hopefully change the hardship. Went to P.Schmidt - opened the windows in the church - went to see the sister of Wagner in thhe Moravian Alley, but she was already dead. Preached and prayed at Zion, crowded.
18.Sept. Wednesday Went to the widow Wegman whose son has been sick since yesterday. Went to Morgan's, his wife is sick, but better. Buried Eisenbrey. Visited a sick person in the Front- between Wirestr. and Ardbuckle Row. Was asked to come to Roler's house, but the sick person was already dead. Visited Kraft's, the daughter is dying. Spent a lot of time with the old Herzmann, who also lay down and wanted to write down his will. Visited Stucker's, he had a heart attack and is dying. Buried the young Weissmann and Katto. Preached about how important and blessed it is to live with Jesus. Met D.Rush who is feeling well and confident. Felt bad myself. Lord, your will may be done!
19.Sept. Thursday Visited Mrs.Strubelin - Stacker's - Krafft and daughter. Smelled the breath of death for the first time since all this hardship began, was scared.
(entries for Sept.20-22 missing] [page 91
[Sept.22?] Schreyer and his wife dead - also Kroll. Buried Stucker. It was decided to have services again in both churches. Visited the child of Mr.Krebser who got the fever, also the oldest child and the apprentice. P.Schmidt's servant got an attack, too. Baptized some children. Preached at Zion in the afternoon, blessed. Visited Mrs.Meineke. Visited Bock's sister in Kensington. Visited Mrs.Richter in Frontstr. Mr.Lex spent a lot of time here. Barbara changed her mind, she does not want to go to Germantown. Schrager and his wife were buried today, also Flech - etc.
23.Sept. Monday Segitz was buried early this morning. He left the congregation Ll00. Visited a sick man and woman in Campt. Visited Samuel Becker who is going to die. Went to the sick Beck who is also close to his end. Visited Schlesmann, the other baker, who is also very sick. Talked to Christler who seems to be better. Prayed with Mrs.Meineke who said she was feeling better. Krebser's children and apprentice are well again. Buried Kinzler - Kesler's son and Denberger. Knaker's son came and told me that his father has to be buried tonight.
[entries for Sept.24-28 missing]
[28.Sept.?] Mrs.Gasner very sick. Prayed for her. Krafft better - Hawkins with the whole family very bad. Many good news from Bush Hill that sick people get better.
29.Sept. Sunday The sickness and death are all around us. Lord Jesus, help us. Do not leave us alone. You know what I am hoping for myself and my family. Visited the wife of the young Stockard and prayed with her. Preached in Zion. Had to sing myself because no schoolmaster was there. Baptized a child. Was asked to come to the old Forstberg who is dying. Buried Carl Sing who had still been sitting in front of his door last night. Went to Schleicher who is going to die this time. Went to Holtenius who is very weak. Talked and prayed with a couple in the Lombard Str. who are very sick. Baptized the child of Bock's. Was asked to visit Morgan-Schmidt in the Walnutstr.
[entries for Sept.30-Oct.11 missing]
[Oct.11?] Met Riese's daughter. Visited Jacob and his English wife. Then to widow Knodel who was better. Visited Hazard's English and German servant. Went to Mich.Keppele and again to G.Keppele. Talked to two Quaker and tried to convince them that this was a very blessed time for Philadelphia. One of them was moved and started to cry. D.Rodgers has also lost his wife. Was feeling very well, had taken some of -'Keinles Mixtur" Our servant who had wanted to leave this morning because she was afraid of getting infected because I had so much to do with sick people decided to stay.
Margin: 21 corpses
12.Oct. Saturday P.Schmidt, Fridrich and Gotfried were better, also Georg Keppel. Drove to Camptown - Mrs.Weiser was dead - the young Strauss better, also Schneider and Walter and his wife. Sturmfels still sick - Janus better, but his child dying - Michael Hay and his wife dying, also Stahlin. The young Anthony and Mrs.Stuckard dead. Walter in 4th Str. still very sick. Becker and his wife better. Ries better, his daughter very sick and son's wife sick, too. Burkhard very sick - his wife almost well. Daum better, his wife dying. Schiller better - Mrs.Buss in Campt. very sick. Rain in the evening. Feeling not as well as yesterday, afraid that I will become sick, too.
Margin: Buried 17 today. 130 were buried in our congregation during the last week.
13.Oct. Sunday Strong Northwestwind during the whole night. Perhaps God wants to help this poor city and bring back it's health by this wind. Went to P.Schmidt, he seems to be better. Keppeler's servant is about to die. I am afraid the poor G.Keppele will cause a lot of problems for his family - he talked to me today for a much too long time about his contestations. Lord Jesus, help him! Preached to a large gathering about Jes.26,1. I showed that Philadelphia is a very blessed city - the Lord is among us and especially in our congregation. I proved this with examples of dead and still living people. Baptized a child. Announced that I could not be with the corpses, that the sick should be reported to me in the morning so that I could [next page missing, perhaps "visit them in the afternoon"]
[entries for oct.14-18 missing]
19.Oct. Saturday Visited the widow Holz and prayed with her. Mr.Otts son told me that his father was sick. Visited him, he was better. Burnes asked me to visit his servant Bahlmann in the Frontstr. I found her to be very weak, talked and prayed with her in English (because of her relatives) and in German. The widow Gottschall and her sister had become sick yesterday, were both better today - prayed with them. Widow Noltanius is also better, prayed with her, too. The old Roehn is a bit better, but still dangerous, prayed with him. The daughter of Lehmann very weak. It was a blessed visit. I found Daum's son better and him completely well. Emerig's son seemed to be very bad. Hagener's daughter was more quiet in her feelings today than yesterday. Kockenberger still very weak. Mrs.Buck a bit better. - Neumann had already left the house. Wall was also better.
In the last week 96 members died, what is 34 less than last week - praise be to God - on the condition that not too many will have to be buried this afternoon, but I do not expect that.
Margin: This week 101 members of our congregation were buried.
The weather changed, strong wind, but no rain.
[entries for Oct.20-26 missing]
[26.Oct.?] Valentin Krieg a bit better. Talked with Burkhard, both he and his wife almost well. Wagener's wife very bad. Hailer had again become sick, but better. Haass and his wife better, but still weak. Kerle and Wagener's wife buried today. Emmerig's son very sick.
Margin: 5 corpses.
27.Oct. Sunday Eight buried yesterday at Fischer's. One corpse today, Rieb. Visited Peter Gabels wife after church in Campt. and the widows. Muff better, daughter in law dying. Buried Rieb after the service. Very cold, but no rain.
Margin: one corpse.
28.Oct. Monday Cold northwind. Buried the widow Pab - and Muff's wife - in the afternoon Emmerig's son. Visited the widow Dischong and her son, then Boshard's wife and Hagener's daughter.
Margin. 6 corpses
29.Oct. Monday(sic) Ice, very cold.
[entries for Oct.29-Nov.2 missing]
Visited Hanna Biehler - she got the fever a couple of days ago.
Margin: 3 corpses
3.Nov. Sunday Heralds of coming punishment in this city: the theater [Commodien Haus] plays the new theater, Sabbath breaking, making fun of the gospel, perjury - miserliness - deception
Sermon: The Lord brought all this dying to our town. He makes no differences in his punishment.
Baptized two children. Visited Hanna Bieler who is better. Buried a woman from Southwark - and the mother of H.Scheiblegt.
Margin: 5 corpses.
4.Nov. Monday Was asked to visit Bernhard Bock who was very sick of the rampant sickness. Prayed with him. He vomited just when I was there. Baptized a child in Campt. in Merkel's house. The sickness declines, but it was very warm yesterday and many people were afraid of the consequences. Spend a lot of time with P.Schmidt.
margin: 5 corpses