Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County

From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County


In about the year 1817, a mill was built on tlie present site of the Milliken Mill and a high dam erected, which, during the wet season, backed the water up and overflowed the adjacent lands, and when the rains ceased and the waters dried up, produced great miasma and consequent sickness. In time, this grew to such an alarming extent as to threaten the depopulation of the town. Drs. Hilton and McGarough were confident that the cause arose from the stagnant waters of the dam, and the proprietors were requested to take it down during the season of low water—from June till September, which was accordingly done in about 1825, and the sickness almost wholly disappeared. It was taken down every year, till about 1837, when through carelesness it remained up a year or two, and again the fever and ague manifested themselves. The loss of many valuable citizens, among whom was the owner of the mill, Jesse Milliken, rendered prompt action necessary, and the administrator, Curren Milliken, was requested to remove it but refused; upon which a number of citizens, among whom were Z. W. Heagler, Daniel McLain, John C. Eastman, Arthur McArthur, L.D.Willard, David McLain, and Peter Wendell, proceeded to the spot with the necessary tools, determined to remove the dam. They were met by the owner, at the head of an equal number, equally as determined that it should remain. The "contending forces" met in the center, and in the struggle L. D. Willard slid down the slippery plank into the mud and was nearly drowned.

"Still they tug, they sweat, but neither gain nor yield
One foot, one inch, of the contended field."

Curren Milliken finally praposed to take it down if the other party would leave, to which they responded that they came to tear it down and it should. be done. After considerable parleying and some high words, he agreed to take it away if they would desist, which being complied with, the central portion was removed, and the parties withdrew.

Milliken immediately went before the grand jury, and had them all indicted for riot. Whereupon the criminals brought an action against Milliken for keeping a nuisance. The case was decided in their favor, and of course the bottom was knocked out of the indictment as well as the obnoxious dam, and the court decreed that the latter be demolished entirely.

Subsequently, the present race was dug, and the present dam erected further from the town.


One of the greatest scourges to the early settlers in this county, was a disease known as milk-sick or trembles, which not only affected cattle, sheep, hogs, horses and dogs, but the human family as well. Human beings and stock would often be infected with the disease without any symptoms manifested until brought into activity by certain conditions, when it would suddenly develop itself with rapid and fatal effects.

Stock driven until heated would become sick if the disease had fastened upon them.

Persons, therefore, who wished to purchase stock, either for trade, service, or butchering, took means to heat them up previously.

According to the symptoms, it has been given various names, such as sick-stomach, swamp-sickness, fires, slows, stiff joints, puking fever, river sickness, etc.


Vomiting, purging, extreme nervous agitation, obstinate constipation, low temperature of body, dry tongue and skin.


Quiet the stomach with opiates; blister; use castor oil and injection; dilute nitric acid has also proved eflicacious in extreme cases. Dunglison recommends gentle emetics, laxatives with quiet, and mucilaginious drinks.

So much for the human. The disease in stock is less known from the fact that the human takes the disease from milk or flesh of stock having the ailment.

Many theories have been advanced, some that it arises from lead held in solution by water, some that it is a weed, while others contend that it is a malarial epidemic. Judge McLain says, that about the year — he found in his pastures a weed belonging to the genus eupatorium, with which he performed the following experiment: Two healthy calves were purchased, taken to the house of Mr, John Rowe, with instructions to confine them to the use of this weed alone. In a short time, the calves manifested all the premonitory symptoms of the disease under discussion, which increased as the experiment advanced, until, in about ten days all its phases were fully developed. Treatment was then begun, consisting of ground corn, which in due time effected a cure. The weed was again given them with hay, and the experiment pursued until death occurred.

The question may be asked by skeptics, was there sufficient nutrition in the weed, in the absence of other food to support life, and did not the calves starve to death. The reply is, the symptoms produced by eating this weed were identical with those dying from milk-sickness. Again, after this experiment, the weed was removed from the pasture in which it grew, and while previous to this stock died each year, none have died since.

It is a also a fact, that when there is abundance of rain and the grass is rank, stock do not die, creating the presumption that grass is more palatable than the weed, and in such case they do not eat it.

Among the first remembered cases of death, was Dawson, who died in 1816 or 1817.

His wife had been very sick with it and finally died; whether with this disease or not is uncertain. After which Mr. Dawson prepared to retnrn to Virginia. On his way he stopped at Harrison's Tavern, in Washington C. H., where he died.

So late as 1879, a case of death in this county has been reported. It is said that so long as a cow is giving milk she would not show any symptoms of the disease, but would impart it to the sucking calf and those using her milk.

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