The CHOLERA EPIDEMIC OF 1832 began in May when an immigrant ship landed at Quebec with cases of Asiatic cholera aboard. The disease spread through the city and quickly up the St. Lawrence River valley. Panic spread across the Great Lakes region. Combined with the fears of Indian attacks ignited by the Black Hawk War in the West, the fear of a cholera epidemic occasioned terror and discouragement in Cleveland. In June, village trustees met to devise plans to protect the citizens. A Board of Health was appointed (see CLEVELAND BOARD OF HEALTH) and empowered to inspect arriving vessels, examine all suspicious cases of diseases, remove all nuisances, and procure a suitable building for the treatment and isolation of all cholera sufferers.
The disease was introduced into Cleveland with the arrival of the steamboat Henry Clay on 10 June. Engaged to transport soldiers to fight in the Black Hawk War, the boat was returning to Buffalo with a number of cholera cases. Prevented from docking in Detroit, the Clay was in need of help. Its presence provoked great excitement; some proposed to burn it if it remained. Village trustees determined that everything should be done to aid the sufferers but at the same time protect the citizens. Physicians and supplies were furnished to the men from the Clay, at barracks on the west bank of the CUYAHOGA RIVER. The boat was fumigated and 3 days later departed for Buffalo. In the interim, several crewmen died, and the disease soon manifested itself in various locations in the village, even among those with no exposure to the boat or its crew. The epidemic lasted a month, claiming 50 lives. In October an unexplained recurrence struck down 14 people, all of whom died within 3 days. Two years later another visitation of the disease took several lives, but it did not create any appreciable panic.