I recently came across George Emery a distant ancestor of mine who died of typhoid 31 Oct 1897 when he was living in the Port Adelaide area. He was only 22 years old. Knowing that this was a poor area of Adelaide I wondered about the living conditions of the area and on searching Trove found the following article which explains it quite well.
I am, &c., J. C. KIRBY. December 18,1897.
Sir—The great outbreak of typhoid fever in Portland Ward, Port Adelaide, needs the most serious attention of all responsible par- ties. I should like to hear that the Port Ade-
ties. I should like to hear that the Port Ade laide Health Board and the corporation are taking some steps corresponding to the emer- gency. It is sad to hear of the number of young people smitten by this terrible but pre- ventible disease. I understand that at Chicago the corporation have depots of lime in the poorer districts, which is given gratuitously for purposes of disinfection, and that the people are encouraged and taught to use it especially in counection with the ex cremata of typhoid. The Port Ade laide Corporation could do this at trifling cost. But there are many living in Portland Ward who cannot, and many who will not purchase lime at their, own expense. It may be safely said that the sanitary system.of Portland Ward, and indeed of Port Adelaide generally, is of a foolish type. There are vast stores of filthy matter accumulated in cesspits, constant centres and germ beds of disease and air pollution. The Government set the example by the store of filth tltey treasure up at the public school. Some day we may have a water - borne system of sanitation, but that will - not arrive for a long period. But it would be possible meantime to arrange for a quarterly emptying; of the present receptacles, and for this to be done at so much per yard for the matter removed. In this way there would be no more cost to the house and property owner than there is in the present unsystematic method, and there would not be those large stores of filth which now exist. If this matter was taken up by the corporation it is probable that the cost to property owners would be actually less, beside the advantage on the score of cleanliness. In Woollahra, Sydney, previous to the deep drainage, the corporation controlled the cesspits and their emptying and then charged according to the measure of the matter removed, to the very great advantage of all parties and to the di minution of typhoid fever and other diseases. This is properly a municipal business, and if taken up by all municipalities where deep drainage cannot be had would save money and prevent disease. The persons who laid out Portland ward, with its wretched narrow streets and small allotments, are grossly to blame. They exhibited a combination of ignorance, of greed, and of a brutal disre- gard of the health of future generations. Cer- tainly the Legislature of South Australia is .also to be charged with great neglect; it should long ago have provided that streets should be of a given width and that houses should have a certain amount of ground. It was shameful for the law to allow a place to be laid out like Bowden and Portland Ward. I observe also that Portland Ward the place which above all others needs to have the asphalt pave- ments, is practically destitute of these most wholesome pavements; tbe footpaths are most of them so narrow that they would not cost much to do. One thing is certain, it would not cost so much to do what can be done to make Portland Ward sanitary as it costs for the place to be scourged with typhoid. If the benefit societies were awake to their own interests they would see into this, for in the form of sick pay to their members they have to pay the piper. The Working Men's Association might also wake up and insist that a better system of sanitation should be carried out. The sanitary arrange- ments of the Port Public School would not be tolerated a month if the working men would wake up, instead of allowing their children who attend that school to contract all manner of feverish complaints because the authorities will keep treasures of filthy matter instead of removing it frequently and systemati- cally. It would be perfectly easy to con- tract for weekly removal; but till the mass of the people become tired of preventible disease the Minister of Education will neglect to provide common sense sanitary arrangements in the bulk of the public schools of the country. Nearly all fevers and the bulk of consumption, and probably of cancer, are preventible diseases, and come from dirt. It seems a pity for mankind to prefer dirt to life and health.—Source: Trove
This descriptive quote from the State Library website certainly paints a dire picture.
The City Fathers were apparently unmoved, for six years later under the heading ‘The Typhoid Ponds’ an irate citizen said:
“Onward runs this pestilential fluid… this abomination takes its course zigzag through the Parklands into the West Torrens district, percolating through to the wells, impregnating the water with germs of every deadly disease conceivable. For what, may I ask, do we pay sanitary taxes…” http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/sa/health/fevers.htm#typhoid