Dr. John Erskine was buried in Elmwood Cemetery on September 17, 1878. Dr Erskine was a native of Alabama. He and his older brother moved to Memphis in the 1850s to practice medicine. He served as a surgeon during the Civil War.
Returning to Memphis after that, he became interested in public health and was appointed the city health officer. He was one of the 110 doctors who tended to the sick and dying during the deadly Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878.
Unfortunately, John Erskine was one of the 33 doctors who died. Sixty percent of the city's population fled as the fever struck.
Most of those who remained became ill. Some 5,000 people died.
People fled to the areas outside Memphis or went up-river to St. Louis or Cincinnati. Few of the middle class families who moved to those two cities returned. In fact, so many people died or never returned after the epidemic that Memphis lost its city charter and became a taxing district for several years.