On this day in 1798, Zebulon Brooks, owner of Oak Bend Plantation in Jamestown, North Carolina, took to his bed, and did not emerge from his room for 15 days. Doctors diagnosed Brooks as suffering from a severe case of melancholia, and ordered household members to make sure the house was kept very quiet, and that Zebulon be given only the simplest foods to eat. The sudden illness had been brought on by a spate of catastrophes which had impacted him personally, including an infestation of cutworms, a long drought, and a wild fire that had destroyed 75% of his tobacco crop. Three of his most valuable slaves were killed by the fire, as they fought valiantly to put out the flames, and save what remained of the tobacco crop. On the 16 day, Zebulon rose from his bed after experiencing a revelation. He went directly to his desk, picked up a quill, and wrote the words that changed his life, forever. The entry in his diary - which can be viewed by the public, today, as Oak Bend Plantation has been preserved as a museum and has been awarded landmark status on the North Carolina Registry of Historic Places - reads, "It has been revealed to me that these many plagues were a sign from The Almighty that I have chosen a sinful path. I have engaged in a practice which offends The Lord, but no more. As God is my witness, I vow to change my ways and follow the path of righteousness. Never again shall I profit from the cultivation of such a mean and morally corrupt crop as tobacco. Hereafter, the slaves of Oak Bend will plant, grow, and pick cotton, and only cotton."
Zebulon Brooks went on to amass a fortune in the cotton trade, and lived to be 89 years old. He never suffered from melancholia, again.