Native creator writes e-book on 1849 cholera outbreak in Jefferson Metropolis
When someone told local writer Gary Elliot about a cholera outbreak in 1849 on a ship in Jefferson City, he was immediately intrigued.
He had never heard of it and read a paragraph about it on the city’s website. As he read more about it, he became increasingly interested as he encountered many disagreements.
For example, some news articles from 1849 said a steamboat full of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had come to Jefferson City from Philadelphia, and some said the ship was full of gold diggers from Jeffersonville, Indiana, but had most of the articles neither group is mentioned.
Elliot dug deeply to find out the truth and began recording his findings. What started as a short article quickly grew into a 144-page book.
“That’s what I enjoy finding the stories or looking for them, and that was right for me,” said Elliot. “This is the stuff that I find exciting.”
The book, titled “The 1849 Jefferson City Cholera Outbreak,” will go on sale January 25th.
The book describes the history of the cholera outbreak in the city and its far-reaching effects.
In 1849, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Philadelphia and California gold miners from Jeffersonville, Indiana boarded a steamboat named after President James Monroe that sailed from St. Louis to Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Their voyage was interrupted when cholera broke out on board, a bacterial disease that usually spread through contaminated water.
14-year-old James McHenry discovered the steamship after landing in Jefferson City and watched the dead and dying victims on the riverside.
75 to 100 dead had their names identified, but there were 200-250 passengers on the ship, Elliot said.
“The rest of them, I don’t know, and I don’t know what happened to them,” Elliot said.
About 30 Philadelphia group survivors were able to get on a new ship and travel to Council Bluffs, and many people from both groups packed up and went back home.
Elliot tells the story of the survivors as well as the deceased. During his research, he discovered magazines written by passengers with cholera, which detailed the effects on them until their death.
The story of the cholera outbreak is a piece of the history of Jefferson City that the city knew happened but didn’t know much about, Elliot said.
“Since this is the anniversary year of Cole County and the state, the timing is just perfect,” he said.
Elliot is also the author of “The History of the Jefferson City and Cole County Councils of the Boy Scouts of America, 1910-1929” and “They Came and They Goed: A Brief Account of Hannibal Missouri’s Early Jewish Community and the B’nai Sholem Cemetery ( together with those buried there). “
“The 1849 Jefferson City Cholera Outbreak” will be available on Amazon and arcadiapublishing.com for $ 21.99, and Elliot expects it to be sold in local bookstores. Elliot is also planning a series of speaker engagement events starting after January.