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1849 Stampless Letter, Paris Ky Cholera Epidemic, Deaths In New Orleans For Sale
Traveling the Paper Trails of American History
"The Cholera is raging awfully at New Orleans and along the river. Several of our citizens have returned who expected to spend the winter there."
(See below for scans)
Historic 3+ page stampless letter written by Rev. Eliphaz Perkins Pratt at Paris, Bourbon County, KY, on January 5, 1849, to his brother Robert W. Pratt and his sister Laura Elizabeth Pratt Currier at Athens, OH. Letter measures approx. 7 3/4" x 10".
Rev. Eliphaz Perkins Pratt writes an excellent account of the 1849 cholera epidemic that devastated New Orleans, killed many steamboat passengers, and eventually wreaked havoc in Kentucky and elsewhere.
Eliphaz relays to his sister Laura detailed information that he has heard about the cholera epidemic in the hope that his letter will reach her before her husband Charles travels South on a business trip: "I think he will hardly deem it prudent to do so now. The Cholera is raging awfully at New Orleans and along the river. Several of our citizens have returned who expected to spend the winter there. Mr. Victor who married Mrs. Davis got back yesterday. He was on his way to Texas to see about her lands there. But found he would have to wait in N. Orleans a week for a boat, and so terrible was the disease that he was unwilling to do it & started back. At Vicksburg he had an attack but was able after a few days to come on home. The papers do not say much about it & try to hush it up, but I have heard from private sources that 150 died there on the 25th ult. 200 on the 26th and that all who could were leaving the city for up the country. There were quite a number of deaths on the boats coming up, and have been several at Louisville and Cincinnati. Indeed I think it would be the very height of imprudence to risk going on the river now especially in his state of health...They have been both here and at Frankfort making all due preparations in anticipation of the coming of that fearful scourge. I have no doubt we shall have it here by spring or summer at farthest. It is an awful judgment of heaven upon the land for its wickedness. May the people learn Righteousness from such a judgment." Eliphaz was correct in his prediction - the cholera epidemic reached its peak in Bourbon County in July-August 1849.
Eliphaz writes his brother about buying and selling a horse and remarks that he does not need one because "I cannot use a buggy off the pike at all the roads are so bad." He mentions that he has conducted a successful revival and is about to "start in the stage to Midway [a town in nearby Woodford County] tonight to preach next sab. for Bro. Zivley [Rev. John H. Zively]. He has gone to Tenn. to see his Mother & take her to Virginia."
Eliphaz Perkins Pratt (1816-1886), Robert Wilson Pratt (1824-1888), and Laura Elizabeth Pratt (1819-1893) were the children of David Pratt (1780-1861) and Julia Perkins (1784-1867) of Athens, OH. Rev. Eliphaz Perkins Pratt graduated from Ohio University in 1837 and taught for two years in Gallatin, TN. He was licensed to preach by the Presbytery of Dayton in 1841. He was called to the New School Presbyterian Church in Paris, KY, in 1842 and served 10 years. Eliphaz left Kentucky to go to the First Presbyterian Church of Portsmouth, OH, where he remained the rest of his life. He married Elizabeth Coulter Mills (1816-1850), daughter of Benjamin and Mary Mills of Frankfort, KY, in 1844. His second wife was Elizabeth Loughrey (1822-1870), and his third wife was Mary E. Urmston (1832-1904). See Presbyterianism in Paris and Bourbon County, Kentucky, 1786-1961 (1961), The Ely Ancestry (1902), and Encyclopaedia of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, Vol. 3 (1884).
Robert Wilson Pratt graduated from Ohio University in 1844 and received his medical degree in 1848. In 1849 he married Hannah Maria Brown in Athens. He and Hannah moved ever westward, living with his large family in Illinois in 1870, in Kansas in 1880, and finally in California. He died in Los Angeles in 1888.
Laura Elizabeth Pratt married Charles Jacob Currier (1819-1902), the son of Daniel Little Currier and Mary Roberts, in 1847. By 1850, they lived in Zanesville, OH, where Charles worked as a clerk. They moved to Rockford, Winnebago County, IL, by 1880.
The "Mr. Victor" mentioned in the letter was William B. Victor (1822-?), who married Mary Jane Davis (1819-?) in Bourbon County on June 22, 1848. He was a wealthy lawyer and lived in nearby Nicholas County.
Postal History: incomplete 30mm black Paris CDS with manuscript 10 cents rate mark.
Condition: soiling, wrinkles, age toning, piece missing from page 3 margin (affecting 4 words, covered with old archival tape), holes in folds, small hole in page 3 (repaired with archival tape).
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1849 Stampless Letter, Paris Ky Cholera Epidemic, Deaths In New Orleans: $50