CHOLERA PLAGUE IN CENTRAL MISSOURI IN 1832
By Peggy Smith Hake
While reading an old 1932 Miller County Autogram newspaper, I found an article, which told a story of the devastating cholera plague that hit central Missouri in 1832. An old man living near Tuscumbia, John Pickering, told of his family's struggle to escape the dreaded disease. He was from an old French family who settled in Cote Sans Dessein, a French settlement north of the Missouri River in Callaway County. Baptiste Denova, the great-grandfather of John Pickering, and other Frenchmen, paddled their canoes up the Osage River in search of wild game which more plentiful in the Osage River country. It was told that Denova was an old-time fiddler and the others would dance to his lively music. Every family had a jug of brandy and with the brandy, the fiddle music, and the dancing, those early settlers livened up their hunts.
In 1832, a time of disaster came to the Cote Sans Dessein when cholera broke out. Baptiste Denova and his family, making a party of 12, fled from the settlement. They came up the Osage in their canoes, navigating about 50 miles upriver, stopping at the mouth of Bois Bruhle Creek in Cole County, near present-day St. Thomas. Margaret Denova, who later married a man with the surname Roi, was the grandmother of John Pickering and a daughter of Baptiste. She was born in 1816; was 16 years old in 1832 when her family landed at Bois Bruhle. Her brother died there in an unpopulated area. Only one family lived in the territory and their name was Clark. I suppose there weren't any burial supplies or coffins, so they had to bury the boy on a high hill overlooking the Osage River. They hewed out logs, put them in the grave and laid the child inside and wrapped him in a winding sheet. Another hewn log was laid over him and the grave was then filled with earth.
John Pickering was born in 1855; died in 1947. He was about 66 years old when he gave the Autogram his interview about the cholera plague. In Old Zion Cemetery, south of Tuscumbia, John and his wife, Pauline, are lying in their final resting place. In the same cemetery is his grandmother, Margaret Denoya Roi (later changed to Roy). She was born in 1816 and died in 1904. She probably lived out her, elderly years with her grandson and I would also wager she had a marvelous memory. I am sure John Pickering heard the story of the family's flight in 1832 to avoid the cholera plague many times in his life enabling him to give the Autogram his marvelous story in 1932 (100 years after the plague occurred in central Missouri).