Disease and Death

“While the journey up the Platte River Road may have been a joy and tonic for some, far too often it was an ordeal in which, after running the gauntlet of hardships, there arose the sinister threat of disease and death. . . . Again assuming a grand total migration of 350,000 this averages one death for every seventeen persons who started. . . .

the normal precaution was to take along a medicine chest with an assortment of home remedies for everything from baldness to the bubonic plague. Elizabeth Greer’s inventory included ‘a box of physicing pills, a box of castor oil, a quart of best rum, and a vial of peppermint essence.’ The latter ingredient, combined with a glass of brandy, would, according to John King, cure most ills. Catherine Haun’s portable apothecary shop included quinine for malaria, hartshorn for snakebite, citric acid for scurvy and blueness, and opium and whisky for almost everything else. Laudanum, morphine, calomel, and tincture of camphor were other potent drugs frequently resorted to. Among name brands mentioned are  Ayer’s Pain Killer, Dover’s Powders, and Jayne’s Caminative Balsam.”