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This Week in Port Jervis History

On December 8, 1860, Evi Shimer was in Montague, NJ. When he was seven years old, his family moved to Port Jervis, where he attended the Main Street School. From 1875 to 1876, he served as Treasurer of the Pilgrim Band Temperance Order, a local group of young men who pledged to abstain from liquor, tobacco and profanity. In 1877, he moved to New York City where he was employed with Louderback, Gilbert & Company, a hardware business. His brother, Frank, formed the hardware firm in Port Jervis Swinton & Shimer Hardware. In 1886, Shimer returned to Port Jervis and became the business manager of the Evening Gazette. He later served as secretary and treasurer of the newspaper. He also served as a trustee for the village for four years. He married Susan Donaldson, of Port Jervis, in 1888. In the 1890’s Evi served as a director for the stockholders of the First National Bank in Port Jervis. Susan and Evi are buried at Laurel Grove Cemetery.


On December 11, 1881, the first case of smallpox since the 1864 outbreak was reported in Port Jervis. As of December 2nd, 1864, forty cases and two deaths were reported in Port Jervis and the Hollow. Seventeen years later, John Kerrigan, a brakeman for the Erie Railroad became infected and was subsequently quarantined in his home in Riverside with his family. The attending physician for Kerrigan was Dr. David Decker Wickham for whom Wickham Methodist Church is named. It was believed that Kerrigan contracted smallpox while working in Jersey City. On December 27, John Kerrigan’s infant child died from smallpox. A second Erie Railroad worker was later diagnosed with smallpox, becoming the first person in the city outside the Kerrigan family to contract smallpox. By January 19th, 57 cases had been reported in the city. In January, more deaths from smallpox were reported in Port Jervis, including John Breithaupt and a one month old child, Charles Dietz. That month, the Board of Health imposed a $50 fine to anyone who refused to report smallpox cases in their family. A number of cases of varioloid were also reported, which was a mild form of smallpox affecting those who had been vaccinated. The Tri-States Union reported in February of 1882, that Dr. Solomon Van Etten had become a convert to a cream of tartar/hot water “cure” for smallpox. Like other “cures” for smallpox, this did nothing for patients of smallpox. By March of 1882, the smallpox outbreak in Port Jervis was under control. Approximately thirty percent of those infected with smallpox died and the number was closer to eighty percent for young children. Smallpox vaccines were developed as early as the 18th century and continued into the 1970's when the disease became the first human disease to be eradicated in 1977.


Bill from Louderback, Gilbert & Co. in NYC

Article from the New York Times in 1881.

Article from the Tri-States Union in 1882.

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