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Though we have become more aware of it recently, with quarantines imposed on cruise ships and naval vessels, ships throughout history have faced similar issues. In 1800, Virginia Governor James Monroe proclaimed that due to “some contagious disease” at Norfolk, perhaps yellow fever, vessels coming from the port of Norfolk up the James River must quarantine at Jordan’s Point in Prince George County for fifteen days. While checking the microfilm of Governor Monroe’s letter book for another subject, I ran across an entry regarding a quarantined ship:

George Nicolson, Esquire

Richmond, October 18th, 1800


I send you a letter from William Webb, master of a vessel from Philadelphia, who it appears has been ordered to perform quarantine at this port. According to his statement he touched neither at Baltimore nor Norfolk, and of course is not subject to the injunction imposed by the Proclamation. He also states that his crew are in health, and that the man who died had no infectious disease. If you find that this representation is just, you will be pleased to discharge his vessel from the above restraint.

I am with great respect etc.

Jas Monroe

Quarantine reports from various ports and letters received can be found in Governor Monroe’s Executive Papers. I did not find a quarantine report from George Nicolson so am not sure at which port Captain Webb’s ship was quarantined. Since Gov. Monroe forwarded the letter to Mr. Nicolson, the collection does not contain a copy of it. We can only hope Captain Webb and his crew did not have to wait too long for their release from quarantine!

Ginny Dunn

Archives & Library Reference Services Manager

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