Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
John W. Monette Papers, 1824-1851

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, May 1995

Summary Information
Title: John W. Monette papers
Creator: Monette, John W. (John Wesley), 1803-1851
Inclusive dates: 1824-1851
Extent: 3 linear feet
John Wesley Monette, a physician and writer in Mississippi during the early 1800s, was a frequent contributor to southern periodicals. His papers contain drafts and unpublished materials related to his writings on the history and geography of the Mississippi Valley.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1935. M-282.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

John W. Monette Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan.


A Virginian by birth, an Ohioan in his youth, and a Methodist by name and inclination, John Wesley Monette moved to the new state of Mississippi in 1821. Excelling in his studies at the south's preeminent educational institution, Transylvania College, Monette received his MD in 1825, and returned to Washington to establish a medical practice. He married Cornelia Jane Newman three years later and settled into a life that brought him increasing renown, both as a physician and writer.

The deadly disease environment of the south -- only four of his ten children survived to maturity -- provided the first avenue for Monette to rise to fame. He earned local notice for a broadside published locally in 1833 on the treatment of cholera, but his epidemiological studies of the occurrence of yellow fever at Washington, Miss., (1825) and particularly in Natchez (1838) provided important insights into the disease. His Observations on the epidemic yellow fever of Natchez, and of the South-west (Louisville, 1842) strongly recommended the use of quarantine to prevent the spread of the disease, and his techniques were credited with enabling Natchez to avoid the worst effects of the great epidemic of 1841.

By the mid-1840s, Monette began increasingly to rely upon his sizeable fortune earned from felicitous investments to indulge an interest in the history of the Mississippi region. Characteristic of many learned mid-Victorians, his "historical" interests extended to the history of mankind, the flora, fauna, geology, and geography. He was a frequent contributor to southern periodicals, including the Western Medical and Physical Journal, the Commercial Review of the South and West, and the redoubtable DeBow's Review, but the fullest fruits of his labors are found in his massive History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi. The first half of Monette's magnum opus appeared in 1846, dealing largely with the prehistory of the Mississippi Valley and the early attempts to explore and colonize the region by the three great European powers, England, France, and Spain. He was preparing to extend the scope of his History to include two additional volumes on physical geography, but in 1851 before his work could be completed, he died at age 48.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The papers of John W. Monette, physician and historian, contain drafts of chapter 4, Book III, and chapter 16, Book V, of the published version of his History of the Discovery and Settlement of the Valley of the Mississippi, and one chapter that never made it to press. Also among the papers are six volumes of an unpublished work dealing more exclusively with the physical geography of the Mississippi Valley, and a few essays and drafts of essays.

Subject Terms

    • Historians--Mississippi.
    • Mississippi Valley--Description and travel.
    • Mississippi Valley-History.
    • Naturalists--Mississippi.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    John W. Monette papers,  1824-1851 [series]
    Box   1  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Introduction
    Box   2  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Book I
    Box   3  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Book II
    Box   4  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Book II
    Box   5  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Book III
    Box   6  
    Mississippi Valley - Physical Geography - Book IV-VI
    Box   7  
    Mississippi Valley - Political Geography
    Box   8  
    Mississippi Valley - History
    Box   9  
    Variety of the Human Species
    Box   10  
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Monette, John W. "The Mississippi Floods." Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society 7 (1903), 427-523.