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Hannibal doctor’s promise: ‘Cures guaranteed or the money refunded’

This undated Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post photo shows demolition in progress of the historic “Green House” which was located on the west side of the 100 block of South Third Street. The house, according to Esley Hamilton, was built circa 1858. In about 1863, the south half of the structure was purchased by Drusilla Keightley. Her husband was Dr. G.M. Keightley, who practiced medicine on the north side of the 200 block of Broadway. To the right of the Green House is the old Sultzman’s Bakery building, 109 S. Third.


Battlefield injuries weren’t the only affliction that affected the wellbeing of American troops during the Civil War.

It is estimated that there were as many as 80,000 cases of syphilis and gonorrhea among the troops during the war years.

During this pre-antibiotic era, venereal diseases posed a serious threat to the ability of both the Union and Confederate forces to maintain their battlefield strength.

Symptoms could include painful urination, pain around the urethra, pimply rash, genital lesions and swelling of the lymph nodes in the genital region.

Because soldiers based near towns contracted venereal diseases more often than their comrades on the battlefield, the assumption was that prostitutes who followed troop progression were responsible for infecting soldiers. The Union Army followed the recommendation that “every man who contracted a venereal disease was to provide the name and address of the woman who infected him; and if, upon examination, she is found diseased, her removal from the neighborhood should be enforced by the military authority.”


During the era leading up to and including the post-Civil War years, physicians used various means to treat and reduce symptom severity, ranging from invasive injections, to soaking baths to herbal remedies. (A cure would remain elusive until the advent of antibiotics in the 1920s.)

Local physician

Dr. G.M. Keightley of Hannibal, Mo., claimed in 1866 that he could treat all kinds of general diseases, including syphilis.

His advertisement on the inside cover the 1866 Hannibal city directory didn’t identify specifics regarding his treatment plan, but he promised, “Cures guaranteed or the money refunded.”

In Hannibal, Dr. Keightley maintained his medical practice on the north side of Broadway, between Main and Third Street.

Also located in that block were the C.O. Miller gun shop, on the north side of the street, and Donley and O’Hern grocery store, on the south side of the street.

Dr. Keightley lived within walking distance of his office, in a double house located on Third Street, south of Broadway near Church, on the west side of the street.

Green House

During the time period of 1979-84, Esley Hamilton, historian and preservationist, researched and profiled many Hannibal houses and buildings, including the house where Dr. Keightley lived, nominating this house as a part of the Historic Places Inventory for the Hannibal Central District, National Registry of Historic Places.

Built circa 1858 on the west side of South Third Street by Moses P. Green, the double-house featured an east-facing porch stretching the entire length of the frame structure.

The land on the east side of South Third Street had originally been in the path of a meandering Bear Creek, which would be rerouted by early townsfolk by 1854. In 1869, Eagle Mills is identified on the Birdseye map (Hannibal, Missouri in 1869, John W. Reps) as located on the east side of South Third Street, across from the double house which was purchased in part by Mrs. Keightley in 1863.

Kentucky background

The quest to understand the people of Hannibal during this era often leads on a research journey back to Kentucky.

Drusilla E. Carstarphen married Gabriel M. Keightley in Oldham County, Ky., in September 1849. This county, situated on the Ohio River, is located to the northeast of Jefferson County, which encompasses Louisville.

Drusilla was the daughter of Robert E. Carstarphen, and younger sister of Gabriel M. Keightley’s first wife, Elizabeth, whom he had married in 1843, and who died in 1848. There were no surviving children of Keightley’s first marriage.

Census records suggest that in 1850, Mary Ann Carstarphen and Nancy Jett, possibly sisters of Drusilla, were living with the Keightleys in Oldham, Kentucky, as was Mrs. Jett’s presumed son, 10-year-old Jas Jett.

Moving to Missouri

In April 1853, Dr. G.M. Keightley advertised in the Hannibal Journal that he had opened a practice near New London, Mo. The specific location is unclear, but his wife’s brother, Ezra Richmond Carstarphen, was living in that area at the time. (This newspaper advertisement was the first reference found to G.M. Keightley with the prefix Dr. *)

An advertisement in the Sept. 29, 1853 edition of the Missouri Courier at Hannibal mentioned that Dr. Keightley had gone to Louisville, Ky., for a visit, but would return in about four weeks.

In December 1853, the Louisville Daily Courier carried an advertisement for the sale of a mill, located in Oldham County, Ky., and a 100-acre farm, owned by G.M. Keightley

“All this property can be had very low, and on favorable terms, as we have determined to remove to Missouri this fall.”

An advertisement in the Quincy, Ill., Daily Whig on June 16, 1854, noted that Dr. Keightley was practicing medicine in New London, Mo. As previously noted, his wife purchased the south half of the Green House in 1863. The 1860 census, and the May 1864 U.S. IRS tax assessment confirm that Dr. Keightley was a practicing physician in Hannibal.


The 1860 census lists Dr. Keightley, 40, physician, his wife, Drusilla E, 37, and two children, William E. 5, and Mary E., 8 months.

But “A Genealogical Record of the Carstarphens in America” indicates that all of the children born to Dr. Keightley and Drusilla, died in infancy.

According to records of the Old Baptist Cemetery, Hannibal, Mo., Dr. Keightley died in April 1869, at the age of 48. Mrs. Keightley, who continued to live in the southern half of the duplex on South Third Street, died 10 years later.


Where G.M. Knightley obtained his medical credentials is unclear. There were two medical colleges in Louisville, Ky., during the early part of the 1850s: the Louisville Medical College and the Kentucky School of Medicine.

For consistency sake, this author has used Keightley (which appears on the doctor’s tombstone in Hannibal’s Old Baptist Cemetery) as the spelling of the Civil War era doctor’s name. Other spellings encountered during research include: Kightley, Kightly, Keighley, Keithley and Keightly. Likewise, the spelling of Drusilla was also inconsistent.

Source: Early medical statistics were found in an online booklet, Civil War Medicine, compiled by the William P. Didusch Museum of Urologic History, with special contributions from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.

This is a portion of the Birds-eye view map of Hannibal, 1869. The Green House, which was owned and occupied by the Keightleys at the time, is shown on this map, near the northwest corner of Third and Church streets. Across the street was the Eagle Mill. Source, Library of Congress.

This photo of Dr. Keightley’s grave was posted on “Findagrave” by Jerri Stealey.

Dr. Keightley’s advertisement can be found inside the cover of the 1866 Hannibal city directory, accessed via the Hannibal Free Public’s website

Mary Lou Montgomery, retired as editor of the Hannibal (Mo.) Courier-Post in 2014. She researches and writes narrative-style stories about the people who served as building blocks for this region’s foundation. Books available on by this author: "The Notorious Madam Shaw," "Pioneers in Medicine from Northeast Missouri," and "The Historic Murphy House, Hannibal, Mo., Circa 1870." She can be reached at Her collective works can be found at


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