William died of cholera while enroute to California with his father
and brothers, Swayne and Purdy, along with other gold hunters.
The family statement concerning his death was that "in passing
Jefferson City, MO, they were detained on account of the death from
cholera of a man whose burial they were asked to complete. The widow
was so overcome and protested so vigorously that the coffin was not
marked that William McElvain entered the grave and performed that
office. He was also stricken with cholera and died there next day,
the family having erected a tombstone at his resting place."
"Bill McElvain was a promising young man, but a blighted love for one
who also felt the shock, made him reckless to do and dare, and before
the plains were over come, he surrendered to the pale horse and his
rider. 'His fate was more the result of piercing heart throbs than
the wreck of health and exposure.'"
He is buried in the private graveyard of Dr. White on the Missouri River.