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Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History


Miami County Ohio

Chapter 17


The Pioneer Doctor - Crude Methods of a Century Ago
Home Remedies - Charm Doctors
Bleeding the Main Reliance of the Old-Time "Regular"
Devotion of the Pioneer Physicians
Diseases Prevalent in Early Days - The Charlatan of Former Days
Some Early Physicians - The Medical Profession of the Present Day
The Miami County Medical Society.

The first disciples of Esculapius and Hippocrates to practice within the present limits of Miami County did not have the advantages enjoyed by their brethren of the present day. The practice of medicine one hundred years ago was crude and unsatisfactory. It was the day of the lancet, calomel and jalap. These, with the murderous "turn-key," formed the stock-intrade of the old doctor. Without them he would have been as helpless as a rudderless ship in a typhoon. People then were afflicted with many diseases arising largely from the climate and exposure. Doctors were few and far between. Sometimes they were half a day's ride from the isolated cabin and not infrequently a swollen river intervened. Drug stores were unknown and the patent medicine shelf with its cure-alls and exploited nostrums had not come into existence to make poor humanity believe that it was afflicted with all the ills that belong to the human race.

Every family was largely its own doctor. Each household had various remedies compounded from herbs and roots which were supposed and fondly believed to be efficacious. Tansy was a favorite remedy, and poccoon, snakeroot and poke had their advocates. In an old book on the Miami Country published in 18l5 I find a catalogue of the roots, herbs, etc., which were taken from Nature's garden for the healing of the sick. Among the stimulants are found prickly ash, Indian turnip, sassafras, ginseng, and the flower of the wild hop. The list of tonics included the bark and flowers of the dogwood, the rose willow, yellow poplar, the cucumber tree and the Spanish oak, while the red maple, wild cherry, and crowfoot wore regarded as astringents and so used. The early settler had a long list of Nature's remedies to choose from and when sickness visited his family he became his own diagnostician and prescribed accordingly. Almost every neighborhood had its "charm doctor."

Old women claimed to be experts in the removal of ringworms, tetter, felons and the like, and were frequently called upon to exercise their potent influence. They were said to be able to remove a bone felon by holding a hot coal over it and accompanying the operation with a lot of cabalistic words which awed the patient as well as the spectators. If the wart, ringworm or tetter disappeared well and good and the "doctoress" received the praise. Of course the old practitioner discounted the virtues of the charm doctors and held them in contempt. He laughed at the testimouials which were presented and went on with his bleeding and dosing just the same.

It mattered little how weak a patient might be, he had to be bled. The very thing he needed most, blood, was taken from him. It is affirmed that Washington was bled to death by Dr.Craik and others. This bleeding process obtained in this county till long after the birth of the nineteenth century. As late as 1828 Cooper, in a work on surgery, advised that the patient be bled to fainting and said that during the swoon strangulated hernia could be reduced within a quarter of an hour. Sometimes, when they could be obtained, leeches were used in the practice of medicine, and as late as 1830 Coster advised the application of twenty or thirty leeches in inflammation of the ear. Diphtheria was known as croup in the early dawn of the county's career and for this disease the old doctors gave tartar emetic, and bled. Bleeding was also considered efficacious in pneumonia. The pioneer doctor with his saddle-bags and well-known horse was a character those days.

He was filled with the milk of human kindness, refused no calls and often rode miles through the unbroken forest to the bedside of his patient. At one time Dr.Asa Coleman swam the Miami at flood-tide to obey a summons and imperiled his life to give medical aid to the afflicted one. Night rides through wintry forests and over snowy barreias were as nothing to the first doctors of Miami. The howl of the wolf sometimes resounded on every side. The only roads were blazed ones and often not even such traces guided the old practitioner. His materia medica was small. His surgical outfit was limited and crude, but with it he often performed marvels. There were broken limbs then as now, gunshot wounds, fractures of every kind, and some of the adjustments were as well done as those of the present day. The trees of the forest furnished him with excellent splints and his amputations nearly always redounded to his credit.

It was long before the day of anesthetics and the patient either suffered in silence or roared out his pain till exhausted. When the torturing turnkey fastened itself on a refractory tooth the stubborn molar was sure to come if the pioneer doctor had the proper strength, and he was generally a man of muscle. He has been known to spend a week at a house watching with the tenderest solicitude over the bed of a sick child and to weep with the sorrowing family, and often charged nothing for his services. The old doctors of Miami were faithful to their trust and did their duty under the most difficult circumstances without a murmur. Whatever may be the verdict of this or coming generations concerning them, their merit will be none the less. They had no nostrums and no specious advertisements and while the nightwinds sing their requiem where they rest, many of them in the forgotten little cemeteries, the world is better for their having lived, better for any note of joy which they helped to beat out of the harsh discords of the times. They deserve a greater mouument than has been raised to them.

The prevailing diseases of the early days of county history were many. The winters were cold. One of the coldest days was that of January 8, 1797, when the mercury dropped to eighteen degrees below zero. Consumption was practically unknown among the pioneers, croup was the terror of the little household and at times it was depopulated of its children. Weather changes produced rheumatism and along the water courses remitting and intermitting fevers, including ague, prevailed. In 1809, 10 and 11, typhoid fever was prevalent, but after those years this dread scourge abated. Typhus fever prevailed among the immigrants from New England and New York. These people came here in the wrong season and were not proof against the changes of climate. Dysentery occurred every summer in this locality, jaundice was common, and measles and whooping-cough frequently became epidemic. Occasionally the scourge of small-pox visited the infant settlements and on two occasions there was an invasion of cholera which took off many people. Many settlers on Lost Creek died of this terrible disease in the early forties. A disease known locally as the "cold plague" visited this part of the country in 1812-13. It generally attacked those who were most exposed to cold and moisture, and, despite the skill of the old doctors, it proved alarmingly fatal.

Among the other diseases with which the first physicians had to contend were scrofula, rickets, scurvy, dropsy, and apoplexy. Cancers were hardly known in the county then and insanity was very rare. It is said that the first suicide in the county is buried in the old Knoop cemetery in Staunton Township. While venomous serpents were numerous along the streams and among the rock piles, snake bites were infrequent and the few were generally successfully treated. No bills of mortality were kept in the early days, there were no boards of health and the old doctors were not called, upon to furnish mortuary statistics. They kept, however, a careful account of their practice and some of their notes and observations are decidedly interesting. Some of the lirst county physicians held to tenacious opinions peculiarly their own. It is said that John Mote, the first doctor in Union Township, could hardly be convinced that there was such a thing as sick stomach or vegetable poison. He treated such cases as bilious fever and the patient generally succumbed. At last he contracted the disease himself and would not believe it till a neighbor told him that he (the neighbor) could smell it. Then the old doctor dosed himself properly and recovered.

The old-time medical profession of the county had an intense hatred of the charlatan or quack doctor. This individual came to the surface now and then to the detriment of the regular profession and found his dupes as he finds them at the present day . In 1829 Dr. N. Jackson of Piqua in the Piqua Gazette sounds a note of warning against the charlatan in the following postscript to his "Medical Notice."

"Any person who may require medical aid who applies to one of these empyrics known as patent doctors will please omit calling on me during the continuance of that disease. I have determined to attend no such case if known to me. If I should be called on when I ascertain the fact above alluded to my charge will be six times what it otherwise would have been."

Dr. Jackson "informs the citizens of Piqua that he has removed from town to the opposite bank of the Miami River about a half mile east of Piqua and a convenient water craft will be kept opposite his dwelling to accommodate foot passengers; persons on horseback will have a good ford at the same place except in time of high water." He warrants his medicines to be of the first quality and sold at the lowest rate. As there were few bridges across the various county streams those days more than one doctor provided boats for the accommodation of his patrons and some exciting trips were made.

It is narrated that upon one occasion when the river was high, a messenger hurrying for the doctor reached the river only to discover that the boat was missing. Upon a tree at the mooring hung a horn capable of sounding a blast that would rouse the dead. The excited man took down the horn and blew upon it a blast that rivaled Don Rhoderick's. The night was dark and the water a dangerous torrent. Presently across the stream came the voice of the old doctor. "What's wanted?" asked the disciple of Esculapius. "Jolinny's swallered something, doctor. It's stuck in his throat and he's going to die!" yelled the troubled father. "Oh, is that all, was the reply, " Go home, stand Johnny on his head and give him a goodspanking. Good night! As there was no further call on the old doctor it is supposed that "Johnny" had an uninterrupted though somewhat exciting recovery.

The celebrated Indian agent, Col.John Johnston, though not a practitioner, was known to be a good "bone setter," as the term went in the early days. He was frequently called on to show his skill in this direction. He used what was called a "shocking machine" by the neighbors. It was really the old-fashioned and now out of date electrifying machine and was looked upon as the marvel of the age. Those who underwent its tortures were loud in its praises and wonders were ascribed to it. People came from far and near to be "shocked," and the Colonel came to be regarded as a man of more than celebrated ability. No one knows today the modtts operandi of this wonderful invention, though it is likely that Johnston was not the pioneer in this particular direction.

It must not be thought for a moment that the pioneer doctor was a man of little education. He was a man much beyond his profession. He kept abreast of the times in everything and especially in the therapeutics of the day. His skill was well known and his willingness to respond to every call was known the country over. His stock of medicines came generally from the east, though in later years pharmacopceias were established at Cincinnati and Columbus. For the remedies which he did not manufacture himself he drew on the nearest medical depot, and, aside from jalap and calomel, he was dependent on his own resources.

Among the early doctors on the west side of the county, besides Dr. Mote already mentioned was Dr.Robert Crew the first physician to practice in West Milton.

I have no data concerning him. Dr.Lat Patty practiced in Union Township from 1826 to 1836. He was a pioneer of Kansas and died there just before the outbreak of the Civil War. Some of the other doctors in this township were Dr. Bolisky, a Pole of good family (1838), Dr. Dulon (1840). Dr.Dulon was a strong anti- slavery man and was known as a station agent on the "Underground Railroad." Dr.McReynolds practiced there from 1836 to '46 and Dr. Henry Davis from 1842 to '56. He was a brother to Probate Judge Samuel Davis of the county. Dr.Davis had for a partner Dr.Riply. Dr.J.S.Panabaker practiced in Union from 1846 to '50, and Dr. Eli Tenney, afterward county auditor, from 1848 to '6S. Dr.S. Jennings of West Milton began his practice there in 1862 and is still in active practice at the same place.

Dr. William Patty began practice in Newton Township many years ago and he is still living and actively engaged in his profession, although he may be classed as a pioneer physician.

Dr. Asa Coleman, of Troy, was among the first of the pioneer physicians. He came from Glastonbury, Conn., where he was born in 1788. Dr. Coleman was identified with church, state, and Masonic affairs as well as with medicine and surgery. He received his medical diploma in 1810 and set up practice in Troy the following year. During the War of 1812 he attended the sick and wounded in the various block-houses and passed through grades of military promotion until he reached the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1818. He also filled the office of representative from Miami and was an associate judge. For many years his figure was a prominent one on the streets of Troy, tall, erect, and white-haired. He died February 25, 1870, and was the father of Colonel A.H.Coleman, who was killed at the battle of Antietam, 1862.

Dr. DeJoncourt was another of Troy's early physicians, so was Dr. Abbott. Dr.Telford was another and Dr.Sabin (there were two. Drs.Sabin, father and son) for a long time had a large share of Troy's practice many years ago. Dr.Horace Coleman, son of Dr. Asa, opened an office in Troy about 1850, moved later to Indiana, where he entered the army as surgeon, serving throughout the Civil War. He afterward resumed practice in Troy, but at present is an examining surgeon in the United States Pension Office at Washington, D.C. Dr Isaac S. Meeks, one of the old style doctors, practiced for many years in the county, first in Lost Creek Township and later in Troy. He was contemporaneous with Drs. Walkley, Keifer, Green and Bowers, all doctors of ability. These doctors may be said to have been pioneers in the profession, though some of them lived until recently. All were well read and careful practitioners and stood in the foremost ranks of the profession.

Piqua has to her credit quite an army of old-time physicians. Some of these became noted outside the profession of medicine. Probably the most noted of these was Dr.G.Volney Dorsey, referred to several times in this volume. He was probably the most erudite of the past physicians of the county, a fine scholar and a deep thinker. Dr.Henry Chapeze came to Piqua from Kentucky about 1814. He erected a brick office on the southwest corner of Wayne and Water Streets, the first brick building to be built within the village limits.

In 1820 Dr. John O'Ferrall settled in Piqua, where he practiced medicine till his death many years later. Drs.Chapeze and O'Ferrall rode the county when much of it was a vast unbroken forest, sleeping and eating in the uncouth homes of the early settlers, but always having in mind the health of the community. Dr.Chapeze died in 1828, but his colleague, Dr. O'Ferrall, lived to see the county take its place among the first commonwealths within the state. Among the other doctors of Piqua in early days were Drs.Jackson, Teller, Jordon, Hendershott and Worrall. All these have passed away, but their faithful ministrations are remembered where they lived and worked.

Dr. Alfred Potter was one of the early doctors of Casstown, a homely, rough featured man, given over at times to mild mannered profanity, but withal a capable friend of the sick, kind hearted and always ready to respond to the most arduous call. It would be next to impossible to catalogue the old physicians of the county. Many are entirely forgotten and the record of them is but the slightest. They lived in the day of poor fees and hard work, but this did not daunt them. They were the pioneers in medicine among us and blazed the way for the present day practitioner.

The Medical Profession of Miami County at the present day stands high. It is composed of representatives who have attained deserved recognition in their calling. The advancement in medical science during the past thirty years has been welcomed by the physicians of Miami County and all keep pace with the latest discoveries in that branch. The smallest communities are now supplied with capable doctors, whereas not many years ago they were devoid of this convenience.

There was established within the county a few years ago "The Miami County Medical Society." It is now one of the most progressive medical bodies in the State and is officered as follows: President, Dr.S.S.Hartman, Tippecanoe City; vicepresident, Dr.L.A. Ruhl, Covington; secretary and treasurer, Dr.R.L. Kunkle, Piqua. Members of the Legislative Committee--Dr.A.B.Frame, Piqua; Dr.Van S. Deaton, Alcony; Censors: Dr.R.M.O'Forrall, Piqua, and Dr.W.R.Thompson, Troy.

Following is a complete list of the resident physicians of the county:


A.B.Frame, A.S.Ashton, J.B.Baker, J.H.Baker, R.M.O'Farrall,

R.M.Shannon, W.J.Prince, R.L.Kunkle, J.E.Murray, J.H.Lowe,

L.E.Reek, W.J.Kelly, J.B.Tennell, F.E.Kitsmiller, C.R.Coffeen,

F.M.Hunt.  M.E.McManes, C.E.Hetherington, R.D.Burnham, F.E.Adams,

J.C.Fahnesteek, R.L.Hyde, P.L.Snorf, Ada L.Malick, J.R.Caywood,

L.Alf, J.Funderberg, H.H.Gravatt, L.D.Trowbridge, W.N.Unkefer. 


W.R.Thompson, T.M.Wright, O.E.McCollough, J.S.Shinn, H.E.Shilling,

Warren Coleman, C.A.Hartley, W.W.Baker, E.B.Davis, P.P.Eagle,

L.M.Lindenberger, J.W.Means, R.C.Wolcott, M.G.Wright. 


S.D.Hartman, J.D.Miller, H.H.Havens, W.E.Widener, B J.Kendall,



H.W.Kendall, C.E.Gaines, S.A.Roseinberger, A.C.Miller,

M.M. Brubaker, L.A.Ruhl, W.M.Gaines. 


G.Jennings, S.Jennings, E.W.Spitler, G.C.Ullery. 


C.W.Bausman, W.H.Minton, J.Ballinger, A.Minton, H.M.Foreman.


A.J.Bausman, S.N.Bausman, J.Teeter, W.Patty.


I.C.Kiser, J.E.Shellbarger.


S.Hoover, C.R.Coate, S.P.Neff, Anson Troy.











Van S.Deaton. 





Not all the above physicians are members of the Miami County Medical Society, but it is believed that before long this active organization will embrace the whole local profession. The medical corps of the county, as listed above, is well known through out the state and is noted for its progressiveness in the art of healing. During the past century medical advance in the county has been great. The old system of practice has passed away and there remains of it at the present day nothing but a memory. It may be said in conclusion that the medical profession of the county has a record to be proud of and that it keeps in the foremost rank of research and discovery in its particular domain.

End of chapter 17

1909 History of Miami County Ohio

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