Early Times in Kosciusko
Incidents and Anecdotes of Pioneer Days and the Early Settlement of this Region

by Reub Williams

"In the cottage yonder, I was born;
Long my happy home that humble dwelling,
There are the fields of clover, wheat and corn--
There the spring with liquid nectar swelling,
In that cottage yonder, I was born,
There's the orchard where we used to climb,
When my mates and I were boys together,
Thinking nothing of the flight of time.
Fearing naught but work and rainy weather:
There's the orchard where we used to climb."

Owing to the limit placed upon the length of these sketches each week, I was unable to conclude the list of physicians to whom the article of last week was dedicated. It should be understood, too, that writing from memory, I only speak of the people whose individuality was impressed upon me at that time, I being quite young and those of whom I am writing much older. I find, too, that there are occasions when it is best not to mention names personally; only this is rare, and yet done for a purpose. There were, very naturally, in a new town and a new country, doctors who stopped in Warsaw, threw out their shingles, and perhaps within a month the persons that saw them on the streets almost daily very suddenly knew them no more. These were generally young men of recent graduation at some medical college seeking points to locate and practice their profession. Becoming dissatisfied they often returned to their old homes to the eastward, or the more venturous and plucky determined to find some point to suit them, would continue their journey to the west--the cynosure for more than a half century past, of nearly all migratory people In quite early days, Leesburg the oldest, and for some time the only town in the county, possessed a number of highly qualified physicians, but I am unable to present any particulars concerning them, although I have heard and presumably knew that they were influential men in those early days even outside their practice.

A few years previous to the breaking out of the civil war, a physician located here by the name of Griffith, but of his initials I am uncertain, but if I am correct in my remembrance his full name was Dr. J. C. Griffith --you see I put the "Dr." in his full name, for there is an old saying that a graduated physician never failed to ad "M.D." after his name, even though it were to "a note of hand." Dr. Griffith was a noble-hearted, genial gentlemen, liked by everybody, and I might say know to everybody--at any rate by the citizens of the town and surrounding county. He came here soon after he was married and was slowly gaining a fair practice when the great war burst upon the country. I remember that he could not arrange his affairs in such a way as to permit him to join in the first call for troops, but when I returned, after serving for a year in the army, I found that Dr. Griffith had entered the service in some company and regiment, the number of which I never obtained, although having been special friends I endeavored to do repeatedly. Whatever became of Dr. Griffith I cannot even surmise but I presume that he may have been one of the 400,000 that went to make up a portion of what the war cost in saving the Federal Union from destruction and dissolution. I am convinced that he never returned from the war, for we were friends up to the time I left him early in April, 1861, to enter the service, and I certainly would have heard of him in some way or other. Perhaps the light-hearted, genial, companionable Griffith wore out his life behind the stockade at Andersonville, or among the insect-haunted sands of Belle Isle at Richmond. Nothing would please me more, however, than to hear that he is still alive, and that his absence from his former home, or his writing to old friends, could in some way be accounted for.

After the late Edward R. Parks, who was one of the Leesburg physicians I have allude to, removed to Warsaw from that place in 1859, I became quite well acquainted with him. At that period he was giving much of his attention to surgery, and was making a name for himself quite rapidly, and had already performed some very skillful operations. Among these was the case of the late Captain John Murray, at that time a resident of Pierceton, and who was a member of the Murray family that did so much for that town when the firm of Murray Brothers was "on top." This case was a peculiar one. John Murray had been a soldier in the Mexican war, and while undertaking a bath in one of the rivers where the American army lay at the time, in making a dive from the bank into the stream he was ruptured in the side, caused by a projecting splinter from a sunken snag, which of course could not be seen before the leap.

The rupture was partially healed at times, but gave the man much trouble periodically, and finally the growing reputation of Dr. Parks as a skilled surgeon decided him to have him perform an operation, and assisted by the late Dr. William Hays, of Pierceton, himself a skilled and successful practitioner that place, a day was set for the performance of the operation, and I very well remember the incident of Dr. Parks coming into THE INDIANIAN office on his return and showing what he had removed from the bladder of Mr. Murray. It seemed that the splinter had not only perforated Mr. Murray's bladder in his dive from the bank, but a small portion of it still remained inside. Around this splinter nature had deposited a sediment, nearly as large as a hen's egg of the ordinary size, and what is more it was much the same shape, and formed of an accumulation of calculi. This egg-shaped--perhaps it would be more correct to say "pear-shaped" --substance was on the next day severed in twain lengthwise and a portion of the splinter extracted not far from its entire length.

It was a neat successful piece of surgery, and Drs. Parks and Hays received much praise for the skillful manner in which the operation had been performed. Murray so fully recovered that he again entered the service and went out as captain of the Pierceton company in the 44th Indiana Infantry. Dr. Parks became the surgeon of the 30th Indiana Regiment--the one commanded by Sion S. Bass of Fort Wayne; but after Shiloh, where Bass was severely wounded--by the late Colonel J. B. Dodge, of this city.

Among the early physicians who came to America was the late Dr. Jacob Boss --a character well known to the early residents of this county. He first settled at Monoquet, the then lively village lying three miles north of Warsaw, and at that period doing twice as much business and general trade as the county-seat. Dr. Boss was a queer genius, and a man that one had to become extremely well acquainted with before he knew the many good points he possessed. He was born in Switzerland, but came to this country at the age of 18 years. He arrived at New Orleans, and for a time worked on a plantation not far from Vicksburg. It was there that he took up with the idea of becoming a physician, and with him to propose was to act. He got some medical works and began the study of medicine and kept at it until he openly offered his services as a physician to the public. He was all ready located in Monoquet and was rapidly securing a wide practice as a "water-doctor," his professional calls coming from long distances, when I first knew him.

All physicians in early days visited distant patients on horseback, and Dr. Boss usually kept four fine saddle animals, and he went through the country generally on a fast "lope" or canter. On one occasion I knew him to receive a call from a man at Marion. He was back home on the following evening although the distance there and back was 120 miles! Such calls as this added much to his reputation as a practitioner, and I am safe in saying that no doctor in all Northern Indiana had so large a practice, and what is more, was more generally successful. Many times he as told me personally that he owned a preparation, with which he could not only seat a man; but if an oak stump had a crevice about it, or even if dead and hollow, he could make it writhe with perspiration! Much of his success was due to the "sweating process," and he gave the recipe to nobody. Dr. Boss became wealthy, and a number of years previous to his death retired from the practice of medicine entirely. Towards the latter end of his life the writer became quite intimate with the doctor, and he was of a much more genial nature, and was far more generous in his gifts to needy people than he was ever given credit for. I personally know of many of his charities, and that they were wisely bestowed in many cases, I am fully aware. Had Dr. Boss retained his health for a few years longer, Warsaw's opera house would have covered all the ground owned by him at the time extending from the Hickman building on Center street, around to the present gas-office on Buffalo street, for he had fully determined to demolish the old book-store corner--now Rutter's hardware store--and erect a handsome structure, with the entrance next to the Hickman building, to be known as "the Boss Opera House."

The writer and the late Milton Burket had much to do with inciting him to this determination, and he was fully bent upon the enterprise when disease laid its hand upon him so firmly that he finally yielded to the inevitable. After Dr. Boss retired from the practice of medicine he delighted to repeat reminiscences of his career. Before he was taken down with what proved his last illness he made Burket's drug store his "loafing place" of evenings, and it was here that he told many stories, the incidents for which were furnished him in his busy career as a doctor. He was no stickler for his profession and firmly believed, like Barnum, that people delighted in being humbugged, and he very often made sport of the profession he had followed through life. He was in the habit of telling, with infinite delight, a joke upon the profession with which himself and the late Dr. E. E. Higbee, of Milford, were fooled and an old lady of Milford, the unconscious perpetrator.

The way Dr. Boss told the story was briefly as follows: Dr. Higbee was called to see a resident of that town and at once discovered in diagnosing the case that the symptoms were somewhat peculiar. The man had a high fever at the time, the doctor first called, and he treated him as usual in such cases; but he grew worse, and Dr. Higbee sent for Boss to have a consultation over the peculiarities of the patient's disease. Thus the situation continued for three days, and during the night of the third day, Dr. Boss being in the vicinity, determined to call at Milford and see how Dr. Higbee was getting along with his peculiar case. Late as it was they went over together to see the patient and found him in a really serious condition, and neither of them could agree upon what ailed him. They watched the symptoms closely, and remained by him until the sun began to show up in the east on the morning of the fourth day of his illness.

Just about the time the sun appeared an old-lady neighbor of the sick man came into the sick-room, and at the first glance she cast upon him she exclaimed: "Laws-Massa, the man's got the measles!" Then how boss would laugh in telling the story--sometimes in the presence of Dr. Higbee, who also, thoroughly enjoyed the joke. boss told the story to illustrate the humbuggery that was in the practice. Here were two reputable physicians who could, or did not discover what ailed the man, when an old woman, who had never looked into a medical book, could and did tell what was the matter with him on sight, and then the two would laugh again and again over their three days' consultation, only to be beaten by an old lady who couldn't read a line!

Warsaw Daily Times February 22, 1902

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