Reminiscences of the Earlier Days in Kosciusko County
By James H. Carpenter
Few persons who were not themselves pioneers, appreciate the privations endured by the early settlers of northern Indiana. One of the most grievous troubles was the fact that the county was so much subject to malarial diseases. The early settlers, as a rule, had to pass through a period of acclimation that was serious in the extreme. Families emigrating from nonmalarial districts suffered much more seriously than those from localities where malarial fevers prevailed; but few, however escaped no matter from what locality they came. Two seasons were more remarkable for the amount of sickness that was prevalent than others; these were the years of 1838 and 1846. There was great fatality in 1838 among the settlers, owing mainly to the fact that none of the physicians practicing at that time had any correct idea as to the treatment of the prevailing fevers. An ordinary fever that would now be successfully broken up and cured in forty-eight hours would confine the sufferer to his bed for half the summer, and often proved fatal. I have been informed that sixty-four interments took place in the cemetery at Leesburg during the summer and autumn of 1838, and this, too, when the population of that neighborhood was quite sparse. The usually course of treatment of an ordinary fever was to bleed the patient freely and following this by salivation, and at each return of the fever to repeat the blood-letting; no quinine was given until the "tongue cleaned." My readers can guess the results. The grave usually received the victim, and when the result was favorable, the patient was used up for the season.
I first became acquainted with Kosciusko county in the spring of 1846. By this time a more rational system of treating the disease of the country had gained some ground, though there were many of the physicians that still adhered to the old practice. I knew a physician in the neighboring county, who is still living, that, if he procured half a dozen patients early in the season, he had abundant practice for the year. Besides adopting the treatment spoken of above, when he did succeed in breaking up a feverand that was seldomhe almost starved his patient to death. It is said--I will not vouch for its truth--that a favorite diet prescribed by him for his convalescing patients was to suspend a cracker by a string so that its shadow would fall into a cup of water. Of this he would permit his patient to take a teaspoonful three times a day, closely watching its affects to avoid taking into the system too much nourishment. It will be readily perceived that none of his patients suffered relapses from overeating if they followed his advice.
In 1846 there were but few physicians in this country, and they were hard-working men and poorly paid, and most of them were very fair practitioners. No one who did not live here at the time knows how hard work it was to practice medicine at that time. The country was new, the roads--what there were of them--were new and rough, and many of the streams unbridged; the physicians had to travel on horseback, and owing to the fact that there were but few doctors, their range of travel was very large. The only points in this county at that time where there were physicians were Milford, Syracuse, Leesburg, Oswego, Warsaw, Palestine and North Galveston. Dr. Bolsbee was at Milford, Dr. Geo. W. Parks at Syracuse, Dr. Wm. Parks at Leesburg, Drs. Rolland Willard and Z. C. Johnson at Oswego, Dr. Edward Parks at North Galveston, Dr. A. B. Cripfield and Dr. Geo. W. Stacy at Warsaw, and Dr. Wm. Sarber at Palestine. All of these gentlemen, when I became a citizen of the county, as I did on the 12th of July, 1847, I became well acquainted with, with the exception of Dr. Bolsbee, of Milford, who moved away about that time. I know but little of him. He was a large man, probably about fifty years of age, and did not possess a very high grade of qualification. He moved, as I have been informed, to Illinois.
Dr. Geo. W. Parks had acquired but little knowledge of medicine; but was very attentive to his patients, and done much good. He died many years ago. Dr. Edward R. Parks was then just fairly commencing the practice of medicine, he studying the profession alone, and for a long time was trusted by none but his nearest neighbors, who employed him because they could not readily procure the services of another physician. He was studious and attentive subsequently attending a course or two of lectures at Laporte and finally became one of the most trusted physicians in the county. He devoted much attention to surgery and attained some notoriety as a surgeon. He was for a short time surgeon of the 30th Indiana volunteers in the late war. Dr. Parks was the most self-reliant man I ever knew, thinking, when he had examined a case and made up his mind, that he could not be wrong. He moved to Leesburg in 1847 or 1848 and thence to Warsaw about the beginning of the war. His health began to fail soon after his return home from the army, and he died several years ago, having returned to North Galveston before his death.
Dr. William Parks studied medicine at Leesburg, and in 1846, when I first became acquainted with him, was one of the leading physicians of the county, he having a most excellent practice, and enjoyed the esteem of the public both as a citizen and physician, which was well deserved. He and Dr. Edward R. Parks were for several years partners, and at that time had the best practice of any physicians in the county. My relations with Dr. William Parks and family were most cordial, and my recollection of them most pleasant. They suffered the loss of several of their children some twenty-six years ago with diphtheria, I believe, that cast a shadow over the lives of the doctor and his most estimable wife. When yet in the prime and vigor of manhood and in the midst of his usefulness, Dr. Parks was attacked with a serious and incurable disease, and after several years of great suffering he died, while yet comparatively a young man.
Dr. Rowland Willard was not extensively engaged in practice, he having large business interests that mostly employed his time. He had studied medicine, emigrated to Mexico, made a fortune in the practice of medicine in that country, returned to the United States and settled at Covington, Ky. After living at that place for several years he removed to Oswego, in this county, and in partnership with the late Judge William Barbee, then of Troy, O, erected at great expense the Oswego mills. He was an enterprising and upright business man and citizen. He had some skill as a surgeon and had enjoyed the reputation of being a good physician. He was, however too conservative when I first knew him to be a good practitioner. He clung too much to old ideas and did not keep pace with the rapid improvements of the times, and looked coldly upon every thing that was not in vogue when he was younger. Dr. W. is still living, having passed the three score and ten years allotted to man. He now resides in the neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pa., and is enjoying a peaceful and green old age.
Dr. Z. C. Johnson was born in Peacham, Vt., in 1801; was educated at Burlington, Vt., and settled in Oswego in 1835. He was a most excellent man and a good physician, having a large practice and was highly esteemed. He died soon after I cam to the county, greatly mourned and much missed, as physicians enjoying the confidence of the public as he did were not numerous at that time. His wife, a most excellent woman, has also been dead for several years.
Dr. A. B. Criphield, I think came here from Fort Wayne. He was a man of good common sense, a jovial and good-hearted man, and with fair qualififcations as a physician, acquired by practice and observation rather than reading. He was fond of a joke, and was one of the characters in the early history of Warsaw. He died of consumption more than a quarter of a century ago.
Dr. George W. Stacy came here from Wayne county, Ohio, very early. He was a most peculiar man, speaking but seldom, and that but little above a whisper. He had a good knowledge of medicine, but was the most bigoted physician I ever knew. I do not think he would ever have advance an inch had he lived to have been one hundred years old. He imagined that the profession of medicine had, in his time, reached perfection. As a citizen, he was upright and much respected, and for a long time was school commissioner--an office now obsolete--of the county. He moved to Iowa in 1854 and, I think, is not now living.
Dr. William Sarber was, when I first made his acquaintance, a young practitioner. He had a large field of practice, extending over portions of Kosciusko, Marshall and Fulton counties. Dr. Sarber was an enterprising citizen, a good physician and a most excellent man. He was never a man of vigorous health and illy bore the exposures incident to the life of a doctor. He died a few years ago.
These, as far as I recollect, were all the practicing physicians in the county in 1846. There had been several physicians before that date who were either dead or had emigrated to other localities. There had been a Dr. Chamberlain at Milford. I know nothing of him, and do not know where he went, on leaving the county. One of the first physicians that settled in this county was Dr. Harper, of Leesburg. He practiced there for several years; emigrating to Michigan, I believe. I learn from my friend, Metcalf Beck, that Dr. Harper is yet living somewhere in the north part of Elkhart county. There was also a Dr. Blue at Leesburg. He, at one time, had a very large practice, but subsequently left the profession and became an itinerate Methodist minister. He was killed by the kick of his horse in Lagrange county in the winter of 1845-46. Dr. Kendall was also a resident of Leesburg. He came there several years before my acquaintance with the county. He was a graduate of one of the Philadelphia medical colleges, and was a man of culture and information, and spoke of as a most excellent physician and popular man. He died about the time I came to the county. Dr. Richard Lansdale was one of the first settlers of Warsaw and was elected county clerk in 1836. On the close of his term he removed to Oregon where he yet resides. I know nothing of him as a physician.
It would afford me much pleasure to speak of the physicians who came to the county soon after I did, did the limits of this paper permit. My recollection of most of them is pleasant. Many of them have been my most intimate friends for more than a quarter of a century, and many of them are now dead. Of these I recall Dr. Johnson, who died in this place; Dr. Stewart at Oswego; Drs. Boss and John K. Leedy at Warsaw; Dr. Welch, who lived here for a few years and then emigrated to Illinois; Dr. Higbee, of Milford, and Dr. Jarret, of Webster. Drs. Leedy, Higbee and Jarret were all men of large practice, being highly esteemed in their respective neighborhoods. When I first saw Dr. Leedy in the spring of 1849, I thought I had never seen a man of finer physique; but more than twenty-five years' hard work in his chosen profession broke him down and he fell a victim to hard work and exposure. I do not think that there has been the same amount of mortality amongst any other class of men. All of those who were in practice here in 1846, with the exception of Dr. Willard, are dead. They were hard-working men, who did their full part in laying the foundation of the prosperity we are now enjoying, and their memory should be revered.
Northern Indianian Mammoth Holiday Number, Saturday December 28, 1878
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