Medical Report 1825-1916

A Centennial Medical History of Clay County, Indiana From 1825 to 1916

(Original booklet owned by W.W. WOODRUFF; copy typed and presented to Clay County Historical Society Library by Miriam S. TORBET)

“In the organization of Clay County, territory was taken from what was originally Vigo, Owen and Sullivan Counties, and from this Clay County was organized in 1825. Up to and including that time this territory was inhabited by the Miami and Delaware Indians and a few scattering white people. David THOMAS was the first white man to settle in Clay County. In 1820 a few others began to come in. About this time the Indians began to vacate. Howesville in the extreme south part was the first village of white settlers; then Coffee and New Brunswick. The original Indian burial place was a high sandy knoll, about a mile west of Eel River, on a line from Coffee to Howesville. Whether or not the Indians made the knoll, it is evident that they used it for a burial place. It has been frequently visited by curiosity seekers, at home and from abroad. DR. Absolom BRILEY, a son of James BRILEY, one of the very first settlers, a long time deceased, who was somewhat of an archaeologist, gave the matter much thought and attention after he became a physician, and in his researches exhumed bones, teeth, heads and other specimens. Others have also dug out similar remains. On the east side of Eel River, about three miles above Bowling Green, in the Walker Settlement, on the old TOELLE place, was another Indian burial place. A Doctor Andrew DAVIS, the first physician of whom we have any authentic account, collected several sack-fuls of bones from this knoll. He also collected quite an assortment of arrow heads, stone axes, etc. of various sizes. DR. DAVIS practiced medicine and farming. He treated both the native Indians and the few scattered white people in the settlement. He died in 1829 DR. Absolom BRILEY was the second physician in these pioneer times. Neither he nor DR. DAVIS were Medical College men. The average physicians of that day were first farmers and woodsmen and became “Doctors,” not by regular medical education, but by having an extensive knowledge of roots and herbs, coupled with a good knowledge of caring for the sick, were naturally called upon frequently to attend the sick in the neighborhood. In the absence of any statistics of that early time we have no knowledge of how many were cured by these self constituted doctors by their crude treatment; or how many recovered in spite of it. The physicians of those pioneer days deserve much credit for what they did or attempted to do to relieve the sick. Very few physicians confronted today with an epidemic of diphtheria, scarlet fever, or typhoid fever with no more to do with than they had, and even with their modern college training, but would be tempted to throw up their hands and quit. No doubt many people died in those days from appendicitis or other operable diseases of which they knew absolutely nothing. DR. BRILEY once said in addressing a Sunday School Convention at Middle bury that in his youth he frequently enjoyed going in swimming with the Indian boys. Dr. BRILEY was the first white male child born in Clay County and was born near the “Old Hill,” Feb. 21, 1823. He was a physician, minister and farmer. MRS. Mollie CROMWELL, wife of Nicholas CROMWELL, came to Clay County in 1825, located on Eel River, in Cass Township, was the pioneer mid-wife and physician to children within the territory of Clay County. Her services were sought for far near and she responded to calls by night and by day, at all times and seasons. She had been taught and trained to this service by her mother in Virginia. She practiced all her life in Clay County until just a few months before her death. One of her daughters, Sarah CROMWELL, who became the wife of John MILLS, did the same, both before and after the death of her mother. The services of the mother and daughter in this capacity covered a period of sixty years, from 1825 to 1885. Another pioneer medical woman of Clay County and of the State at large, was MRS. Lydia MOSS, a wife of George MOSS, SR. A medical history of Clay County would not be complete without mention of her. From the time the family came to the county, in 1831, she practiced mid-wifery and treated women and children for the period of thirty years. Mrs. MOSS was supplied with the medical library of her day and with the approved instruments and appliances when employed in obstetrics. She is probably the only women in Clay County to deliver a woman in childbirth with instruments. Her field of service covered a large area of country, extending beyond the borders of the county, as far west as the Wabash and as far east as White River. In diseases peculiar to her sex she was accepted authority by both the public and the profession, and is said to have treated, including cases of obstetrics, over twenty-five hundred. Much of the time to reach her patients, she traveled through unbroken wilderness, the roads being but bridle paths. Mrs. Lydia MOSS was the great-grand mother of Congressman Ralph W. MOSS. In 1827 Middlebury and New Brunswick sprang into existence, and other towns soon after in the north end of the county. About this period, from 1830 to 1835, a few college medical men began to come into the country. DRS. WM. HILL, W. B. BROWN, R. HOYTE, A BRILEY, at Middlebury; at Bowling Green, DRS. Charles AND Sewell MOORE, BURTON, SHIELDS, WOODS, and LINDLEY; at Ashboro, DR. J. T. DUFFIELD and LAZAAR; at Poland, DRS. CROMWELL and STONE; at Asherville, DR. Moses SWINHEART; at Billtown, DRS. WM. H. GIFFORD and J. M. PRICE; at Harmony (then Hazelton), DRS. John POTTS and James ROBINSON, father of the Hon. F.J.S. ROBINSON of Cloverland. These were the pioneer college medically educated physicians up until just before the Civil War. Many of these, all of whom are long since deceased, became noted physicians. The physicians who have practiced in Clay County since its organization, so far as the writer has been able to ascertain, have been: At Middlebury: DRS. WM. HILL, W. B. BROWN, T. HOYTE, M. L. JETT, FOSTER, EASON, WM. H. SMITH, James WATTS, L. A. HALE, Frank WOODRUFF, W. H. BUTLER, Joshua PHIPPS, Lee WOODRUFF, WM. YOUNG, M. A. HIATT, and DOWELL. At Coffee: DR. Absolom BRILEY. At Clay City: DRS. R. A . BALDRIDGE, W.S. DUNCAN. C.H. WOLFE, J. MCNUTT, D.I . ZOOK, J.F. SMITH, (now of Brazil); S.P. BERNE, S.L. BRUILLETT, W.H. BUTLER, R.C. BLACK, S. YOUNG, J.H. WILLIAMS, C. H. WILLIGMAN, M.A. FREED, J. FOREMAN, O.G. CRUIKSHANK, H.R. VANDEIVER, A. S. BROWN, B.F. YOCUM, J.A. MODESITT, Charles COLLINS, John VANHORN, and W.H.H. ASBURY. Dr. C.H. WOLFE is the oldest physician in point of practice in Clay City. At Bowling Green: DRS. Andrew DAVIS, Charles MOORE, (who is said to have traveled over more territory in answer to professional calls than any other physician in the county), Sewell MOORE, O.G. BURTON, W.H. SHIELDS, GEO. LINDLEY, W.W. WOODS, pioneers. Then there were later on, DRS. John WILLIAMS, who was a noted character and lived to be nearly 100 years of age. He was a physician, minister, lawyer, politician, temperance lecturer, school teacher, merchant, soldier and farmer. DRS. U.G. McMILLAN, W.B. GWATHMY, R.H. CULBERTSON, W.C. HENDRICKS and DR. REYNOLDS, up to and during the Civil War. DR. CULBERTSON afterward located in Brazil when the county seat was moved from Bowling green in 1877, where he enjoyed a large and lucrative practice for a number of years before his death. After the war, came DRS. STEPHENSON, DUFFIELD, PICKENS, BLACK, CRAFTON, S.P. TALBOTT, John McGREGOR, J.M. LEACHMAN, HOCHSTETLER, R. McCOLLOM, and still later, DRS. H.P. ALLEN, R. JONES, B.E. LEMON, B.F. SPELLBRING, ROY COOK and L.C. GRIFFITH. At Centerpoint: DRS. John C. GIFFILLIN, J.T. DUFFIELD, WM. J. KENNEDY, M.C. MENDENHALL, J.C. COOPER, R.C. BLACK, B.F. WITTY, Robert DALE, WM. M. HARRIS, A.E. RUNDELL, Gilbert R. FINCH, E.R. GAMBLE and LEWIS C. RENTSCHLER. At Staunton: DRS. John H. HAWKINS, James N. WARDLAW, KESTER, J.S. KISER, L.S. BYERS, F.B. McCULLOUGH, McCORKLE, Ben DAVIS, E.L. LARKINS (now of Terre Haute), J.C. MAXEY, J.W. CARNEY, MyronL. BOOR (now of Terre Haute), T.M. WEAVER and P.H. VEACH. ”

“Quite a number of Clay County men have gone out into other territories to practice. Among those who have been born, reared, and educated here, who have gone out and made a name and reputation for themselves as successful physicians and surgeons are the following: James M. TOWNSEND, B. French STONE, David ROSS, Joseph C. CRIST, Gifford OSBORNE, Abe PARK, M. A. BOOR, E. L. LARKINS, Walter E. THORNTON, R. S. RISSLER, Charles BOYER, John C. CARPENTER, Charles COMPTON, Reginald POLLON, Robert POLLOM, James ELLIOTT, George W. BENCE, F. H. JETT, Harold PIERCE, and two colored young men, Lewis GRIFFIN and Ross JONES. James M. TOWNSEND was reared on the McKinley place just east of Harmony. He was graduated from the State University, at Bloomington in 1838, went to California, locating at Lugonia (now Redlands), San Bernadino County, and became a noted etymologist and linguist and a physician of statewide reputation. He was employed by the Funk & Wagnals Company of New York to edit their Standard Dictionary of the English Language, and became known as the “Walking Dictionary.” He died at Los Angeles Jan. 1, 1897, aged 76. He was a brother-in-law of Dr. John H. HAWKINS, at one time a physician at Staunton. –continued on next page Dr. B. French STONE, born near Poland, in 1841 practiced for some time in Poland, then went to Bainbridge in Putnam County. From there he went to Indianapolis in 1876, where he soon took front rank as a physician and was for a number of years a member of the faculty of the old Central College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was one of the present writer’s professors in the chair of therapeutics. Later he was a member of the faculty of the Indiana Medical College, after the consolidation of the two schools. He was a prolific writer on medical subjects and was the author of an extensive volume of medical biography. He was found dead sitting in his office at the age of 73. Another is Dr. David ROSS, who was born just south of Brazil. After completing his medical education, he located in Indianapolis, where he has achieved a reputation as noted and skillful surgeon. He is a member of the faculty of the Medical Department of Indiana State University. Dr. Gifford OSBORNE, another Clay County boy, born and reared in Brazil, went to Chicago and has become noted as a successful surgeon. Dr. Abe PARKE, born, reared, and educated in the schools of Knightsville, who lives in Chicago, enjoys a rapidly growing and lucrative practice. Dr. E. L. LARKINS, of Staunton, located now at Terre Haute is known as a successful general practitioner. Dr. M. A. BOOR, also of Staunton, went to Terre Haute and became a noted surgeon and physician of that city until recently when his health failed. Dr. Walter E. THORNTON, of Knightsville, was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and came to Clay County when but one year old with his father, Dr. F. G. THORNTON, in 1879; he was educated in Knightsville schools, the Brazil High School, and Indiana State University. After completing his medical education in Medical College of Indiana, he located at Montpelier, Blackford County, Indiana, where he enjoyed a growing and lucrative practice for 12 years. He is now a resident of Indianapolis and the Associate Medical Director of Indiana National Life Insurance Company. Dr. R. S. RISSLER, born near Harmony, after completing his medical education, was appointed by the U.S. Government to a position in the medical department of the Philippine Islands, where he served 10 years. He now resides in Indianapolis. Dr. Charles BOYER, born and reared at Harmony, after graduation located for a while in New York City, but is now located at Indianapolis and is rapidly gaining a good practice and a reputation for himself. Dr. Charles COMPTON, born in Dick Johnson Township, educated in Clay County schools and the Medical College of Indiana, now located at Forest, Indiana, is meeting with good success. Dr. Reginald POLLUM and Dr. Robert POLLUM, his brother, are well established; the former at Stockwell, Indiana, and Robert at Darlington, Indiana. Both are quite successful. Dr. James ELLIOTT, son of Dr. T. A. ELLIOTT, brother of Dr. Harry ELLIOTT, born at Poland, practiced for a while at Terre Haute, now lives at Laurel, Montana, where he is rapidly building up an extensive practice. Joseph C. CRIST, another native of Clay County, was born in Lewis Township, receiving his earlier education from the public schools and later from the State Normal at Terre Haute, from which institution he entered Northwestern University Medical School at Chicago, from which he graduated in 1887. Locating at Lexington, Missouri, he practiced medicine and surgery for 12 years and was very successful, performing surgical work so skillfully as to attract the attention of the profession throughout the state and was frequently called to Kansas City by surgeons there to assist in critical and difficult operations. In November 1887 he married Miss Anna Bell BOARDMAN, a lady of literary taste and attainment, who is the author of the Anglo-American entitled The Story of a Glove. Still another is George Worth BENCE, who while living in Carbon, was elected a member of the Lower House of the General Assembly, serving at both the regular session of the Legislature and a special session of 1875. He was chairman of the committee on temperance and drafter of the license law which was passed, repealing the famous Baxter local option law. In July 1879 he left Carbon and located at Greencastle, where he soon became a specialist in the treatment of the eye and soon took front rank as a skillful and successful eye surgeon. Dr. F. H. JETT, who went from Clay City to Terre Haute, is another successful physician, enjoying a large practice and serving two terms as Coroner of Vigo County. Dr. Harold PIERCE, born and reared in Brazil and received his early education in the Clay County schools, after graduation located at Cloverland where he enjoyed quite a successful career as a physician and surgeon for several years. A year or so ago he decided to locate at Terre Haute for future practice and is meeting with pronounced success, as both a physician and as a surgeon. Dr. John C. CARPENTER, was born at Cloverland and after completing his medical education has located at Terre Haute where he is recognized as one of the leading surgeons of that city. One of the colored young men to go from Clay County to practice medicine was Lewis GRIFFIN, who was born, reared, and educated in Brazil, and after completing his medical training practiced in Brazil for a short period, then went to Paxton, Illinois, and is rapidly acquiring a steadily growing practice. Ross JONES, the other, located at Indianapolis and is quite successful as a physician. Five physicians have been elected to the office of County Corner: Drs. Harry GIFFORD, James K. MOSS, G. M. PELL, M. H. YOUNG, and George F. LEWIS. Very few Clay County physicians have died leaving much wealth. Dr. A. F. TULLEY left an estate, perhaps the largest, approximating something like one hundred thousand dollars; Dr. J. M. PRICE, an estate worth about fifty thousand, and Dr. R. H. CULBERTSON, one of about twenty-five thousand. Dr. W. H. VAN SANDT is perhaps the oldest practitioner, having been in the practice about forty-five years. He is 73 years old and is still engaged in active practice. Dr. O. P. JAMES is the next oldest being only a few years younger in age and in length of practice. Eight physicians have been soldier: Wm. J. DICKSON was a Civil War surgeon; J. C. GIFFORD was a lieutenant; J. O. SIDDONS, Wm. H. VAN SANDT, R. H. CULBERTSON, Harry GIFFORD, and Robert HAWKINS, the latter two in the Spanish American War. Dr. John WILLIAMS was chaplain of the 43rd Reg. Indiana Volunteers. R. H. CULBERTSON and Robert HAWKINS were hospital stewards. Dr. A. F. LINDER, who practiced in Brazil in the seventies was a very bright and strong physician, but became very much debauched by intoxicants and one night while intoxicated, fell down the No. 1 Coal Shaft and was killed. As a rule, the physicians of Clay County have been strong men in the profession and men of sterling worth. They have been, generally speaking, men of good morals, exceptional intelligence and temperate. Very few have fallen by the wayside. Not one has ever been known as an addict to the drug habit, very few of them drink, and those that do, use it in moderation. For years we have had no drunkards among us. The day of the inebriate physician is past. Several physicians have had sons who followed them in the practice, namely: J. C. GIFFORD and son, Harry; Wm. H. VAN SANDT and son, James; F. G. THORNTON and son, Walter E.; T. A. ELLIOT and sons, Harry and James; W. B. HAWKINS and son, Robert; J. D. SOURWINE and son, Clint C.; J. F. SMITH and son, Lester; Wm. H. GIFFORD and son, J. C. and grandson, Harry; P. H. VEACH and son, Lester; W. H. ASBURY and son, W. D. The following are the physicians engaged in active practice with their post office address, at the present writing, April 1916: Carbon: G. M. PELL, W. H. VAN SANDT, James VAN SANDT; Bowling Green: L. C. GRIFFITH and B. E. LEMON; Harmony: Wm. PALM and M. H. YOUNG; Knightsville: F. G. THORTON; Poland: N. B. BARTHOLOMEW; Center Point: G. R. FINCH and L. C. RENTSCHLER; Staunton: P. H. VEACH; Lena: J. STYLES; Cory: T. M. WEAVER and Oliver JAMES; Saline City: R. GANTZ: Ashboro: James K. MOSS; Clay City: C. H. WOLKE, M. A. FREED, A. S. BROWN, H. R. VANDIVER; Coalmont: W. H. ASBURY and H. H. NALL; Brazil: J. F. SMITH, J. D. SOURWINE, Geo. W. FINLEY, C. C. SOURWINE, Jas. A. RAWLEY, Luther S. HIRT, Harry ELLIOTT, Fredrick NUSSEL, J. L. LAMBERT, F. C. DILLEY, L. L. WILLIAMS, Robert HAWKINS, Harry M. PELL, Wm. H. ORR, and G. C. BOYER. The Clay County Medical society was organized in 1892. The first officers were: President, J. F. SMITH; Vice President, G. W. FINLEY; Secretary, James A. MODESITT; Treasurer, B. F. HOLMES. The officers for 1916 are: President, G. W. FINLEY; Vice President, Harry ELLIOTT; Sec-Treas. C. C. SOURWINE; Asst. Secretary, G. C. BOYER; Historian, F. G. THORTON. Other members are: Wm. PALM. J. A. RAWLEY, J. D. SOURWINE, G. C. BOYER, M. H. YOUNG, L. S. HIRT, H. M. PELL, G. M. PELL, B. E. LEMON, M. A. FREED, H. J. PIERCE, L. L. WILLIAMS, P. H. VEACH, J. F. SMITH, G. R. FINCH, Fredrick NUSSSEL, H. R. VANDIVER, and L. C. RENTSCHLER. Meeting nights are on the third Thursday evening of each month except July and August. There are six towns in the county that formerly supported one or more physicians that now have none: Middlebury, Coffee, Asherville, Cardonia, Cloverland, and Turner. Carbon has 3, Bowling Green 2, Harmony 2, Knightsville 1, Poland 2, Center Point 2, Staunton 1, Lena 1, Cory 2, Saline City 1, Ashboro 1, Clay City 4, Coalmont 3, Hoosierville 1, and Brazil 15–Total 41. Twenty years ago Clay County had 60 practicing physicians. Dr. G. W. FINLEY has been the one faithful member who has attended regularly the meetings of the American Medical Association, before which he has read several papers, and he is a frequent contributor to various medical periodicals. Since the above was written, Dr. G. F. LEWIS has moved from Poland to Patricksburg in Owen County, and Dr. C. C. SOURWINE is a lieutenant with the medical corps of the 3rd Indiana State Militia, on the Mexican border.”