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Reminiscences of Montclair
Chapter 10

The earliest medical practitioner in the town in my memory was Dr. Joseph S. Dodd, father of ex Vice-Chancellor Dodd, now living in Bloomfield. His residence is still standing opposite the Glen Ridge Schoolhouse at the corner of Bloomfield and Ridgewood Avenues. His practice covered the entire township, which was Bloomfield and Montclair. His genial face and his carriage as he drove about the town were familiar to us all. In his duties he had to meet all the ailments in this large field of practice. Bleeding, much in vogue at the time, and tooth pulling were part of his duties. The latter service I remember from experience. The dental instrument in use, the turnkey, is little known in these days. First the gum was cut loose about the tooth, then the instrument was hooked on to the tooth, the jawbone serving as a fulcrum and a strong turn with the handle was sure to result in something giving way. I begged as hard as I could with the big iron in my mouth, "Don't pull it, Doctor," but he knew his business and turned on till the tooth came with a sensation that made me feel either my jawbone or head was gone. But there was the tooth that had given me so much pain in the claw of the turnkey, and I felt better after seeing it. In spite of such hurts and the bitter allopathic dose, we all loved the kindly doctor. As a professional man he was consulted on all matters of importance in the town. A candidate for teacher in the school must pass his scholarly examination before his appointment. Dr. Dodd was most highly esteemed, not only as a medical practitioner but as a genial Christian gentleman. He was succeeded in his practice by Dr. Joseph A. Davis, who also lived in Bloomfield. His original home was in the stone house that stands opposite the Baptist Church. He seems to be the counterpart of his predecessor and was received as the family physician and general counselor with the full confidence that was given to good Dr. Dodd.

One other physician well known and esteemed was Dr. Isaac D. Dodd. He married a daughter of Mr. Israel Crane and resided in Bloomfield, at the corner of Broad Street and Park Avenue, the old home still occupied by his daughter. Physically he was large and well proportioned and designated as the "big doctor." He was regarded as advanced in medical knowledge and recognized as the consulting physician.

Besides the regular doctor in the early days there were as now, quacks and gullible people. I recall one, an Indian doctor, who came to town with infallible remedies for all ailments, and it was surprising how many sick people turned up. Diagnosis of ailments were made to the satisfaction of credulous patients, and the hopeful were soon in the woods to find the herb and root prescriptions. The results I do not know, but think they must have been harmless. One special case was that of a child who was treated for what he termed King's Evil. In strict accord with the Indian doctor's direction, the little girl, wrapped in a woolen blanket, was taken each morning to a rainwater hogshead and immersed in the cold water. In spite of it she still lives, nearly eighty years old.

Some years later a good lady in town who had been ill for some time, was besieged by her many friends with various recipes and "sure cure" doctors. One friend was very persistent that she should try a clairvoyant in spite of her protestations that she had no faith in that medical school and further that she was not able to call on her in Newark, but this difficulty was easily met by sending a lock of the patient's hair. A full diagnosis of the disease with prescription was soon returned on the payment of one dollar, when the wise lady remarked to her family, "This may be all right, but I cut the hair from my wig."

We had tramps in the early days, too, but not of the "Weary Willie" order. I recall but two, Josh Flinn and Polly Range. Their walks were periodical through the town. Flinn followed the Orange and Valley Roads and Polly the Turnpike on through Caldwell, each carrying his or her belongings. Miss Range had hers packed in a coarse sack which she carried on her back with her hands clasped across it. She suffered a good deal of annoyance from the boys as she went through the town but with strong language and threats kept them off. Her behavior was orderly and she was usually entertained over night by kindly disposed farmer families. Josh Flinn was not as well disposed, and while some families would help him to a square meal, which was said to be no small undertaking, others sent him from their doors with the threat of the broomstick. Josh had some ideas of turning an honest penny by his medical knowledge, and made a square deal with a deaf bachelor uncle o famine to cure his deafness. The compensation was a good drink of cider. The prescription was: "Wet a little nigger wool and keep it in the ears." He got his cider all right, but I do not know whether the old gentleman tried the prescription. I do know that he died nearly totally deaf in his ninetieth year.

As the town began to show some development, Dr. John J.H. Love, a young man not long out of the medical school, came to look over the field with reference to settling here. He called to ask my advice. I replied, "I hardly know how to advise you. The town is not large and the people are strongly wedded to Dr. Davis, who has the general practice of the town. The only encouragement is in the growth of the town from a contemplated railroad connecting us with New York." With full confidence in himself and sound forethought as to the future of the town, he concluded our interview as I felt in rather a blunt way (but better understood as we afterward knew him) by saying, "Well, I'm coming." He was soon settled in an office centrally located. The anticipated railroad was completed and with it the town development began, and the young doctor soon found himself with a satisfactory and growing practice. He was soon identified with every public interest of the town, and was called upon as a general adviser, also to deliver the Fourth of July orations, etc., etc. He perhaps did more in the interest of public education for Montclair than any other man of his generation.

As an expression of the esteem in which he was held by his fellow townsmen, they united in tendering him a public dinner on the fortieth anniversary of his coming to Montclair, which was given April 16th, 1895, in Montclair Club Hall. One hundred and seventy-six warm friends sat with him at the table, among them several prominent gentlemen and personal friends. Among the guests from out of town were Dr. George F. Shrady, editor of the Medical Record, of New York, and General Grant's physician; and Hon. Franklin Murphy, of Newark, an army associate who afterward became Governor of the State. Mr. John H. Wilson, Chairman of the Town Council, presided. Besides him and the two gentlemen above named, five others of his fellow townsmen made addresses, all highly complimentary to the man in whose honor we had met, and it was truly a "Love Feast," a title under which a descriptive account of the inner is preserved in book form.

Not satisfied to be left out of the expression made by the gentleman of the town, the ladies, in earnest desire to show their esteem for Dr. Love, arranged with Mr. Lawrence C. Early, one of our town artists, to paint his portrait. It was hung in the assembly room of the High School building and was unveiled June 21st, 1895, the closing day of the school year, in the presence of a large and highly pleased audience. Mr. Wilson again presided and in part said: "The picture was not given because we could add in any way to the appreciation and esteem in which the doctor is held. No portrait is needed, for there hangs upon the walls of memory another that time cannot efface, but we desire that the work of dr. Love which will stand always, may be continued in the minds of those yet to come, and this is a permanent testimonial which shall show the future generations the Father of the Public School system in Montclair."

Dr. Love, with his usual activity and interest in every public matter of the town, continued with us about two years longer, when at an early hour in the morning of July 30th, 1897, after a successful operation for a poor woman, he fell to the floor and departed this life with his hands still covered with the blood of his final service. His funeral was held in the Congregational Church, the largest audience room in town and which failed to accommodate the many friends who gathered to express their sincere sorrow. A quotation from the funeral address of his pastor, Dr. Orville Reed, expresses the ardent love of his townspeople: "The whole community mourns; the flags are at half mast; the streets silent; the places of business closed; this great congregation representing every walk in life, every faith, every political adherence, gathered here with heavy hearts and moistened cheeks; these things show what has happened in Montclair."

The contrast between medical facilities at the time of Dr. Love's coming to Montclair and the present number of doctors practicing in town, together with our commodious Mountainside Hospital with all the advanced and modern appliances for the relief of the sick, is very marked and strong evidence that the medical profession has kept pace with the growth of the town in its population, buildings, business, schools and taxes.

Closely akin to the subject of doctors "then and now" is the care of the sick, the dead, the funeral and burial. In the early days professional nurses were unknown. In case of severe illness the kindly neighbors would come to the relief of the family and minister to the patient during the night. The precautionary measures now taken in contagious diseases (excepting smallpox) were not considered necessary and the result was the disease would generally run through the entire family sometimes with sad results. Nearly every family was known to every other and with death came general sorrow and sincere sympathy. There was no undertaker but the sexton, who was also the grave digger, but there was some one or more experienced neighbors who would lay out the dead and assist in preparing for the funeral. The regulation burial dress was called the shroud, delicately made of thin white material which was the volunteer work of some one of the lady friends. Two or more of the young people were called as watchers for the nights before the body was taken from the house. The modern silver-mounted casket was not in use, but instead was the plain, old-time coffin made by the town carpenter, usually of hard wood and stained red, resembling mahogany. I well remember watching with reverent interest the mechanic finishing the coffin of Major Nathaniel Crane in 1833. Its lid was lined with black velvet, tastefully trimmed with gimp and fasted with brass tacks, and the inside delicately finished with plaited muslin, giving a tasteful appearance to the interior. The cost was less than fifteen dollars, which was the bulk of the funeral expense. The service, usually held at the residence of the deceased, was marked by one custom that I never understood. The mirror was covered or the glass to the wall. The minister or ministers conducting the service usually wore a linen scarf or scarves provided by the family, regularly folded and the ends tied together with heavy black ribbon, and hung over the right shoulder, extending across the body to the left side reaching near the ground and having a black silk bow fastened on the shoulder. A regular sermon was preached from a chosen text, several hymns were sung, and the old tune "China" from its frequent use is fixed in my memory as a funeral tune. The body was carried to the grave in the family wagon, or one loaned by a neighbor, and the coffin covered with a bedspread.

In looking over the long stretch of years through childhood, youth and full manhood, nearly all spent in Montclair, on to the present, with each period of life in view, there looms up a long line of familiar faces, with memories of interesting incidents and endearing associations with those with whom I have mingled in social, religious, civil and political life. With some, honest contentions; with others, full sympathy and harmony; but now all are recalled with kindly memories. To enumerate these departed ones (which would outnumber my living acquaintances), with my pleasant recollections of each, would more than fill a book. They have joined the host whom no man can number. With nearly all gone who were born in Montclair near my time and many more of later date and tender association, it is a real comfort in such feelings of loneliness to believe Him who claimed to be the Truth when he said, "I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he die yet shall he live," and in support of the statement called Lazarus, who had been dead four days back to life.

In this paper I have said little of those who came later to Montclair and have done so much towards its growth in every respect. The History of Montclair, published in 1894, gives a record of many of these gentlemen and the valuable service they had rendered the town up to the time when it was issued, and the valued citizens who have come since are too fresh in our knowledge to be called historical.

Reminiscences of Montclair (NJ) was written in 1908 by Philip Doremus
Please do not reproduce this document for profit without notifying me first.

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