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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Oldest Medical Society

Dallas Bogan on 19 September 2004
The following was taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Existing in State of Ohio Was Organized at Lebanon, October 28, 1837.

Early History of the Lebanon Medical Society--Names of Physicians Who Attended Its First Meeting--Its Charter an Early Diploma--Members Expelled for Vending Patent Medicines--Early Presidents--Change of Name--
Some Later Activities.

October 28, 1909

One of these historical sketches was on the early physicians of Warren County and was republished in the Lancet-Clinic of Cincinnati. In it mention was made of the medical society organized at Lebanon, October 28, 1837, and still in existence. This statement attracted the attention of Dr. A.G. Drury, of Cincinnati, Librarian of the Western Association for the Preservation of Medical Records, and he wrote me that if this society had been in continuous existence since its organization it is by far the oldest medical society in Ohio, if not in the West, so far as he was able to ascertain.
The officers and members of this society all regard it as seventy-two years old on the day of the publication of this article. Altho there was a period of a few years when the members lost interest in the meetings, as will be hereafter related, the society during this period was not dead but only quiescent. On its resuscitation no new society was formed but the members continued to meet and act under the old name and charter. The society celebrated its semi-centennial with a banquet at the Lebanon House on Tuesday, October 25, 1887, and there is no reason to doubt that it will live to celebrate its one- hundredth anniversary in the town of its origin.
The names of the men who organized this society for the purpose of elevating their profession and promoting the advancement of the science of medicine and its allied sciences should be preserved. They preceded the lawyers, the teachers and the ministers of Warren County in forming a professional association. Some of these medical men who took interest enough in their profession to attend the meetings of the society lived in parts of the county remote from Lebanon and some of them in adjoining counties. The first president of the society practiced medicine at Monroe, Butler county, eight miles west of Lebanon. Many of the early members were country practitioners.

Old Medical Censors.

At earlier dates the legislature of Ohio had passed various acts to regulate the practice of medicine and surgery. The state was divided into districts and Censors were appointed in each district with authority to grant licenses to practice medicine and surgery. The first of these acts was passed in 1811, when the whole state was divided into five districts. The Censors named in the act for the district in which Warren County was placed were Dr. Joseph Canby, of Warren County; Dr. Richard Allison and Dr. Daniel Drake. Dr. Canby held the position of Censor for most of the time up to 1824. In 1812, Dr. David Morris, of Warren, was appointed Censor. In the act of 1813, Dr. Joseph Canby and Dr. Jeptha F. Moore were appointed, and the same names occur in the act of 1817. In 1821, Dr. Joseph Canby is the only physician of Warren named. In 1824, Warren and Greene Counties were placed together in a district, and the following named physicians of the two counties were named as members of the Third Medical Society of Ohio, with authority to grant licenses to practice medicine, viz., Joseph Canby, John Ross, David Morris, Benjamin Dubois, James Johnson, Joshua Martin, John Van Harlingen, John Collett, Jehu John, James W. Lanier, John S. Haller and George W. Stipp.


On the 24th of October 1837, in pursuance of a call addressed to the "scientific practitioners" of Warren and adjoining counties, the following persons met in Lebanon and organized the Lebanon Medical Society, viz., Henry Baker, John Van Harlingen, John P. Haggott, Otho Evans, John Cottle, Alvin McAllister, Joshua Stevens, William M. Charters, David Baird, J.P. Compton, Lewis Drake, Elias Fisher, Jesse Harvey, S.M. Ballard, W.B. Strout, Lucius A. Cottle, Benjamin Erwin, Moses H. Keever, Aaron Wright and R. Roach. Dr Joshua Stevens was elected President and Dr. John Van Harlingen, Recording Secretary. The society resolved to abide by the rules and regulations adopted, and to use all honorable means to discountenance quackery, and recommended a general attendance at the meetings of the State Medical Society.
The second meeting of the society was held January 30, 1838, when a constitution and by-laws a code of ethics and a bill of prices were adopted. A committee was appointed to prepare a memorial to the Legislature for the repeal of the law taxing physicians.
Application for a charter was made to the legislature which met December 4, 1837, and the act to incorporate the society was passed March 16, 1838, two days be- fore the adjournment of the session. The charter members named in the act were Joshua Stevens, Henry Baker, A. McAllister, John Van Harlingen, Aaron Wright, William M. Charters, Lewis Drake, John Cottle, Elias Fisher and Moses H. Keever, who with their associates and such as might thereafter be associated with them were created a body corporate and politic with perpetual succession by the name and style of the Lebanon Medical Society. By this name the body might sue and be sued, have a common seal, and be capable of holding personal and real estate, not exceeding $20,000 in value which was to be devoted exclusively to the object of promoting the cause of medical science and its collateral branches.

Early Meetings.

Within two years after its organization the society numbered twenty-eight members. The meetings were held semi-annually and were generally well attended, from twelve to twenty members usually being present at each meeting. An attempt was made to enforce attendance by fines. The minutes of 1839 show that a member was fined $5.00 for absence and failure to read a dissertation, and memberships were forfeited for failure to pay fines. The society early secured a seal and its diplomas were handsomely lithographed at Cincinnati.
Standing committees were appointed on the subjects of "Quackery," "Collateral Sciences" and "Improvements in the Science of Medicine." Besides reports on these subjects, there were papers read at early meetings as follows: "Phenomena, Characterizing the Separate and Independent Existence of Mind," by Dr. Baird-D.D. Baird; "Deleterious Effects and Chemical Tests of Arsenic," by Dr. John P. Haggott; "Congestive Fever," by Dr. Joshua Stevens; "Diseases of Harveysburg," by Dr. Jesse Harvey and "Sanguineous Congestion," by Dr. William M. Charters.

The Associate Sciences.

In 1838, the society passed the following:
"Resolved, That no applicant who has not acquired a knowledge of chemistry, natural philosophy, botany and comparative anatomy, shall receive the diploma of this society."
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this society that no medical school ought to confer the degree of Doctor in Medicine on any candidate who has not attained to a competent knowledge of all those branches of learning usually termed with reference to medicine, the Associate Sciences."
The Corresponding secretary was instructed to open a correspondence with other societies, both medical and scientific in the state, urging them to join in endeavors
to have the geological survey of the state continued.
In October, 1839, it was resolved that "the society appoint three members, whose duty it shall be to procure and preserve specimens of plants including the whole plant and specimens of minerals, each of whom shall de- liver an address or lecture, one on Botany, one on Mineralogy, and one on Geology, at three successive meetings, one addressing each meeting; said committee to be authorized to procure at the expense of the society, such means for the safe keeping of whatever may be collected." In pursuance of this resolution, Dr. J.G. Paulding made reports at subsequent meetings on Botany and Dr. Jesse Harvey on Geology. Dr. Paulding exhibited a blank book procured for the society for the preservation of botanical specimens. The members were earnestly requested to prepare and present to the society skeletons of different animals for the purpose of facilitating the study of Comparative Anatomy.

Medical Ethics.

In 1840, the society resolved "that hereafter applicants for admission shall present to the Censors either a diploma from some respectable medical college, or a certificate of membership in a respectable society of scientific physicians or submit to an examination by the Censors."
In October, 1842 it was resolved that it shall be deemed a breach of medical ethics for any members of this society to attend, in consultation with any physician, who has had an opportunity of becoming a member of this association, and has refused or neglected to embrace it." But, at the next meeting, in May, 1843, the resolution was rescinded and the following adopted in its place: "It shall be deemed a breach of medical ethics for any member of this society to consult with any person who has not evidence of such qualification as would entitle him to membership in this society."
In 1846, two members were expelled from the society for engaging in the sale of nostrums, the society being of the opinion "that such traffic is decidedly prejudicial to the public welfare, and when in the hands of a physician, calculated to hinder the advancement of true science and depress the character of the medical profession."
At the October meeting of 1848 the society expressed its confidence in the purity of the pharmaceutical preparations of the Shakers of Union Village and heartily commended them to the profession, especially the extracts of the narcotic plans and sarsaparillas. And, in May, 1849, it was resolved "that this society, so far as practicable will make no purchases from druggists engaged in the sale and manufacture of patent medicines." In the same year by a unanimous vote, a member was expelled for compounding and vending certain medicines which the society regarded as secret nostrums.

Later Progress.

The meetings of the society were held regularly for a period of more than twenty years, but from variocauses about 1859 the members of the profession began to loose interest in the society. There are no minutes of meetings for a period of four years following 1859. On December 8, 1863, a meeting was held pursuant to public notice for the purpose of resuscitating the society. The organization again got into active work and from that time its meetings have been held with regularity. In 1875 the number of members was twenty-four. In recent years the memberships has at times exceeded thirty and the society is regarded as one of the most active and useful of the county medical societies of Ohio.
The early presidents of the society were Dr. Joshua Stevens of Monroe, Butler County, 1837 to 1848; Dr. William M. Charters, 1849; Dr. Moses H. Keever, 1850; Dr. Elias Fisher, 1852; Dr. William L. Schenck, 1854; and Dr. Joshua Stevens, who had removed to Lebanon, 1856. From 1863 to 1885 the presidents were Dr. John Van Harlingen, Dr. Adam Sellers, Dr. L.A. Cottle, Dr. J.L. Mounts, Dr. Isaac L. Drake, Dr. James McReady, of Monroe, Butler County; Dr. Voorhees-S.R.S.R. Voorhees and Dr. S.S. Scoville.
As the society during its whole existence has had members residing at or near the towns of Franklin, Waynesville, Morrow, Springboro and Mason, at various times it was proposed to change its name. The charter long prevented a change, but at a meeting in Lebanon on October 31, 1893, the members voted unanimously to change the name to the Warren County Medical Society, and instructed their secretary to notify the secretary of the state medical society of the change.

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This page created 19 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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