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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Early Physicians Of Warren County and the Miami Valley

Dallas Bogan on 27 September 2004
The following is 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

The Long Rides and Low Fees of the Old Doctors
Their Defective Education--The Old Time
Heroic School Treatment and
the Old School Dosage.
September 19, 1907

The first professional card of a physician and surgeon of Warren county I have come across was that of Dr. John Winans, who appears to have been the first physician to establish himself in the vicinity of Lebanon. His card was printed in seven successive issues of the Western Spy, of Cincinnati, beginning in February, 1801, two years before the organization of Warren county, and five years before the first newspaper was started at Lebanon. It read as follows:

"John C. Winans, lately arrived from Elizabethtown, N.J., with a general assortment of medicines respectfully tenders his services to the public in the line of his profession as physician and surgeon. Those who have occasion and are disposed to call on him, may find him at Rev. Mr. Kemper's on Turtle creek, where he has opened his shop and is now in a capacity to serve them."

Rev. James Kemper here referred to, was the pastor of the Turtlecreek Presbyterian church, and resided at this time four miles west of the site of Lebanon. Dr. Winans found it necessary to publish his card in a newspaper printed nearly thirty miles from the place where he opened his "shop." Before this, Cincinnati physicians had doubtless been called to make professional visits into the southwestern part of Warren county, a distance of over twenty miles and sometimes even to the central parts of the county.

Long Rides and Small Fees.

The pioneer physicians of the Miami Valley were of necessity country practitioners, whether they established themselves in the new towns or on farms. For several years some of the townships had only one resident physician and sometimes none. A ride of twelve or fifteen miles at night was not unusual. Sometimes rides of twenty or even thirty miles were made on horseback on roads over which no kind of carriage could be drawn. The pioneer physician, who became noted in his profession in Warren county was called on to make journeys in the saddle to distant parts of the county and to adjoining counties in the most inclement seasons; to endanger his life in crossing the flooded Miami when it was bridgeless, and in times of epidemics to pass successive days and nights without sleep.
Dr. Daniel Drake, the most distinguished of the early physicians of Cincinnati, says the ordinary charge by the physician for his long rides was twenty-five cents a mile, "one-half being deducted, and the other half paid in provender for his horse or produce for his family."
These pioneers in their profession were not only physicians and surgeons, but bleeders, cuppers, leechers, bone-setters and tooth-pullers. They sometimes plugged teeth, using tin-foil instead of gold-leaf. For extracting a single tooth, the charge was twenty-five cents, a deduction being made if two or more were drawn at the same time. For ordinary professional services the charges seem to us low; for bleeding, 25 cents; for sitting up all night, $1; for an ordinary visit, from 25 cents to 50 cents, according to the circumstances of the patient. These are the figures given by Dr. Drake. It should be borne in mind that the purchasing value of a dollar was far greater then than now.

Not M.D.'s

None of the earliest physicians in the Miami valley had received degrees from a medical college. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, not one in fifty of the physicians of the United States, and not one in a hundred of those in the west, had a diploma from a chartered school of medicine. Dr. Daniel Drake says he was the first medical student of Cincinnati to receive a degree from a medical school. This he received in 1815 from the University of Pennsylvania, but long before this he had attended one course of lectures at Philadelphia, then practiced medicine at Cincinnati eleven years, after which he returned to Philadelphia, completed his medical studies, and received his degree of M.D.
Medical education in those early days consisted almost exclusively in what could be learned in the shop of some practitioner, reading the few books owned by the physician, and afterward serving as an apprentice. Medical works were then not illustrated and the student was expected to commit to memory the names of the muscles without a diagram or plate, and the names of the bones without ever seeing a human skeleton. In the compounding of medicines, however, he could learn both by seeing and doing, and as the old doctor's shop contained many paper parcels, bottles and jars, giving forth mingled odors, the idlest student could not help absorbing some medicine through his olfactories. The physician carried his medicines with him from his own shop and dealt them out in the sick room.
After the establishment of a medical college at Cincinnati in 1825, it became more common for the student to attend at least one course of lectures; sometimes after a few years practice he completed his course. In later years, graduation at a medical college before beginning practice began to be looked upon as a matter of course.
Inferior as were the facilities for medical education, there is reason to believe that there was a fair share of intelligence and medical skill among our early physicians. In his address at the Lebanon centennial Mr.John E. Smith said: "At no time throughout our history have there been lacking members of the medical profession, competent, skillful and learned, to minister the sick. Many of you will recall the gentle, kindly face, and the willing service of the family physician of the days that are long gone."

Heroic Treatment.

The early physicians were of the heroic school and in their practice made frequent use of the lancet and large doses of calomel. They relied on purging, vomiting, bleeding, blistering and salivation. The amount of calomel purchased by a single physician in the first quarter of the last century, as shown by druggists' account books still in existence would strike the modern man of science with amazement.
While preparing the Warren County History in 1881, I had several conversations concerning the history of the medical profession with Dr. John Van Harlingen the oldest physician of the county then living. He had graduated at Rutger's college in 1809 and attended one course of medical lectures in New York. He had practiced his profession in New Jersey five years and this county fifty years. He said to me that if he was to tell the whole truth about the amount of calomel used and the bleeding and purging by himself and the old physicians, the story would not be believed.
Learning that he himself had largely abandoned the heroic treatment before retiring from the practice, I congratulated him on the progress his profession had made. But he did not receive my suggestion kindly. "The science of medicine has not changed," he said. I remarked that I understood that he would not now follow the old treatment. "No," he said, "I would not because of the changed conditions. The diseases have changed. I have not."
At what period the disposition to modify the size of the dose, and to remove its nauseous taste and repulsive appearance, characteristic of modern practice, began to be manifest, I am unable to say. Probably a majority of those who paid the early physicians for their services looked upon mild remedies which were easy to take as of little value.

Old Time Doses.

I deem it fortunate that I am able to give in his own language the treatment in what was then the most common disease in the Miami country adopted by one of these physicians four score years ago. It will be observed that I do not quote from an uneducated man who had commenced the practice of medicine without adequate preparation.
Dr. .John C. Dunlevy was the son of Judge Francis Dunlevy of Lebanon and was, I believe, the first student of medicine in Warren county to receive the degree of M.D. After obtaining a good preliminary education, he attended a course of medical lectures at Lexington, Ky., and afterward was one of the first graduates of the Ohio Medical College at Cincinnati. He practiced medicine at Hamilton, Ohio, but most of his life was passed in Warren county. He died in 1834, aged 38, and was buried in the old Baptist graveyard at Lebanon.
Dr. Dunlevey read a paper before the Second District medical Society of Ohio in November, 1824, and it was published in the June number, 1827, of the first volume of Dr. Drake's Western Medical Journal. The subject of the paper was an epidemic of bilious fever in the town of Hamilton and its vicinity in the summer and autumn of 1824. The author pronounced bilious intermittent fever the most common epidemic of our country and one to which many persons annually fell victims. Of this he wrote:
"The treatment of this epidemic which I found most successful, consisted in vomiting, purging, bleeding, blistering, the use of refrigerants and diaphoretics, and in exciting salivation. All of these means were, of course, not necessary in the treatment of each individual case, though there were some which from their obstinacy or violence, required in co-operation of succession, nearly the whole." Dr. Dunlevey gives what he terms a "vigorous treatment," to which he resorted when he was ready to take his own medicines. After riding twenty miles on a very warm day in July he retired in ordinary health, but awoke with a severe pain in his head and in the morning found himself with a high fever. In the morning he first took a large portion of calcined magnesia; two hours later he took twenty grains of calomel; at noon bled himself, losing about eighteen ounces of blood; in the afternoon the calomel produced vomiting and purging; throughout the whole day indulged in copious draughts of cold water and the cold effusion applied to the head repeatedly; in the evening he took an ounce and a half of salts; in the morning found himself slightly salivated, the pain gone and his pulse nearly at its natural standards. He found it necessary to take one or two doses of neutral salts daily for the ensuing week.
"If this treatment was necessary in a person feeble and emancipated as I was previously to the attack, it is far more so in a person of vigorous habit. Death after salivation is a rare occurrence."

Warren County Physicians in 1830.

The earliest list of all physicians practicing in Warren county is found in the records of the County Com- missioners for the year 1830. In that year, for the first time, the law required the commissioners to estimate the income of all lawyers and physicians residing and practicing in the county in order that a tax on their incomes might be assessed. The following is a list of practicing physicians:
Turtle Creek Township--David Morris, John Ross, John Van Harlingen, Caleb B. Clements, Wilson Thompson.
Franklin Township--John S. Haller, Otho Evans, George McAroy, Benjamin Dubois.
Clear Creek Township--Joseph Stanton, Samuel Marshall, Joseph Hildreth, William H. Anderson.
Deerfield Township--John DeHart.
Hamilton Township--John Cottle, Benjamin Erwin.
Wayne Township--Horace Lathrop, John E. Greer, Joseph Craft.
Salem Township--George Starbuck.
The foregoing list includes practitioners of all schools of medicine. The tax list at this time was 5 mills on each dollar of annual income. The County Commissioners in 1830, estimated the income of each of these physicians at $500, except John Cottle, whose income was placed at $1,000.
In the same year the commissioners made estimates of the income of eight lawyers practicing in the county, six of which were placed at $750, one at $500 and one (Thomas Corwin's) at $1,000.

Dr. Joshua Stevens.

The Lebanon Medical Society, still in existence, was organized October 28, 1837. In its membership were scientific practitioners from different parts of Warren county and from adjoining counties. I conclude this article with a brief sketch of the distinguished physician who was its first president, and I believe the first practitioner in Warren county to receive the honorary degree of M.D.
Dr. Joshua Stevens was born near the village of Winthrop, Me., March 21, 1794. His early pursuits were farming and bricklaying. He had the advantages of a plain common school education, which he greatly improved by diligent self-study. On the 4th of July, 1817, he left Maine and opened a select boarding school at Bristol, near Philadelphia. Here he commenced the study of medicine, and subsequently entered the office of Dr. Joseph Parrish, of Philadelphia. He also attended the lectures of the medical department of the university during the winters of 1818, 19, 20, and, without waiting to graduate, entered upon practice in Philadelphia. He decided to come West, and, in 1821, with two or three friends, floated down the Ohio in a flat bottomed boat bearing letters of introduction to Dr. Daniel Drake of Cincinnati. He intended to locate in that city, but he became engaged in the practice at Monroe, Butler Co., near which village he had relatives residing. In 1830, the Medical College of Ohio conferred upon him the honorary degree of M.D. In 1847 he removed to Lebanon, where he resided until his death.
Dr. Stevens performed a vast amount of professional labor and enjoyed the confidence and esteem of his patrons and professional friends. He was a reader of medical journals and new books, and a frequent contributor to both journals and societies. He took an active part in the old "District" Medical Society, and for years was its president, afterward he was for more than ten years President of the Lebanon Medical Society. He was a member of the Methodist church. About seven years before his death he was thrown from a buggy while making a professional visit. The accident produced concussion of the brain, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. He died at Lebanon May 2, 1871.

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