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BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICES OF DECEASED PHYSICIANS
E BENEZER ALDEN, M.
To the Editor of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register. DEAR SIR,
In accordance with your suggestion, I propose to send you occasionally for publication, as your limits may permit, brief notices and reminiscences of Physicians, who have lived in Massachusetts.
The plan of your Periodical requires that such notices should be brief; and I shall usually refer your readers to the sources of information, from which my materials have been obtained, so as to facilitate the investigations of those who may wish in any case to make still further inquiries.
Perhaps no class of public men is so little known to the community beyond the limited circle of professional pursuits, as physicians. Their life is one of incessant confinement, anxiety, and toil. A portion of their labors, as large as from one fourth to one third, is gratuitous. To them, if to no others, it is an abiding truth, The poor always ye have with you. It is exceedingly rare even in cities, still more so in the country, to find a physician of honorable standing with his fellows, who has acquired great wealth as the fruit of professional service. Having food and raiment, he must learn therewith to be content. Nevertheless, physicians find abundant sources of enjoyment in the sympathy and kindness of many attached friends; and it is believed, that, according to the measure of their ability, they are not behind the average of their fellow-citizens in works of philanthropy and benevolence. In the war of the Revolution they were fully represented in the senate-house, and on the battle-field; and the names of Prescott, Holton, Thomas, Brooks, and Warren, with many others, will go down to posterity, no less honored as statesmen and patriots, than as 'eminent members of the medical profession.
It is pleasant to recall the virtues of such men; to know where they lived ; who were their associates; how they performed the duties of social life; what obstacles they encountered and what rewards they obtained; and to hold forth their example to the younger members of the profession and especially to those just about to enter it, as a practical illustration of the great truth, that a life perseveringly devoted to the good of others, even under the most discouraging circumstances, will ultimately secure the public confidence, and meet its reward.
1. — DR. ERASTUS SERGEANT, SENIOR, OF STOCKBRIDGE. The following Notice of a distinguished physician and worthy man is copied, with little alteration, from a letter addressed to myself by Dr. Oliver Partridge, in December, 1841, when he was over ninety years of age.
DR. Érastus Sergeant was born at Stockbridge, August 7, 1742, and died November 14, 1914, aged 72.
He was the son of Rev. John Sergeant, the first missionary to the Indians on the Housatonic River, who was born in Newark, N. J., in 1710; graduated at Yale College in 1729; was there a Tutor four years, and, having a great desire to be a missionary to the Aborigines, went to Litchfield, in 1733, where some English people had seuled; procured a guide and went on foot forty miles further through the wilderness, to the Indians, where he met a cordial reception.
He then returned to New Haven, resigned his
Tutorship, and, having made the necessary preparations, went back in 1734, and commenced his mission.
In 1735 Gov. Dudley appointed a meeting of the Indians on business at Deerfield, where the Rev. John Sergeant was ordained as their minister, and he with Mr. Timothy Woodbridge as schoolmaster, (afterwards Hon. Timothy W.,) went to spend their lives with the Indians.
The Rev. Mr. Sergeant married Abigail, the daughter of Col. Ephraim Williams, of Newton, near Boston, one of the chosen six who had farms allotted them across our pleasant hill, to be society for the two missionaries.
Mr. Sergeant died in 1749, in the midst of his usefulness, a most amiable man and greatly lamented. He left three children : Erastus, the subject of this memoir; Electa, who married Col. Mark Hopkins of Great Barrington, and was grandmother to the two broihers, Mark and Albert Hopkins, the former the President and the latter a Professor at Williams College; and John, the fourth missionary to the said Indians, who removed with them in 1789, then being about four hundred and fifty in number, to Oneida County, N. Y., and there died.
Their mother married for her second husband, Gen. Joseph Dwight of Great Barrington, who then had five children, and by her he had two more, from whom our Dwights and Sedgwicks are descended, - and their mother became again a widow.
Notwithstanding the difficulties of the war with the French and Indians of Canada, and the residing on the frontier with the care of his, hers, and their children, by the influence and assistance of their friends, Erastus was prepared for college, and spent two years at Princeton, N. J., before the circumstances of the family required his return.
In 1761 he went to live with his uncle, Dr. Thomas Williams of Deerfield, and was there about three years in the study and practice of medicine. In January, 1765, he commenced the practice of physic in Stockbridge. The towns in the vicinity were then but partially settled, and not supplied with physicians, so that he soon had much business. Several severe cases of comminuted fracture, successfully treated by him, served to extend his fame, and, in a short time his advice was much sought, and in surgical cases he became the principal operator within a circle of thirty miles diam. eter; and his usefulness was continued until Dr. Jones and others succeeded him in business.
He was endowed with sound judgment and skill in his profession; was sedate, kind, very charitable and benevolent, with a large share of the Christian graces, and truly was the “beloved physician.” More than twenty young men studied medicine under his direction.
It was said of him, ihai no one ever spoke ill of him from his youth up. He was an important member and deacon in the Rev. Dr. West's church. He received a Master's degree at Yale College in 1784; was elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1785; was a Justice of the Peace, and a Major in the
South Regiment of the County; and was obliged to keep garrison with the Regiment at Lake Champlain, from December, 1776, to April, 1777, and to perform other services in troublesome times, until Burgoyne's surrender.
Some years before his death he was afflicted with symptoms of pulmonary disease, which were much aggravated by his incessant attention to his daughter, who died of consumption. In September of 1814 he visited the “springs,” in company with Dr. Partridge, without benefit, indeed, to his injury; for it was with difficulty that he returned, on account of his increasing weakness. The day before his death, he had so far recruited ihat he rode to Lee on horseback, visited his son's family, and returned, not complaining of fatigue. The day he died, he was abroad in the morning. Dr. Partridge adds, “ Two friends called on us from New York, and as we sat at dinner, in social conversation, Dr. Sergeant suddenly rose, and a stream of blood issued from his mouth. I instantly sprang to him, and he fell lifeless into my arms, without a gasp.
Thus expired my dear friend, under whose roof I had resided from my twentieth year, then forty three and a half years, and more than forty of them harmoniously visiting each other's patients, as necessary to their satisfaction and our accommodation."
Dr. P. adds, “natus fui, April 15, 1751."
II. - DR. HORATIO JONES OF STOCKBRIDGE.
This able and distinguished physician, the pupil and associate of Dr. Sergeant, (No. I.,) was the son of Capt. Josiah Jones, and · grandson of Mr. Josiah Jones, who, in 1737, emigrated from Weston with Col. Ephraim Williams of Newton, and settled with their families in Stockbridge. This sacrifice they cheerfully made, with the benevolent intention of aiding the mission, then recently commenced among the Housatonic Indians.
DR. Jones was born at Stockbridge, in 1770. In early youth he manifested the same energy and decision of character for which he was so much distinguished in riper years. Having commenced bis collegiate education at Yale College with flattering prospects; and, perhaps, in his ambition to excel, pursuing his studies with an intensity of application disproportionate to his power of endurance, his health became impaired, and he was attacked with a disease in his eyes, which threatened a total loss of sight. In these circumstances, in accordance with the recommendation of his medical advisers, he for a time entirely relinquished his literary pursuits.
Instead of yielding to hopeless despondency, however, he determined to pursue an active life ; and substituting a knapsack for his classics, he went with a company of surveyors to ihe Genesee country, New York, to assist in laying out lands. He was thus exposed to all the hardships incident to that mode of life, camping out in the wilderness, living upon the coarsest fare, and not unfrequently making a hollow log his lodging place for the night.
In due time he recovered his health and sight, and once more resumed his studies, but not at college. Placing himself under the instruction of Dr. Sergeant in his native town, he completed the usual term of medical pupilage. At a subsequent period he attended a course of medical lectures at Philadelphia.
He first commenced the practice of his profession at Pittsfield, where he was much respected. But at length finding, as he expressed it, that there were more physicians than business in that place, he determined 10 remove. His decision being known to Dr. Sergeant, then advancing in life, who was desirous of finding some suitable person to take his place as an operating surgeon, he with his friend Dr. Partridge earnestly solicited Dr. Jones to settle in Stockbridge. With this invitation he eventually complied, and while he lived, the medical intercourse of the three physicians was most harmonious.
Under these auspices he was soon introduced into a wide circle of business, not only in Stockbridge, but in all the neighboring towns. His reputation was not ephemeral, but constantly increased, as he advanced in life; and his advice was much sought and highly appreciated by his medical brethren. In 1804 he was elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, and in 1810 received from Williams College the honorary degree of M. A.
Such was Dr. Jones, -a man possessed of rare endowments, and eminent in his profession. In the language of Dr. Partridge, from whom most of the facts relating to him have been obtained, "he was a good operator in surgery, active, pleasant, social, very popular, and indefatigable by night and by day to give relief in cases of distress and danger."
In the winter of 1812–13, an alarming and fatal epidemic prevailed extensively in New England. During its prevalence, Dr. Jones was incessantly occupied in attendance upon the sick. At length the fears of his friends respecting him were realized. He was suddenly prostrated, and, after an illness of only eight days, he died, April 26, 1813, aged 43 years. His funeral was attended by a great concourse of persons
from Stockbridge and the adjoining towns. The Rev. Dr. Hyde of Lee, who preached his funeral sermon, from Job xix : 21, speaks of his death as a public calamity. “Rarely,” says he, “has the town, or even the county, experienced a greater shock in the death of a citizen. His removal in the midst of his usefulness is an unspeakable loss to the community."
His death is represented to have been eminently peaceful. Although he had not made a public profession of his faith, he experienced a great change in his religious feelings during the winter preceding his death. He gave to those who best knew him, salisfactory evidence of piety.
In his intercourse with his medical brethren, he was courteous and unassuming. All the duties of domestic and social life he discharged with fidelity and acceptance. His mind was well bal.
anced and highly cultivated. He sympathized in the most unaffected manner with the sick who sought his aid, and by his kindness and gentleness alleviated the sufferings and won the affections of his patients, even in those cases where medical and surgical skill could afford only a temporary and partial relief.
Extracts from the sermon of Dr. Hyde were published in the tenth volume of the Panoplist; also, an interesting notice of his death and character, by Rev. Jared Curtis, in the Farmer's Herald. See also a memoir recently prepared and published by Dr. S. S. Williams, in his Medical Biography, a work which cannot fail to interest the medical reader, and is an able sequel to the volumes of the late Dr. Thatcher on the same subject.
Dr. Mackie was the son of Dr. John Mackie, who came from Scotland, and settled at Southampton, L. I. He was born at Southampton in 1742; studied medicine with his father, and settled as a physician at Wareham, Ms., where, for many years, he had an extensive practice in medicine and surgery. He also had the reputation of having been unusually successful in the treatment of the smallpox.
He was a devoted and active Christian, a member of the church, and for many years he sustained the office of a deacon.
He had ten children, of whom four sons and three daughters lived to adult age. Three of his sons studied medicine. 1. John, who graduated at Brown University in 1800, received the degree of M. D., and settled at Providence, R. I., where he died, in February, 1833, at the age of 52 years. He was eminent as a surgeon. 2. Peter, a Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, now a physician at Wareham. 3. Andrew, from whom the above-named facts were obtained, born in 1799, graduated at Brown University, 1814, and received the degree of M. D., 1817. He first settled at Plymouth, but is now a physician of good reputation in New Bedford, and is a Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Dr. Mackie, the particular subject of this notice, died at Wareham, of a pulmonary disease, April, 1817, aged 75.
JOHN LEVERETT, WILLIAM BRATTLE AND JAMES
These three distinguished scholars of New England were all born in Boston, educated at the same school, admitted into Harvard College the same year, took their degrees at the same time, (1680, all settled in Cambridge, one an attorney at law, one a clergyman, and the other a physician, and all eminent in their professions. The first two were Fellows of the Royal Society in England.