This is my first attempt to pull together some work I began back around 1982. At several other sites in this blog I make mention of the sources for this work. One such source requires re-mentioning.
When I first began the research project on Dr. Cornelius Osborn, the Librarian in charge of the local history room was curious about what I was researching and why, and after answering this question recommended I check out a collection of personal handwritten notes produced by Helen Wilkinson Reynolds. I had already heard of Ms. Reynolds due to a number of books published on the local patents, and several of her articles I read on local history published by the Historical Society.
Ms. HW Reynolds’ collection of research notes were brought to me and as I went through the various brief notes and such I saw a collection of information in need of further review. What stood out amongst these documents were her notes on the different types of medical practices being engaged in in Poughkeepsie during the very early 1800s, based on her reviews of the advertisements hat were published in the local newspapers. Ms. Reynolds also noticed that there was a tendency for the local population of Poughkeepsie to increase and then decrease several times during the pre-Civil War era. Like Ms. Reynolds, when I saw this trend pattern that she laid based on census data numbers, I wondered what was causing the populations to move in and out of the Poughkeepsie region in this way.
The specific answer to this question did not become clear to until about 12 years later–yellow fever. Still, yellow fever alone did not tell me why Poughkeepsie was the chosen place to take refuge from this New York city propagated epidemic. There had to be some reason everyone moved to Poughkeepsie, rather than take refuge in other towns and cities down the Hudson River, such as the Revolutionary War refuge Fishkill, or the city of Kingston just a few miles north along the west banks of the river.
It ended up that Poughkeepsie had much more to offer to its people than just a healthy living space. Numerous topographical and climatic reasons were cited for its healthy status of given areas based on the contemporary medical philosophy for the time (this is covered in exquisite details in numerous places elsewhere on this site). During the course of reviewing all of these unique aspects of the Valley, it became clear to me that culture and religion were the most important defining features of the valley’s beliefs with regard to health, disease and medicine. Culture and religion were the two main features driving people out of New York, fleeing the plague in accordance to their personal beliefs.
Well, these personal beliefs are not only philosophical, but also religiously based. Even the atheists and agnostics had some sort of philosophy that they lived by. For those not at all interested in religious practices, natural philosophy settled their concerns regarding creation and existence. Nature may have not been due to God’s work alone, if at all they thought, the Nature of the Valley and its people were normal consequences of all of the events taking place at the time, a product not only of existence but also of personal beahviors. In other word, God was not punishing the urbanites, Nature was. The possible existence of this natural philosophical belief was brought home to me by myreview of Noah Webster’s writing on his theory for the causes of these recurring epidemics. Noah Webster old his readers that some geographically defineable palce was he palce to take refuge, the dscription of which Livingston published in the newspaper as yellow fever made its way backto New York city.
Aside from this incredibly revealing belief system, religiophiles had their own natural theology based reasoning that pretty much matched the philosophy of a questionably sane agnostic or highly condemned atheist. Theologicns though the yellow fever was God’s messageto us, symbolized by not only its frequent return to the largest urban areas along the east coast, but also its 3-year cyclicity–a sign of trinity. Yes, God’s message was quite apparent to all of them, and argued as proffthat such claims had to be true (all of this story too is detailed elsewhere).
So, Helen Wilkinson Reynolds was absolutely correctin her notes. There was a reason people migrated so often and in such large numbers to Poughkeepsie. But wait a minute, this still does not completely answer the questions ‘why Poughkeepsie?’ ‘Why not Fishkill, also on the safe side of the river, or Wappingers, or some other Eastern shore docking place?’
Poughkeepsie was chosen in part due to the space it had to offer new and perhaps permanent settlers, plus it has some natural resources attractive to urban-dwelling health conscious people. There were the local fresh water springs, the nearby woodlands, ample places to have you own horse stabled for your weekly trots through the woods. But, once again according to those ver much in turn with the religious philosophy, Poughkeepsie was a town with a name purely trinity-like in form and natue–3 syllables, 12 letters, 9 different letters. If the trip to Poughkeepsie by Steamboat was planned for a length of 3, 6, or 9 hours, then the religiously based symbolism of moving to Poughkeepsie was fully and completely adhered to–just in case there was in fact a Creator. And so Poughkeepsie grew and became the secured haven from illness and unrest that Livingston claimed it to be.
Fortunately, throughout my years of this work, I have been able to include my findings in the courses that I taught from 1989 to 2003 at a state university in the northwest. That along with similar studies of these medical sects as a part of midwest and west coast history enabled me to pull an entire story together about the birth of medicine and its various healing faiths in the Hudson Valley. The importance of the river as an important economic trade route heading inland one of the largest cities in the United States for that time, is what I often like to state as the primary reason for these local advancements–not that I always believe it was just due to this. But these discoveries told me that Poughkeepsie, Hudson, Troy and other upstate towns and cities were important satellites in the development of a well-distributed trade route connected to New York city. It was tis trade route that brought all forms of medical thinking from the east coast proper westward into the hinterlands, to place situated well west of any shoreline communities. So why was this not so much the case for Philadelphia? It was the multicultural and in particular Dutch history of the Hudson Valley that made this possible for the Hudson Valley and no other part of the United States for years to come.
Again, all of this discovery I attribute to Helen Wilkinson Reynolds, and of course a little bit of fate.
Dutchess County Physicians prior to the passage of the First State Act.
The following biographies describe physicians from Dutchess County who were active during the above periods in regular colonial and early post-colonial medicine. Most of this information is derived from Guy Carleton Bayley’s An Historical Address Delivered Before the Dutchess County Medical Society . . . January 10th, 1906, the information of which was reconstructed in my essay to produce a list that provided this information in more appropriate and useful temporal form.
Further information on each physician’s biography has been provided whenever this information is available. Bayley himself has hand-written notes that were added at the end of the copy of the book used to produce this listing, and so these were added as well, changing the names of some of the first physicians for the various listings that could be produced from his notes. Several physicians, uncovered during the past two decades of my own reviews on this topic, have also been added. It is important to note, that physicians excluded from these listings are those who were not considered by Bayley to be regular physicians practicing within the Dutchess County area (however, plans are to add these as they are uncovered during this research).
It is important to note here that the following names represent physicians who for the most part were not practicing when the first law was passed pertaining specifically to County Justice and/or Medical Society derived licensure to practice medicine. Physicians who began and ended their practice without. All names are listed chronically by birthdate.
The Post-War Period, 1783-1796 (Guy Carleton Bailey, 1906)
Between 1783 and 1796, the year before the first State Law was passed requiring all physicians be certified and licensed, the following physicians were noted to be active in the county. This information was pulled from Guy Carleton Bailey’s An Historical Address Delivered Before the Dutchess County Medical Society . . . January 10th, 1906, slightly edited, and in a few cases added to due to my own observations:
COOKE, JAMES T. 1687-1758. Verbank. Died July 23, 1758. Noted in handwriting as addition to listings published in original publication; information was not found on personal or professional life.
DE LA VERGNE, NICHOLAS. 1703-1783. b. 1703, France. d. 1783. Arrived in Colonies in 1720 as Ship Surgeon or Surgeon’s Mate for a French Man-of -War. Moved to Oblong patent, near Town of Washington; allowed one Pound, one Shilling for “pasturing 12 horses and serving the assessors.” Served as Justice of the Peace and Probate Judge. Referred to in some the older writings as “the French Doctor”. Father of Dr. Benjamin De La Vergne.
GYSELBRIGHT, GODFRIED. (??) Travelled between New York and Rhinebeck, ca 1742 or earlier to 1755. Resided in his later years in New York City, with first year of this noted in writing as 1760.
MOORE, WILLIAM. 1705-1752. b. Feb. 12, 1705, Antrim, Ireland. d. November 25, 1752, “killed in the woods” during a professional visit. Married in Stonington, Connecticut, June 4, 1729, noted in Union Vale records in 1746. Wife Mary Palmer joined Society of Friends earlier, leading to this move. Dr. Moore also joined and later became a preacher. [Historian, p. 17]
MARKS, ISAAC ca. 1708-ca. 1780. Jewish physician, possibly of Sephardic or Asheknazi descent. Affiliated with Rhode Island Sephardic physician Abrahams Isaac Abraham, in terms of community service as Rabbi and for the performance of bris. Appears on a taxlist for the Fishkill area ca. 1743-8. First mention of physician’s care appears as a court order for reimbursement for his services to the Poor. [Court of General Sessions, 1745, October 16, “to Doctor Marks 12/.”: “payment ordered for care of the poor’, for one in Rombout Precinct]. In a Land deed dated April 10, 1747, Rombout Precinct, [vol. 9, p. 81], his nearby house is described as “the Jew Doctor’s house.” In future years he briefly partnered with Dr. Cors. Osborn, who according to Reynolds was residing in Poughkeepsie at the time (HWR writes: “Dr. Cornelius Osborn was of Poughkeepsie in 1756 and perhaps Dr. Marks had removed there from Rombout.”). We know that the two were working together in October 1756, when the court ordered payment “to Marks and Osborn for attendance and drugs” in the treatment John Lane, foot soldier. Reynolds’ notes support the suggestion of a possible land exchange, barter or through full and fair records, or rent followed between Marks and Cors. Osborn. If this is the same Dr. Marks as mentioned by Rabbi Abraham, he apparently had some problems with the local sheriffs on several occasions, in Westchester or Dutchess County (see Abraham’s letter). In a miscellaneous document cited by prominent local historian (name?), Marks was sympathetic to negros; on one occasion (Ancient Document #3584), Marks was referred to as a “French Doctor” in a legal note pertaining to charges of “treason” and “conspiracy” [“treasonable discourse tending to a conspiracy”]. The constable arresting them noted their stay at the “French Doctor”’s house where they were provided “cyder” by the mother-in-law, perhaps ca. 1755-60. Married, and during the later years resided in and possibly died in or near Poughkeepsie, about 1780; the location of the house was “on the King’s Highway, now Market Street, near the site of Adriance Memorial Library.” Trained in traditional Jewish Medicine (Talmud, Moses, Maimonides, etc.) along with one or more cultural forms of Dutch and/or English based European medicine. For more see Helen Wilkinson Reynolds (“Physicians and Medicine in Dutchess County in the Eighteenth Century”, YDCHS, 1941. p. 79). A lengthier biography is in preparation on this historically important physician.
BARD, JOHN. 1716-1799. Born Burlington, N. J., February 20th, 1716; died Hyde Park, N. Y., April 1st, 1799; buried St. James’ Churchyard. Probably most active in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as a scientists and physician, with most evidence demonstrating the majority of his activities occurring in Philadelphia, with a focus on botanical medicine and the production of the Botanical Garden. He removed to Hyde Park at the dawn of the War with his son Samuel, where John Bard retired and initiated a new botanical garden while his son Samuel continued to practice and serve as a doctor for the remainder of the war, assisting in the reopening of the medical school in NY City soon after the end of the War.
OSBORN, CORNELIUS. 1722-1782. Born Haverstraw area. James Smith, Lossing and most subsequent historians cite “1723, England”, as birthplace probably based on Family member interviews. Dutch Reformed Church Records provide evidence for Cornelius with English Father James [Haslam/Hasbun] Osborn and Dutch Mother. Served in the Second Dutchess County regiment and as Regimental Surgeon 1776 to 1782. No Surgeon’s mate identified in military records, but possibly informally served by oldest son James Osborn. Member of Committee of Safety during the Revolution, serving as physician and place of stay for special prisoners (physicians, colonels, etc.) in need of medical services. Provided services for ordering and obtaining supplies for the Fishkill Encampment and hospital; placed order(s) for medicines and medical equipment. Home served as meeting place for some Committee of Safety Meetings. Home served as abode for Spy Enoch Crosby. Maintained brewery and distillery for the production of medicines; evidence for the use of this equipment during the war is not found.
VAN WYCK, THEODORUS. 1730-1797. cp. Fishkill, 1752. Born in Johnsville (now Wicopee) in 1730, he may have commenced practice about 1752. Delegate to Second Provincial Congress in New York, 1775; elected to Third Provincial Congress in Fishkill in 1776. Member of Committee of Safety during the Revolution. Served in Second Dutchess County regiment, and later in the Sixth regiment. According to Bailey is “certainly the earliest doctor in Fishkill. . . practiced medicine actively, and had a fine temper of his own.” Buried in Rombout Cemetery.
PAIN, ICHABOD SPARROW. 1736-1774. Born Canterbury, Connecticut, September 11, 1736. Crum Elbow, 1759. Dies at or near Amenia, before 1774.
BARD, SAMUEL. 1742-1821. b. April 1, 1742, Philadelphia. d. May 24, 1821. Family removed to NY in 1746. Attended preparatory school followed by King’s College. At 19 yo sailed to England, by taken prisoner by French and stayed in French jail 5 months. In England, apprenticed by Dr. Russell of London, followed by Edinburgh schooling beg. 1762, incl. botany training for which he received a medal; graduated with MD 1765. 1770 returned to NY City. Began career as professor and physician; assisted in building of NY Hospital [ ]- 1791. One of the most important members of the medical profession in the Revolutionary War, serving as primary physician in charge of approving local physicians for the Regimental Surgeon position. Removed to Father’s home in Hyde Park during the War; 1805 initiated partnership with Dr. Hossick [sic?]; retired later that same year in Hyde Park. 1813-Pres. College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY City. Soon after concurred LLD degree from Princeton.
COOPER, ANANIAS. –. -1797. cp. Rhinebeck, 1766/9. The doctors Cooper were all descendants of John Cooper, of Olney, Buckinghamshire, England, who came to America in the ship Hopewell, in 1635, and settled at Lyme, Mass. We first find Dr. Ananias at Bridge Hampton, L. I., in 1766. In 1767 he lived in the Cooper house, on the west side of the Post Road, one mile above Rhinebeck. In 1769, he charged the county ten shillings for doctoring a soldier, the first charge made by a doctor against the county for professional work done. This soldier must have been in the French and Indian War. He was a member of Assembly, 1779-86. He died April 4th, 1797.
TAPPEN, PETER. 1748-1792. cp. Poughkeepsie, 1772. Born July 3d, 1748; Poughkeepsie, 1772; living on north side of Main street between Catharine and Crannell. Very active during the Revolutionary War; one of the committee on correspondence; a First Lieutenant of D. Co., Dutchess Co. Mil., 1775; died September 3d, 1792.
GAINS, JOSEPH. Referred to himself as a“Man Midwife at Poughkeepsie.” A 1755 book at Vassar Library owned by Joseph Gains, mentions this next to the ownership signature in the book. Title of book: Arostittis Compleat and Experienced Midwife, London, nd, 10ed.
COOPER, ANANIAS. [ ]-1797. Descendent of John Cooper of Olney, Buckinghampshore, England. Came to American on the Hopewell in 1635, settling in Lynn, Massachusetts. First located in Bridge Hampton, Long Island, 1755; by 1757, removed to Cooper House, west side of Post Road one mile north of Rhinebeck. Charged Dutchess County 10 shillings to doctor a soldier. Possibly involved in French and Indian War. Served as member of Assembly 1779-1780. Died April 4, 1797.
COOPER, JEREMIAH. 1725?-?. [1759.] d. nd. cp. Fishkill, nd. Fishkill, 1759. A brother of Ananias Cooper, and probably the father of Dr. John Cooper.
COOK, SAMUEL. –. [Practiced at least from 1767 – 1769] Poughkeepsie, 1767. Helen Wilkinson Reynolds noted this physician as appearing on the 1768 and 1769 Board of Sueprvisors and Court of General Sessions records, in which payment is ordered to Dr. Samuel Cooke for “care for the poor.” Bayley’s note: “COOKE, SAMUEL. 1768”
SACKETT, JAMES. –. (UNK.) d. 1791. On November 24th, 1791, advertisement of claims against the estate of, late of Frederickstown, Dutchess County.
LEWIS, JONATHAN. “The Tory”. Pine Plains physician prior to the revolution. Moved to Nova Scotia until the war ended. Returned, but did not receive much social support; hung himself in the attic of his house—the Dibble-Booth House—in 1783.
A number of other physicians or “Doctors” not reviewed by Bayley are noted in legal records by Helen Wilkinson Reynolds (HWR). This review appeared in an article entitled “Physicians and Medicine in Dutchess County in the Eighteenth Century” (Vol. 26, 1941, pp. 78-87), published as part of the Yearbook of the Dutchess County Medical Society. Reynolds provides several more physicians to consider when reviewing the influence of doctors in Dutchess County medical history. These doctors include:
VAN BUREN, PIETER. Earliest date 1735. Born ca. 1712/3; baptized 1713, New York. Noted in Filin’s Commonplace Books for treating the Filkin family; first “dakter” in region. Possibly the son of Dr. Johannes Van Buren of New York City around 1700, who was educated at University of Leyden. Moved to Poughkeepsie around 1735/6, resided there and on the tax records from 1736-1739; removed to Claverack around 1740.
VAN BUERRE [Van Buren?]. 1738? Noted in Rhinebeck tax lists and Filkin’s Commonplace Book, treatment noted in 1738.
SACKETT, JOHN. Actively practicing at least 1741-1749. “Cherurgeon” of Dover. Who purchased land in Upper Nine Partners’ Patent (Deeds, Liber A, p. 372, 1741 March 6) and sold land in Crom (Crum) Elbow Precinct in which he was noted also as “Chirurgeon” (Deeds, Liber 2, p. 166, May 4, 1749).
HOESPELL, HENDRICK.  A ‘German Doctor’ (HWR) is noted in Charles Clinton’s field-book in survey notes on lands located in the Northern part of Nine Partner’s Patent (HWR notes: see Hunting, History of Little Nine Partners, pp. 26,29) He is noted on May 9, 1743. Note: according to HWR, Bayley lists a Dr. Hendrick Hoespells of Oblong Patent in 1793, who may have been a descendent or other close relative.
POTTS, PICKETT. (? – 1747). Beekman 1743/4 February 7, to 1747, June 2, tax lists for Beekman Precinct; listed with Dr. Osborn as Field Surgeon. Old Gravestones of Dutchess County (p. II) identifies his gravestone as stating Pigott Potts, aged 30 years, 1747. In 1937, a local historian Benjamin Haviland made a note about his origins as Philadelphia, where he was referred to as Dr. Pickett Potts.
“THE FRENCH DOCTOR” 1748. See note on Isaac Marks above–possibly the same?
ADAMS, JOHN. 1754. Oblong, Crom (Crum) Elbow Precinct. Deed (Liber 5, p. 224) registered for the selling of land. Probably the same as Bayley’s John Adams of Amenia Precinct, 1765.
PAIN, SPARROW. 1759. Father or brother of Ichabod Sparrow Pain?
OUTWATER, DR. Noted on the 1760-1762 Rombout Precinct tax lists, in which he is referred to as “the Doct. At Outwater’s” “Dr. Outwaters” is on the list of Revolutionary War physicians with Dr. Osborn.
TOBIAS, CHRISTIAN. (1757-1773). On Crom (Crum) Elbow Precinct tax lists 1757-1760, Charlotte Precinct tax lists 1763-1773. Cited by Bayley as “Tobias, Crum Elbow, 1758”. First name is confirmed by The Crum Elbow Precinct Record, pp. 89, 112.
SPRAGUE, DR. Active at least from 1763-1768. HWR notes Feb, 1763, Board of Sueprvisors, ordered a bill paid to Dr. Sprague for his “care of the poor.” Cited by Bayley as “Sprague, 1768, Beekman”.
FURMAN, WILLIAM. At least 1765-1799. Rombout. On April 1, 1765, “Doctor William Forman” purchased land in Poughkeepsie, at “southwest angle, Main Street and Raymond Avenue” according to HWR (see Deeds, Liber 5, 117). In 1770, the same piece of land was mortgaged (Deeds, Liber 3, p. 62). Related by HWR to Dr. William Furman of Rombout Precinct, taxed in 1799.
MILLER, DR. 1772. Charlotte Precinct. Noted by HWR to be on the Charlotte Precinct tax lists from 1772-1775.
LEWIS, JONATHAN. 1774. Crum Elbow Precinct.
DEBRONER, FERDINAND. At least 1765-1768. Found on Tax lists of Rombout Precinct.
LEE, JOHN. Noted by HWR as “Doctor John Lee,” who stated he appeared on the tax record for Clinton Precinct in 1779.
HINCKSMAN, DR. Noted by HWR as appearing on the assessment-list for Clinton Precinct, 1786. HWR adds: “This list is in manuscript form and is in possession of the President of the United States.”
HIPOLETE, VINCENT. Fishkill. Cited only by Historian, p. 19.
Informal or Poorly Documented “Doctors”
A number of individuals noted in Bayley’s list and reviewed by Reynolds have also been traditionally listed as Doctors in the medical sense; the term “Dr.” is of course also used for religious leaders or individuals who earned a Doctoral degree in theology and the like, and in fact was slightly more commonly referred to in many common writings than the use of the same precedent for medical doctors.
The most famous local examples of such, cited as ‘physicians’ by Bayley, are the Moravian missionary leaders who resided briefly in the Dutchess County as part of a Christianization program involving local Mohecan families, most of which resided along Wappingers Creek and its branches, as far north and east as the Pine Plains precinct, and perhaps as far south as the Crum Elbow precinct leading over to the Hudson River.
Unless these “Doctors” are found referred to in some sort of medical history note, from which more background information can be provided, they are placed on this list. It was not unusual for missionary leaders to consider themselves “healers” and to practice medicine, including physical medicine at times (administration of herbs, some mienrals), but especially blood-letting.
The following are “Doctors” for whom the exact schooling, training and practice remain uncertain:
DUCOLOH, DR. Active 1746. An April 14th, 1746 note in Francis Filkin’s Commonplace Book notes the following in his entry “signing over one bond of doctor ducoloh.”
STONESBURY, DR. 1760. 1760 tax list for Crum Elbow Precinct; noted as “Doctr Stonesbury.”
YOUNG, DR. Active at least from 1760 -1765. 1760 tax list for Crum Elbow Precinct; noted as Doctr Young. Amenia Precinct taxlist for 1765 mentions “Doctor Young’s farm.” Cited by Bayley as “Young, Amenia, 1765.”
NEWBURGER, DR. 1762. Rombout Precinct tax list.
Other Caretakers and Caregivers
The scarcity of physicians led to other “Doctors” and care-givers performing this task at time during the earliest years of County history. Reynolds notes the following such examples:
ROCKWELL, NOAH. 1743, October 20. The Court of General Sessions ordered the following payment: “to Noah Rockwell for Doctoring a sick man at Justice Calkins. Two pounds, five shillings in full.”
TOBIAS, CAPTAIN CHRISTIAN. 1774. Crum Elbow Precinct.
Colonial Legal Documents for Physicians
A few legal documents and such have occasionally appeared in my years of working on this project. If the names of the caregivers provided do not relate to any of the above, these will appear in the following section.
“George the Third, by the grace of God and Great Brittain, France and Ireland, King, Defender of the faiths, to our Sheriff of our County of Dutchess:
Whereas Abiathes Millerd, lately in our Superior Court of Common Pleas before our Judges thereof, impleaded Anthony Tonkite in custody of Sheriff of Dutchess County; whereas the said Anthony on the first day of January, 1767 – – – – – was indebted to the said Abiathes in the sum of ten Pounds current money of New York, as well as for divers medicines, medicaments, pills, plaisters and ointments for him, the said Anthony and his family at the special instance and request of him, the said Anthony for the relief of said Anthony and his family as a physician and surgeon in divers sicknesses, fevers, maladies, wounds and diseases under which the said Anthony and his family for a long time before had labored and languished.
– – – – – The said Anthony hath altogether refused and doth still deny and refuse to the damage of said Abiathes – – – – – by occasion of the premisis (sic) ought to recover – – – – –
Therefore we command you that by oaths of twelve good and lawful men of your bailwick, you diligently enquire wwhat damages the same Abianthes sustained.”
Notes: This legal action took place in the home of Clear Everitt, on October 6, 1767, with James Livingston, Esq. presiding as High Sheriff. Abiathes was awarded 6 Pounds 12 shillings for his services and for the need to engage in this inquisition. [Document #5439]