The First Local Medical Society, ca. 1783

During the decades that preceded the formation of the Dutchess County Medical Society, New York medical history consisted of quite a selection of doctors, apothecarians, merchants, and to be fair to the matrons of this period in American history–herbalists, faith healers and domestic care givers.  This meant that in many cases, it was up to the individual to choose his or her manner of obtaining the care that was needed.   For example, medical help could be obtained the traditional way by means of seeing a physician, or by going to the local apothecary or pharmacist to obtain a diagnosis and recommendation for your cure, or by going to a local merchant selling anything from actual drugs used by physicians to special formularies and cure-alls shipped over from Europe.

One of the most common stories I liked to tell my students about this pertained to the multiculturalism this part of the valley’s history had.  After drawing a map of this part of New York on th blackboard, I would begin marking it with an ‘x’, an arrow and word or two next to each ‘x’  indicating the name and profession of the various “healers.”   I usually marked a spot just on the east side of the river somewhere around the center of Poughkeepsie.  To the immediate south of this spot (Wappingers near Fishkill) we had the revolutionary war physician trained in Christian Alchemy, Mahican and Iroquois herbalism, and 1720-1750 Boerhaavian medicine, Dr. Osborn.  To the east of Poughkeepsie, but still in the city region, there was his partner during the first years of service as  physician, Dr. Isaac Marks the Jewish physician who sometimes like to describe himself as being French, German, English or Dutch.  Then there was Captain Van Kleeck just to the north who due to his German-Luxemburg descent believed in the fresh air of the country and a trek through the hills is what one needed to get over some malaise.  Across the river there were the French Huguenots, the Parmentiers, whose daughter like to practice a laying on of hands and cleansing of the air and curtains near the window to clear your place of whatever was making you sick.  To their south Scotsman Cadwallader Colden with his philosophy concerning climate and disease and the metaphysics of health.  Far to the east near Connecticut, there was a Mahican Christian Indian or Moravian ready to perform their miracle act of eliciting a cure.  Adjacent to these converts there were a numb er of Quaker and Puritan communities developed of Mayflower lineage, including one doctor who called himself a Botanic physician.  Further north near Albany, a French herbalist or Jesuit Nun might offer some concoction made of biblical herbs to make you feel better.  In every remaining direction there were Dutch families, who if familiar with their heritage and the local richness of electricity in the atmosphere,  might suggest to you to try a Leyden’s jar for your next attempt to finding good health.

You certainly had your choice of therapeutic modalities for the time!  Setting these aside, patent or proprietary medicines, and official pharmacopoeia medicines were often a route taken when someone is unsure of theway to go for finding a cure.  At the close of the Revolutionary war in 1783, we find evidence for how patent and official medicines were distributed in Samuel Loudon’s Packet.  These advertisements pertained mostly to downtown New York city businesses, with any connection to Fishkill and other Dutchess County ports  due mostly to local shipping related trade activities.   Eff. Lawrence, a wholesaler and retailer on “no. 277 Queen Street, facing the Fly Market and next door west of the corner of Maiden Lane,” New York City, offered his services as a distributor of medicines needed by doctors elsewhere in the State.  Due to a lack of formal grocery and drug stores in many of the post-colonial regions, merchants and esquires often took on the task of handing out medicines through public auctions rather than simple home or store visits.  The various medicaments circulated in this fashion ranged from the most popular, most expensive and even cheapest of medicines in traditional patent medicine form, to the more expensive imported herbal and mineral medicines, such as Opium, Quinine and Calomel.

It wasn’t until 1787 that a local Dutchess County resident provided the first detailed medicine advertisement in the local paper, Country Journal and Poughkeepsie Advertiser. With this ad, Colonel Hopkins of Amenia offered to the readers a number of regular and patent medicines for sale through his home.  His listing consisted mostly of colonial remedies, but also had one important herb to note.  This new and locally highly valued herbal medicine, inrduced to Colonial physicians by Native Americans, was Carolina Pink (Spigelia).  This was one of the first herbal medicines to become highly popular in the local botanical medicine market following the Revolutionary War, and was one of the first to be in direct competition with the other lines of remedies highly popular for time—the regular physician’s mineral remedies.

Throughout the post-War depression (ca. 1783-1788/9), drugs were often too costly for inhabitants of the rural Hudson Valley to be able to afford much use of.  For this reason, at times the cheaper, local remedies were discovered and made to be available for local marketing and, for lack of a better word, ‘patriotic’ reasons.  One advertisement that was circulated widely through the middle and northern states was that of a distributor of medicines and related products.


This ultimately led to the birth of electric cures in New York, a remedy which you purchased just once and then kept with you through whatever self-treating process you were performing.

In An Historical Address Delivered before the Dutchess County Medical Society . . . with a record of the Medical Profession of Dutchess County from 1740 to 1906, author Guy Carleton Bayley notes two early attempts for physicians to establish a medical society in the Hudson Valley-Dutchess County area.   The first was an advertisement published in the New York Packet and American Advertiser, printed by Samuel Loudon of Fishkill and dated May 22nd, 1783 stating:

“This is to notify the members of the First Medical Society in the thirteen United States of America since their Independence.  That a meeting will be holden at the house of Dr. Phineas Smith in Sharon on the second Tuesday of June next, at 10 o’clock A.M., certified per Oliver Fuller, Clerk.”

No information on the outcomes of this meeting could be uncovered.

Whether or not an actual medical society was formed at this time remains uncertain.  More than likely there was a first meeting with moderate to excellent attendance, but manyphysicians unwilling to take the journey to this place from homesteads located as far as 5 miles away.   This first meeting was probably informative and of boh personal and professional value, but not enough to be repeated one month or even three or six months later.  This outcome of the meeting closely resembles a similar attempt made by Samuel Bard in New York City about 1750.   This idea of initiating a society or professional “Friends” occurred in part as an attempt to reduce or prevent the kinds of  disruptions taking place in the field of medicine due to the lack of any licensure program or qualifying committees established to filter out any bad practitioners in the region.   A review of those already engaged in practice at this time suggests that eliminating physicians from the industry could ultimately jeopardize the health of certain communities.   In the city of New York, this was less a concern than it would be in the hinterlands of those parts of New York between Newburgh and Sharon.   Better roads, more doctors and more reasons for concern had to exist before any such changes in this profession would happen.

Regular medicine had several major theories for disease that were then popular.  One of the most popular theories of disease, used to produce and sell specific medicines, dealt with a precursor to the modern germ theory of disease, the worm theory and it immediate successor, the animalcule theory.  Whereas during the Renaissance period it was easy to convince someone about the unhealthy effects of the intestinal worm upon some unsuspecting body, it was becoming harder to convince people of the same for much smaller, neary invisible organisms.  Yet for these exact reasons, numerous over the counter patent remedies remained in the market place for such uses, like the strong laxatives and purgatives designed into cleanse the system and expel the worm.  Likewise, another popular method of cleaning out the internal system was to take a medicine that caused the puke, vomiting or emesis.  Such a remedy not only cleaned the body of its worms, but also assisted in the elimination of access phlegm in the chest and stomach.  Accompanying these methods of healing were the practices of actual physicians, such as bleeding, cupping, blistering, clapping and prescribing opium.  The most basic of regimens could be obtained from the local physician Stephen Thorne, whose cure-all for all problems was a simple “puke, purge and bleed.”  Or one could go to another local traditional Doctor such as Quaker physician Shadrach Ricketson, who might tell you to change your diet, ride a horse for longer periods on a more frequent basis, and try to avoid the alcohol, tobacco pipe and opium for the time being.

To continue on the above multicultural theme that I often mention, we can dig deeper into these various philosophies in an attempt to better understand the expected viewpoints often then held about diseases, as well as the ins and outs of spiritualism and disease.  One need only to compare the possible faiths and beliefs of a French Huguenot curee with those of a Jewish doctor familiar with Qabalism or the teachings of the then popular mystic Baal Shem Tov to better understand this diversity.     When we think about Saratoga Springs or its precursor Ballston Springs, we image a small town typical of the mid-19th century, inbsted of the moderately sized log-cabin like hotel built  just south of Saratoga known as Sans Souci, operated by retired Dutch Reformed Protestant Reverend Eliphalet Ball.  Aside from the Jewish, Calvanist or Moravian healers, there were  Quakers like the one residing in Dover who promoted the use of a static electric generator of electricity as a means to the cure, and the Wesleyans, whose leader swore by the value of such natural powers born by the globe–namely gravity, heat, light and electricity.

Going back the local newspaper, we find evidence for the development of a fresh water mountain spring in a plce called New Ballston, located on the east shore of the Hudson in the town of Poughkeepsie, and a little closer than the “Ballstown” further north with medicinal waters bearing a sulphury smell.   To the south in Fishkill there was Dr. Thorne who liked to practiced both a “modern” and “Antient” form of medicine for the time.  In Poughkeepsie, pharmacist and Doctor Caleb White offered for sale regular medicines along with the newest form of healing in the form of “medical electricity” for his patients.  Nearby pharmacist and physician, Dr. Van Kleeck, offered his patients both American and European drugs and concoctions in all shapes and forms.

In terms of the Apothecary and his wares locally, one of the earliest examples of this form of medical marketing occurring during the late 1790s was Dr. James L. Van Kleeck, a nephew of the famed physician Cornelius Osborn, opened a drug store in the City of Poughkeepsie.  On June 29, 1796, he placed the following advertisement in the Poughkeepsie Journal for his place:

“Cheap Medicine Store

Dr. James L. Van Kleeck

and Company

 “Have received an universal and genuine assortment of Drugs and Medicine.  It is suited to ancient and modern prescriptions and will be disposed of at New York prices only.”


The materia medica that followed this advertisement included both Yellow (Cinchona calibrya) and Red Peruvian bark (Cinchona succirubra), sources of an effective anti-fever remedy (20 years later Cinchona officinalis or Brown Peruvian bark became the official source). He also carried Digitalis purpurea, an herb that had most recently become better understood in terms of its uses as an acceptable and effective heart remedy.  A number of other highly valued imported plant remedies were included on this list as well such as Sarsaparilla root for use as a tonic, Simarouba bark a bitter, dried Squill bulbs–an effective laxative, and Guaiac resin–an effective expectorant.  Aside from these highly credible botanical medicines, Van Kleeck also offered for sale the following ingredients or chemicals common to medicine and health:  Oat Meal, Sago starch from the Caribbean, Citrin Unguent (Unguent or Paste of Citrin), and Chinese Musk.  He also offered for sale the following mineral remedies:, Hepar Sulphuria (a Potassium Sulphate), Ether Vitriol, and a Copper salt.  The following special remedies or Patent Medicines were mentioned: Hoffman’s anodyne, James Fever Powder, Anderson’s Pills, Hooper’s Pills, Bateman’s drops, British Oil, Godfrey’s Cordial, Stoughton’s elixir, and Steer’s Opodeldoc.  For treating severe infections, cankers, abscessed and other cancer-like maladies, he had to offer two  remedies used since colonial times: Issue-plaisters and peas for issues.  The purpose of the plaster was to be placed over an infected swelling or mass in order to cause the sore or the like to erupt and be cleansed of its pus and such.  The Issue-pea served as an irritating agent meant to keep an open wound open and active in the discharging of its pus, for much the same reason that a plaster was used.

The following physicians lived and practiced medicine in Dutchess County at the time of the commencement of the Legislation for licensure [1797], but are not noted by Bailey as being licensed to practice by the state or local courts of by the medical society:

BARTON, LEWIS. 1724-1813.  Practiced in the Town of Stanford, 1770-1801; died, 1813. Father of Dr. Leonard Barton.

KIPP, ISAAC. 1733-1815.  cp. Rhinebeck, 1760. Born 1733; Rhinebeck, 1760; died January 11th, 1815.

THORN, STEPHEN. 1737-1795.  Died October 16th, 1795. Dr. Thorn’s charge book is still in existence, and shows very clearly the condition of the practice of medicine at that period. He did but three things, a puke, a purge, and a bleed, and the charge for each was two shillings. His medical library consisted of but one book, published at Montpelier in 1660, and a very curious book it is. He built the red brick house at New Hackensack on the farm adjoining the church on the north, now owned by Dr. Bayley, in 1772.

PAIN, BARNABAS. 1738-1822.  cp. Amenia, 1767.   Born Canterbury, Conn., 1738; practiced in Amenia as early as 1767, and died there June 6th, 1822. Bayley: “He was a man of peculiar and decided views.”

KIERSTEAD, HANS. 1743-1811.  cp. Rhinebeck, 1769.  Born Kingston, N. Y., 1743; Rhinebeck, 1769; died September 29th, 1811.

CARY, EBENEZER. 1745-1815.  cp. Beekman, nd.  Born at Providence, R. I., February 22d, 1745. He is said to have been educated at Brown University. He was a taxpayer in Beekman in 1767, and probably settled there about that time; his house, which he built is still standing at Gardner’s Hollow. During the Revolutionary War he served as Adjutant of the Fifth Regiment, Dutchess County Militia, 1775-1779, the regiment garrisoning the forts in the Highland, and taking part in the battle of White Plains. He was a member of Beekman Precinct Committee, 1776-78. In civil life he served as a member of the State Legislature at the fourth and eighth sessions, 1780-1 and 1784-5. He was prominent in his profession and active in the affairs of the community where he lived. He died at Beekman, May 10th, 1815.

OSBORN, JAMES.  1748-1809.  b. 13 August, 1748  (Fishkill, N.Y. (?)), d. 7 September 1809.  Possibly learned medicine as an apprentice or unofficial Surgeon’s Mate, serving under his father Regimental Surgeon Dr. Cornelius Osborn in the Second Regiment.  James’s name first appears in writing in association with father’s death in 1782, when he placed an obituary in “The New York Packet”, a whig paper displaced from New York due to the invasion of the British Army.  Soonafter, he appeared as a witness for a will of Jacobus Ter Boss in 1784.  On 18 March 1786, he signed the probate for handling his father’s estate (nearly four years after his father’s death).  James is probably the “Doctor Osborn” referred to in John Swart’s deed in 1792, although his brothers were also possibly active as doctors.  James is last seen in 1805 records for Isaac Southard of Rombout Precinct.  Lived on his local family fame for one or more generations due to his father’s service in the War as a physician.  As a consequence, a number of family and friends’s children were named after him.

BELDEN, SAMUEL. –.  [1750]-1830.  cp.  Pleasant Valley, 1770.  rmvd NYC, 1815.  Supposed to have settled at Pleasant Valley about 1770. Moved to New York City in 1815, where he died June 4th, 1830, at an advanced age.

ADAMS, ELIJAH. 1754-1837.  cp. ca. 1776.  Born February 15th, 1754; army surgeon during the Revolution; died Pine Plains, April 14th, 1837; buried Vedder Church, Gallatin.

OSBORN, PETER.  1759 – ?   A Peter Osborn served as Surgeon’s mate for “The Levies” during the War,under Colonel Malcolm (NY in the Revolution, v. 1, p. 74).  Whether or not this is the same Peter as Cornelius’s son is uncertain.  What is more certain is the evidence showing that Peter also served as Surgeon’s Mate under Dr. Halsey, during post-War years.  He served one, possibly two 6-year periods of service.  Records remain uncertain concerning a successful completion of this Surgeon’s Mate service.  Emphasis on Thomas Osborn, the son younger than Peter suggests something intervened with his completion and/or ability to continue the practice.

HEATON, ADNA. 1762-1827.  cp. Amenia, 1784.  rmvd. Plattekill, 1800.  Born New Haven, Conn., May 22d, 1762; student of Dr. Perry [John Perry of Pine Plains?]; Amenia, 1784; removed to Plattekill, 1800; died April 24th, 1827. A minister of the Society of Friends and a successful practitioner.

ALLERTON, REUBEN. 1763-1808.  cp. Unk.  cp. Ct., nd.  rmvd Amenia, 1777/6.  Born Canterbury, Conn., December 25th, 1763. He was unusually well educated for those times, and studied medicine with Dr. Fitch, of New Haven, and surgery with Dr. Spaulding, of Norwich. He moved to Amenia, and entering the army as a surgeon he was present at the battle of Saratoga and the surrender of Burgoyne. He was in Col. Hopkins’ Regiment, 1777. Died Amenia, October 13th, 1808.

ROSS, JOHN PHILIP B. 1764-1814.  cp. Red Hook, nd.  Palatinate, born in Germany.  Born Germany, January 28th, 1764; died Red Hook, January 22d, 1814. A Palatine.

OSBORN, THOMAS.  1764-1845/6.  b. 27 July, 1764, d. 13 October, 184(5/6)   (81 years old).  Possibly began learning medicine under his father.  May have been trained in part in medicine by his father Cornelius, but more likely by his older brother James.  Along with his brother James and Dr. Bartow White, Thomas helped his cousin Cornelius Remsen learn medicine ca. 1806.

NEWCOMB, ZACCHEUS. 1767-1831.  cp. Pleasant Valley, nd.  Born July 22d, 1767; Pleasant Valley; died August 30th, 1831.

HUNTING, EDWARD. –.  [1768] ret. 1805.  Was married May 20th, 1790. Dr. Bartow White bought his home and practice at Fishkill in 1805.

SNYDER, PETER. 1772-1826.  d. Slate Quarry, 1826. Born 1772; died Northeast, near the Slate Quarry, 1826. Said to have been a good doctor. He had an apple brandy distillery near his house and he patronized it liberally. He abjured all religion, and that he might not be buried in a churchyard, set apart an acre of ground on his farm for his burial place. There is no evidence of a grave, and the place is desolate.


THORNE, ROBERT. –.  [1775]  d. unk.  cp.  np, 1785?.  Poughkeepsie. In 1795 the first change for treating prisoners at the jail in this county was made by Dr. Thorn. He was prominent socially and professionally.

CUCK, DANIEL. 1777-1829.  cp. nd. Upper Red Hook.  Born August 1st, 1777; Upper Red Hook; died November 1st, 1829.

ALLERTON, CORNELIUS1779-1855.  edu. 1803.  cp. 1803.  Born Amenia, July 23rd, 1779. Son of Dr. Reuben Allerton. He studied medicine at New Haven, beginning practice at Amenia in 1803. He was a successful physician, and esteemed by all for his charity and kindness of heart. He died at Pine Plains, April 26th, 1855.

HURLBERT, P. R. 1781-1855.  cp.  Poughkeepsie, nd.  rmvd Troy, 1855.   Born 1781; Poughkeepsie to 1855; died Troy, N. Y., April 4th, 1855.

TREADWAY, ALFRED. 1781-1826.  edu. Plainfield Academy, cp. Dover, nd. rmvd Harts Village, 1811.  Born Colchester, Conn., September 1st, 1781; educated at Plainfield Academy; studied with Dr. Lathrop, settled, at South Dover till 1810; in 1811 at Hart’s Village, succeeding Dr. Lathrop, and having Dr. Orton as assistant. He was an excellent business man, slender, tall, with a bright, pleasant face, and courteous manners, and interesting in conversation. Died April 26th, 1826.

WILCOX, JEREMIAH. –.  [1784]  Amenia, 1784.

COOPER, JOHN.  1786-1863.  Born in Fishkill, June 6, 1786.  Student of Dr. Bartow White; graduated P. and S. around 1808.  Served as surgeon in the War of 1812.  Returned to Poughkeepsie for remainder of life.  “A contemporary of Dr. John Barnes . . . they were rivals in business” according to Bayley.

BRUSH, NEHEMIAH. 1787-1843.  Born August 20th, 1787; died September 3, 1843; buried at New Hackensack.

QUITMAN, WILLIAM F. 1787-1834.  cp. nd, Stone Church. Born 1787. Stone Church. Died December 4th, 1834.

PHINNEY, STURGIS. 1789-1841.  Drug Store Business.  Born March 26th, 1789; died November I5th, 1841; in the drug business many years in Poughkeepsie.

DENNY, JAMES. 1790. d. nd.   cp. nd, Pine Plains.  Born Clinton about 1790; practiced at Pine Plains.

LANDON, WALTER R. 1790-1855. cp. nd. Rhinebeck? Born 1790; died Rhinebeck June 11th, 1855.

ROOSEVELT, ISAAC. 1790-1863.  edu. 1808, 1812 (MD), 1820, Hyde Park. cp. 1808/9.   Born New York City, April 21st, 1790; graduated A. B., Princeton, 1808; M. D., P. and S., 1812; pupil of Dr. David Hosack, Hyde Park, 1820; died October 23d, 1863. Though well educated in his profession and fond of its literature, its practice was distasteful to him, and being removed from the necessity of practice, he never engaged in it, choosing rural enjoyments and agricultural pursuits. He was of a delicate constitution, with refined tastes, a gentleman of the old school.

TAPPEN, PETER [1790]-1836. Born April 13th, 1790; son of Dr. Peter Tappen; had a school on the north side of Main street between Academy and Hamilton; died July 9th, 1836.

BELDING, SILAS T.  1795-1859. cp. nd, Poughkeepsie, Dover.  Born Town of Washington, January 6th, 1795. Practiced at Poughkeepsie and Dover, where he died, January 2nd, 1859.

RUMSEY, JAMES SYKES.  1800-1872.  Born July 9, 1800.  Educated in France. At Fishkill Landing, 1846-death.  Died November 1, 1872.

The following had little information provided by Bayley, only that which follows.

DE BRONER.  Rombout Patent, 1768.

BULL, MANNING.  Amenia, 1783.

BULL, JOHN L.  Northeast, Prominent before 1820.

CADY.  Rombout Patent, 1759.

CALKINS.  At the Oblong before 1750.

COLEMAN.  Rhinebeck, 1768.

DANIELS.  Southern Precinct, 1767.

DELANO.  Amenia, 1788

FERDINAND.  Rombout, 1765.

HASKINS, ASAHEL.  Amenia, 1804.


LEONARD, ALPHEUS.  Amenia Union about 1806.  Died 1829.

MASTERS.  Amenia, 1794.

MILLER, MATTHIAS B.  Amenia, 1780-1793.

REED.  Northeast, 1825.

SPRAGUE.  Beekman, 1768.

STEWART.  North East, 1814-6.

TOBIAS. Crum Elbow, 1768.

WARNER, JACOB.  Pine Plains, about 1805.

WILCOX, JEREMIAH.  Amenia, 1784.

YOUNG.  Amenia, 1765.

VAN BOMELL, PETER.  Possible Midwifery practitioner, active 1801-8.



Poughkeepsie Journal Evidence

There is ample evidence in the Poughkeepsie Journal pertaining to the practice of medicine, in a sociological and professional sense.  With the passage of a series of Acts by the Governor and state congress, it became necessary for the names of physicians to be recorded by the state along with some evidence for the form of training they received.  Most of these doctors were apprenticed.  A few were trained by a college or hospital-office setting in Europe, with even fewer of these trained in the colonies (including North American, Carribean, etc.), or much later in the United States.

The following are clippings taken from the Poughkeepsie Journal pertaining to this important part of local history.  The Poughkeepsie Journal began its publication in 1794, so of course all clipping posted are from this year forward.  Beginning in 1825 and 1845, other newspapers were established and so some items are pulled from these newspapers as well.

The dates provided are based upon my note-taking regarding dates.  In general, postings and advertisements are published on numerous days.  Many have the date the typographic unit was compiled included in the lower corner of the item being published.  Often an item may be dated for when it was first requested, meaning the date precedes the initial publication by a bout a week.  Some items are dated for publication a year or more prior to the year they are found in the paper and photographed.  This is often because I try to find and use the most legible form of this advertisement or writing piece, rather than only document the first for this site.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to precisely keep track of the page and column in which a particular item can be found.  So for those into tracing my steps, rely upon the advertised date, the date I give for the weekly issue in which the advertisement was found, then go to the actual paper on microfilm and hunt the item down.  In general, page 1 is purely advertising, page 4 is purely land deed or property related information (usually deed/plot descriptions), with a few lingering ads found on the right edge or lower right corner, and pages 2 and 3 are where the bulk of this information is obtained, with page two usually devoted to world news features, but occasionally with nationally important articles on medicine and health, leaving page 3 as the primary source for most of my information.

These items pulled from the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper are presented using the following section headings.

  • Doctors (Cards, ads, moving announcements, apprentice requests)
  • Medical Committee meetings and politics
  • Local medical authors’s writings, commentaries, etc.
  • Medicines (excluding most patent medicines once the ads began to be published; these are reviewed elsewhere)
  • Kine Pox and Inoculation
  • Yellow Fever, Spotted Fever, other epidemic fevers
  • Diseases and Disease Theory
  • Other

Sometimes a few research notes are added to these images.




Disease and Disease Theory




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