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Alonzo William Cantwell, M. D.


Posted By: Annette Lucas (email)
Date: 7/14/2021 at 21:36:31

SOURCE: Biographical History and Portrait Gallery of Scott County, Iowa. American Biographical Publishing Company, H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co. Proprietors. 1895


DR. CANTWELL is not one of the pioneers of Davenport, but he is perhaps one of the most prominent physicians in the eastern part of the State of Iowa. He is one of the recognized leaders of the profession in Scott County, and has had a career equaled by that of few physicians, in so far as success in large measure is concerned . Born April 25, 1841, in Mansfield , Ohio, a son of well- to- do parents, and having the advantages of a good education when a boy, he drifted about for several years until finally in 1867 he settled down to the study of the profession in which he has become so prominent.

His parents were James Cantwell, a veteran of the Mexican and Civil Wars, and Sarah ( Ferguson ) Cantwell, a daughter of well- to- do Ohio people. James Cantwell was a contractor and farmer as well. He also owned several mills in the neighborhood of Mansfield, and was a very prosperous citizen . He enlisted as a first lieutenant and went through the ups and downs of the Mexican War with great credit to himself. When the Civil War broke out he recruited a company and went out as Lieutenant Colonel of the Fourth Ohio Infantry. Six months later he recruited the Eighty- second Ohio Infantry, and was colonel of the regiment until he was killed at the second battle of Bull Run, August 29, 1862. Had he lived through that fatal day he would have been Brigadier -General.

In James Cantwell's family there were eight children, of whom Jennie, Josephine, Mary and John are dead . Those living are Mrs. Henry Wallace of Des Moines, whose husband is editor of the Iowa IIomestead ;" Mrs. Hattie C. James, a widow residing in Spokane Falls, Washington ; Thomas Janes, a hardware merchant of Kenton, Ohio, and Dr. Cantwell of Davenport.

In 1858 Dr. Cant well graduated from the high school in Mansfield . He ventured into business in Hardin County by starting a grocery store in 1859, in the neighborhood of a sawmill and flouring -mill owned by his father. This business was not very tasteful to him and he was glad enough to get out of it when in the spring of 1860 the family moved from Mansfield to Kenton . The doctor's father owned farms and blooded stock as well as mills, and the doctor assisted his father very materially in looking after his varied interests. In 1861 his father traded lands for a hotel in Kenton. This hotel was remodeled and was about ready to be opened when Mr. Cantwell went into the army. Dr. Cantwell was the manager of the hotel during his father's absence. He sought for the excitement and glories of the war, however, and a year after his father had left home, in 1862, the young man gave up the management of the hotel in spite of his father's opposition and appeared before Governor David Todd in quest of a commission . The governor gave him a commission, ordered him to report at Columbus, and the would -be warrior was happy. It was stipulated that he was to report with twenty-five men, but upon the day appointed for him to be in Columbus with his followers, his father was killed.

This was a terrible shock to him , and a quietus was put on his patriotic impulses, because the death of his father made it necessary for some one to settle up the estate, and the most likely person was the young man himself. He was compelled, however, to proceed into the army, but Governor Todd assisted him as much as possible in securing the acceptance of his resignation . This event took place about three months after his father's death.

The next three years of Dr. Cantwell's life were devoted to the settling of his father's estate. In the spring of 1865 he left Ohio and went to Chillicothe, Missouri, to go into the hardware business. This he gave up soon afterward and went to Kansas City. He was with an uncle, Jared McIrwin by name, but the two remained together a short time only, and the doctor was in Kansas City but a few weeks. From there he went to St. Louis and took a position as traveling salesman for a wholesale hardware concern . In this business he continued for a year, during part of 1865 and 1866, when he left it to go south to McMinnville, Tennessee, where he bad a cousin, R. B. Davis, and with whom he went into partnership in the hardware and household furnishing business. He remained here about six months and then sold out his business to his partner preparatory to a trip home on account of his mother's serious illness . He got home during the summer of 1866.

During the winter of 1866-67 he was working about the farms on the estate and at odd moments turning his attention toward the study of medicine. During the latter part of that winter he went into the office of Austin D. Kibbee, M. D. , in Roundhead, Hardin County, Ohio, where he studied medicine with all the determination and perseverance he could muster, which was a great deal. During the two years he studied with Dr. Kibbee he attended the lectures at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and graduated in March, 1869, from that institution .

Dr. Cantwell arrived in Davenport during that spring and entered the office of Dr. A. S. Maxwell, who was an old friend of his father's. In this office he remained for three and one-half years.

He was married in the spring of 1872, on the twenty - fifth of April, to Miss Mattie Dalzell , of Davenport, a daughter of John Dalzell, one of the early settlers. In October of that year, 1872, he left the office of Dr. Maxwell and began the practice of medicine independently.

In 1873 he was appointed city and county physician, a position which he held for five years. In 1873 the city had a scourge of cholera, and it was during this time that he was appointed physician to the board of health . In 1872, during the smallpox scourge, the doctor had charge of the pest house and rendered exceedingly valuable services to the city.

Since the appointments above mentioned there have been but two years in which Dr. Cantwell has not been physician to the board of health , a record that speaks volumes for his ability and for the confidence reposed in him by his fellow - citizens. IIis zeal for the welfare of the public was fittingly complimented when in April, 1886, upon the occasion of a re-appointment as physician to the board of health, the Democrat, a leading paper of Davenport, published the following editorial:

The appointment of Dr. A. W. Cantwell as city physician by the board of health was a wise action . He has had more of the experience which renders a physician competent for the position than any other doctor in the city, without doubt. Le served as physician to the board of health for eleven years, appointed first during that awful cholera season in 1873 ; and his services during the prevalence of that epidemic ought never to be forgotten . He was continued in the office from that time until the spring of 1884. It was just ten years after the cholera months that Dr. Cantwell had a contest with another dreadful epidemic -smallpox. For weeks he was in the infected districts night and day, and attention to his counsels at last stamped it out. Had his advice been heeded in the first place the contagion would never have spread as it did, and after his measures were adopted the disease soon disap peared. All in the city who were cognizant of his services will feel safer because of his appointment to the position he filled with so much honor to himself and benefit to the city." For the past eight years he has been president of the board of pension examiners.

He is a member of the American Medical Society ; also a member of the American Public Health Association, having been on the executive committee for three years, and the Scott County Medical Society, of which he was president at one time. He is also a member of the Iowa and Illinois Central District Medical Association, of which he has been treasurer for twenty years. He was one of the organizers of the Iowa Public Health Association, and for the first ten years was its president. This is an auxiliary to the American Public Health Association. He is one of the staunchest apostles of all that is advanced in matters pertaining to public health . He is a member of all the Masonic bodies, and has been presiding officer of all . He is president of the medical board of Mercy Hospital, and has been a member of the board for twenty-three years. He never took part in polities at all , but served for six years as alderman from his ward.

Dr. and Mrs. Cantwell have two children , James Y., aged twenty years, for three years a student at the Iowa Agricultural College at Ames, Iowa, and now studying pharmacy, and John D., who is attending the high school, expecting to complete a medical course in a few years and follow in his father's footsteps.

Dr. Cantwell is not only at the front rank of his profession, but he holds a high position in the esteem of the community generally. He is frank and honest, pleasant in his conversation, and makes friends easily. He is one of the substantial men of the city.


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