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John Bryce Spees, M.D.


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/6/2001 at 10:07:39

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
John Bryce Spees, M.D., retired physician of Birmingham, was born in Bracken county Kentucky, October 16, 1814, and is the only survivor in a family of seven children, six sons and one daughter, of whom he was the eldest. The parents were Christian and Mary Young Spees. The family is of German and English extraction. The paternal grandfather of our subject, native of Germany, crossed the Atlantic and located in Pennsylvania, where he met and married a lady of German descent. Their son Christian was born in the Keystone State in 1788, and when a lad of nine summers accompanied his parents on their emigration to Kentucky, which State was then in such a wild and unsettled condition that they had to live in forts to protect themselves against the Indians. On reaching man’s estate, Christian Spees married Miss Young who was born about 1795 in Pennsylvania. Her ancestors were of English birth and were among the early settlers of Virginia during Colonial days. In the state where their marriage was celebrated Mr. and Mrs. Spees continued to make their home until their lives on earth was ended and they were called to the rest prepared for the righteous. Mr. Spees made farming the means of maintenance for his family, but as a labor of love performed much service as a local minister in the Methodist Church. He was aided in his noble efforts by his wife, and the influence which they exerted for good was certainly not without its results. They died in 1852, within a day of each other of cholera.
The early history of Dr. Spees is a record of struggles to overcome the disadvantages, which surrounded him in his youth. He had almost no educational opportunities, yet he was of a studious nature and determined will, and by private study, he became well informed, fitting himself for the profession of teaching, which he followed several years. Every moment he could find from his school duties, he devoted to reading medicine, and under the direction of his cousin, Dr. S.J. Spees, and his brother, Dr. T.M. Spees, of Hillsboro Ohio, he continued his studies. In 1843 and 1844, he attended a course of lectures in the Ohio Medical College of Cincinnati. His first visit to the Territory of Iowa occurred in 1843, when with the desire to better his financial condition he made a claim near Ottumwa upon which he built two cabins. He then returned and took the course of lectures before mentioned but during his absence his claim was jumped and on his return, fining that he could do nothing to regain possession of his property, he started once more for Ohio, but fate had other things in store for him and the West was yet to be his home. He believed that the village of Birmingham offered fair opportunities for one of his profession and at that place opened an office but at the end of the first year he found himself $50 in deft for his board and because he could not pay, his landlord drove him off. However he had not the money with which to go elsewhere and it was necessary that he remain where he was. Perseverance, energy and ability at length won him a patronage and for fifteen years he practiced very successfully in this community. Throughout the country round about, calls were made for Dr. Spees and often he would ride as much as fifteen or twenty miles. He not only manifested an interest in his profession as the means whereby he might gain a livelihood, but his sympathy for his patients and genial and pleasant words proved an excellent tonic in the sick room and made him many warm friends. As his financial resources increased he made judicious investments in land and he is now the owner of one thousand, six hundred and forty-five acres, much of which yields to him a golden tribute. He has now practically retired from the profession but still prescribes for a few old friends who are not willing to change their well-known family physician for a stranger.
Near Birmingham, on April 9, 1846, Dr. Spees and Miss Susanna Endersby were united in marriage. The lady was born in Gilden Morden, Cambridgeshire, England, December 17, 1824, and when seventeen years of age accompanied her father to this country, locating in Hillsboro, Henry County. He died in Lee County at the age of seventy-five years. The Doctor and his wife began their domestic life in a portion of the house which is still their home and seven children came to bless their union—Cephus, a resident farmer of Van Buren County; Thomas L. and Linnaeus R. who died in childhood; John C. a farmer of Lewis County Missouri; Mary M., wife of David Miller a resident of Van Buren County; Florence E., wife of William Spees who is also living in this county, as does Helen I. and her husband George Manning.
Dr. Spees is known throughout the greater part of Iowa and is one of the honored and prominent pioneers. In many ways he has been identified with the building up and advancement of town, county and state. He helped to secure the corporation for Birmingham and served as Mayor of the city. He came to this place when four families constituted its population. He was the first to build away from the square and thus give a new direction to the town.
In past years Dr. Spees has given employment to a great many men, and always paid them promptly. Five men who were his tenants, made sufficient money while in possession of his property, to enable them each to buy homes of their own. He has acted generously with his patients, never having sued any of them for pay for his services and cheerfully given his attendance to those unable to pay.
With the State history he is also connected. As a candidate of the Whig Party, he was elected in 1850 to the State Senate form this district. He assisted in establishing the capital at Des Moines and in publishing the first statutes of Iowa. On the dissolution of the Whig Party he joined the new Republican Party, but at late years has been independent in politics. A faithful friend to many, he in turn has many friends who respect and love him for the valuable service he has rendered in time of affliction.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
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