|Voltaire once defined a
physician as "A man who crams drugs of which
he knows little into a body of which he knows less." That may have been
true of a certain class of French empirics at the time it was written,
but since Voltaire's day the medical profession has made almost
marvelous strides forward, and the physician of the Twentieth Century
is generally a man entitled to the honor and respect of the community,
both for his professional ability and his standing as a citizen.
In the early settlement of every section of the Mississippi Valley each
family kept a stock of roots, barks and herbs, and common ailments were
treated by the administration of "home-made 1 ' remedies. Old residents
can remember the bone-set tea, the burdock bitters, the decoctions of
wild cherry bark, the poultices and plasters that "grandma" would
prepare with scrupulous care and apply — internally or externally, as
the case might demand — with more solemnity than the surgeon of the
present day cuts open a man and robs him of his appendix.
Such was the condition in every frontier settlement when the pioneer
doctor arrived, and probably no addition to the population was received
with warmer welcome. Yet the life of the frontier physician was no
sinecure, and about the only inducement for a doctor to cast his lot in
a new country was that he might succeed in establishing himself in
practice before his competitor arrived in the field. Money was a rare
article and his fees, if he collected any at all, were paid in such
produce as the pioneer farmers could spare and the doctor could use.
The old-time doctor was not always a graduate of a medical college. In
a majority of cases his medical education had been obtained by
"reading" for a few months with some older physician and assisting his
preceptor in his practice. When the young student thought he knew
enough to branch out for himself, he began looking about for a
location, and frequently some new settlement appeared to him as the
best opening. Of course, there were many exceptions to this rule and
some of the best physicians, already established in practice, would
"pull up stakes" and seek a new location in some young and growing
If the professional or technical knowledge of the early doctoi was
limited, his stock of drugs and medicines was equally limited A
generous supply of calomel, some jalap, aloes, Dover's powder, castor
oil and Peruvian bark (sulphate of quinine was too expensive for
general use) constituted the principal remedies in his Phar- macopoeia.
In cases of fever it was considered the proper thing to relieve the
patient of a quantity of blood, hence every physician carried one or
more lancets. If a drastic cathartic, followed by letting blood, and
perhaps a "fly blister," did not improve the condition of the patient,
the doctor would "look wise and trust to a rugged constitution to pull
the sick man through." But, greatly to the credit of these pioneer
physicians, it can be said they were just as conscientious in their
work and had as much faith in the remedies they admin- istered as the
most celebrated specialist has today. It can further be said that a
majority of them, as the population of the new settlement increased,
refused to remain in the mediocre class and attended some medical
school, even after they had been engaged in practice for years.
The doctor, over and above his professional calling and position, was a
man of prominence and influence in other matters. His advice was
frequently asked in affairs entirely foreign to his business; his
travels about the settlement brought him in touch with all the latest
news and gossip, which made him a welcome visitor in other households;
he was the one man in the community who subscribed for and read a
newspaper, and this led his neighbors to follow his leadership in
matters political. Look back over the history of almost any county in
the Mississippi Valley and the names of physicians will appear as
members of the legislature, incumbents of important county offices, and
in a number of instances some doctor has been called to represent a
district in Congress. Many a boy has been named for the family
When the -first doctors began practice in Lee County they did not visit
their patients in automobiles. Even if the automobile had been in
existence, the condition of the roads — where there were any roads at
all — was such that the vehicle would have been practically useless.
Consequently the doctor relied upon his trusty horse to carry him on
his round of visits. His practice extended over a large expanse of
country and frequently, when making calls in the night with no road to
follow but the "blazed trail, 11 he carried a lantern with him, so that
he could find the road in case he lost his way. On his return home he
would drop the reins upon the horse's neck and trust to the animal's
instinct to find the way.
As there were then no drug stores to fill prescriptions, the doctor
carried his medicines with him in a pair of "pill-bags" — two leathern
boxes divided into compartments for vials of different sizes and
connected by a broad strap that could be thrown across the saddle.
Besides the lancet, his principal surgical instrument was the "turnkey"
for extracting teeth. A story is told of a man once complaining to a
negro barber that the razor pulled, to which the colored man replied :
"Yes sah ; but if the razor handle doesn't break de beard am bound to
come off." So it was with the pioneer doctor as a dentist. Once he got
that turnkey fastened on a tooth, if the instrument did not break the
tooth was bound to come out.
And yet these old-time doctors, crude as were many of their methods,
were the forerunners of and paved the way for the specialists in this
beginning of the Twentieth Century. They were not selfish and if one of
them discovered a new remedy or a new way of administering an old one
he was always ready to impart his information to his professional
brethren. If one of these old physicians could come back to earth and
step into the office of one of the leading physicians, he would
doubtless stand aghast at the many surgical instruments and appliances,
such as microscopes, stethoscopes and X-ray machines, and might not
realize that he had played his humble part in bringing about this march
Doubtless the first physician to locate in Lee County was Dr. Samuel
Muir, who, in 1820, built a log cabin within the present limits of the
City of Keokuk. He was a Scotchman by birth and had been educated in
his native land. After coming to America he became an army surgeon and
while stationed at Fort Edwards (now Warsaw), Illinois, married an
Indian maiden of the Fox tribe. When the United States Government
issued an order to the effect that all officers in the army having
Indian wives must abandon them, Doctor Muir resigned his office,
saying: "May God forbid that a son of Caledonia should ever desert his child or disown his clan." It
was at this time that he built the cabin at Keokuk. He died at Keokuk
of cholera in 1832, leaving a widow and five children. Owing to the
unsettled condition of land titles in the half-breed tract, his estate
was wasted in litigation and the widow returned to her people.
Dr. Isaac Galland was one of the early physicians of Lee County, but
there is no positive evidence that he practiced his profession to any
considerable extent after coming into Iowa. He was born near Marietta,
Ohio, in 1790. Opportunities to acquire an education at that time were
rather limited, but it appears that Doctor Galland managed to educate
himself, as it is said that, "when he died at Fort Madison in 1858, he
was a tolerably good physician, a tolerably good lawyer, was deeply
learned in ancient as well as modern history, and had few superiors in
the West either as a speaker or writer." As a young man, he was fond of
adventure and with a few kindred spirits went to New Mexico, where he
and his associates were arrested by the Spanish officials, on suspicion
of their having evil designs against the government, and kept for about
a year in prison. That was enough of New Mexico for him, so he returned
to the States and practiced medicine for a time in Edgar County,
Illinois. In 1829 he removed to what is now Lee County and was one of
the earliest settlers at Nashville (now Galland), about three miles
below Montrose. After the act of Congress permitting the half-breeds to
sell their lands in the half-breed tract, Doctor Galland became the
agent for the New York Land Company. In 1839 he became a convert to the
Mormon faith and for over a year was the private secretary of Joseph
Smith, the Mormon prophet. While acting in this capacity it was his
duty to write down the "revelations" that came to Smith in his trances
and he came to the conclusion that the prophet's claim to supernatural
powers was a fraud. He therefore gave up the Mormons nad resumed his
residence in Iowa.
A few years before his death he went to California, but soon after he
left Lee County Daniel F. Miller succeeded in compromising the claim of
Doctor Galland against the New York Land Company, receiving $11,000.
When notified of the successful termination of his suit, Doctor Galland
returned to Fort Madison, where he died in 1858. His daughter Eleanor
was the first white child to be born in what is now Lee County, and his
son, Washington, veteran of two wars, is still living in the county.
Another pioneer physician was Dr. Campbell Gilmer, who is credited by
some writers with being the first man to practice medicine in the
vicinity of Fort Madison. He came to Lee County in 1835 and settled
upon a tract of land about three miles northwest of the infant town,
which had been surveyed and platted but a few months before. At that
time physicians were few and Doctor Gilmer's practice extended for
miles in all directions. Open-hearted and generous to a fault, he
answered all calls, day or night, no matter what the state of the
weather, and never made inquiry as to whether the patient was able to
pay a fee. He died on his farm, near Fort Madison, July 9, 1865, and
his widow survived until June 15, 1877.
Dr. Joel C. Walker was born in Springfield, Ohio, February 7, 1813.
After attending the schools of his native state, in which he received a
good academic education, he entered Jefferson Medical College of
Philadelphia, where he was graduated in 1836. In December of that year
he came to Iowa and located at Fort Madison, where he practiced his
profession for many years. In October, 1838, he married Miss Martha N.,
daughter of Dr. Abraham Stewart, a surgeon in the United States Army.
During the territorial era, Doctor Walker was clerk of the United
States District Court for fiveyears. In 1853 he was elected mayor of
Fort Madison and served one term, and from 1862 to 1867 he was
collector of internal revenue for the First District of Iowa. He was
otherwise actively identified with county and city affairs; was a
public spirited citizen, and a successful physician. His last years
were spent in retirement. About the time Doctor Walker located at Fort
Madison, Dr. J. P.
Stephenson, with his wife and four sons — Samuel T., George E., John D.
and Joseph E. — came from Ohio and settled near the present Village of
Denmark. He was one of the first physicians in that part of the county,
was a man of generous impulses, a successful practitioner and answered
calls over a large expanse of territory in and Des Moines
counties. His wife died in 1840 and in 1853 his right side became
paralyzed, which forced him to give up his practice. His death occurred
in 1858. Three of his sons were successful farmers in the county and
Joseph E. engaged in the clothing business in Fort Madison.
It is a matter of regret that a number of old-time physicians passed
away, leaving no records from which an account of their careers can be
obtained. Among those may be mentioned Dr. John Cutler and Doctor
Ferris, who platted part of the City of Fort Madison; Drs. L. D.
McGugin, Samuel G. Armor, Nicholas Hurd, George W. Richards, A. S.
Hudson and S. Mathews, members of the first faculty of the College of
Physicians after it was established at Keokuk. Dr. John M. Anderson,
who was one of the early practicing physicians of Montrose, was born in
Montgomery County, Kentucky, July ii, 1 8 1 8. Whe he was ten years of
age his parents removed to Quincy, Illinois, where he acquired the
greater part of his general education. About 1833 his father sent him
with a young man and a stock of goods to open a store at Farmington,
Iowa. At Alexandria, Missouri, his companion was taken ill and young
Anderson returned to Quincy to await his recovery. Upon going back to
Alexandria about two weeks later, he learned that the young man had
sold the goods and decamped with the proceeds. Not caring to return
home under the circumstances, he went on to Farmington, where he taught
school and worked at anything he could find to do between terms. There
he studied medicine under Doctor Miles, who went to New Orleans and
died there of yellow fever in 1840, when Doctor Ander- son succeeded to
the practice. In 1844 he located at Montrose, where he found some
Mormon "steam doctors" and some prejudice against a regular physician.
He stuck to it, however, and succeeded in build- ing up a satisfactory
practice. Doctor Anderson represented Lee County in the lower branch of
the State Legislature from 18 151 to 1856 and was for years engaged in
the mercantile business at Montrose in connection with his practice. He
was a typical country doctor.
Some time in the late '30s or early '40s Dr. Freeman Knowles located at
West Point. He has been described as "a gentleman of high standing and
character, with a remarkable memory." He was a witness in the
celebrated case that resulted in the conviction of William and Stephen
Hodges for the murder of John Miller. After practicing for some time at
West Point, Doctor Knowles removed to Keokuk.
In 1845 Dr. D. Lowrey, a native of Berlin, Pennsylvania, settled at
West Point. He was at that time about thirty-nine years of age. At the
age of eighteen he began Tiis medical studies under Doctor Cooper, of
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, with whom he read for two years and then took
a three-years' course in a medical college at Philadelphia. From that
time until he came to West Point, he practiced in Pennsylvania and
Ohio. Doctor Lowrey was a very successful physician. It is told of him
that, during one sickly season, he did not sleep in a bed for six
weeks, catching "forty winks' 1 now and then while in the saddle or his
buggy. After practicing for several years he turned his attention to
growing grapes and had one of the finest vineyards in southeastern
Iowa. He and his family were all members of the Catholic Church. One
son, Clement G. Lowrey, entered the priesthood and was for some time
stationed at Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Later he was in charge of St. Francis
de Sales parish at Keokuk.
Dr. Herman F. Stempel, who located at Fort Madison in 1847, was born in
Germany in July, 1824. He was educated and studied medicine in the
Fatherland, and in 1847 decided to try his fortunes in America. Upon
landing in this country he came direct to Fort Madison, where he began
the practice of his profession. In 1852 he was appointed deputy county
treasurer and from that time until January, 1864, he w T as employed in
that office and the office of the county recorder. He then resumed the
practice of his profession. In 1869 he was appointed United States
revenue gauger, though he continued to practice medicine until
advancing age compelled him to retire.
Keokuk Medical Colleges
The year 1850 witnessed quite a change in the status of the medical
profession in Lee County, as in that year a medical school was opened
in Keokuk, which brought a number of eminent physicians to that city.
This institution owes its establishment to Dr. John F. Sanford, more
than to any other one man. Doctor Sanford was born in Chillicothe,
Ohio, April 23, 1823. After attending the schools of his native town he
began the study of medicine under Dr. J. S. Prettyman. In 1839 he
entered the Cincinnati Medical College, where he completed two courses
of lectures, and in 1841 began practice at Farmington, Iowa. In 1846,
when only twenty-three years of age, he was elected to the state
Senate, and while a member of that body he secured the passage of a
bill granting a charter to a medical college.
Prior to 1840 the only three medical colleges west of the Allegheny
Mountains were located at Cincinnati, Louisville and New Orleans.
Medical students throughout the growing West were without adequate
opportunities to complete their professional training. To remedy this
condition of affairs, Dr. Joseph Nash McDowell and some other
physicians founded the Missouri Medical College at St. Louis in 1840.
Four or five years later another western medical school was opened at
Charleston, Illinois. This school was soon afterward removed to
Laporte, Indiana, thence to Rock Island, Illinois, and in 1849 to
Davenport, Iowa, where the first class was graduated in the spring of
1850. The school was then removed to Keokuk, under the charter secured
by the passage of Doctor Sanford's bill, and there opened in the fall
of 1850 under the name of the "College of Physicians and Surgeons."
Doctor Sanford was made dean of the faculty and professor of surgery —
a well-deserved recognition. The other members of the first faculty
were: Dr. L. D. McGugin, president and professor of obstetrics and
diseases of women and children; Dr. Samuel G. Armor, professor of
physiology and pathology; Dr. Nicholas Hurd, professor of anatomy; Dr.
George W. Richards, professor of theory and practice of medicine; Dr.
A. S. Hudson, professor of materia medica and therapeutics; Dr. S.
Mathews, professor of chemistry; Dr. Joseph C. Hughes, demonstrator of
Doctor Sanford was a man of strong personality, great executive
ability, an excellent teacher and a skillfull surgeon. Shortly after
locating in Farmington, in 1841, he performed the first amputation at
the shoulder joint ever performed in Iowa, and this he did before he
was twenty years of age. He was devoted to his profession and was one
of the founders of the Western Medico-Chirurgical Journal.
The college was made the medical department of the state university, by
which diplomas were issued until 1870, when the institution adopted its
original name — College of Physicians and Surgeons. Dr. J. C. Hughes,
Sr., died in the summer of 1882, and there were several changes in the
faculty — Doctors Carpenter and Cleaver withdrawing. The following year
other changes were made, and in 1884 the faculty rented the building
where the Masonic Temple now stands from the Hughes estate for a period
of five years, and continued the school as the College of Physicians
and Surgeons. At the expiration of their lease all except one or two
organized the Keokuk Medical College and bought the building on Sixth
Street now occupied by the Daily Gate City. Dr. J. C. Hughes, Jr.,
organized a new faculty and continued the College of Physicians and
Surgeons, but it was a different school from the old corporation. In
1899 the two schools were consolidated, diplomas after that date being
issued by the Keokuk Medical College, College of Physicians and
Surgeons. In the spring of 1908 the school was merged with Drake
University of Des Moines, Iowa.
In 1853 Dr. Joseph C. Hughes succeeded Doctor Sanford as professor of
surgery. He was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, April 1, 1821;
received his classical education at Jefferson College, Cannonsburg,
Pennsylvania; studied medicine under Dr. J. F. Perkins, of Baltimore,
Maryland, and graduated in medicine at the University of Maryland in
1845. Soon after receiving his degree he began practice at Mount
Vernon, Iowa, devoting much of his time to the practice of surgery, and
when the medical college was established at Keokuk he accepted the
position of demonstrator of anatomy. At the beginning of the Civil war,
in 1 86 1 , Governor Kirkwood appointed him surgeon-general of the
state, in which capacity he organized and had charge of the army
hospitals at Keokuk, where at one time over two thousand sick and
disabled soldiers were under treatment. In 1866 Doctor Hughes was
elected one of the vice presidents of the American Medical Association
and one of the delegates to the British Association for the Promotion
of Science. He was also a member of several other medical societies and
in 1876 was a delegate to the Medical Congress at Philadelphia. In
connection with the college at Keokuk he operated a medical and
surgical infirmary and eye and ear institute. He died in 1882. His son,
Dr. Joseph C, Jr., was elected professor of anatomy in the Keokuk
College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1876.
Dr. George F. Jenkins, who practiced medicine for many years in the
City of Keokuk, was born in Clark County, Missouri, in 1842; graduated
at the Missouri Medical College in 1867, after having at- tended the
Leland Medical College of San Francisco, California; located at Keokuk
a short time after receiving his degree, and at the time of his death,
in the summer of 1914, was one of the best known and most universally
respected physicians in Southeastern Iowa. In an article written by
Doctor Jenkins and published in the Iowa Medical Journal for May 15,
1909, he says of the Keokuk Medical College: "It is my opinion that the
great success of this school for its entire career, is due very largely
to the fact that Keokuk has always had an able, painstaking,
student-loving faculty. The Keokuk Medical College has always had a
splendid reputation and of its 3,500 or more graduates, many of them
have attained high positions in the profession; practitioners from this
school have always creditably maintained themselves in competition with
graduates of the best colleges in the country. The Keokuk Medical
College has always been proud of her alumni, and in our merging with
Drake University, we have passed over to that school a heritage of
which any institution in the land might well be proud."
Another physician who came to Lee County in 1850, but who was not
connected with the medical college, was Dr. J. G. Mallett. He was born
at Stratford, Connecticut, in 1875, the son of a Revolutionary soldier
who was with Gen. Anthony Wayne at the capture of Stony Point. He
studied medicine in the East and in 1837 came to Iowa, first locating
at Brighton, Washington County. In 1850 he removed to Van Buren
Township, Lee County, and settled on a farm near Hinsdale, where he
continued to practice for a number of years. He lived to be nearly one
hundred years old, with mental faculties unimpaired to the last.
Dr. James H. Bacon, a native of Washington County, Tennessee, was born
on July 19, 1816. He was educated and studied medicine in his native
state and began practice in Nashville. In 1840 he located at Macomb,
Illinois, where he remained until 1851, when he removed to Fort
Madison, Iowa. After practicing there for seven or eight years he
engaged in the banking business, with Judge John- stone, of Keokuk, as
a partner. About 1871 failing health forced him to retire from active
business and he then bought a farm in Green Bay Township. His landed
interests here, known as "Bay- view," contain 1,200 acres and the
improvements cost him about twenty-five thousand dollars, making one of
the most attractive places in Southeastern Iowa. Here he passed the
closing years of his life.
Dr. Augustus W. HofTmeister was born on June 14, 1827, at Altman, in
the Hartz Mountains of Hanover, Germany; at the age of nineteen he
graduated from the college at Clausthal as the honor man of that class.
He then came to America, locating first in St. Louis, afterward going
to California, and in 1854 ^ e located at Fort Madison, having
graduated in medicine at St. Louis in the early part of that year.
During the Civil war he served as surgeon of the Eighth Iowa Infantry,
and in 1866 was appointed surgeon at the Fort Madison penitentiary.
Doctor HofTmeister was an able and successful physician. He died about
Dr. A. M. Carpenter, who has been mentioned above in connection with
the medical college, was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, December 12,
1835 ; he was educated at Centre College and graduated in medicine at
the University of Louisville in 1854. The next year he located in
Keokuk, where he soon became recognized as one of the leading
physicians. In 1865 he was elected to the chair of Theory and Practice
of Medicine in the College of Physicians and Surgeons, a position he
held for nearly twenty years. In 1876 he was one of a committee of
physicians to organize the state board of health and was elected the
first president of that board. He was a frequent contributor to the
medical literature of the country, and a man who is remembered by older
people of Keokuk as an energetic, public-spirited citizen.
Another Keokuk physician of early days was Dr. Milton F. Collins, who
came from Indiana at an early day. At the time of the Civil war he was
made lieutenant-colonel of the Sixtieth United States Colored Infantry,
the greater part of which regiment he recruited himself. He had two
sons in the army — W. B. Collins, major of the Seventh Missouri, and
Joseph A. M., a sergeant in the Second Iowa. The latter was in the
signal service at the siege of Fort McAllister, near Savannah, Georgia,
and in 19 14 was one of the councilmen of the City of Keokuk. Dr.
Milton F. Collins was the first president of the Keokuk Medical
Society, and is remembered as a popular and successful physician.
Dr. Abel C. Roberts, who was journalist as well as physician, was born
in Warren County, New York, January 15, 1830. In his boy- hood days he
attended the common schools and after his parents re- moved to Lenawee
County, Michigan, he attended the high school at Adrian for one term.
In 1850-51 he studied medicine in the University of Michigan at Ann
Arbor. His financial condition was such that he was unable to complete
the course, and in 1852 he went to California, where he spent over a
year. Returning to Ann Arbor, he re-entered the university and
graduated in 1854. In 1859 he came to Fort Madison and engaged in
practice. In 1862 he was appointed surgeon in the government hospital
at Keokuk, and in March, 1863, he was commissioned surgeon of the
Twenty-first Missouri Infantry, with which regiment he served until
mustered out in April, 1866. He then resumed practice at Fort Madison;
was elected county treasurer in 1869, mayor of Fort Madison in 1873,
and was appointed a member of the board of pension examiners. In 1874
he became associated with the ownership and publication of the Fort
Madison Democrat, with which he remained connected practically all the
remainder of his life. As a surgeon, Doctor Roberts was ofen called to
considerable distances to perform operations. He was a prominent Mason
and a member of a number of medical societies and associations.
Dr. J. J. M. Angear, a native of England, came to this country in 1843,
when fourteen years of age. His parents settled in Racine County,
Wisconsin, where he was educated, and in i860 he graduated at Rush
Medical College, Chicago. At the close of the war he located in Fort
Madison and in 1871 became professor of physiology and pathology in the
College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk. Doctor Angear was a
member of various medical associations and was a delegate from the
American Medical Association to the convention which met at Bath,
England, in 1878. After that convention he spent some time in the
hospitals of London and Paris. He contributed a number of articles to
medical journals and was frequently called upon to testify in courts as
a scientific expert.
Dr. Hiram T. Cleaver, at one time a member of the faculty of the
College of Physicians and Surgeons at Keokuk, was born in Washington
County, Pennsylvania, February 17, 1822. He began the study of medicine
with a Doctor Greene at New Lisbon, Ohio, and in the summer of 1848
removed to Wapello, Iowa. From 1854 to 1858 he represented his district
in the State Senate, and in 1862 graduated at the College of Physicians
and Surgeons, Keokuk. He was then connected with the faculty of that
institution for about twenty years. Doctor Cleaver was a member of
various medical associations and took an active part in municipal
affairs. He served as city treasurer of Keokuk, and was otherwise
identified with movements for the general uplift of that city.
Among the pioneer doctors of Lee County, whose names are about all that
can be remembered, were Haines, Randall and T. H. Sullivan. They were
typical country doctors, respected citizens, and it is a matter of
regret that more cannot be told of their careers. The Wymans, Drs. R.
H. and F. W., who were for many years connected with the practice of
medicine and drug business in Keokuk, were among the leading physicians
of that city in their day.
of Lee County,
Iowa, by Dr. S. W. Moorhead and Nelson C. Roberts, 1914