Muscatine County Iowa

Here is what the abbreviations in the bios stand for: far: farm; Co.: company or county; dir: dealer; IVA: Iowa Volunteer Artillery; IVC: Iowa Volunteer Cavalry; IVI: Iowa Volunteer Infantry; P.O.: Post Office; S. or Sec.: section; and st.: street.

Source: History of Muscatine County Iowa, Biographical Section, 1879, page 616

WILLIAM STEPHENSON ROBERTSON, M. D., Professor of theory and practice of medicine and chemical medicine in the Iowa State University, was born at Georgetown, Lancaster Co., Pa., June 5, 1831; son of James M. Robertson and Maria nee Armstrong, the former of Scotch and the latter of English ancestry; his juvenile education was obtained in the common schools of the country, and his more advanced studies were pursued in the preparatory department and Freshman Class of Knox College, Illinois; being an ardent student, he applied himself his studies with such diligence as seriously to affect his health, so that in the third term of his Freshman year, he was obliged to discontinue his studies and spent a year at home in recuperation after which, he returned to college; but six months incessant mental application brought him down again, and he was compelled to return to his home a second time; this terminated college course. In 1852, having recovered his health, he entered the office of his father as a medical student; in the autumn of 1854, attended his first course of lectures in Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia; the ensuing summer was spent in his father's office in assisting him in his practice. In September, 1855, returned to Jefferson College, and graduated from that institution on the 8th of March,1856; in the same year, he located at Columbus City, Iowa, his old home, where he entered upon his career as a physician; his studies had led him to cultivate a fondness for surgery, and while attending to the duties of a general business with fidelity, he was especially careful to treat all the surgical cases that came legitimately within the scope of his practice. His senior professional friends, seeing his inclination in this direction, sent him many interesting and important cases; he remained at Columbus City for a period of twelve years, enjoying a large general and surgical practice; he spent the winter of 1868--69 in the hospitals of New York City, under the special direction of Prof. Frank H. Hamilton, M. D., in the spring of 1869, he sold his property at Columbus City and moved to Muscatine, Iowa; at the opening of the medical department of the Iowa State University, he was offered the chair of theory and practice of medicine and clinical medicine, which he accepted, and was commissioned accordingly on the 22d of December, 1869. At the outbreak of the Rebellion in 1861, he raised the first company of volunteers that was recruited in the State, and tendered them to the Governor; but for some reason, which has never been made public, they were not accepted. On the 13th of June, 1861, he was mustered into the army as Major of the 5th I. V. I., being present at and participating in every march and siege, skirmish and battle of that gallant regiment, till the 23d of July, 1862; in a night attack in front of New Madrid, on the 4th of March, 1862, and in an afternoon skirmish on the 6th of March, he was made the special target of the enemy's sharpshooters, and had five minie balls through his coat, his horse shot down, and the hair shaved off both sides of his head at once by bullets; near Rienzi, Miss., on the 10th of March, in the same year, in company with his servant and six cavalrymen, he was cut off from camp while out on a tour of inspection as a picket officer, and hewed his way with his saber through two line of rebel infantry, reaching his camp in safety, with the loss of two men; he had also the honor of commanding the left skirmish line of the army of the Mississippi, in front of Corinth, at the time that stronghold was evacuated by Beauregard. On the 22d of May, 1862, the gallant commander of the regiment, Col. W. H. Worthington, was killed, and at a meeting of the officers of the regiment, called to nominate his successor, an informal ballot gave Maj. Robertson every vote for the vacancy, and he was accordingly nominated by acclamation; duly appreciating this expression of confidence from his fellow-officers, he resolved to accept the position to which he had been so flatteringly nominated, and desiring to arrange his affairs at home, he applied for a thirty-days leave of absence, which, however, he was refused in consequence of orders issued from department headquarters, detaining all officers able for duty in the field; having some important business imperatively demanding his presence at home, by the advice of Gen. Halleck, and with the district understanding that he would rejoin his command on receipt of his commission as Colonel, his resignation as Major was tendered, and accepted 23d of July, 1862; notwithstanding the fact that the officers of the regiment, when asked by the Governor why they did not recommend promotion in their regiment according to seniority of rank, reiterated their demand for this appointment by a unanimous vote, giving good and sufficient reasons therefor, and without making any charge against the gallant Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment except his lack of familiarity with our language and the system of tactics and regulations of our service, for some reason still unexplained, his commission as Colonel was withheld, and he did not again enter the military service, though he was repeatedly importuned to do so. In politics, the Doctor has always been recognized as of the radical Republican type. He was one of the original stockholders and a member of the first Board of Directors of the Muscatine Water Works Company. In 1873, while acting as City and County Physician of Muscatine Co., his attention was specially attracted by sad condition of the feeble-minded children then in the County Poorhouse, and for the first time realized the fact that the State had made no provisions for the care, education or maintenance of this unfortunate class; in visiting other parts of the State, he found the same condition of affairs existing. and when contrasting this state of things with the munificent arrangements which the State had made for the education of other classes of unfortunates, less helpless and forlorn than these, it occurred to him that it was time the subject was forced upon the attention of the people and their legistators; and that it was the bounden duty of the State to make some provision for them; deeply impressed with this idea, he brought the subject to the notice of the State Medical Society in his annual address as its President, in January, 1874, and asked the co-operation of that body to that end; the society "resolved", but took no further action at the time; the subject was again brought forward at the next meeting, and Dr. Robertson appointed a special committee of one to present the subject to the Legislature; he accordingly drafted a bill as a guide in the formation of a law, and prepared a "Plea for the Feeble-minded Children of the State of Iowa", which he had printed at his own expense, and a copy placed upon the desk of each member of the Legislature; the subject was subsequently presented to the respective houses by Hon. C. C. Horton, of Muscatine, and Hon. J. Y. Stone, of Glenwood; to the action of our subject, seconded by the gentlemen named, is due the fact that Iowa now has a magnificent institution in successful operation, located at Glenwood, Mill's County, for the education and maintenance of this lowest class of unfortunates, Dr. Robertson being very properly the President of its Board of Trustees of the institution; he is also a member of the Muscatine County Medical Society; late President of the Iowa State Medical Society; late President of the Eastern Iowa District Medical Society; member of the Judicial Council of that body; he has also been for many years a distinguished member of the Masonic fraternity; in June of 1877, the Trustees of Knox College, Illinois, conferred on Dr. W. S. Robertson, the honorary A. M. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church. On the 10th of June, 1856, he married Miss Annie E. Charlton, a native of Cattaraugus County, N. Y., but of English parentage, a lady of high culture and refinement; Dr. Robertson has had five children born to him, three sons and two daughters, only two of whom survive, named Charles and Nellie. As a physician, Dr. Robertson is prompt to respond to the calls of duty, and is a skillful surgeon.

Back to Biographical Index Page

Back to 1879 Table of Contents Page

Back to the Muscatine Co. IAGenWeb Index Page