History of the medical profession in Columbia County, NY
From: Columbia County At The End of the Century
Published and edited under the
auspices of the Hudson Gazette
The Record Printing and Publishing Co.
Hudson, New York 1900


The pioneers of any locality have been closely followed by "the good physician." This is one of the unpleasant necessities of human experience. In the early years of the present century the State of New York, unlike Pennsylvania and the New England States, had done very little to encourage science, there being no school of medicine worthy of the name nearer than Boston or Philadelphia. Few young men could then afford to go so far to qualify themselves for a profession,whatever were the inducements offered by the future. This led to the prevailing custom among young aspirants for medical knowledge and practice to enter the office of a neighboring physician, study his books two or three years, at the same time accompanying him more or less on his professional calls. At the end of such a term the young man felt qualified to enter upon his career. Laws then governing the admission and practice of physicians were substantially worthless; but in 1806 the Legislature of this State passed an act repealing all former statutes applying to this profession and authorizing the formation of a general State Medical Society and county societies. The first act of the Legislature attempting to regulate the practice of medicine and surgery was that of June 10, 1760; this was amended in 1792 and again in 1797. Under it as thus amended, judges of the State Courts, Courts of Common Pleas and masters in chancery were authorized to license persons to practice as physicians upon proof that the applicant had studied medicine two years. The injury to the profession and the hopeless folly of such a course are apparant enough from the standpoint of the present time. By the act of April 4, 1806, five or more physicians in one county or in counties adjoining each other, were authorized to form a medical society. Such societies were empowered to grant licenses to practice medicine in this State, and the State society was given authority to grant diplomas; the latter society was organized in 1807. While this system was not by any means perfeet, it was a vast improvement over the old, and gave physicians themselves opportunity to elevate the standard of the profession through insistence on applicants for license being properly qualified by study and of respectable character. No one can properly estimate the benefits that have been derived in every community through the proceedings and acts of these medical societies. Their members have been stimulated to renewed efforts to improve their own adyancement in medical lore, and to aid their younger brethren. Medical intelligence has been widely circulated through reading and publishing of papers upon innumerable topics, and the reports of proceedings of regular meetings. In comparatively recent years the profession has been foremost in promoting modern sanitary measures in cities and villages, and in other measures for the relief of the ills of mankind.

There were, of course, many physicians in this part of Albany county long before medical legislation began and before Columbia county was ereeted. Those pioneers of the profession pursued their arduous calling under conditions that would appall the average practitioner of today. Traveling long distances to reach their patients, over roads frequently almost impassable, generally for small remuneration and frequently for none at all, the early physicians were perforce men of sturdy character and courageous perseverance. Some were men of the highest learning, but many were only partially educated in a professional sense as compared with what is considered a thorough medical education at the present time. Many eked out their incomes by combining some trade or agriculture with their profession, or taught the youth, or even preached the gospel. The life was a hard one at best and dcmanded all the manly qualities to make it successful.

One of the very early physicians of the county was Dr. John I. Beekman, of Kinderhook, who was born July 4, 1761, and died in 1791, while still a young man. He was succeeded in that town by Dr. Henry Van Dyck. Dr. William Barthrop, an Englishman, practiced there soon after 1800 and remained until his death in 1838. Dr. John P. Beekman, son of John I., was born in Kinderhook in 1788, and died there in 1861; practicing about twenty years. Dr. Andrew Van Dyck was a successful physician from 1822. to 1843, and Dr. John M. Pruyn began practice in 1835 and died in 1856 after a long and prosperous career being followed by other later physicians.

Among the first to engage in practice in Claverack was Dr. Walter Vrooman Wimple, who had been a surgeon in the Revolutionary army in 1776, but returned to Claverack soon after that date and resided there until his death in 1798. Dr. George Monell was there as early as 1780 and was a contemporary of Dr. Wimple. A little later Dr. Joseph Mullins practiced in the town, and was followed by Dr. William Bay, and after 1800, by Drs. Abraham Jordan, Gcrry Rowan, John H. Cole, and S. A. McClellan.

In Livingston Dr. John McClellan settled at Johnstown about 1800 and remained forty years, respected by the whole community. Later physicians of that town were Drs. John Rossman, in 1830; Samuel McClellan in 1832, and George Liyingston in 1834.

The town of Chatham had a number of physicians who honored their profession; among whom were Dr. Joseph Brewster, Dr. Augustine Haven, and Dr. Eleazer Root, at New Concord; Dr. Richard S. Peck practiced at North Chatham until 1827, and was followed by Drs. Joseph Chadwick, O. J. Peck, F. B. Sutliff, John H. Hoysradt, and others. Dr. Horace Root was among the first and dying there in 1865. At Chatham village Dr. Edward Dorr settled as a pioneer and continued many years.

The earliest physicians of New Lebanon were Drs. Johnson, Hall, and Baker, neither of whose names appear in the list of members of the County Medical Society. Dr. Moses Younglove who was a very skillful physician practiced here early in the history of the town; so, also, was Dr. John Merriman, who settled about 1800 and died there. Drs. Isaac Everest and Erick King were there soon afterward. Dr. H. D. Wright settled at New Lebanon in 1818 and practiced most of his long life.

Dr. Isaac Averill settled in the town of Canaan at a very early day, but nothing is known of his career. Drs. Thomas Sears and David Leavenworth soon followed, and were long known as skillful physicians. Dr. John Lusk practiced many years at Flat Brook, with Dr. Lorenzo Gile his eontemporary at Canaan Four Corners.

Soon after 1800 Dr. Edward B. Pugsley located in Ghent and remained until his death in 1863; Dr. E. L. Coburn was for many years in successful practice in the same town. In Stockport were Drs. Robert Hicks, John H. Philip, and George W. Cook in early practice.

A Dr. Stevens was the first practitioner at Stuyvesant Landing, and Dr. Nelson Rusk soon followed, where he eontinued about forty years. At Stuyvesant Falls the first physician was Dr. Scovel, but did not remain long. Dr. H. B. Salmon was for many years a prominent physician in the yillage from about 1836.

In Hillsdale the first physicians were Drs. Nathaniel House and Caleb Benton, as well as Dr. Abraham Jordan, afterwards of Claverack, and who was a prominent citizen.

Hudson city had many noted physicians in the early years of its history, some of whom rose to eminence in their profession. Dr. Samuel White practiced there more than half a century and was an original member of the County Medical Society in 1806. He was also founder of an insane asylum which was a successful institution for over twenty five years, and which is elsewhere described. Dr. White enjoyed an extensive practice, both in medicine and surgery, and at one time was professor of surgery in the Pittsfield Medical College. He was made an honorary member of the State society in 1829 and in 1813 was elected its president. He died in 1845. His son, Samuel Pomroy White, adopted his father's profession and became distinguished in surgery, performing operations new to the profession in this region and which demanded the highest skill and courage. He was born in Hudson, November 8, 1801, and was graduated at Union College in 1822. He was an earnest student and gained a profound knowledge of the science of medieine. He died June 6, 1867.

Dr. Georgc H. White was the youngest son of Dr. Samuel White, and was born in Hudson October 21, 1808. He possessed many of the prominent eharacteristics of his father and was associated with him in the management of the insane asylum before mentioned. He became a successful physician and surgeon under his father's tutelage, His health failing, he went south, but returned six months later, dying in Hudson April 11, 1857.

Dr. John Tallman, one of the corporate members of the County Medical Society, was a successful physician in Hudson in early years, and a popular and useful citizen. Dr. John Milton Mann was a leading physician in the city and was distinguished for his skill and success. From 1807 to the time of his death he was honored with high positions in the State society and was one of the eleven who organized it. He was the first to introduce vaccination in Columbia county, and after his death, the City Council erected a monument to his memory. He was drowned while crossing the river, August 24, 1809, during the height of his usefulness.

Dr. Robert G. Frary, of Hudson, who became a member of the County Medical Society in 1818, was long acknowledged as one of the foremost of the profession in this county. He was the first to be granted a license by the Censors of the society in 1815 and down to the date of his death in 1862 was an honored member. He was made a permanent member of the State society in 1836, in 1845 was its vice president, and president in 1851. The citizens of Hudson erected a monument to his memory.

Dr. William H. Pitcher, though a native of Claverack, was long a prominent physician in Hudson, and a highly respected citizen. He was born October 26, 1825, and was graduated from the Medical College at Woodstock, Vt., in 1853. He practiced three years in Claverack and then removed to Hudson. He was active in the County Medical Society and represented it in the State society. He died June 1, 1872, from the effects of a wound received during the performance of an operation.

Among other early physicians of the city were Dr. David Mellin, who joined the County Medical Society in 1818; Dr. John Hunt, Samuel R. McClellan, George H. White, Volkert Whitbeck, Elbridge Simpson, John P. Wheeler, and others whose names appear in the membership list of the county society.

Dr. Thomas Brodhead, who was elected the first vice president of the County Medical Society, was long a popular and successful physician in Clermont, and also held official position in the State society. He was given the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine by the Regents of the University in 1828. He died in 1830. Other early and prominent physicians of that town were Drs. John T. Brodhead (1818), and Peter Van Buren (1825).

On the first Tuesday in June, 1806, a meeting of physicians and surgeons of Columbia county was held, at which were present Drs. George Monell, Henry Malcolm, Noah Wells, John Milton Mann, Henry L. Van Dyck, Samuel White, William Bay, George Birdsall, and John Tallman. Dr. Monell was chosen moderator and the meeting proceeded to elect officers with the following result: Dr. William Wilson, president; Dr. Thomas Brodhead, vice president: Dr. William Bay, secretary; Dr. Henry Malcolm, treasurer. The following resolutions were then adopted:

"Resolved, that the annual meetings of this society shall be on the first Tuesday in October, at ten of the clock in the forenoon, at the city of Hudson; and

"Resolved, That Mann, Malcolm and White be a committee to draft the bye laws, and that they report them at the next meeting; and

"Resolved, That the secretary inform the president and vice president of their appointment, and the request of the society that the president read a dissertation at the annual meeting."

The following list gives the members of this society from year to year, as compiled from the records:

1800.-Samuel White, John Milton Mann, Hudson; William Wilson, Clermont; George Monell, Claverack; Henry Malcolm, Hudson; Noah Wells; Henry L. Van Dyck, Kinderhook; William Bay, Claverack; George Birdsall; Thomas Brodhead, Clermont; John Tallman, Hudson.

The names above mentioned are those of the first members of the Columbia County Medical Society, and they stand as landmarks of a new era in medicine, the era of medical associations.

1807.-Daniel Morris, William Barthrop (Kinderhook), Augustus E. Hayden, Peter Sharp, Joseph Jewett, John McClellan (Livingston, died is Hudson), John De Lameter, David Abrams.
1809.-E. B. Pugsley (Ghent).
1810.-John B. Beekman (Kinderhook), Abraham Jordan (Claverack).
1811.-Moses Burt.
1812.-Thomas Belton.
1813.-John C. Olmstead.
1818.-David Mellen (Hudson), S. T. B. Platner, John T. Brodhead (Clermont), Squire Jones, Robert G. Frary (Hudson).
1821.-Horatio Root (Chatham), John Merriman, Henry D. Wright (Lebanon), Eleazer Root (Chatham),
1822.-John Van Der Peel (Kinderhook), Alpheus Abrams, Edward H. Reynolds, Isaac Everist, Andrew Van Dyck.
1823.-Hosea Beebe, Edward Dorr (Hillsdale), Robert Hicks.
1824.-Asa Spaulding-, Samuel Pomroy White (Hudson), Hessel Van Orden (Germantown), Ebenezer Reed (Spencertown).
1825.-Peter Van Buren (Clermont), John Sutherland.
1826.-Henry Foote (Spencertown), Thomas Sears, Henry A. Heermnance.
1828.-John Lusk, Levi B. Skinner, Stephen Platner (Copake), John Hunt (Hudson), William M. Jones (Johnstown, died in Hudson), Samuel R. McClellan (Hudson), Peter P. Rossman (Antrim), Erick King, Jesse Ferris.
1829.-Benjamin McKeeney (Hudson), Abner Dayton, John B. Rossman, Russell Evart, Wm. H. Wilson.
1830.-Joseph Chadwick (Chatham), Bostwick O. Miller, George H. White (Hudson), Jacob S. Miller, John H. Cole (Claverack), Stillman E. Ames, Montillion Beckwith, William E. Buckley (Hillsdale).
1832.-James Hubbard, John M. Prune (Kinderhook), Seymour W. Simpson, John O. Flagler, Robert Rossman, J. W. Palmer, Stephen Hinsdale (Claverack).
1835.-Volkert Whitbeck (Hudson), William C. Bell, Charles Bull, Richard H. Mesick (Ghent), Robert Clow (Clermont).
1837.-Daniel Sargent, Hoagland; C. W. Beman, James H. Barnes (Ghent), William B. Finch, Allen A. Jordan (Claverack).
1838.-Joseph Bates (New Lebanon Springs), Henry B. Salmon (Stuyvesant).
1839.-Peter Van Zandt, Robert Humphrey (Greenport), F. W. Jen kins.
1840.-G. W. Catkins (Germantown), N. Rusk, F. A. Warner, J. Robinson, William Wright, Daniel Haynes, Peter R. Coffin.
1842.-Franklyn D. Pierson, Stephen G. Tallmadge, Harvey Cole, Conradt Niver (Copake), John C. Newman.
1843-P. H. Knickerbocker (Clermont), Elbridge Simpson (Hudson), Lucas Pruyn (Kinderhook), S. O. Vanderpoel (Kinderhook), __ Moore, John P. Wheeler (Hudson), Charles R. Near (Germantown).

Reorganized in 1863.-Joseph Bates, president, New Lebanon; H. B. Salmon, vice president, Stuyvesant Falls; P. V. S. Pruyn, secretary, Kinderhook; William H Pitcher, treasurer, Hudson.
1865-66. - Dr. Atwood, William C. Bailey (Chatham), John C. Ben• ham (Hudson), Elias W. Bostwick (Hudson), Joseph Dorr (Hillsdale), L. C. B. Graveline (Chatham), Lorenzo Guile (Canaan), S. M. Moore, O. H. Peck (Chatham), G. P. Salmon (Lebanon and Hudson), D. F. Van Aiken (Stuyvesant), Abram Van Deusen (Claverack), R. H. Vedder (Chatham).
1866-67.-Henry Lyle Smith (Hudson), George E. Benson (Kinder-hook and Hudson), Rensselaer Platner (Clermont), J. N. Schermerhorn (Stockport).
1869.-J. K. Wardle (Hudson), ___ Fowler, M. L. Bates (Canaan), E. B. Bodice (Valatie), J. Lockwood (Ghent and Philmont), P. W. Sinfelt (East Taghkanic), C. E. Segar, P. B. Collier (Kinderhook).
1872.-X. T. Bates (New Lebanon), N. H. Mesick (Glenco Mills), George Rossman (Ancram).
1873.-William O. Smith (Germantown), Joseph T. Lamb (Hudson), A. T. Losee (Germantown).
1876.-Thomas Wilson (Claverack).
1877.-Crawford E. Fritts (Hudson,) J. H. Allen (Cinrchtown). 1878. - Charles E. Valkenburgh (Stnyvesant Fails).
1880-George A. Pierce, Jacob Horton, W. H. Stickles, G. P. K. Pomeroy, D. N. Gordon, C. J. Decker, William Mercer.
1882-T. C. Washburn, G. O. Johnson, W. H. Croker, Henry Cornell.
1883-T. Floyd Woodworth, J. J. Glover, W. W. Betts.
1884-George E. Swift.
1887-W. I. Gordon, R. A. Woodruff.
1890-0. H. Bradley, George D. Wright, Frank S. Snow, George W. \Tedder, I. H. Lent.
1891-Martin M. Kittell, F. T. Dunker, J. S. King, P. S. Flanagan, N. D. Guernsey, Enmit Niver.
1893-M. Sheldon, W. L. Starks, Robert Bell.
1894-E. E. Martin.
1896-T. J. Clelland, George Swift, F. W. Cordes, Elwood Oliver, G. H. Davis, W. R. Starks.
1898-G. W. E. Goodell, J. E. Cochrane.
1899-C. G. Grossman, Joseph Vigeaut, G. W. Dimmers, J. Rooney.

Following is a list of the presidents of the Columbia County Medical Society from the time of its reorganization in 1863 to the present time:
1863, Joseph Bates; 1864, H. B. Salmon; 1865, Wm. H. Pitcher; 1866, E. W. Bostwick; 1867, G. P. Salmon; 1868, P. V. S. Pruyn; 1869, H. Lyle Smith; 1870, J. C. Benham; 1871, R. H. Vedder; 1872, W. C. Bailey; 1873-71, P. B. Collier; 1875, L. M. Bates; 1876, G. W. Rossman; 1877, W. O. Smith; 1878, J. W. Lockwood; 1879, Thomas Wilson; 1880, J. T. Wheeler; 1881, C. E. Fritts; 1882, George E. Benson; 1883, Robert H. Morey; 1884, J. T. Wheeler; 1885, E. H. Humphrey; 1886, G. P. K. Pomeroy; 1887, N. H. Mesick; 1888-89, C. E. Fritts; 1890, T. Floyd Woodworth; 1891, G. P. K. Pomeroy; 1892, W. I. Gordon; 1893-94, N. H. Mesick; 1895-96, H. Lyle Smith; 1898, James W. King; 1899-1900, Martin M. Kitten.

The Columbia and Greene Homeopathic Medical Society - The relations existing between the practice of medicine upon Homoeopathie principles and that followed by the Old School, or Allopathic physicians during fifty years past are within the memory of many living persons. It is recalled that the new methods of healing the sick followed by the disciples of Hahnemann were during a number of years a subject of ridicule, opprobrium, and what sometimes seemed to approach persecution from medical men of the other school, as well as of active discussion outside of the profession. Since that time the change in these respects have been great. The new school, notwithstanding bitter opposition, gained standing rapidly and is now recognized in every community as worthy of all confidence and respect, while the great homoeopathic colleges have sent out many graduates who have attained high professional success and who have stood or do stand on a level with the best educated men of any school.

The practice of medicine upon homoeopathic principles was introdueed into Columbia county about 1848, by Dr. George W. Cook, and Dr. Robert Rossman began very soon after. Both of these physicians were preyiously prominent in the old school, as indeed were most of the early practitioners of homoeopathy; but they were studious investigators, liberal in their theories and courageous withal, and after proper research and experiment, boldly took up the new practice. Dr. Cook met with more or less opposition, but his success with the new treatment was marked and his professional business correspondingly increased. Dr. A. P. Cook, a former old school physician of Chatham beginning about 1836, removed to Kinderhook in 1839; he took up the new practice in 1844 and two years later removed to Hudson, where he was a successful physician forty years or more. Dr. Stephen Coburn, also a former old school practitioner, made the change to homoeopathy in 1842, and Dr. Edward L. Coburn, of Chatham, began in that town in 1813.

Homoeopathic medical societies were not authorized by law until the act of April 13, 1857, was passed, after which they were promptly organized in many counties. The Columbia and Greene Homoeopathic Medical Society, including in its jurisdiction the two counties from which it was named, was organized October 1, 1861, with the following officers: A. P. Cook, of Hudson, president; T. T. Calkins, of Coxsackie, vice president; C. M. Samson, of Hudson, secretary; P. W. Mull, Ghent, treasurer; C. H. Stevens, Hudson, J. W. Smith, jr., Claveraek, and James S. Philip, Kinderhook, censors. A constitution and governing laws were adopted, and Drs. Cook, Calkins, and Smith were sent as the first delegates to the State society.

Among those who have held the office of president of this society have been the following:

A. P. Cook, T. T. Calkins, W. H. Barnes, P. W. Mull, W. H. Barnes, H. B. Horton, T. T. Calkins, C. P. Cook, P. W. Mull, A. P. Cook, W. H. Barnes, P. W. Mull.

The Hudson City Hospital. - This is a beneficent institution with which the medical profession of the county has long been intimately identified. The hospital was incorporated on March 7, 1880, and the following persons were chosen the first board of trustees: Harper W. Rogers, Lucius Moore, Alfred G. Van Deusen, Henry L. Gregg, George E. Benson, William H. Traver, Cornelius H. Evans, Claudius Rockefeller, Catherine B. G. Nriesley, and Mary M. Holmes. The first meeting of the board was held December 17, 1889, at which Dr. George E. Benson was elected president, Lucius Moore, vice president, and Claudius Rockefeller, secretary. The incorporation of this institution was effected mainly at the instigation of Alfred G. Van Deusen, so that a gift which he intended to make might be available. In his will he made a bequest to the institution of $5,000.

At the earnest request of the managers of the Old People's Home, further action was postponed until said Home should be on a better financial basis.

On March 26, 1893, the rector of Christ Church in Hudson, not knowing that any action had been taken toward establishing a hospital, urged upon his parishioners the need of a hospital and proposed the establishment of one that should be under control of the church. The proposition met with immediate favor and at the annual meeting of that year a resolution was adopted that a hospital should be established as a department of the parish work. It was resolved also that a committee of five be appointed to act as a board of management, with author. ity to rent a suitable building, and have full control of the institution. This board of managers thus appointed consisted of the rector, Rev. S. M. Griswold, J. P. Wheeler, John M. Pearson, Charles W. Bostwick, and Samuel B. Coffin. Mr. Bostwick was elected treasurer; Rev. Mr. Griswold. president, and Mr. Coffin, secretary. Drs. H. Lyle Smith, C. E. Fritts, and Charles P. Cook were chosen an advisory board. Several meetings were held, subscriptions collected to the amount of about $1,000, furniture provided, ete. A house on the corner of Fifth and Washington streets was leased and arrangements made for its opening for hospital purposes.

In April, 1893, the promoters of this institution joined with those in control of the other project, opened the Hospital and continued the work under the name of the first organization. The hospital was opened in the house above mentioned and there continued until May 1, 1900. In the mean time Miss Sarah Bayly, in July, 1897, left to the hospital over $30,000, and steps were at once taken to provide a more commodious building. For this purpose a lot on Prospect and Columbia streets was purchased and there a handsome and convenient structure was erected in 1899, and occupied on May 1, 1900. Its cost with the site was about $30,000. Appropriate exercises were held on the occasion of the opening, and a fair was inaugurated in the opera house, the proceeds of which were devoted to the hospital. The first officers chosen under the combined institutions were C. W. Bostwick, president; J. Rider Cary, vice president; Claudius Rockefeller, secretary; Charles S. Rogers, treasurer, and two trustees to be chosen each year to serve one, two, three, four, and five years respectively. Proper rules for admission of patients were adopted, and provision made for granting life membership to any person who pays $100 to the institution. The hospital physicians for 1894, each two serving two months, were Drs. H. Lyle Smith, H. W. Johnson, H. H. Smith, A. W. Tracy, O. H. Bradley, F. T. Cochran, C. E. Fritts, Charles P. Cook, G. E. Swift, T. D. Doland, H. M. Roberts, and Thomas Wilson. The hospital was opened for patients on June 1, 1893, and the first patient was received on the 6th of that month. On May 1, 1895, there had been treated thirty seven patients, only two of whom paid any charges. In 1896 there were sixty patients cared for, and in 1897 fifty. In July, 1897, twelve women were chosen to act with the executive committee of the institution; these resigned in 1899 and others were chosen in their places. The present trustees are Charles W. Bostwick, J. Rider Cary, Claudius Rockefeller, William H. Hearn, Charles S. Rogers, R. B. Benedict, Granville Hills, George H. Tator, Rev. S. M. Griswold, and H. R. Bryan.

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