Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Succession of Physicians - Bovina Doctors – Part I

Early settlers in the town of Bovina had no access to a regular physician – and this certainly was not unique to Bovina. Munsell’s History of Delaware County, written in 1880, included in its chapter on Bovina a section entitled “The Succession of Physicians.” This history reported that “Old Doctor Marshall of Kortright was the early supply…” and went on to note that James Leal settled on the Bovina/Stamford line and practiced medicine in both towns until his death in 1831. Solomon Green started a practice around this time and remained for about a decade. During some of that time, he also was the postmaster for Bovina Center, serving from 1838 to 1841. When Green left Bovina, he was briefly succeeded in his practice by his nephew Seymour Wilcox, who practiced in the area for about a year. At some point during all of this, Wilcox taught a medical course at Delaware Academy, one of his students being Bovina native John McNaught. McNaught, who also was Wilcox’s brother-in-law, went on to attend medical school in New York City and ended up practicing in near-by Hobart for many years.

Doctors Edward McKenzie, John Calhoun and John Telford were in practice concurrently with Green and Wilcox in the 1840s and continued into the 1850s and some into the 1860s. McKenzie (who is no relation to the McKenzie family who had the house across from Russell’s Store in the 20th century) was a native of Stamford. He studied medicine first under a physician in Hobart, then attended Geneva Medical College, where he graduated in 1844. McKenzie opted to settle in Bovina and practice there, and did so for about 12 years when his health spurred him to move to a warmer climate, going to Alexandria, Virginia. The climate, weatherwise and politically, did not suit him so he returned to Bovina. Having met a noted doctor in Esopus, he was invited to succeed that doctor in Port Ewen and left Bovina in 1856 to do so.

Calhoun also was a Scottish native, having been born in Dumbartonshire Scotland in 1819. He came to America with his family in 1834 and they settled in Bovina. Calhoun worked with a doctor in Andes for three years to learn the profession, also attending two courses at the Albany Medical College. He practiced in Andes until 1846 when he came to Bovina and practiced for 19 years, with a break in 1848 when he served one term in the State Assembly. Calhoun remained in Bovina until 1864 when he was elected sheriff and moved to Delhi, where he continued his practice and founded a drug business with his son.

Both Drs. Calhoun and McKenzie were caught up in the Anti-Rent War. Calhoun was the doctor in attendance on Osman Steele after he was shot at Moses Earle’s farm. As John Raitt related in volume one of Ruts in the Road, Calhoun was subjected to much verbal abuse for supporting the anti-renters and for failing to save Steele. Dr. McKenzie was very active in the Anti-Rent movement, supporting using all legal means to end the lease system. He also was present at the shooting of Osman Steele and was brought in to testify at the subsequent trials after the murder.

John Telford was a Bovina native, born in 1815. He practiced in Bovina for about 20 years, concurrent with doctors McKenzie and Calhoun. He moved to Andes in the late 1860s and died there in 1870 at the age of 55.

Other doctors whose names show up in the Munsell history include Dr. Bell, Dr. Coats, Dr. Ferguson and Dr. Walter Scott. Dr. Scott was another Scottish native, born in 1776, the son of Adam Scott and Janet Ingles. Scott likely emigrated to the United States with his family as a child. Scott was 64 at his death in Bovina in 1840.

The next installment in this three part series will cover Bovina doctors in the latter half of the 19th century.

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