Iowa History Project


History of Medicine in Iowa
by D.S. Fairchild, M.D., F.A.C.S.
reprinted from The Journal of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1927
transcribed from the original book for the Iowa History Project by S. Ferrall


Amos Babcock
pg 262-264, full text

Dr. Amos Babcock
Dr. Amos Babcock

Dr. Amos Babcock was born at Kirtland, Ohio, January 21, 1845, and died suddenly of acute cardiac dilatation at New Hampton, Iowa, August 23, 1923. In 1852, he with his parents moved to Wisconsin, and in in 1858, they came to Iowa, locating on a farm near Fairbank, where he resided until the beginning of the Civil War.

In 1862, at the age of 17 years, he responded to his country's call to arms in defense of the union, and served with distinction until the close of the war, receiving an honorable discharge.

Immediately after the close of the war, he began the study of medicine in the office of Doctor Robinson, at West Union, Iowa, and later attended and was graduated from Rush Medical College of Chicago.

He began the practice of medicine in New Hampton in 1869, and was in the continuous and active practice of his profession until about ten years ago when he retired on account of ill health.

He was married to Emma Adams at New Hampton in 1870, and together they braved the hardships of early pioneer life. To this union were born two sons. He is survived by his devoted wife, Emma Babcock and a son, Commander J.V. Babcock, who served with distinction in the late World War, and who is now stationed at Honolulu as Chief of Naval operations. His son Herbert died in early youth.

The deceased was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of the Masonic bodies and of A.P. Morton Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was also at one time a member of the Board of Visitors of the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Dr. Babcock was an exceptional character. Coming to New Hampton in pioneer days, he saw and felt the hardships incident to early settlement in a new and undeveloped country. He was ever ready to answer the call of the sick and needy regardless of whether it came from the poverty stricken hovel or the pretentious home. In his professional life he knew no call but duty, and much of his time and talent was given to charity patients. He was successful in his profession, as in every undertaking.

Doctor Babcock saw virgin prairies surrounding New Hampton gradually transformed into productive fields and blossoming gardens. He watched the hamlet of New Hampton grow and develop into a beautiful and thriving little city. He took an active part in the civic life of the community and the affairs of state and did his full share in their development. He was a student of history and of men and had a wonderful faculty of retaining in detail the impression which he received from his studies, observations and travels. He was devoted to his family, was possessed of a broad charity and an unswerving integrity. He was distinctly sympathetic in his attitude toward his fellowmen, had the faculty of making friends, and the friendships which he formed were enduring.

In his passing, New Hampton loses one of its good, loyal supporters and public-spirited men, one whose life has been interwoven and identified with the affairs and life of the community for over fifty years. He leaves as a heritage to comfort his bereaved family, the memory of a life well spent, an honorable career and a good name. What greater tribute could be paid his memory than to say; he was true to his trust, his friends, his family, his country and his God. (obit/bio written by N. Schilling, M.D., New Hampton)

S.M. Ballard
pg 30-31, full text
Dr. S.M. Ballard was born in Virginia in 1812, came from Ohio to Iowa City in 1842. He was from the Medical Colege of Ohio. In 1854, Dr. Ballard abandoned the practice of medicine and removed to Audubon county, Iowa, where he engaged in agriculture on a large scale.

In 1875, five candidates for governor appeared before the Republican state convention with Gen. James B. Weaver in the lead. Dr. S.M. Ballard placed in nomination Samuel J. Kirkwood. A delegate inquired by what aughority the name of the governor had been used. Rising to his full height the stalwart Ballard answered, "By authority of the great Republican party of Iowa," (Brigham's history of Iowa). Thus showing how easily a doctor could set aside political traditions in the interests of public good. The nomination and election for a third term as governor insured Governor Kirkwood's election to the United States Senate.

On account of his gigantic stature and the size of his nose, Dr. Ballard was familiarly known by the title of "Big Medicine".

J.W.H. Baker
pgs 117, 119 & 122, mention
Of Davenport. President of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1867. He presided over the meeting in Davenport, May 22, 1867 & was elected vice-president of the Society at it's 18th annual meeting in Des Moines, February 5, 1868. At this meeting, Articles of Incorporation were presented, J.W.H. Baker appearing as one of those present, named as a trustee of the Society for the first year and as a signer of the Articles on the 6th day of February, A.D., 1868
Sylvanus W. Baker
pg 158 & 159, mention
Graduate of the University of New York, 1832. Original member of the Council Bluffs Medical Society, August 1869. In 1872, he served on a committee to confer with druggists with reference to establishing a more friendly relation with them.
Edgbert S. Barnes
pg 154, mention
Elected president of the newly formed Scott County Medical Society on October 28, 1856. At the first quarterly meeting he was elected a delegate to the American Medical Association.
Albert M. Barrett
pg 280, mention
In 1895, organized & was the director of a laboratory service at the Insane Hospital at Independence
E.S. Barrows
pg 238, full text
Dr. Barrows was written about in the autobiography of Dr. John F. Dillon: "I commenced the study of medicine when about 17 years of age in the office of Dr. E.S. Barrows, at Davenport. Dr. Barrows was a prominent physician and successful surgeon, having been a surgeon in the United States Army in the Seminole Indian War. He had wonderful skill in diagnosis and was a bold and successful practitioner. He made very little use in his ordinary practice of any other remedies but calomel, blue mass, Dover's powder and compound cathartic pills."
Dr. Barstow
pg 161, full text
At the September 14, 1887 meeting, Dr. Barstow was fined 50 cents for failing to be present or send his paper. (Council Bluffs Medical Society minutes)
David Beach
pg 202, mention
Dr. Beach as noted in the bio of A.G. Field to be practicing medicine in Des Moines in the mid-1860's
C.W. Beldon
pg 56, mention
Was an associate of Dr. John W. Findley between May 1855 to March 1856 in Dubuque.
H. Belknap
pg 151, mention
Admitted to membership in the Louisa County Medical Society on January 19, 1853
John Bell, JR
pg 46-47, full text
Dr. John Bell, Jr. practiced medicine in Wapello for several years and removed to Davenport. Some years later he moved to Dallas, Texas, where he died in 1888 and was buried at Wapello. He was a prominent member of the Louisa county medical society and at one time was surgeon general of Iowa. During the Civil War served as surgeon of the Ninth Iowa Cavalry. Was chief surgeon on General Hunt's staff. Served also as U.S.A. medical director, Department of Texas. He was a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Bell was particularly noted as a skillful surgeon, as surgery was known at that day; was fearless in surgical undertakings where the interests of the patient were concerned; one operation in particular attracted much attention:

On Christmas day, 1854, Dr. Bell was called to see L.W. Bates who had swallowed a bar of lead in undertaking a slight of hand performance whil in a partially intoxicated condition. The bar was ten inches in length and weighed nine and on-half ounces. After observing the patient for ten days and being satisfied that the bar was in Bate's stomach, Dr. Bell with the assistance of Drs. J.M. Robertson, Cleaver, Graham and Taylor made an abdominal section, exposed the stomach which was drawn into the wound, opened and the bar removed. The wound in the stomach was closed by interrupted sutures, returned into the abdomen and the external wound closed by interrupted sutures supported by adhesive plaster (presumably without drainage). The sutures were removed on the seventeenth day. The patient made an uneventful recovery. The operation consumed twenty minutes.

The case was published in the Iowa Medical Journal for April, 1855 and in the Boston Medical & Surgical Journal, January 2, 1860.

John Bell, SR
pg 151, mention
Admitted to the Louisa County Medical Society as an honorary member on April 16, 1853
Walter L. Bierring
pgs 181, full text

Dr. Walter L. Bierring

From the Iowa Medical Journal of July 1900: "Dr. Walter L. Bierring of Iowa City, professor of pathology in the university, will correspond from the pathological department. His prominence in the profession and in the State Medical Society makes it unnecessary for us to introduce him."

[transcribers note: Also in this book, on pages 308-317, is the full text of a paper written by Dr. Bierring, and presented at the Forty-Fourth Annual Session, Iowa State Medical Society, Creston, Iowa, April 17-19, 1895. The paper was titled "The Modern Treatment of Diphtheria with Demonstration of Method of Preparing Antitoxin". It has not been included as part of this digital transcripton]

Wellington Bird
pg 290, mention
An early established physician from Mount Pleasant, Henry Co. For a time was in partnership with Dr. A.W. McClure c1856.
J.C. Blackburn
pg 42 & 43, mention
Dr. J.C. Blackburn assisted Dr. Edward Whinery with a difficult surgical procedure in 1865, the accounting of which can be found in the Part Second chapter of this book.
J.A. Blanchard
pg 93 & 95, mention
One of the organizers of the Medical College in Des Moines, 1874/5. A member of the 1882 faculty of the Iowa College of Physicians and Surgeons of Des Moines; Dean of the Faculty & professor of Principles and Practice of Medicine. He served two years as the Dean.
Ezra Bliss
pg 21, full text
The second physician to locate in Johnson county was Dr. Ezra Bliss. Dr. Bliss was of New England birth and a graduate from Castleton Medical College, Vermont in 1837. He came to Iowa City in 1839, a few months after Dr. Murry. After a few years of successful practice he moved to New York City, spending much of his time in Europe.
C.G. Blood
pg 112, mention
He was an member of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1850.
B.H. Bond
(B.N. Bond *)
pg 134, 136 & 137, mention
Of Keokuk. The physicians of Keokuk under the lead of Dr. John F. Sanford, met at Dr. Bond's office October 3, 1850, to form the first local medical society in Iowa. The association was called "The Medical Society of the City of Keokuk", and membership was limited to members of the regular profession, of good character, and practicing in the City of Keokuk. Dr. Bond was elected a censor at this meeting. It was the beginning of the Lee County Medical Society. In 1858 Dr. Bond was secretary of the society & serving on a 'fee' committee.
Jess Bowen
pg 29-30, full text
Dr. Jess Bowen came to Iowa City in 1840. He was born in Virginia in 1806, came to Iowa from Indiana where he had served as state senator. Dr. Bowen did not limit himself to the practice of medicine, but was active in public affairs. In 1840 he was made presidential elector by the Whig party.

On November 19, 1857 Governor James W. Grimes officially declared that, "the Capitol of the State of Iowa to be established under the Constitution and Laws of the State at Des Moines in Polk County." There were no railroads in the state, many streams had no bridges and the river bottoms had a bad reputation, particularly Skunk river bottom and the problem of moving the state property from Iowa City to Des Moines was a difficult one. There were 4 large safes to be transported, but no contractor was willing to undertake the task. Finally Dr. Jess Bowen accepted the contract and after many days of hard and tedious work the safes were delivered safely in Des Moines. The state treasurers' safe was much the largest and very heavy. During the journey it was left on the open prairie near Little Four Mile Creek in Polk County for several days and nights until the storm abated and the ground was frozen sufficient so that it could be handled on a large bob sled. When it arrived in Des Moines it was drawn by ten yoke of oxen.

In 1860 Dr. Bowen took his seat in the Seventh General Assembly as senator from Johnson county. At the breaking out of the Civil War, Dr. bowen was Adjutant General of the state. He was afterward appointed paymaster in the US Army and was the last paymaster to be mustered out of the service.

Edmund Augustus Boyer
pg 44-45, full text
Dr. Edmund Augustus Boyer was numbered among those who were truly pioneers of Mahaska county, and his name will ever be held in grateful remembrance by all who appreciate what the pioneers had to undergo to make the wilderness a happy home for civilized man. Dr. Boyer was a native of Uniontown, Md., born March 31, 1816. At the time of his birth, and for some years afterward, his father, also a physician, was the owner of a number of slaves, but becoming convinced that slavery was a crime, and not wishing to rear his family where they would be surrounded by such evil influences, and where they would be dependent upon others, he liberated his slaves, after liberally providing for them, and moved with his family to Ohio. Here the Doctor grew to manhood and entered the medical profession.

In 1840 Dr. Boyer was united in marriage with Miss Mary Wiley, of West Lake, Ind., but a native of Vermont, and immediately moved to Iowa, locating in Van Buren county, where he remained three years. In April, 1843, he came to Mahaska county, picked out his claim, and in May following, just as soon as the country was thrown open for settlement, moved his family here, becoming one of the first, if not the first, permanent settlers of the county. Dr. and Mrs. Boyer reared a family of nine children; Mrs. Dr. Scott, Mrs. John R. Barnes, Oskaloosa; Mrs. E.B. Young; William E. Boyer; Richard M. Boyer; Frank D. Boyer; Edmund A. Boyer, Jr.; Fannie, wife of Smith McPherson, the distinguished attorney general of Iowa and later Federal judge for the southern district of Iowa, and Thomas H. Boyer.

Dr. Boyer practiced medicine fifteen years when he retired from active practice and devoted his entire attention to his farm and store. He was a close reader and had a deep insight in matters of general and public interest. While a zealous politician he never sought public affairs or position.

In early life he was identified with the Whig party, but being strongly prejudiced aginst slavery, he joined in the organization of the Republican party of which he was an active member until he believed that the Greenback Labor party more truly represented the interests of the people. Strong in his political views he made both friends and enemies, but all respected him as a man of sterling worth, true to his friends, kind and provident to his family, and always ready to extend a helping hand to the unfortunate. For nearly half a century he was a resident of Mahaska county. Every change that was made in trasforming the wilderness into a thickly settled and prosperous country, he witnessed and participated in. The home which he founded was a hospitable one, and from it have been sent forth some who occupy useful and honorable positions in town, county and state. Dr. Boyer, after an illness of more than a years' duration, died February 5, 1886, at his farm in Scott township, on which he first settled when he came to this county.

James Bradley
pg 165, mention
Of Ames, was an original member of the Story co. Medical Society, 1873
J.W. Brookbank
pg 102 & 105, mention
Of Burlington. Charter member of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1850 and served as a censor on the committee to prepare and present a constitution of that organization
Alice Clark Brooks
pg 325, mention
Daughter of Dr. Henry H. Clark of McGregor, she helped him set up a hospital in McGregor
T.K. Brooks
pg 202, mention
He was noted in the bio of A.G. Field to be practicing medicine in Des Moines in the mid-1860's
A.F. Bruning
pg 109 & 112, mention
He was a member of the Iowa State Medical Society, 1850. Dr. E.W. Lowe in his opening address at the Fairfield meeting [of the Iowa State Medical Society] in 1851, called attention to an epidemic of cholera in Burlington during the summer of 1850 and offered some remarks on the death of Dr. Bruning, "a native of Germany, a reputable scholar and devoted student, a graduate of the medical department of the Missouri State University, who fell a victim to the disease."
Henry Clay Bullis
pg 226-229, full text
Dr. Henry Clay Bullis of Decorah was born in Clinton county, N.Y., November 14, 1830, died in Decorah, September 7, 1897. Dr. Bullis was a man of varied experience and activities. From the age of nineteen to twenty-one he taught school in winter and worked on his father's farm in summer. When he had reached his majority he added to his previous labors the study of medicine. After six years of teaching, farming and studying medicine he attended two courses of medical lectures at the Vermount Medical College at Woodstock and graduated in the summer of 1854. In 1887 he received an additional degree from Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. Dr. Bullis came to Decorah October 28, 1854, and for one month taught school when he entered upon the practice of his profession, which he followed for more than 40 years. Decorah was then a small village in an unsettled country save here and there a farmer who was locating a home. Dr. Bullis received but a limited education yet with energy, accumulated experience and exceptional executive ability, he was fitted to extend his activities beyond the routine of an early country practitioner. He became active in local affairs and in 1865 he was appointed US examining surgeon for pensions which position he held until 1876 when he resigned to accept an appointment as a member of the Sioux Commission. Earlier, or in 1856, he was appointed by Judge Reed, Commissioner for the sale of intoxicating liquors which position he held for one year when this office was abolished. A little later the office of county superintendent was created when Dr. Bullis was elected in April, 1858 to fill it, he being the first incumbent, for a period of 2 years. In October, 1863, he was elected county supervisor serving 2 years, the last year as chairman of the board. In the fall of 1865 Dr. Bullis was elected by the republican party to represent Winneshiek county in the state senate, at the end of a four year term he was re-elected. While in the senate he served as chairman of the committee on claims, and as chairman of the State University committee. He devoted much time to the interests of the university and was a moving spirit in building it on a solid foundation and served for 18 years as regent, declining re-election. In the middle of his 2nd term as state senator and while serving as president, he was nominated and elected lieutenant governor by the republican party. It was in August, 1876, that President Grant appointed Dr. Bullis a member of the Sioux Indian Commission which was created for the purpose of purchasing the Black Hills Reservation, one of the important facts in the political history of the country in which Dr. Bullis had an active part. In 1878 he was appointed by President Grant, special US Indian Agent, which position he resigned after nine month service. In April, 1883, he was appointed special agent of the General Land Office but resigned after eight months service. Both these offices involved traveling and exposure beyond his strength hence his resignation. In 1880-81 and in 1889-90 he served as mayor of Decorah. In the latter term he resigned to accept the appointment as postmaster which position he held 4 years. Was president of the Iowa State Medical Society in 1876.

Dr. Bullis married September 11, 1854 to Miss Laura A. Adams of Champlain, New York, who died in 1861. In June, 1863, he married Miss Harriette B. Adams, a sister of the first wife.

Few physicians have had a wider or more varied experience than Dr. Bullis The writer has a clear recollection of Dr. Bullis. He was a man of attractive personal appearance; a man of little more than average height, rather slender but erect and active; dressed in the conventional clothes of the professional man of that day, a ready and fluent speaker, and was admired by the younger men of the profession whose ideas were not disturbed by the revelations of the bacteriologists.


*Transcribers note: throughout the book there were instances of a physician's name being given slightly differently from one mention to another; whenever I was positive they denoted the same man, I have included the alternate name or spelling, not knowing which is the 'correct' one.

Return to the Table of Contents

Home to Iowa History Project