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


Charles W. Davis
pg 229-230, full text
Dr. Davis was born in Troy, Ohio, January 4, 1823 and died in Indianola July 20, 1881. Dr. Davis graduated A.B., Wabash College, Crawfordville, Indiana, in 1848 and M.D. from Rush Medical College, 1853. After practicing at Carlisle for 3 years, removed to Indianola in 1856 where he practiced until the time of his death.

On October 15, 1862, Dr. Davis was mustered into the United States service as surgeon of the Thirty-fourth Iowa Infantry. After active service under General Sherman, he resigned November 25, 1863, and resumed practice in Indianola taking an active part in professional matters.

In 1869, Dr. Davis became a member of the Iowa State Medical Society and in 1876, a member of the American Medical Association.

W.P. Davis
pg 202, mention
Dr. Davis was noted in the bio of A.G. Field to be practicing medicine in Des Moines in the mid-1860's
F.W. Dean
pg 163, mention
At the August 12, 1896 meeting of the Council Bluffs Medical Society, Dr. F.W. Dean was elected secretary.
H.M. Dean
pg 152, mention
The Muscatine County Medical Society was reorganized June 12, 1874 under the name Muscatine Medical Society. Dr. H.M. Dean was elected Secretary.
Lee Wallace Dean
pg 314, mention; and 318-319, full text
During the last three and a half months the preparation of [diphtheria] antitoxin has been in progress at the State University, with the cooperation of my assistant, Mr. L.W. Dean, and Dr. Shrader of Iowa City, who very kindly furnished the horse for the experiment. [from a paper written by Dr. Walter L. Bierring] (pg 314)

The preparation of diphtheria antitoxin at the University Laboratory in Iowa City in 1895 and 1896 was the first produced in this country outside of New York City. The Iowa City product was used in over 300 cases of diphtheria with no untoward serum reaction, which was really remarkable when viewed in the light of later results. Mr. Lee Wallce Dean (M.D., 1896) was the principal associate in this work, and his research studies on diphtheria toxin and antitoxin formed the basis of his thesis for the degree of Master of Science granted by the University of Iowa in 1896. (pg 318-319)

A.A. Deering
pg 156, mention
The Boone County Medical Society was reorganized April 21, 1871. Dr. A.A. Deering was elected Secretary.
Dr. Deetken
pg 161, mention
At the October 26, 1887 meeting of the Council Bluffs Medical Society, Dr. Deetken was fined 50 cents for failing to read his paper.
Dr. Dewey
pg 137, mention
Of Keokuk. Member of the Lee Co. Medical Society in 1858.
Wilmot H. Dickenson
pg 202, 283 & 321, mention
Noted in the bio of A.G. Field to be practicing medicine in Des Moines in the mid-1860's. He was a member of the first State Board of Health, 1880, from Des Moines. The bio of P.W. Lewellen notes: "Dr. Dickinson of Des Moines, was the first Homeopath member" [of the State Board of Health]
John Forrest Dillon
pg 237-245, full text; and pg 247, mention
Dr. J.F. Dillon graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Davenport, Iowa, in 1850 and became a member of the Iowa State Medical Society at its first meeting in Burlington, June 19, 1850. He also had th ehonor of writing the first article i nthe first number of the first medical journal published in Iowa. The journal was published at Keokuk and was called "The Western Medico-Chirurgical Journal." Date September 1, 1850. The first article is entitled, "Rheumatic Carditis, Autopsical Examination," by John Forrest Dillon, M.D., Farmington, Iowa. It is a very interesting article and foreshadows the future success of the author.

The following autobiographical sketch of Dr. John Forrest Dillon, afterward the distinguished Judge Dillon, is taken from a letter to Dr. Geo. F. Jenkins and published in the Iowa Medical Journal February, 1908.
"I was born in the state of New York on December 25, 1831. My father moved with his family, of which I was the eldest, to Davenport, Iowa, in July, 1838, I being then a little less than seven years of age. I lived in Davenport from that time until 1879, when I came to New York to accept a professorship of law in Columbia University, and the position of general counsel for the Union Pacific Railroad Company. I commenced the study of medicine when about seventeen years of age in the office of Dr. E. S. Barrows, at Davenport, Iowa. 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. A year or so after I entered the office of Dr. Barrows as a student, was formed the Rock Island Medical School, the prototype or original, as I understood it, of the present College of Physicians and Surgeons of Keokuk, Iowa, of which you are the president. I attended one course of lectures at Rock Island. The next year the college was removed to Davenport, Iowa, where I attended a second course and was regularly graduated in the spring of 1850 an M.D. The professors as a body were able men, some of them men of great learning and even genius. Abler teachers than Professor Richards who taught practice, Professor Sanford who taught surgery and Professor Armor who taught physiology, it would have been difficult to find in the chairs of any contemporary medical institution.

I happened to attend the first meeting of the Iowa Medical Society in 1850, at Burlington, in this way. Having been graduated I desired to seek a place in which to practice my profession and I consulted Professor Sanford, having an admiration and affection for him. He said: "I have lived many years in Farmington, Van Buren county, a small place on the Des Moines river, but my duties in connection with the medical college are such that I have resolved to change my residence and follow the college to Keokuk." Dr. Sanford had obtained great celebrity as a surgeon and indeed had outgrown the little town of Farmington. He suggested to me that his leaving Farmington would create a vacancy which would perhaps make that town a desirable place for me in which to locate. When I reflect that I was really under twenty years of age, without experience, the idea that I could go to Farmington and occupy in any degree the place which Dr. Sanford left seems now to me almost amusing. I resolved, however, to take his advice and so arranged my journey from Davenport to Farmington as to enable me to attend the first meeting of the Iowa Medical Society in Burlington in June, 1850.

After the lapse of fifty and seven years I distinctly recall that meeting and. I regarded it then, as I have regarded it ever since, as an assemblage of men of remarkable learning and ability. Among those present were Sanford, Hughes, McGugin, Henry, Elbert, Fountain, Haines, Lowe, Ransom, Rauch, all distinguished names.

My exchequer was far from plethoric and I was obliged to practice strict economy. I rented for an office a small brick building on the crumbling bank of the Des Moines River, one story high, about twenty feet square, in a dilapidated condition, at a cost of $4 per month. I engaged board and lodging at a boarding house kept by Mrs. Corwin, where I made my home during the three or four months I remained in Farmington, at a cost of $3.50 per week. Among the boarders was a young lawyer by the name of Howe, who had resided in Farmington some little time. We became well acquainted and spent nearly every evening walking up and down the banks of the Des Moines River, in speculation upon what the future had in reserve for us. He was almost as destitute of clients as I was of patients.

There were at least two old established physicians in this place, Dr. Barton and Dr. Lane. How could a young man under twenty years of age expect to find employment under these circumstances unless both of the physicians were engaged or out of the place? I will mention one case with a little particularity since it was epochal, having had the effect of changing the whole current and career of my life. On the hills near Farmington, about two miles distant there was a large brickyard. On a hot August day the men worked hard, and their skin being relaxed and their appetites vigorous, they ate a hearty supper when a cool and grateful breeze sprang up and swept the valley. These workmen sat out in it, became chilled and two or three hours afterwards were seized with violent attacks of cholera morbus. They sent post haste to town for a physician, both Dr. Barton and Dr. Lane were absent and there was nothing to do but to call on me. I had no horse or buggy of my own and if I had I would have found it difficult to have driven over the rough roads and as for many years I had been troubled with inguinal hernia, I could not ride on horseback. The last time I attempted to do so nearly cost me my life. There was no alternative but to walk to the brickyard, where I found the men in great suffering, requiring liberal doses of laudanum and stimulants and my personal attention for several hours. Weary and exhausted I sought my way home on foot and I saw the sun rising over the Eastern hills just as I was reaching my lodgings. Maybe it was the sun of Austerlitz but I didn't so regard it at that time. Two or three years ago when Dr. Lorenz of Vienna was in this country he took lunch with myself and several gentlemen, one of whom mentioned I had formerly been a physician, whereupon Dr. Lorenz evinced curiosity to know why , I left the profession, and I proceeded to give him the narrative that I am now relating. vVhen I had finished one of the gentlemen said, "Now, that you have told all about this there is one thing you have not mentioned did these men live or die?" to which I responded, "That question has been more than once asked but I have always evaded the answer."

This night's experience set me to thinking and the next evening when young lawyer Howe and myself were taking our regular walk up and down the banks of the Des Moines River I turned to him and said, "Howe, I have made a great mistake, I cannot practice medicine in this country without being able to ride on horseback, which I am utterly unable to do. I might as well admit the mistake and turn my mind to something else, I shall read law. Tell me, what is the first book that a student of law requires?" He answered, "Blackstone's Commentaries." "Have you got them ?" He replied, "Yes, I have them and the Iowa Blue books of Laws, and those are the only books I have." He was kind enough to loan me this Blackstone and I began at once to read law in my little dilapidated office.

Another event in my brief medical career at Farmington is chronicled in the first number of the Medico-Chirurgical Journal of Keokuk, of September 1, 1850. It is the first article and first number of that publication, entitled, "Rheumatic Carditis, Autopsical Examination," by Jno. Forrest Dillon; M.D., Farmington, Iowa," thus connecting me in a slight way with the earliest medical literature of the state.

On inquiry of the present officers of the Keokuk Medical College, I learned that they had no copy of the publication and. I only succeeded in obtaining one through the kindness and courtesy of the Iowa Historical Association. I shall not undertake to re-state the substance' of that article; briefly outlined it is this:

A laborer on the public works at the small town of Croton, about five miles distant from Farmington, suddenly died under circumstances that lead to a very general belief among the people of Croton that he had died from malpractice. The post-mortem examination disclosed, however, that he died of apoplexy caused by hypertrophy of the heart. The heart was found to be nearly double the normal size and weight. It fell my lot after conducting the examination to take the organ in my hand and explain to the excited citizens the cause of the death and thus allay public excitement. The article concludes as follows: Before taking my departure from Croton, I took occasion to give the botanic physician some salutary advice, adverted to the unenviable predicament in which his ignorance had plunged him, and endeavored to inspire him with a love for scientific knowledge, by following the example of Le Maitre de Philosophie, in a Comedie of the celebrated Moliere, in which he endeavors to impress the truth of the following sentiment upon the mind of Monsieur Jourdain "Sans la science, la vie est presque une image de la mort." 'Whether I succeeded in convincing him of it so readily, as was the case with Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, the future must determine. I have drawn up this hasty sketch of the above case for two prominent reasons, in the first place to present your readers with some additional testimony confirmatory of the frequent connection between arthritic and cardiac disease; and in the second place, to illustrate the great benefit often derivable from necroscopic examination. The one is frequently overlooked, the other too sadly neglected.

In the fall of 1850 I concluded to return to Davenport where my mother and sister lived and take up my home with them and utilize my little knowledge of drugs and medicines and get a livelihood by opening a small drug store, which would also afford leisure time to enable me to read law. This I continued to do until the spring of 1852 when I applied for admission to the bar of the District Court of Scott County, Iowa, and on motion of Mr. Austin Corbin, a man very well known afterwards in Iowa and elsewhere, I was admitted. The same year I was elected prosecuting attorney for the county and practiced law in Scott and adjoining counties until 1858, when I was elected Judge of the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District for the counties of Muscatine, Scott, Clinton and Jackson; re-elected four years afterward. Was then transferred to the supreme bench of the state and was re-elected six years afterwards. Before qualifying for my second term I was appointed by President Grant, United States Circuit Judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit, comprising the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska and afterwards Colorado. I held the last mentioned office for ten years, until 1879, when I resigned the same to accept the professorship of law at Columbia University and removed East, where I have ever since practiced my profession. I find the little knowledge that I acquired of medicine and its principles not only to be a great satisfaction to me throughout my life but at times to be of utility, and I maintained a nominal connection with the medical profession until about the period when I came to New York by delivering each year lectures on medical jurisprudence at the Iowa University to the combined law and medical classes of the institution." (pg 237-245)

In 1868 Dr. Peck submitted some definite plans he had formed in relation to a medical school to Judge John F. Dillon who approved them and lent his cooperation. It was fortunate at this time to have the support of Judge Dillon whose name carried great weight, who was hiimself a graduate in medicine and at one time was a practitioner of medicine. (pg 247)

George Donohoe
pg 332, full text
Dr. George Donohoe, the second superintendent of the Cherokee Insane Hospital, was born in Massachusetts in 1876; his early education was acquired in his native state; he graduated from the Boston State Hospital. Became the second assistant physician and acting pathologist in the State Hospital at Independence. When a superintendent was needed to take charge of the Iowa Inebriate Hospital at Knoxville, Dr. Donohoe was appointed there. When Dr. Voldeng left Cherokee, Dr. Donohoe was immediately elected by the board of control to become the 2nd superintendent at Cherokee.
J.C. Doolittle
pg 279, mention
In 1905, Dr. Gershom H. Hill associated with Dr. J.C. Doolittle and opened a private hospital for the treatment of nervous and mental invalids. Dr. J.C. Doolittle was succeeded by Dr. Russell Doolittle. [no year given]
Russell Doolittle
pg 279, mention
In 1905, Dr. Gershom H. Hill associated with Dr. J.C. Doolittle and opened a private hospital for the treatment of nervous and mental invalids. Dr. J.C. Doolittle was succeeded by Dr. Russell Doolittle. [no year given]
E.E. Dorr
pg 132 & 180, mention
Dr. Dorr became the editor of the Iowa Medical Journal in July 1900. In 1905 the Iowa State Medical Society contracted with the editor of the Iowa Medical Journal, Dr. E.E. Dorr, to publish the transaction of the State Society. At the expiration of this contract in 1911, the Society adopted a journal of its own and elected Dr. D.S. Fairchild of Clinton, editor.
T.J. Douglass
pg 151, mention
Dr. T.J. Douglass was vice-president of the Wapello co. Medical Society when it reorganized following the Civil War in 1870.


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