LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
Alexander M. Vail M.D.
Alexander M.Vail M.D., of Rock Rapids, is a son of Alexander Vail, a hatter during his earlier years in the city of Newark, New Jersey. Following the election of Buchanan, however, he foresaw the possible destruction of the manufacturing industries of the east, and so, in 1857, removed to Illinois and settled on a farm near Kewanee, where he lived until 1865. He died November 1, 1894, while visiting the doctor, at the advanced age of 90 years. The mother, Sarah Sebring Vail, was a woman whose life was one of great activity in the work of benevolence. She died at the age of 62.
King George 1 of Great Britian granted a tract of land in the Orange mountains in New Jersey to the early ancestors of the Vails, and there several generations of the family passed their lives. Among the descendants of these was Judge Stephen Vail, of Patterson, N.J., who was the father of Alfred Vail, said to be the originator of the Morse system of electric telegraphy. Little is known of the mother's antecendents except that they were natives of Holland.
Alexander M. Vail was born at Greenbrook, Summerset County, New Jersey, May 9, 1848. His educational advantages were limited; he attended country school during winter and by hard study evenings when engaged as a clerk at an early age. He started to learn the timmer's trade at 14, but was induced to abandon the idea by his mother, and entered the service of his brother, who owned a clothing store. After four years in that capacity he made a tour of Kansas and Nebraska, but finding no place to his liking returned to Kewanee, Illinois. He went to Chicago shortly after the big fire, and from there to Red Oak, Iowa, where he was engaged for a time in clerking, but the company failed and he was thrown out of employment. After working at various places he, in 1877, took up the study of medical electricity and hydropathy.
In the fall of 1879 he went to Chicago and began a regular course in medicine and surgery. While there he assisted Dr. L.G. McIntosh in perfecting the electric battery now known as the McIntosh battery, and by his practical genius aided in bringing out one of the best and most extensively used batteries now in use by physicians. He graduated from the Chicago Medical college in 1882. During his junior year he took second prize, consisting of a medal and a $10 gold piece, in an oral contest in anatomy, and the next year received a like prize for the best dissection.
Following graduation he engaged in practice in Red Oak, in partnership with Dr. F.M. Hiett, where he remained one year; removed to Rock Rapids in 1884 and went into the drug business with Dr. A. McNab, practicing the while; sold out in 1887 and devoted his whole attention to practice. While there he established a reputation in the treatment of diseases of women and children, and his success with tuberculosis by the iodine method, a discovery of his own, has attracted wide attention. In 1886 he assisted in organizing the Medical Association of Northwestern Iowa, and in 1887 was delegated a member of the American Medical association, which then met in Chicago.
In 1894 he succeeded in organizing the Lyon County Medical society. He is a member of the National Association of Railway Surgeons, and is local surgeon for the Illinois Central railway. He is a republican and prohibitionist, but regards the latter as a moral rather than a political question. He is a member of the I.O.O.F., and has filled most all of the offices in his home lodge; was district deputy grand master for one year. He is highly prominent in the work of the M.W. of A., having assisted in organizing one of the strongest lodges in any small town in the state. He was married to Miss Ida F. Burrough, of Tecumseh, Michigan, September 8, 1886. They have no children.
Webization by Kermit Kittleson - Sept. 2006