Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.
Showing posts with label Early Physicians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Early Physicians. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Little Woman Connection

Louisa May Alcott
Today's post is dedicated to our very own Joni Lincoln.  I never get tired of the many twists and turns from our historic past and who they connect us with.  Joni, a long time supporter of the performing arts in our community, holds a special bond with the publication of Little Woman, having directed our drama club's performances of the timeless classic.

In the Alumni directory for Bowdoin College located in the Town of Brunswick, Maine is the following entry:

ALVAN HYDE SMEDLEY, b. 6 Oct. 1835, Port Byron, NY.  Med. Sch. 1862, Physician, New York City, 1863; Boston, Mass. 1863-72, d. 10 Oct. 1872.

Dr. Smedley while practicing at Boston had a patient by the name of Amos Bronson Alcott, being none other than the father of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Woman.  In the book Little Woman Abroad: The Alcott Sisters' Letters from Europe, 1870-1871 by Louisa May Alcott, Dr. Smedley cured her father's hearing loss.

History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts Now Called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts
page 70

Name: Alvan H. Smedley Alvan H. Smedley(1868), physician, was the proprietor of the Tremont Eye and Ear Institute, at No. 129 Tremont, corner of Winter Street. He was also the principal and consulting physician in that Institution.

He was the son of Dr. James Smedley and Lucy Bridges.  The family did not live long in New York; by 1850 they returned to Williamstown, MA where his parents are buried.

While I have always been a fan of Little Woman, I am grateful to learn we share an unexpected attachment to the Alcott family via Dr. Smedley.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dr.'s James and Nettie Jenkins

Thank you Kim Nolan for sharing your comment on Dr's James and Nettie Jenkins.

(See Pioneer Physicians Posted 4/2/2009)

It is always nice to learn that part of this family remained in our community. Your question about the Jenkins being involved in the first electric chair execution in America at the Auburn Prison is very interesting.

Newspaper accounts indicate that a Dr. William Jenkins of New York was one of the physicians who performed the autopsy on William Kemmler, the inmate that was executed:

Autopsy of William Kemmler

History of the electric chair

It is difficult to determine the exact role of your Dr. James Morris Jenkins from newspaper accounts. It does appear that he was a witness:

Dr. James Jenkins listed as a witness

There is another article that mentions a Dr. Morris M Jenkins which may be James Morris Jenkins:

Dr. Morris M Jenkins interview

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Famous Cherry Tree

Hoffman Vs. Armstrong

Who would think that a cherry pie made at Port Byron, NY during the Civil War would result in a landmark lawsuit for New York State?

It’s true; the lawsuit was even mentioned in the American Forests Magazine. To recap the report, one summer day in 1864 Sarah Hoffman of Port Byron decided to bake a cherry pie. Times being what they were, she did not go to a store for the pie filling. Instead, she simply went to the yard where her brother Dr. William Hoffman had a glorious cherry tree. According to the report, the neighbors house occupied the site where Warren's Coal office once stood. Dr. Hoffman's home was next door and the tree was located between both properties.

The tree had already had a good picking leaving little fruit available from Dr. Hoffman’s favorite tree, so she decided to pick the cherries from the branches that had sprawled and were overhanging their neighbor Abner Armstrong’s property. Sarah used the division fence as a ladder to reach the fruit when the neighbor appeared insisting that she stop what she was doing. Abner felt that any fruit that happened to hang over the fence on his side was rightfully his.

Sarah refused and kept on picking when Abner took matters into his own hands. He began to violently shake the fence causing Sarah to fall. She sustained cuts and sprains. Of course her brother the Doctor filed the lawsuit for restitution for his sister’s pain and suffering. Abner felt he was simply removing a trespasser so he refused to pay a dime.

The case went from the Cayuga County Court System all the way to the Court of Appeals at Albany. New York State had no prior case in which to decide who was the legal owner of the branches that grew over the division fence, so cases from England as well as CT were reviewed. It was decided that the CT law made good sense for the Empire State and was applied to the case. This was the first case of its kind in New York State.

It was decided that the title to the fruit of the tree runs with the title of its trunk, no matter how far the roots and limbs spread. Therefore, Dr. Huffman was determined to be the rightful owner of the fruit on all branches of that tree.

I have no doubt that it was also the most expensive pie ever made in the history of New York State. Many sitcoms and movies have portrayed a similar scene so the lesson learned is to always keep your branches trimmed to avoid them infringing on the property of your neighbor.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pioneer Physicians

In the pioneer days, it would be unusual to find a husband and wife team who both provided medical services in the same community. Port Byron was once home to such a couple, being Drs. James M Jenkins and his wife Dr. Nettie E Jenkins.

She may be the first female physician at Port Byron. I certainly will be keeping my eyes open to see if I can find anyone prior to her. Nettie’s maiden name was Tripp and she came from a family of physicians, as her brother was Dr. John D Tripp.

Nettie graduated from Syracuse University in 1877 and soon after her graduation, married Dr. James Morris Jenkins. Her husband graduated from Syracuse University in 1875. The Jenkins would stay at Port Byron for three years before moving to Auburn.

Each had impressive careers. Dr. James served as President of the Cayuga County Medical Society and was a member of the Auburn Academy of Medicine, as well as the State Medical Association. He holds one additional record, as newspapers reported that he purchased the first of the earliest automobiles to be delivered within the city of Auburn in 1901. He didn’t keep the auto for more than a few months. The vehicle is described as having one seat, wire wheels and was powered by steam that was generated from kerosene burners. The same article reports that Dr. G. W. Whitney was a close second but the first to drive his automobile for any length of time.

Dr. Nettie Jenkins was also a member of the Auburn Academy of Medicine, the Cayuga County Medical Society, as well as the Society of Medicine of Central New York. She worked side by side with her husband, treating the injured during Auburn's 1905 Columbian Rope Fire.

The Jenkins are buried at Fort Hill Cemetery, Auburn, NY.