Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Doctors Sedgwick

Dr. Parker Sedgwick

While searching the surname "Sedgwick" at World Vital Records and Google Books the other day, I found reference to a couple of interesting books not about Sedgwicks, but rather by Sedgwicks.

My fourth great-grandfather, Elijah Sedgwick, was the father of Tryphena Sedgwick, who married Micajah Petit Pettis. Tryphena's brother, Elijah Jr., was the author of one of these books, which is listed in Volume II (M-Z) of A Catalogue of the Atwater Collection of American Popular Medicine and Health Reform by Christopher Hoolihan (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press 2001-2008) on p. 317:
3134. SEDGWICK, Elijah.
The plain physician, giving directions for the preservation of health, and the cure of disease . . . Rochester [N.Y.]: Printed by E.F. Marshall, 1827...

After a brief introduction on the preservation of health, the author provides equally brief directions for the treatment of fifty disorders common to the human frame. Elijah Sedgwick, junior, was an 1826 graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the Western District (Fairfield, N.Y.). On 15 June 1826, a copy of his diploma was filed with the Ontario County (New York) clerk...
At the time of publication, the author would have been about thirty years old.

The Plain Physician is a rare book just 48 pages long. I don't believe it's been digitized. A search at WorldCat lists only four copies, three of them in Rochester and one in Bethesda, Md.

Also part of the Atwater Collection and listed immediately following Elijah's book is one by his brother, Dr. Parker Sedgwick, and Parker's son, Dr. Sherman Parker Sedgwick:
3135. SEDGWICK, Parker.
The house we live in: how to keep it in order; or, the experience of seventy years' successful practice of the medical profession, east and west, in plain English for the people. By Drs. Parker Sedgwick and S.P. Sedgwick . . . Fifth edition, revised and enlarged. Chicago: J.N. Clarke, publisher, 1869...

The first edition of The house we live in also appears to have been published at Chicago in 1869 (c1868). In the introductory chapter the Sedgwicks describe their domestic medicine as "a perfect family physician," proclaiming that "excepting the Bible, [it is] of more value to any family than any other book published" (p. 20). In its pages the doctors Sedgwick inform their readers "how to distinguish one disease from another" and "how to cure all curable diseases, in so plain a manner that you will have perfect confidence in your ability to manage all ordinary diseases yourself" (p. 19).

Parker Sedgwick appears to have begun his career in Oneida County, N.Y. in the mid-1820s. Some time thereafter he moved to Illinois, where father and son lived and practiced in Wheaton, twenty-five miles west of Chicago. The younger Sedgwick is still listed in Wheaton in the first edition of Polk's Medical and surgical directory of the United States (1886), although no data are provided regarding his medical training. In an obituary of Louise Sedgwick (1864?-1891), a graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Chicago, published in the Chicago medical recorder (1891, 1:485), it is stated that her father, S.P. Sedgwick, of Wheaton, died in July 1890.
In this case, you can have the benefit of the Sedgwick medical expertise at Google Books, where you will find the full text of The House We Live In online. It's worth a scroll, or you can download the 11.6MB PDF for later browsing. There are some interesting case stories, and instructions for making up lots of eye-popping old-time remedies, like this one:
Dover's Powder, Or Fever Powder.
Opium, finely pulverized, one drachm; ipecac, one drachm; nitrate potash (saltpetre pure), four drachms; pulverize and mix. This forms the regular " Dover's powder." But to make the Dover's powder, or fever powder, described in this work, take four drachms of gum camphor, pour upon it sufficient ether to completely saturate it, holding it in your hand; pulverize this finely and mix thoroughly with the three first articles. It should be kept in a close bottle.
Kids, don't try this at home!


For more on the Sedgwick family, visit Sedgwick Genealogy Worldwide. It's a spectacular surname website. I'm grateful for all the amazing materials made available to me there, including the original photo of Dr. Parker Sedgwick from which I made the image used in today's post.


GrannyPam said...

How interesting to be connected to people that wrote and were written about. It doesn't happen in my families!

T.K. said...

Maybe not... until geneablogging came along... ;-)

Blog Archive


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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