In Old Washington (Physicians)

By James Croggon, The Evening Star, July 1, 1909 [pt. 2, p. 1]

About the year 1800 Dr. Frederick May, who came from Boston and settled on "twenty building hill," took up his residence on New Jersey avenue, Capitol Hill.

Dr. John Bullus was located on 7th and L street southeast. Tradition says he had a small drug store there. A Dr. Carroll was near he corner of Pennsylvania avenue and 12th street about the same time.

Beside these were other physicians not in private practice. Among them Dr. William Thornton, who planned the Capitol, and surgeons of the city who attended the families of the officials and the small force then in the city. Dr. Edgar Cuttbush and Dr. John Harrison of the navy and Dr. Elisha Harrison of the army, who later established a drug store at 14th street and the Avenue.

Physicians Organize
According to the researches of the late Dr. J.M. Toner, there were nine physicians and two apothecaries in the city in 1815. Two years later, however the 22nd of September 1817, sixteen physicians, including those of Georgetown, formed a medical society. This meeting was held at Tennison’s Taven, which is still standing on Pennsylvania avenue east of 15th street in 1802, being known as Lovell’s and afterward as the City Hotel, and conducted by McLeod, Sanford and others.

An act incorporating the society was approved in 1819. A medical hall was established at McPhail’s Academy on 16th street north of St. John’s Church. Among the members were Dr. Thomas Sim, residing in the Seven buildings; Dr. Arnold Elsey, 18th and G street; Dr. Henry Huntt, 14th street and the Avenue., Dr. Elisha Harrison, who kept a drug store at the latter place; Dr. J.H. Blake, who had been mayor of Washington on 10th street above the Avenue, Dr. Thomas Sewall, on the Avenue between 6th and 7th streets who lived for many years at 4 ˝ and C street; Dr. Frederic May, on New Jersey avenue and C street southeast; Dr. James Ewell, 1st and A streets southeast, Dr. Alexander McWilliams, I street between 6th and 7th street southeast; Dr. Richmond Johnson at 4 ˝ between N and O streets southwest, and William Jones, Pennsylvania avenue between 12th and 13th streets.

The lines were not, however, closely drawn. Treatment other than by the regular M.D.’s prevailed. Many were prone to try home remedies, those of herb doctors before calling on the regular physician. Notwithstanding, in the early years of the board of health, which was formed soon after, the mortality was slight, usually less than fifty per month in a population of 15,000.

In the twenties and for many years after the regular practitioner, in gig or on horseback carried his medicine case. Some families kept the family "Physician" receipts close at hand and others prepared remedies from old family receipts of untold age.

Indian Remedies Popular
Those alleged to have come from the Indians were popular. At the market house the housekeepers who were unable to go into the woods for roots, vines leaves and berries of medical plants, made purchases from the slaves and others who brought such there for sale.

Thus it was that regular physicians had to battle for the success of the profession, in some sections such was he faith in their regular practitioner, black and white, male and female, that the physician was not called until it was necessary to get a permit for interment.

There were few patent medicines of more than a local reputation. Other than the anti-billious pills, for which the apothecaries were the agents, other slight ailments were treated from the medicine chest prepared by Dr. James Ewell for families.

Blood letting was much resorted to and the lecher was frequently called. E. McReding, on the south side of the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets, was the leading dealer in leeches in the twenties. Later S. Devaughn, on 9th street near the Avenue, and afterward at 9th and E streets; Warren Choate near Louisiana avenue and 6th street, and others were engaged, and the leech was raised in some of the ponds then existing.

The apothecary shops had their insignia of gilt mortar and pestle displayed at their front doors. Their windows were filled with colored globes. They made their appearance slowly. Some of the stands recalled are those of Dr. John Bullus at the navy yard, Dr. Elisha Harrison at 14th street and Pennsylvania avenue; David Ott, Pennsylvania avenue between 9th and 10th streets; John Duckworth, New Jersey avenue south of the Capitol; J.A. Brereton, on the south side of the avenue between 6th and 7th streets; Thomas Webb, on the north side of the avenue opposite Brereton’s. Dr. C.F. Willtach, first at F and 12th streets northwest, then on Pennsylvania avenue between 9th and 10th streets, and Dr. William Gunton, at the corner of 9th and the Avenue, who was followed by others until the present day.

In the Seven buildings on Pennsylvania avenue between 19th and 20th, was Joel Wright, who was followed by Peter Seyne. In 1820 Nathaniel Jewett came out from Georgetown and took Dr. Harrison’s store at 14th and the Avenue. In the same decade John Duckworth came from Capitol Hill and succeeded Ott on the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets, Richard Stabler following him. The Duckworth stand on New Jersey avenue about the same time was in the hands of Clark & Gunnell, and afterward was conducted for several years by William H. Gunnell. On the Navy Yard E.W. Clark was at the stand at 7th and L streets for several years and the business was carried on by his widow until after the forties.

First Homeopathic Doctors
In the forties the homeopathic system was introduced by Dr. Josias Green, who established an office on C street near 4 ˝ street and soon after Dr. J.R. Piper settled on 6th street between E and F streets, later going to 12th street near I.

At this period the regular allopaths in practice included Drs. S.E. Thyson, on F street between 12th and 13th streets; I.M. Thomas, on the Avenue between 14th and 15th streets; S.C. Smoot, on I street between 18th and 19th; H.H. Swartz, on B and 3d streets; S. Mitchell, 7th street between I and K; Thomas Miller, Avenue and 14th street; J.F. May, Avenue between 4 ˝ and 6th streets; W.B. Magruder, 21st and the Avenue; Harvey Lindley, 4 ˝ and C streets, C.H. Lieberman, the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets; R.E. Stone, 14th and F streets; A.H. Lee, 7th and H streets; Joseph Borrows, E street between 9th and 10th; C. Boyle, the Avenue between 3d and 4 ˝ streets; N.P. Causin and H.F. Condict, 11th street between G and H streets; A. McDonald Davis, H street between 18th and 19th; Frederick Dawes, near 9th and E streets, I.F. Munding, 12th between C and D streets; Johnson Elliott, 6th and F streets; T.B.J. Frye, Avenue between 19th and 20th; W. Warfield, E sreet between 10th and 11th; Dr. Flodoardo Howard, 11th and F streets; J.E. Morgan, 11th street between E and F southwest, and Noble Young, 6th and G sreets; Alexander McWilliams, I street between 6th and 7th; G.M. Dove, 8th street between G and I, and J.M. Roberts, G on the Navy Yard.

Among the apothecaries at this time were A.. Swartz, at 3d street and the Avenue; S.R. Patterson, who had succeeded at the Gunston stand at 9th street and the Avenue, who was followed by J.W. Nairn; E. Engelhard, on the south side of the Avenue between 9th and 10th streets; Michael Dulaney, 4 ˝ street and the Avenue; F.W. Fuller, northwest corner of 12th street and the Avenue; Thomas P. Morgan, on the Avenue between 19tgh and 20th streets; D.S. Clark, 11th street near Maryland avenue; J.F. Callon, 7th and E streets; Mrs. Clark, 7th and L streets southeast; Joseph Walsh, 8th street between I and K streets southeast, and V. Harbaugh, corner 7th and G streets. Up to this period many were more than mere medicine stores. All carried perfumery and fancy goods, and in one instance at least small farming and gardening implements, with plants and seeds, were on sale.

While the physicians and apothecaries devoted themselves to these callings, there were few who did not give time to the general welfare of he people.