St. Louis – The Fourth City, Volume 2 – Walter Barlow Stevens
This is not a book of dates. It does not abound in statistics. It avoids controversies of the past and prophecies of the future. The motive is to present in plain, newspaper style a narrative of the rise and progress of St. Louis to the fourth place among American cities. To personal factors rather than to general causes is credited the high position which the community has attained. Men and women, more than location and events, have made St. Louis the Fourth City. The site chosen was fortunate. Of much greater import was the character of those who came to settle. American history, as told from the Atlantic seaboard points of view, classed St. Louis as “a little trading post.” The settlement of Laclede was planned for permanence. It established stable government by consent of the governed. It embodied the homestead principle in a land system. It developed the American spirit while “good old colony times” prevailed along the Atlantic coast. Home rule found in St. Louis its first habitat on this continent. This is volume two out of four, giving a historical review from the founding of the town to its great days.
St. Louis – The Fourth City, Volume 2
Excerpt from the text:
To St. Louis, in 1800, came a physician and scientist who was to leave his impression on the community. Dr. Antoine Francois Saugrain may be called the father of the medical profession of St. Louis and the profession may feel honored thereby. He came to the United States on the advice of Benjamin Franklin when the latter was minister to France. The young Frenchman, born in Versailles, highly educated and with developed taste for scientific investigation impressed Mr. Franklin as the kind of a man to make a valuable American. His first experience in this country was rather disheartening. After living nine years with the unfortunate French colony of Gallipolis on the Ohio river, Dr. Saugrain floated down the Ohio and made his way to St. Louis four years before the American occupation. With the Saugrains came the Michauds of Gallipolis. Dr. Saugrain had married Genevieve Rosalie Michaud, eldest of the daughters of John Michaud. Two little girls, Rosalie and Eliza Saugrain, made the journey. They became the wives of Henry Von Phul and James Kennerly, the merchants. Other daughters of Dr. Saugrain married Major Thomas O’Neil, of the United States army, and John W. Reel, the St. Louis merchant. Descendants of the Saugrains and Michauds are numerous in this generation of St. Louisans.
Possibly the reason that the medical profession had attracted so little attention up to the coming of the Saugrains was because of the good health which the community enjoyed. The eldest daughter of the doctor remembered that when the family first came to St. Louis there were few cases of sickness. When Dr. Saugrain came, he discovered that the habitants were accustomed to go to Father Didier, the priest, when they felt bad. Father Didier would fix up teas from herbs and give simple remedies, without professing to be educated in medicine. Dr. Saugrain was a botanist. He depended largely upon vegetable compounds and upon brews from herbs which he grew in a wonderful garden that surrounded his house, or gathered in the wild state.
The first case of smallpox appeared in St. Louis the year after Dr. Saugrain came. With it came a problem that appealed to the scientific mind. The virtue of vaccination was accepted by Dr. Saugrain. As soon as he could supply himself with the material, Dr. Saugrain began a campaign of education. He published cards in the Gazette explaining the preventive. He informed “such physicians and other intelligent persons as reside beyond the limits of his accustomed practice that he will with much pleasure upon application furnish them with vaccine infection.” But especially noteworthy, and characteristic of the medical profession in St. Louis in all its history, was the philanthropic position taken by Dr. Saugrain toward those so unfortunate as to be unable to protect themselves. “Persons in indigent circumstances,” he wrote to the Gazette, “paupers and Indians will be vaccinated and attended gratis.”
From the days when St. Louis chose a doctor for the first mayor of the new city, the medical profession has done for St. Louis far more than to prescribe for physical ails. That first mayor, Dr. William Carr Lane, in his inaugural message, 1823, said: “Health is a primary object, and there is much more danger of disease originating at home than of its seeds coming from abroad. I recommend the appointment of a board of health to be selected from the body of citizens, with ample powers to search out and remove nuisances, and to do whatever else may conduce to general health. This place has of late acquired a character for unhealthfulness which it did not formerly bear and does not deserve. I am credibly informed that it is not many. years since a fever of high grade was rarely, if ever seen. To what is the distressing change attributable? May we not say principally to the insufficiency of our police regulations? What is the present condition of yards, drains, etc.? May we not dread the festering heat of next summer? If this early warning had been heeded, St. Louis might have escaped or minimized the series of terrible cholera epidemics which began in the next decade.
Progress in sanitary conveniences was shown by the newspaper announcement in 1829 that “the new bathing establishment of Mr. J. Sparks & Co. has about thirty-five visitors, and of that number not one has experienced an hour’s sickness since the bathing commenced; we should, for the benefit of the city, be glad there were more encouragement, and, as the season is partly over, tickets have been reduced to one dollar the season.”
The distinction of being the first American physician and surgeon to establish himself permanently west of the Mississippi belongs to Bernard Gaines Farrar. Born in Virginia and reared in Kentucky, young Dr. Farrar, on the advice of his brother-in-law, Judge Coburn, came to St. Louis to live two years after the American occupation. He was just of age. Dr. Charles Alexander Pope described Farrar as a man of most tender sensibilities, so tender-hearted that he seemed to suffer with his patients. And yet, before he had been in St. Louis three years, Dr. Farrar performed a surgical operation which for a generation was a subject of marvel in the settlements and along the trails of the Mississippi valley. The patient was young Shannon, who had made the journey to the mouth of the Columbia with Lewis and Clark. Going with a second government expedition to find the sources of the Missouri, Shannon was shot by Blackfoot Indians. He was brought down the river to St. Louis, arriving in very bad condition. Dr. Farrar amputated the leg at the thigh. Shannon recovered, went to school, became a highly educated man and served on the bench in Kentucky. He never failed to give Dr. Farrar the credit of saving his life. The St. Louis surgeon went on performing what in those days were surgical miracles. Older members of the St. Louis profession always believed that Farrar antedated Sansom in the performance of a very delicate operation on the bladder, although Sansom, by reason of making publication first, is given the credit in medical history. Dr. Farrar died of the cholera in the epidemic of 1849. He was the man universally regarded as the dean of the medical profession of St. Louis in that day. It was said of Dr. Farrar that he was the physician and surgeon most devoted to the duties of his profession; that he took’ very little recreation; that he did not indulge in the sports of fishing and hunting which were common. Dr. Charles A. Pope pronounced before the medical association a eulogy in which he declared that the acts of benevolence and the charity performed by Dr. Farrar at the time when there was no hospital or asylum in the city were “unparalleled.”
“Patent medicines” followed the American flag into St. Louis. They were here when Colonel Charless began to publish the Gazette. Within a month after the inaugural number, the Gazette was advertising cough drops, balsam of honey, British oil, bilious pills, essence of peppermint. Four years later, Dr. Robert Simpson, a young Marylander who had come to St. Louis as assistant surgeon in the army, opened the first drug store in St. Louis, associating with himself Dr. Quarles. Dr. Simpson became postmaster and in the fifty years of his life in St. Louis had a varied experience. He went into local politics and held the offices of collector and of sheriff. In his more active years it was said of him that he knew personally everybody living in St. Louis and most of the people in the county. He engaged in mercantile life, was cashier of the first savings bank, the Boatmen’s, was chosen comptroller of the city several times and went to the Legislature.
The first medical student west of the Mississippi was Meredith Martin. He was a young Kentuckian who came to St. Louis and read medical books in the office of Dr. Farrar in 1828. There was no medical school here. After he had read the books, Martin went to Philadelphia and took a degree. He came back to St. Louis to practice and had a strenuous beginning. Almost immediately he was given a commission to go to the Indian Territory and vaccinate the Indians. This was a work of months. Dr. Martin returned to St. Louis to find the city passing through its first terrible visitation of cholera. He lived to be one of the oldest physicians in St. Louis and was three times elected president of the St. Louis Medical society.
A highly educated son of Maryland who joined the medical profession in St. Louis, a representative of one of the families of Revolutionary patriots, was Dr. Stephen W. Adreon. He came in 1832. After some years of practice he, like many other members of his profession, took an interest in civic matters and served as a member of the city council under three mayors, Kennett, King and Filley. As president of the board of health, Dr. Adreon had much to do with the development of that department of the municipal government. He was also, toward the close of his active career, health officer and one of the managers of the House of Refuge.
Connection with the army brought to St. Louis notable members of the medical profession. The most distinguished of these, probably, was a surgeon of Connecticut birth. Dr. William Beaumont had been a surgeon in the regular army about twenty years when, after being stationed for some time at Jefferson Barracks and the arsenal, he resigned and made his home in St. Louis. That was about 1832. While he was living here Dr. Beaumont brought out a book which gave him worldwide fame. He called it “Physiology of Digestion and Experiments on the Gastric Juice.” That wasn’t a title to arouse much curiosity among laymen, but when the story got into circulation, interest was not confined to the profession. During the time that Dr. Beaumont was at an army post on the Canadian frontier he was called upon to attend Alexis St. Martin, a boatman. Martin had been shot in such a manner as to leave a hole in his stomach. The wound healed, but the hole did not close. Dr. Beaumont carried on a long series of experiments. He observed the operation of digestion under many conditions. St. Martin ate solids and drank liquids under the doctor’s directions. The doctor looked into the stomach, watched and timed the progress. He was able to give from actual observation the effects produced by various kinds of foods and drinks upon the stomach.
Some of these young physicians who settled in St. Louis combined sound business qualifications with professional standing. Dr. Alexander Marshall, who was born eight miles from Edinburgh, Scotland, made a careful tour of observation of American cities before he decided upon St. Louis in 1840 as his permanent location. He had $600 when he came here and gave himself six months to live on that while making acquaintances. But before the half year of probation was up, Dr. Marshall had not only become self-supporting on his practice, but had added $600 to his nest-egg. He continued to practice in St. Louis and accumulated an estate of $300,000.
Henry Van Studdiford was intended for the ministry by his New Jersey relatives, but his natural bent and education took him into the profession of medicine. He came to St. Louis in 1839, invested the surplus earnings from his practice in real estate. He did this so judiciously that he became one of the wealthiest members of his profession in this city. He married a daughter of Colonel Martin Thomas, the army officer who established and commanded the St. Louis arsenal.
The first medical lecture delivered west of the Mississippi was by Dr. John S. Moore, from North Carolina. On the basis of a fine classical education he started for Philadelphia, at that early day the center of medical education in the United States, to complete his studies and “get a diploma.” Meeting Dr. McDowell, he was induced to stop in Cincinnati, and became a member of the first class of the Cincinnati Medical college, graduating in 1832. As the youngest member of the faculty of the medical department of Kemper college, with which medical education began in St. Louis, Dr. Moore delivered that first lecture.
Charles W. Stevens was a member of the Kemper college medical faculty. He was one of the first graduates of that institution. Coming west from his New York home to be a civil engineer and surveyor, when he was about of age, Stevens found that profession unpromising and took up the study of medicine. Diseases of the nervous system became his specialty and he was superintendent and physician of the St. Louis Insane Asylum. Kemper college was located where the asylum was afterwards built. Dr. Stevens went to his charge of the city’s wards on the same hilltop in southwest St. Louis where he had studied medicine and had lectured a quarter of a century before. The first class of young doctors graduated at Kemper included Dr. E. S. Frazier, a young Kentuckian, who married a sister of Dr. John S. Moore and joined the profession in St. Louis.