Last week, I wrote on early doctors from the Bend Area. As promised, this week’s article focuses on doctors from the rest of the county. As many of you have probably realized by now, I’m from the Bend Area, so I’m not too familiar with the southern end of the county. All I ask is that you bear with me, and if you know something that I don’t, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We want this to be a COUNTY Historical Society, not a Bend Area or Point Pleasant society.
Without a doubt, the first doctor to practice in or below Point Pleasant would be Dr. Jesse Bennett. The Bennetts moved to Point Pleasant in 1797, three years after the town was chartered and three years after he had performed the first C-section in the United States on his wife. They settled just north of town, on the land of Elizabeth’s father, Peter Hogg. There, they built a large plantation known as Riverview. The farm was probably managed by Elizabeth’s brothers, who lived on the next farm up, while Dr. Bennett continued his medical practice. It’s extremely likely that he was the town’s only doctor, as mentioned by a visitor in 1810. We do know that he served in the War of 1812 as the Mason County Riflemen’s surgeon. He returned to his practice after the war. He died in 1842 at Riverview and was originally buried on the property. His grave has since been moved to Pioneer Cemetery.
Fast-forwarding slightly, our story moves to Leon and a familiar name. Before he began his practice in Syracuse, Thomas Barton practiced medicine in Leon. He moved there from Pageville, Ohio in 1852. His move followed a major flood, and one of his first challenges in Leon was an outbreak of malaria that lasted almost into the winter. At first, he wasn’t accepted by the community, with many thinking him too young and inexperienced, but that went away soon enough. Within two years, he was married to his first wife, Martha Newman. A year later, in 1855, he found himself faced with his second challenge. An outbreak of scarlet fever hit the town and claimed a few lives, including that of his wife. Within a year of her death, he decided that he could no longer call Leon home and moved to Chester, Ohio. From there, he would move to Syracuse, and I wrote the rest last week.
Moving forward once again, we come to 1891 and the far southern end of the county. I don’t have many records for that area, but the State Gazetteers published during this time do list the towns’ doctors. Dr. J.B. Kerr practiced in the town of Bryan, and E.W. Grover was in Glenwood. They are the only two listed among the towns in that end of the county. Arlee, Ashton, Apple Grove, Couch, Hogsett, Mercer’s Bottom, Southside, and Wyoma have no doctor listed. Most people probably went to R.E. Stobert in Henderson or to Point Pleasant, where Andrew Barbee, Lewis Guthrie, and Elmore Mossman were listed as practicing.
These are just a few of the doctors that practiced in southern Mason County prior to 1900, and I’m certain that there are plenty more currently unknown to our history books. As we hear of more, they’ll be added to our roster alongside their colleagues.
Information from the Southern Historical Magazine, Autobiography of Dr. Barton, and 1891 State Gazetteer and Business Directory.
The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be at 6 p.m. on Monday, July 16 at Roseberry Plantation in Point Pleasant. We will be discussing ongoing projects, potential upcoming projects, and our future location before ending with a tour of the historic home.
Chris Rizer is president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society.