PART II, CHAPTER 9.
DISEASES1 AND ACCIDENTS, FRESHETS.
We are unable to give an extended comparison, as to the relative healthfulness of the towns of Topsham, Brunswick, and Harpswell, or of their average rate of mortality. It may be said briefly, however, that as regards both endemics and epidemics, Harpswell is the most healthy of the three towns, and Brunswick the least so. Topsham probably occupies an intermediate position between the two. The cause of the difference is in the configuration of the land, the nature of the soil, the proximity to the sea, and the density of the population. Topsham and Harpswell possess by far the best drainage, though that of Brunswick is amply sufficient, if properly cared for. No data exist from which to calculate accurately the death rate of either town, but in each there have been a few individuals who have lived to an advanced age. Harpswell probably bears off the palm in this respect, for in one house four persons are said to have died, whose average age was ninety-nine and a half years. They were Taylor Small, who (died in 1812, aged ninety-six ; Peter Birthright, who died in 1822, at the age, it is said, of one hundred and fifteen; Tabitha Small, who (died in 1846, at the age of ninety-nine; and Mark Small, who died in 1852, at the age of eighty-eight.
In this connection a brief mention of the different physicians, who have from time to time settled here, will not be inappropriate.
The first physician who settled in either of these towns was undoubtedly SAMUEL GYLES, who died in Brunswick in 1738, and who had practised there for a short time previously. He came from Salisbury, Mass.
Next in Brunswick was WILLIAM SPEAR, Son of Robert Spear, one of the early settlers. Dr. Spear was in practice about the year 1740,
1. The lace Dr. John D. Lincoln commenced to prepare for the authors a chapter on the sanitary condition and mortality of the three towns His sickness and death prevented its completion or revision, and we are consequently obliged to give a more meagre sketch than we otherwise should.
but for how long a time is not known, and nothing is known as to his professional qualifications.
DOCTOR PHINEAS NEVERS was in Brunswick from 1755 to 1765, and perhaps longer. Nothing is known of him as a physician.
DOCTOR SAMUEL DUNCAN came to Brunswick from Topsham in 1770, and was in practice until his death, in 1784. He was a young man, but was called a skilful physician, and he had an extensive practice. He lived at New Meadows.
DOCTOR EBENEZER H. GOSS1 came to Brunswick during the Revolution. he lived at Maquoit until 1804, when he moved to the village, and soon after moved to Paris, Maine. He had an extensive practice and was accounted a good physician.
DOCTOR BALTHAZAR STILKEY was a Hessian surgeon, who came over
with Burgoyne's forces, and after the war (about 1790) settled in Brunswick near the present residence of Mr. Martin Storer, north of Cook's Corner. He practised there for several years. But little is known of him. He is said to have been something of a quack.
DOCTOR JONATHAN RICHARDSON PARKER was in Brunswick for one or two years only, about 1799.
DOCTOR JONATHAN PAGE1 came to Brunswick in 1795, and commenced the practice of medicine in 1800. His practice soon became extensive, and continued increasingly so until his death, in 1842. He held a highly respectable rank in his profession. His residence was for many years in the house just South of the Mason Street Church.
DOCTOR ISAAC LINCOLN1 moved to Brunswick from Topsham in
1820. He enjoyed a very extensive practice until a short time before his death, in 1868. He held a high rank in his profession. He was a graduate of Harvard College, 1800, and is supposed to have been the first physician in Brunswick who had received a collegiate education.
JOHN D. LINCOLN,1 son of Doctor Isaac Lincoln, was a graduate of Bowdoin College, class of 1843, and of the Medical School of Maine, class of 1846. He practised in Brunswick from 1846 till within a few weeks of his death, in 1877. He was a most excellent physician and his practice extended into many of the neighboring towns, and even to more remote portions of the State.
Other physicians in Brunswick, for a short time only, have been J. D. WELLS, 1829; ------ CUSHMAN, 1836; J. E. SHAW, 1857; T. S. FOSTER, 1864; J. B. SOTO, 1871 to 1873.
1. See Biography.
Of those now residing in Brunswick, ASHER ELLIS commenced
practice in Brunswick in 1842, NATHANIEL T. PALMER in 1845, ALFRED MITCHELL in 1865, and DANIEL F. ELLIS in 1866.
The earliest physician in Topsham, the date of whose residence can be determined, was DOCTOR PHILIP HOYT, who died in June, 1790 (see epitaph). Tradition reports him as an excellent physician. In 1793 there was, if no mistake has been made in the recorded dates, a Doctor Hoyt in town who was a member of the church. Possibly he was a son of the one first named.
DOCTOR EBENEZER EMERSON came to Topsham prior to 1792. He came to Maine from Reading, Mass. At first he boarded with James Wilson, but he afterwards built and occupied the house now occupied by Swansey Wilson, just beyond Cyrus Purington's on the Bowdoinham road. He was settled here at least six years and probably longer.
While Doctor Emerson boarded at Mr. Wilson's there was also another physician named HAY who boarded with him. Doctor Hay did not, however, long remain.
A DOCTOR PARKER succeeded Doctor Emerson and lived in the same house that the latter had previously occupied. he remained in town several years.
A DOCTOR OSBORNE practised in Topsham prior to Doctor Phineas Never's residence in Brunswick, probably about 1754. He boarded at a Mr. Gray's, who lived near Ferry Point. His stay in town was short.
DOCTOR DUNCAN is supposed to have located himself in Topsham before he went to Brunswick. If so, his stay could not have been for more than a few weeks. Both of these last are said to have, died at New Meadows, from consumption.
A young man named DOCTOR GUILD was here for a few years, about 1796.
In some old papers of Brigadier Thompson a DOCTOR WHITTAKER is alluded to in a manner to imply that he was a resident of Topsham. Nothing is positively known, however, in regard to it.
Prior to 1804, DOCTOR STOCKBRIDGE (the elder Dr. Stockbridge of Bath, deceased) settled in Topsham for a short time. He boarded with Jacob Abbott in what is known as the "Rachel Patten" house. Stockbridge Howland and John Stockbridge Patten are said to have been named for him.
About the same time a DOCTOR SAWYER settled in Topsham, kept an apothecary store, and practised his profession. DOCTOR Sims and DOCTOR FAIRFIELD both practised here not far from this time, certainly before 1804. The latter also had an apothecary store.
In 1804, DOCTOR ISAAC LINCOLN1 moved to Topsham and soon had an extensive practice. In 1820 he removed to Brunswick.
In 1820, DOCTOR JAMES MCKEEN1 commenced to practise in Topsham. His office, at that time, was over Jonathan Baker's store, and he boarded at Humphrey Purinton's boarding-house. He continued in practice until a short time before his death, in 1873.
In 1843 a "botanic doctor," by the name of NORTON, came to town, but did not remain more than a year or two.
Between the last date and 1856, DOCTORS J. S. CUSHMAN, COOK, and SPRINGER were settled in Topsham for short periods.
In 1856, DOCTOR JOSEPH MCKEEN, JR., commenced practice, and is, at the present time, the only resident physician of this town.
Although the town of Harpswell has been unable to dispense entirely with the services of physicians, yet it has done so to a great extent. There have been but four physicians located in the town, and, with one exception, they remained but a few years. The practice in the town has been mainly carried on by Brunswick doctors. Prior to 1840 a DOCTOR NORTON resided in the town for several years. He was succeeded about 1843 by a DOCTOR BLISS. In 1850, or there-abouts, DOCTOR DAILEY settled in this town and has remained to the present time. In 1870, DOCTOR J. B. SOTO settled here, but remained but one year, when he removed to Brunswick, where lie died.
DISEASES AND ACCIDENTS.
If Brunswick and Topsham cannot be considered as preeminently healthy places, yet it can with truth be asserted that they are as healthy as other towns of like character, situation, and population. Since the Great Plague among the Indians, about 1615 or 1616 (which extended all over New England), there has no devastating epidemic occurred here. Pulmonary consumption, pneumonia, acute rheumatism, typhoid fever, scarlet fever, measles, epidemic dysentery, and cholera infantum produce the same ravages here as elsewhere, but are none of them endemic. Cholera and yellow fever have never, it is believed, appeared here, and no quarantine has ever been established here.
Small-pox has prevailed a number of times, but never to an alarming extent. Its first appearance was in the early part of the fall of 1792.2 How many cases there were in this epidemic is not known,
I. See Biography.
2. Pejepscot Papers.
but the citizens were greatly alarmed, and the town of Brunswick very properly took all the precautions possible to prevent the spread of the disease. In October of that year, the town "voted not to allow any person in this town to inoculate for to take the small-pox, but to take all possible care to prevent the spreading of the disorder." Eighteen inspectors were chosen from the different parts of the town, whose duties were to erect "smoke-houses " wherever they thought best; to examine, smoke, and clean all goods brought into town for the space of two months, and to stop, examine, and cleanse any person whom they might suspect of being infected. The town also voted to build a hospital twenty-eight feet long by fourteen feet wide and one story high. The hospital was to be on the Commons, but the exact location was left to the decision of the selectmen. No physician was allowed to attend small-pox patients without the authority of the selectmen. After this epidemic had passed by, there were no cases of this disease for thirty-two years, unless, perchance, there were a few cases not known to the public.
In 1824, owing to fears of an epidemic of this disease, the town of Brunswick, at a meeting held May 10, appointed the selectmen as a committee to take prompt and efficient measures to have all in town vaccinated who had not previously been. The agents of the different school districts were directed to be present and see that all not previously vaccinated, attended at the time appointed by the physician. The names of all persons vaccinated were to be recorded on the town records, and the expense of the vaccination was to be paid by the town. Nothing further is known in regard to an epidemic at this time. In 1851 there were a few cases of small-pox in this vicinity, and at the May meeting in Brunswick, the town instructed the select-men "to cause the inhabitants of the town to be vaccinated without delay." Doctors N. T. Palmer, Asher Ellis, and J. D. Lincoln were also chosen at this time as a Board of Health. There were a few cases of this disease in 1861, and a number in 1866, when there were three fatal cases. But few cases of this disease can have occurred in Topsham, since no record is to be found of any, except single cases.
In 1810 a committee was chosen to vaccinate all who had not had the small-pox, and this committee reported the next year that Doctor Isaac Lincoln had vaccinated four hundred and three persons, of which number three hundred and ninety-one cases were successful and twelve were doubtful.
In 1824 the people of Topsham were again vaccinated. Harpswell seems to have been quite free from this disease, so much so,
apparently, as to have no dread of it, for in 1832 the town voted against having the people vaccinated.
It is thought that the ratio of cases of insanity was greater in the early part of the century, in this vicinity, than it is at present. At one time, about 1820, there were four insane persons in Brunswick and five in Topsham. In 1836 the town of Brunswick authorized the erection of a building for the accommodation of this class of patients, at an expense not exceeding three hundred dollars. The apparently greater number of cases of this kind in former years may be partially accounted for by the fact that there were not at that time so many of this unfortunate class under treatment in asylums abroad, and consequently each case was well known to the whole community.
Besides the ordinary cases of disease affecting the mortality of this vicinity, many cases of accident resulting in premature death have occurred from time to time. Foremost among these are the accidents from falling into the water. From the list of cases we have collected, only a few of the earliest or most remarkable ones are inserted here. The earliest case of the kind of which we have received any account, occurred in March, 1765, a Mrs. Babbage and son, who lived on the farm now owned by the heirs of the late John Pennell, and a young man by the name of Barnes, a son of Henry and brother of the late William Barnes, who lived on the farm now owned by James Alexan-der, in Harpswell, while crossing Merriconeag River to a grist-mill on the old Ewing place, had their float caught in the running ice and overset, and were all three drowned. Mrs. Barnes and William were watching them from the shore when the accident happened. Their bodies were recovered the following June. The only other similar deaths occurring prior to 1800 were of Daniel Winchell, before 1777, at some place unknown; Adam Hunter, at sea, in 1778; Samuel Potter, date and place both unknown, but some time in the last century; Robert Potter, at sea, before 1794; James and Robert Winchell, at the same time, at Cathance, date unknown; John Winchell, at Bath, between 1790 and 1800; Benjamin Randall and Thomas Wilson, both at sea and prior to 1800.
Some time previous to 1820, Major Burt Townsend and a Mr. Gross were on a raft of logs above the upper dam on the Androscoggin, at Brunswick. The raft broke loose and went over the dam. Just as they reached the falls, Major Townsend, with great presence of mind, leaped ahead into the river below and thus escaped both the undertow and the falling logs, and was thus able to swim ashore, while Mr. Gross, who either did not jump at all, or else not sufficiently far, was drowned.
From the list referred to, we are able to give the following summary: The number of cases of drowning in Brunswick and Topsham (exclusive of those drowned at sea, of which the list is, as a matter of course, very incomplete) is forty-five. Of these forty-five cases, there were drowned on the Cathance River, in Topsham, five; on the Androscoggin River (including Merrymeeting Bay), twenty-seven; on the New Meadows River, in Brunswick, one; at Maquoit, three; at other places mentioned, five; and where the place was unknown, four. Of the twenty-seven drowned in the Androscoggin, eight were drowned on the "Topsham side, ten on the Brunswick side, five in Merrymeeting Bay, and four in the stream, away from the shore. Of the ten persons drowned on the Brunswick side, seven were drowned near the Factory or lower mills and two near the upper bridge. Of the eight on the Topsham side, four were drowned at the bathing-place above the upper bridge and two near the mills.
Next in the list of fatal accidents come those by fire. The first of these to which reference has been found was in 1737, when the house of the widow of Andrew Dunning was burned, and she was burned in it. No reference to any other death by fire in the last century has been found. In September, 1829, Hannah J. Brown, of Topsham, aged eight years, was badly burned by a brand which fell from the andirons on her cotton gown and set it on fire. She lingered for twenty-six days before she succumbed to her injuries. On January 15, 1857, Mrs. James Maxwell, of Topsham, was fatally burned, in consequence of the overflowing of a lighted lamp containing camphene. She lived but a short time. On January 25, 1859, a daughter of John Merritt, of Brunswick, was fatally burned in consequence of her clothes being caught in the blaze of the fire. On March 11th of this same year, Mr. Isaac Center was fatally burned by the explosion in his hand of a lighted lamp, containing burning fluid.
In this connection may be mentioned with propriety the cases (though not fatal) of accidents in consequence of lightning. The first occurrence of this kind was in 1828, when a house in Mill Street was struck by lightning, and a man injured. The next case occurred September 5, 1845, when one person was stunned and another prostrated by the lightning, which struck Common's Hall. At the time the "Henry Jordan" house, on Cleaveland Street was struck by lightning, June 23, 1874, two persons standing on the doorsill were struck, but not seriously injured. Other cases have probably occurred of which no account has been preserved.
Numerous accidents have occurred from time to time at the mills
and factories, though fortunately but few have resulted fatally. The earliest occurrence of this kind was in the last century, though the precise date is unknown. Hugh Wilson, of Topsham, who was married in 1785, had his leg broken among the mill logs on the east-ern branch of the Cathance River An amputation was performed by a physician from Casco (Portland), but he did not long survive the operation. The next occurrence of which we have seen any account, also in Topsham, was in August, 1825. At this time a little child, aged four years, fell through a saw-mill and fractured his skull. On October 7, of the same year, another child, aged ten years, while asleep in a saw-mill in Brunswick, where his father was working at the time, got up and fell out on to the rocks, a distance of twenty-five feet, and was instantly killed. Record has been found of only two accidents in the mills since this date, but there were doubtless many others which were unrecorded, save in the memory of afflicted friends.
At least eight fatal accidents are known to have happened upon the railroad in this vicinity, and it is possible there have been more. Only one of these cases happened in Topsham.
The following are a few of the cases of death that have occurred from other causes than those already specified:-
November 30, 1833, William B. Merriman, of Brunswick, mate of the brig "Veto," was murdered by the pilot, a Spaniard, while at Barbaras, in the lagoon of Maracaibo. In November, 1858, Richard L. McManus fell into the hold from the deck of the ship "Screamer," in the port of London, and died on December 7, in consequence of lockjaw induced by the injury he sustained.
On August 27, 1861, a young lad fell on to the rocks from the high bluff in front of the residence of Miss Narcissa Stone, in Brunswick, and was instantly killed. On the 27th of September, 1866, a young child was accidentally shot in Topsham.
The deaths caused by the personal violence of another have been mentioned in a different connection. The cases of suicide occurring in Brunswick and Topsham have been (including that of Ann Courser already referred to) only eight, so far as can be ascertained. These cases occurred in the years 1752 to 1770, 1820, 1823, 1833, 1852, 1855, 1858, and 1869. Two of these were destroyed by cutting their own throats, one by hanging, one by shooting, and two by drowning.
The manner of death of the other two is not known. There have undoubtedly been other cases of this kind, but these are all in which the facts have been found recorded.
Among what might be classed under the head of accidents to
property, but which might with even more propriety be classed under a meteorological heading, and which for convenience merely are introduced in this place, are
The earliest reference found to any freshet in the Androscoggin was to one that occurred in February, 1723. At that time the river was very full, "the lowland full of water and the river open not only below but even to the falls thirty miles above Pejepscot." This it will be noticed was in midwinter.1
The next great freshet occurred in 1780, in the winter season.2 There was considerable ice in the river at the time, which dammed up the water so that it flowed across the lower part of Topsham village, and men went across Main Street below the bank in boats. Ice was carried by the water into the cellar of the Hodge house, which stood where the bank now stands, and it was also brought up the gully by the town landing, nearly as far as the present Congregational Church.
The next freshet was in 1784. It occurred some time in the fall. The barn of Andrew and John Dunning was brought down by the water from the intervale east of Rocky Hill. This barn continued entire until it reached the falls. The standing corn in the fields along the banks of the river remained fixed, but pumpkins came down in great abundance. The great mills on the island were carried off at this time.3 In October of the next year4 there was another freshet that carried off a saw-mill and nine saws, two grist-mills, a fulling mill, and three houses. On account of the amount of damage done by the sudden rise of water at this time, the town of Topsham preferred a petition to the General Court for an abatement in the tax for that year. The next unusual rise of water in the river occurred in 1811. At this time the toll-bridge was partially carried off. It was at this time, also, that two men, Johnson Wilson and "Noggin " Potter, went across the ice to Shad Island, where Wilson owned a mill, and went to work. There had been a rain, but Wilson and Potter did not anticipate a rise of water sufficient to break up the ice. At noon, however, when they left work and started for home, they found the ice had broken up and, as there was no bridge to the island at that time, they were unable to reach the shore. The ice was running rapidly, and it would be dangerous to attempt to reach them by boat ; they were therefore obliged to remain on the island. As it
1. Pejepscot Papers.
was uncertain how long they might have to remain there, their friends, who were on the Brunswick shore, threw crackers, pieces of fish, etc., to them, and thus their hunger was appeased. They were obliged to remain on the island nearly two days, when Major William Frost and some one else took a boat and brought them safely ashore.1
In the great freshet of 1814 twenty-one saw-mills were swept away, or rendered useless, and many other buildings and manufactories were destroyed. An expensive viaduct for conveying boards past the falls was also destroyed. Mills, barns, etc., came down to the falls erect, as though resting on their foundations, and were there dashed to pieces. The Patten mill, in Topsham, was carried down the river and across the island about where the paper-mill now stands; catching for a moment on the rocks at this place, the roof came off. Four saw-mills on the lower falls started at one time and carried off the greater portion of the bridge. The toll-man had just quitted his dwelling. There was a rise of water of twenty-eight feet in this freshet. In October, 1819, there was a heavy freshet which carried off the upper mills. The town of Brunswick petitioned the legislature to make a deduction from their valuation in consequence of the loss of property occasioned by it.
In the summer of 1820 the river was lower than it had been for sixty years previous, and all business in mills and factories was suspended for some time. This unusual drought was, however, only the precursor of a great freshet which occurred on the sixteenth and seventeenth of October following. At this time all the booms about the falls broke, containing logs, it was said, sufficient to supply twenty-three saws for two years, -the greatest number ever on hand at that season of the year. The lower dam on the Brunswick side started and carried with it about sixty feet of the Androscoggin bridge, and two mills for manufacturing clapboards, owned by Jaquith and Eastman. "A greater portion of the most expensive dam on the falls" then started, and it was supposed it could not be repaired under nine or ten months. Fifteen saws, two grist-mills, a carding--machine, two clapboard-mills, and a lath-mill were rendered useless until this dam was repaired. The estimated loss was over $125,000. There was also great loss of property at Lisbon.
On April 15, 1824, a "very great freshet " is recorded, but no particulars are given. On August 30, 1826, the most unexpected and rapid rise of water in the Androscoggin occurred that had ever been
1. James Wilson.
known. In Livermore and Jay the water rose eight feet in one night. It swept away in its course every movable thing on the shores, such as timber, ferry-boats, etc. The swell of water reached Brunswick on Tuesday eve. Between one and two thousand logs that had been rafted below the booms at this place were swept over the dams, and some damage was done to a number of the mills. The loss at this point was, however, more than balanced by a fine run of logs from above. There had been no rains in this vicinity.
Another serious rise of water occurred on April 25 and April 26, 1827. The boom broke on the night of the twenty-fifth, and allowed about one hundred and fifty thousand logs to come down the river. In their course they carried off the new double saw-mill belonging to Doctor Jonathan Page, about two hundred feet of the toll-bridge, and the gulf dam. The Eagle Factory was also injured.
No freshet is recorded as occurring in 1829, but in November of that year the tide in the river is said to have risen five feet higher than ever before known, and to have done some slight damage.
Other considerable freshets occurred on January 2, 1831, May 22, 1832, and April 7, 1833. At the one in 1832, the Roger Merrill saw-mill and also the Patten mill and the bridge dam were carried away.
In February, 1839, there was a serious ice freshet, which carried away the upper dam and booms, and the Goat Island mill, and seriously injured the Great Mills. The ice became gorged at the Nar-rows, and was sixty feet high below the toll-bridge. It was piled so high between the bridge and the lower falls, that a man stepped off the bridge and walked on the ice to the roof of the mill on Shad Island.
A freshet occurred on May 22, 1843, at which the dam on the Topsham side gave way, and the lower boom above the falls also gave way, carrying off the Rogers mill in Topsham, and about thirty feet of the Shad Island bridge. The bank on the "Intervale" road in Brunswick was washed away, and a house undermined at this time.
The next noteworthy freshet was in May, 1854. It was said at the time to be the greatest of any since 1814, though but little damage was done. The old Hodge mill was carried off, but the new Hodge mill was uninjured.
In 1857, April 6, the water in the river was very high, and the old Purinton mill in Topsham was carried off.
On March 31, 1859, the ice carried away Maxwell & Jameson's blacksmith shop, on the island, and also an old grist-mill near by.
On April 19, 1862, an unoccupied house on the island in Topsham, next to the small bridge, was carried away by the water, and the draw
and about two hundred feet of the Bay Bridge, on the Brunswick side, were also destroyed. Cow Island was entirely submerged.
On November 19, 1863, there was a high freshet. The northern abutment of the small bridge in Topsham was undermined, and carriage travel stopped. There were some logs lost, but no other damage is known to have been done at this time.
April 19, 1865, the water was quite high, but did no damage. There was, however, at this time, an extremely high wind, which blew down fences, signs, etc., and did considerable harm. A barn on the Island, in Topsham, was blown into the river with all its contents, even the hens.
On April 26, 1866, there was a heavy ice freshet. A small portion of the dam of Perkins's saw-mill, and the outer tier of posts of the Purinton flour-mill, both in Topsham, were carried away. Some damage was also done to the Coburn mill in Brunswick. There was also another, though lighter, freshet in November of this year.
In 1869 there were two freshets. At the first, on April 20, a boom broke, and a large number of logs belonging to Hiram Toothaker, and to Coburn & Thompson, went down river. The loss was estimated at about $40,000.
At the other freshet, October 5, several cows on Cow Island were drowned, and two hundred bushels of corn, belonging to John Merryman, at Rocky Hill, were washed away.
The last freshet of consequence was on April 16, 1873. The ice became gorged, and carried away the flume at the paper-mill in Topsham.