What’s an Eclectic Medicine Doctor? Ancestor Search: Dr. William Stout

William Cochran Stout (1845-1910)

Bananas. That’s what always make me think of Dr. William Stout. It always seemed to be something very special to have a great-grandfather who was a small town doctor.  And my mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser remembered her grandfather with affection, even though he died when she was only four years old.

Stout Family Home in Killbuck, Ohio

Dr. William Stout and family in front of family home, circa 1885

You’ve met Grandfather William Stout before.  My grandmother Vera Stout Anderson was his favorite (standing beside him in the family portrait above). He quarreled with my great Uncle William Morgan Stout over questionable companions and drinking. “Doc” Stout was strongly religious. He built a beautiful house in Killbuck, Ohio for his family–a proud and powerful figure at the turn of the century, and a beloved doctor by people around Killbuck, and as far away as Coshocton and Mt. Vernon.

Dr. Stout

Doctor William Cochran Stout, Circa 1908

In the trunk of antique treasures that I inherited, I had seen the rolled up fancy scrolls of his medical college and associations and they were all very impressive. However I couldn’t stop wondering what and “electric” doctor was.  When I finally focused on the fact that it was not electric, it was eclectic, my curiosity grew.

William Stout's Mother, Emmeline Cochran

Emmeline Cochran Stout, Mother of Dr. Wm Stout.

As background, William Cochran Stout (his middle name was the family name of his mother) grew up the eldest of 12 children according to a pamphlet with the history of Guernsey County, published in 1882. Only eight of them survived in 1882. Perhaps losing so many family members influenced his interest in medicine.  I’ll talk about the family in a future article, but for now how did this son of a farmer become a medical doctor–and what the heck is an “eclectic” physician?

In 1869, age 24, William Stout paid $100 to the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania for tuition.

Wm. Stout Receipt for tuition

Wm. Stout Receipt for tuition at the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania. 1869

Presumably this was not the first tuition he had paid, because he graduated two years later, 1871, and even at an Eclectic Medicine college it took some years of study. The 1870 census listing his family members, lists him as a physician–perhaps his father was proudly jumping the gun?

William Stout diploma

William C. Stout’s diploma from the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania, parchment stiff with age. 1871

The next year, when he was 27, he married Harriet Morgan of Killbuck, Ohio, population about 300*,  and set up his practice there. (See The Girl on the Bridge for more about Harriet and their marriage.

To give you an idea of how large these assorted certificates are, I tacked them on the wall beside a hall mirror that Doc William Stout bought for his wife , Harriett Morgan Stout later in their life. (The hall mirror is 6 1/2 feet tall.)

Doctor William Stout's Certificates

Doctor Wm Stout’s Certificates beside Hattie Stout’s Hall Stand

I pored over the signatures on the diploma, apparently every professor who taught at the school.  The most prominent bold signature is John Buchanan, M.D.  I headed for Google to see what I could find out about the college and John Buchanan.  In the archives of the University of Pennsylvania, I found this article about extinct medical schools.  Buchanan headed Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania and American University of Philadelphia, 1850-1880. Hmmmm, so it did not last much longer after Doc William Stout graduated?  Reading through the history of the school, chartered in 1850, I found this definition:

The curriculum of the school followed the eclectic model, which was a branch of medicine formed in the mid-Nineteenth Century which focused on botanical remedies.

Ah, so perhaps my grandfather was an early version of Dr. Andrew Weil. Actually, the practice was a forerunner of naturopathic medicine, but also accepted modern technical advances, so it was very similar to today’s more open minded physicians.  Nothing wrong with that. And in further poking around later I learned that in that intellectually exuberant age of the late 19th century a number of different philosophies of medicine emerged, eclectic medicine being one that did not survive into the 21st century.

I was feeling a little better about the odd name of the medicine my great grandfather practiced, and then I found this. After a split with the school’s dean, Dr. Pain (I’m not making this up!)…

“Animosity grew between the schools during the following decades of the Nineteenth Century.  By 1864 the Eclectic Medical College of Pennsylvania began to exaggerate its funding and enrollment.  Following the schools relocation to 514 Pine Street in 1868 the reputation of the school began to seriously decline.  The previous year the school obtained a new charter as the American University of Philadelphia, and from that point on operating as a diploma mill under the leadership of Dr. John Buchanan.  In 1880 Dr. Buchanan was arrested and the school ceased operation.  Buchanan attempted to escape prosecution be faking his own suicide by jumping into the Delaware River from the Philadelphia-Camden Ferry, but was later apprehended in Canada.”

How disappointed the new Dr. Stout must have been!  At least the school’s reputation seemed to deteriorate AFTER he graduated. It may be worth noting that his brother George, five years younger, graduated in Eclectic Medicine in 1879, but he attended the Institute in Cincinnati rather than Philadelphia. Dr. Stout continued loyal to eclectic medicine, attending conferences around the country and bring back certificates attesting to his membership in both the Ohio (1892) and the National organization of Eclectic Medicine .

And Dr. Stout’s credentials were solid.  In 1896 he was licensed to practice medicine in the state of Ohio.  Why so late in his career?  Apparently Ohio did not license physicians until the legislature passed a law in February 1896.

William Stout Ohio Medical license

Dr. William Stout’s Ohio medical license

My mother said the patients who came from far away would come by train to Killbuck and stay overnight at his house. He would say to his wife, Harriet M. Stout, “You’re the best looking woman and the best cook in town, so why wouldn’t I bring them here?” Sounds like Doc could turn on the charm.

Since eclectic medicine championed natural cures, herbal medicine learned from American Indians and healthy eating, I am surprised that more of Dr. Stout’s philosophy did not come down to me through my grandmother Vera. Chamomile tea is the only home remedy I recall. Mother remembered that her grandfather would give coins to the children to buy bananas which he believed were good for them. So I’m sure he would have approved of the Badertscher banana bread recipe that I have written about.

How about you? Do you prefer natural medicines? Would you have liked to know an eclectic medicine doctor?

*The Killbuck 1880 population estimate came from an interview in a Wooster Daily News  article about Killbuck history that was published in August, 1967.



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11 thoughts on “What’s an Eclectic Medicine Doctor? Ancestor Search: Dr. William Stout

  1. Edie Jarolim

    Fascinating story — and with a satisfying resolution to a possible black mark, i.e., as long Dr. Stout got his Ohio medical credentials, it doesn’t matter that Dr. Buchanan was bad news.

    I’m suspicious of both types of medicine these days because you don’t know what’s in vitamins and too many medical practitioners are swayed by drug companies. I try not to get sick and generally succeed, though now I know I’m going to be struck down for writing that.

  2. Jane Boursaw

    What a story. I’m continually amazed by how MUCH you know about your ancestors. There are boxes of photos of ancient ancestors in my mom’s basement, and I’m not sure anyone knows who any of the people are.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Yes, I’m blessed that my mother was the story keeper in our family and passed on so much information to us. Maybe it has to do with the fact that there are so many teachers in the family, and that’s why everything was passed along.

  3. Chris Nicholson

    I just found this blog article as I’m reading the 3rd week of 52 ancestors
    in 52 weeks.
    My great-grandfather John Abel Baldwin (b 1844) from Howard County, Indiana
    graduated from the Institute of Eclectic Medicine in Cincinnati. He first got interested
    in medicine as a teenager when he lived in the home of a Dr. after his mother’s death
    and assisted and apprenticed with him. I don’t think that he studied medicine in school
    until after the Civil War. He married, moved to Amboy, Miami Co. In, began his medical
    practice in 1868. My brother who tends to put down “primitive superstitious science” spent
    some time looking into writings from the Eclectic Medical publications and ended up respecting
    their attempts to use the best from different medical practices in healing.
    John Abel Baldwin had two sons who became physicians–C. Arthur Baldwin,b. 1871 and
    Verne E. Baldwin, b. 1876 who both earned AB degrees from Indiana State and then graduated
    from Hahneman Homeopathic Medical College in St. Louis. (a different alternative medicine)
    John Abel Baldwin also encouraged the husbands of one of his sisters and of a half-sister to
    attend Cincinnati Eclectic school of medicine.

    More than you ever wanted to know!!

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Happy to know your family history. You are the first person I’ve met who also had an Eclectic in their background. I agree with your brother there was much admirable about the practice.Perhaps our ancestors met at one of their many conferences. I’ll have to check dates but maybe George Stout was even in school in Cincy at the same time as Dr. Baldwin.

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