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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
The next year, when he was 27, he married Harriett Morgan of Killbuck, Ohio, population about 300*, and set up his practice there.
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.)
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, 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!)…
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.
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, Harriett 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. Camomile 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.
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.