Physicians of the Past

From the “History of Medicine in New Jersey, and of its Medical Men (From the Settlement of the Province to A. D. 1800),” by Stephen Wickes, A.M., M.D., published in 1879 and found at the NJ Archives, these short biographies of our area’s early physicians.


James Newell, son of Robert and Ellen, of Upper Freehold, Monmouth County, was born in 1725. He received his medical education in Edinburgh, where he graduated. He was obliged to go to England for his diploma, it being the time of the Great Rebellion. He happened in London on the very day that the Earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino were beheaded on Tower Hill, A.D. 1746. On his return to America he settled, for the practice of his profession, in Allentown. He had the reputation of skill and success in the treatment of disease. His circuit of practice embraced twenty-five miles over a rough country, which he performed on horseback.


He connected himself with the Medical Society in 1767. Was elected President in 1772. During the war he served as Surgeon of 2d Regiment of Militia in Monmouth County. It does not appear that he was commissioned.


He married, December 14, 1749, Elizabeth, daughter of Elisha Lawrence, and had issue fifteen children. There are no descendants of this Newell or Lawrence tribe now living. He died of a malignant fever then prevalent, on February 21, 1791, aged sixty-six. His wife, aged sixty, died of the same disease on the following day. They were buried in the same grave [at the Presbyterian cemetery on High St.].


Elisha Newell, son of James, supra, was born in 1755. On the completion of his medical education, he settled in Shrewsbury, and upon the death of his father removed to Allentown, where he continued in practice till his death, in January 29, 1799.


He was elected a member of the Medical Society in 1781, and in 1795 was its President. He then read a paper on Dropsy, which is printed in the “Old Transactions” of the Society.


Edward Taylor was a native of Upper Freehold, where he was born May 27, 1762. He graduated at Princeton in 1783. Studied medicine first with Dr. Jas. Newell, of Monmouth County, and finished his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, at which it is said he graduated in 1786. His name is not recorded in its catalogue of graduates. He commenced the practice of his profession in Pemberton, but soon removed to his native home, where he continued the greater part of his life. He had an extensive practice, and, obedient to its demands, endure an almost unparalleled amount of mental and physical toil. His district of service was only limited by the east and west boarders of the State, his long journeys being mad in the saddle. The loss of his way in the darkness of night in the midst of the dense forests of pines, tested his courage; and exposure to the intense cold of wintry storms, freezing his ears and nose, was a test of endurance. His return home was but to resume his daily labor. Yet with all his exposure and fatigue he enjoyed almost uninterrupted health, promoted doubtless by his strictly temperate habits on all occasions. He became a member of the New Jersey Medical Society in 1787.


Dr. Taylor’s mind was cultivated and well balanced. His judgement was sound and his perception quick; his manners courteous and urbane. He thus secured the confidence of his patients. Being a man of few words, and watchful over them, he was not accustomed to speak without having something to say, and was especially careful not to speak in disparagement of another, treating with all respect the rights and opinions of others. When time permitted, he found enjoyment in books suited to refined and cultivated taste. In his business habits he was conscientious and scrupulously correct. He was instructed in the school of Christ and his life and conversation were consistent with its teachings.


Towards the close of his life, he was led to regard it his duty to accept the charge of an institution for the insane, near Philadelphia. For nine years he continued to fulfil the responsible duties of this office, and then resigned. His death occurred soon thereafter, May 2d, 1835, the seventy-third year of his age. Dr. Taylor is also noticed in Thomason’s “History of the Medical Men of Monmouth County.”


Thomas West Montgomery, was descended from William, who, with his son James, emigrated from Scotland to East Jersey, in 1702. The Doctor was a son of Alexander, son of James and Eunice West, the latter of Eatontown. They lived and died in Allentown, where their remains were buried in the old burying ground [on Lakeview Dr.]. Thomas West was their third child and first son, born in 1764. In 1788, he married Mary, daughter of Hon. John Berrien, of Rocky Hill [and Rockingham], one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the Province. He studied medicine and was licensed to practice November 7th, 1787, after which he was admitted a member of the Medical Society. Soon after he went to Paris, and remained there pursuing his medical studies for two or three years. On his return he practiced his profession in Allentown, and afterwards in Princeton. He subsequently moved to New York, where he continued in the pursuit of his profession till his death, in 1820, at the age of fifty-six. His remains were laid in Trinity Churchyard.


His third son Alexander Maxwell Montgomery, M.D., born December 2d, 1792, was acting Surgeon’s Mate on the frigate “Essex,” in Porter’s fight off the harbor of Valparaiso, March, 1814. On the return of the officers of this vessel to the United States, he proceeded with Commodore Porter and his officers to Washington, whither they were ordered to aid in its defense. After many years’ sea service, he was ordered to the command of the naval hospital in Brooklyn, where he died January 3d, 1828, aged thirty-six.’


Dr. Thomas W. Montgomery’s children were: I. Mary Eaton, married (1) Samuel Riker, of New York, (2) John B. Shaw, Purser in U.S.N. She was the mother of Mrs. (Bishop) Odenheimer. II. Maria S., married (1) Horace Eaton and (2) William Inman (recently, 1877, died) Commodore, U.S.N. III. Alex. Maxwell, supra. IV. Jno. Berrien, afterwards Commodore, U.S.N. [commandant of Boston Navy Yard during Civil War and namesake of a WW I torpedo destroyer boat] V. Julia M., married Wm. M. Bedell, Philadelphia. VI. Nathaniel Lawrence, in the U.S.N. at the age of ten years. In the action of the “President” with the “Belvidere,” 1812, lost an arm. Was aid to Com. McDonough, on Lake Champlain, in 1814, and was commissioned Second Lieutenant, on his sixteenth birthday for meritorious service [believed to be the youngest Navy officer, died of fever in the West Indies, 1825]. VII. Eliza Lawrence, now wife of Bishop McCroskey, of Michigan.