Gurney S Strong.

Early landmarks of Syracuse online

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columns were a great curiosity in the early days,
as they were the first stone that were imported into
this county ; and it was considered a great waste of
money, as Onondaga stone was abundant. It is said
that an old inhabitant, who came from Verm< >nt, when
inebriated through strong drink and pining for his
mountain home, would embrace those stony pillars
with much warmth of affection, saying they reminded
him of his childhood days as they too came from


THE BOTANIC INFIRMARY IN 1844. -From an old wood cut.


There is some dispute among the old inhabitants
of this city as to who built this old landmark. The
records in the County Clerk's office show that Andrew
Phares was granted by the State, September 19, 1827,
a patent to lot 6, block 35 and block 69, " of the village
of Geddesburgh." This landmark now stands on lot
6 of block 35. On January 3, 1829, Mr. Phares trans-
ferred the entire property to John Dodge, Asa Phillips,
Amos P. Granger, James Harris, administrator of
Gordon Newton, deeeased, Elijah W. Curtis and
James Tuttle for $1,600. Mr. Phillips "of the town
of Granby, Oswego county," sold his interest to John
Dodge "of Salina " for $100, December 13, 1829. Mr.
Tuttle "of Camillus " sold his interest to Mr. Dodge
" of Salina " for $22.55, April 3, 1830. Messrs. Harris,
Granger and Curtis sold their interest to Mr. Dodge
"of Elbridge" for $300, June 4, 1831. This left the
entire property in the name of Mr. Dodge, who was
then evidently living in Elbridge. All of these men
were prominent and influential.

In October, 1831, Mr. Dodge gave a mortgage for
$3,000 on the property to Jirah Durkee of Water-
vliet, Albany county. This mortgage was assigned to
Pvutger B. Miller, August 13, 1832, and by Mr. Miller
to Chauncey Rowe, December 6', 1833. The mortgage
was foreclosed November 22, 1834, in the suit of Mr.
Rowe against John Dodge, William H. Alexander,
Silas D. Camp, James Johnson, Barnhardt Nellis,


William T. Richardson, the president, directors and
company of the Bank of Auburn, Ralph Clark, Charles
Williams, George Brinley, William C. Stimson,
Henry Bassett, the president, directors and company
of the Steuben county bank, and Lemon Smith. The
next record in the County Clerk's office shows that
the property was sold at public sale, held at the Syra-
cuse House July 16, 1835, by Chester Hayden, Master
in Chancery, to Cyrus Thomson for $3,350.

By some of the old inhabitants, it is said that John
Dodge built the building, and that he raised the mort-
gage with this object in view ; and that his purpose
was to use the building for a hotel and general stores
in supplying the canal trade. But Thomas G. Alvord,
who has been closely identified with what is now
Syracuse since 1833, and whose memory is excellent,
says he knows that Dr. Cyrus Thomson built the
building, since he himself was present when it was
being built. Mr. Alvord says that the firm of Clark
& Alvord, composed of Elizur Clark and Thomas G.
Alvord, sold a large amount of lumber to Dr. Thomson,
and he thinks this lumber went into the building.
According to Mr. Alvord, this old landmark was built
by the Doctor in the early '40's for an infirmary, but
it was not so used many years, as the business was not
very successful. The building was used for a hotel,
after Dr. Thomson had ceased to use it for an infirmary.

Dr. Cyrus Thomson is remembered as a very


eccentric man, rough and uneducated, though possess-
ing considerable natural ability, shrewd, a close
observer, and fond of telling amusing anecdotes. He
was the son of Samuel Thomson, the founder of the
Thomsonian system of medicine, and was born Jan-
uary 20, 1797, in Alstead, New Hampshire, where his
father was also born. His father and grandfather
were farmers in his younger days, and he was raised
as a farmer boy.

When he became 21 years old, he had saved $40,
and concluded to try his fortune in the far West. He
started for Ohio, a distance of 600 miles, on foot, in the
company of four other men. He located in Ohio, and
in the following year returned to Boston ; but shortly
afterwards started again for Ohio. In January, 1820,
he arrived at Fabius, Onondaga county, where he
called upon Ephraim Rue who had been practicing
after his father's system for three years. Young
Cyrus and Rue got into trouble in their irregular
practice of medicine, and February 8, 1821, they were
subjected to a trial and were imprisoned. But Cyrus
succeeded in procuring bail of $1,600. His father
advised him to remain at the seat of his persecution
and continue his practice.

Cyrus Thomson and Miss Maria Mayo were married
in Bridgeport, Madison county, March 27, 1823, and
shortly afterwards they settled in Geddes, Onondaga
county. The Doctor observed of this county :


"Perhaps no other county in the Union is better
adapted to the wants and prosperity of mankind than
the county of Onondaga." A letter from his distin-
guished though eccentric father, dated Madison
county, New York, July 26, 1823, says that Samuel
Thomson of Boston, Mass., authorized Cyrus Thomson
to act as his agent in selling his medicines and
to become a member of the Friendly Medical
' Botannack " society ; the agreement lasting two years.

The young man was very successful in making
money through what was termed his irregular methods
of practicing medicine. He was frequently arrested
and fined, but always made it a point to prescribe for
such patients only as were likely to recover, saying it
was the best way to elude the law as he could then
show that few if any of his patients died from his

This botanic treatment, called the Thomsonian
system, was founded by Samuel Thomson, who claimed
to have " discovered the fatal error of Allopathy — the
doctrine that irritation, fever and inflammation are dis-
eases." Samuel wrote in his book published in 1825 :
"Our life depends on heat ; food is the fuel that
kindles and continues that heat ; heat I found was
life, and cold was death, and that all constitutions are
alike," meaning in regard to their anatomy and phy-
siology, their powers and their wants.

The usual medicines prescribed by Dr. Cyrus


Thomson were lobelia, or Indian tobacco ; hot drops
No. 6, composed of undistilled whiskey, gnm of myrrh
and cayenne pepper ; and sweating. The treatment-
was very heroic ; and, if the patient's constitution
was strong enough, it was almost sure to drive from
the stomach almost every form of disease. The Doctor
distilled his own herbs, which were many and all
found by him in this county. His reputation extended
far and wide, and many sick people came to him for

The Doctor's principal practice, and the one in
which he made his fortune, was in selling his medi-
cine through his agents and in traveling about the
country, prescribing for all forms of disease. There
are many of the older people who can well remember
this eccentric Doctor, and his invariable prescription
of "hot drops No. 6." Many people were doubtless
benefited by this kind of medicine, which was very
severe in its effects upon the body, but it would hardly
be popular in these more enlightened days. As already
stated, the Doctor had accumulated sufficient money
in 1835 to purchase the land, which is finely located ;
and in the course of a few years he erected the build-
ing for an infirmary. The building was covered with
signs in large letters. One of those signs read : " The
Lord has caused medicines to grow out of the earth
and why should man despise them ? "

When the canal was enlarged a part of the eastern


side of the building was cut off, thus giving the Doctor
a claim for damages against the State. Testimony
was taken June 30, 1858, on an award of $2,203.57
given November 9, 1852. The claimant had appealed to
the Canal Board, and April 12, 1854, the case was sent
back. The next award was 81,000. On April 2, 1860,
a total award of -$6,520, including interest of $2,520
for the nine years, was given the Doctor, who, during
all this time, had left the eastern side of his building
unfinished and open, exposed to all kinds of weather.
Dr. Thomson received his diploma to practice as a
Thomsonian Botanic physician in this State from the
Thomsonian Medical Society of the State of New York
June 14, 1837. The Doctor became one of the rich
men in his day, owning considerable real estate, bonds
and mortgages; but he allowed his property and his
business to slip from him, when he found that his
sons, Cyrus and John, would not continue his calling.
In the early part of the '60's he almost ceased to
practice medicine, refusing the many urgent appeals
made upon him. His wife died March 23, 1836, and
the following year he married Miss Emeline Morse,
with whom he lived twenty years. His third wife is
still living.

In 1865 he transferred an undivided half of the
property in question to Maria E. Thomson, his daugh-
ter by his second wife, and in 1867 he transferred the
other undivided half to his son, John Thomson.

THE BOTANIC IXFIKMAKY.-From a recent photograph.


Maria, who married Robert Brown, transferred her
interest to John, April 13, 1868. John died September
19, 1808, leaving the property to his wife, Sarah M.
Thomson, who purchased the inherited interest from
her son, Frank H. Thomson, when he became of age.

Dr. Cyrus Thomson died August 13, 1867, at Bar-
dolph, 111., where he had gone on a visit to his son
Cyrus, who is still living. The doctor is remembered
as a most eccentric individual, but he knew how to
coin money by humbugging the people. The Th< >m-
sonian system, which once enjoyed great prosperity,
is no longer practiced, except in a limited manner by
irregular practitioners.

One of the Doctor's books was entitled "Learned
Quackery Exposed ; or Theory According to Art, as
Exemplified in the Practice of the Fashionable Doctors
of the Present Day," and compiled by Cyrus Thomson
and published by Lathrop & Dean, printers, Syracuse,
1844. Among the expressions found in the pamphlet
are the following : ' ' Whenever an individual presumes
to differ from the opinions of the Medical Faculty of the
present day, he is sure to be persecuted and ridiculed
and misrepresented. But all this persecution has no
other effect than to open the eyes of the people to their

" Truth is abroad in the world, and the spirit of
inquiry has gone forth, and the day has arrived when
men of learning and genius are neither afraid nor


ashamed but are proud, to avow themselves Thomson -
ians, of the Thomsonian school, which has extended
its influence through every section of our country
from Maine to Georgia, and from the Atlantic to the
western wilds, and will continue to spread 'till the
name of Thomson is resounded throughout the world
from the equator to the poles.' The vegetable rem-
edies, which the God of nature has scattered with a
lavish hand over every hill and valley of our country
must and will eventually entirely supersede the use
of mineral poisons. Thousands have been hurried to
an untimely grave by the use of these poisons, when
simple vegetable remedies would have relieved and
cured them almost immediately.

"According to this system, the stomach is the
grand reservoir from which all parts of the body are
nourished, and by proper food well digested, warmed,
enlivened and invigorated. While the stomach is in
a well-regulated state, the whole man is in perfect
health. When through cold, carelessness in diet, or
whatever course, the stomach becomes disordered, the
food is not properly digested, and the whole man
becomes diseased. Now, a medicine is wanted to
create an internal heat to remove obstructions, to expel
the cold from the system, and restore the digestive
powers, and then the stomach resumes its office, the
food nourishes and strengthens the body and the man
regains his health and strength.


"Shall nian, when he is acting for the good of his
fellow man, be persecuted because the course he is
pursuing in the practice of medicine is well calculated
for the relief of suffering humanity? No; forbid it
Heaven! Forbid it Justice! Let the spirit that is
abroad in the land, the elder brother of freedom,
* * * put an end to the reign of the Medical
Faculty and invest all their gloomy subjects with the
rights and illuminations of the Thomsonian system of
practice. If this pamphlet shall produce the effect to
open the eyes of one man or woman and start a train
of thought which shall lead him or her to flee from
the lancet and the poison of the apothecary shop, the
author will feel himself amply repaid for the trouble
and expense of presenting it to the public."

The pamphlet consists mostly of poetry, showing
how the medical faculty is killing mankind by admin-
istering calomel, mercury, arsenic, opium, physic,
blisters and lance. There is a long poem on " Three
Crafts," described in long metre to the tune of " False
Are the Men of High Degree." The burden of the
song is this :

' ' The nests of college birds are three,

Law, Physic and Divinity ;

And while these three remain combined,

They keep the world oppressed and blind. "

There are many examples given of the fate which
befell those who persecuted the Thomsonian prac-
titioners. The following verse is the lament of a


"learned M. D." who tried very hard to have a
Thornsonian indicted by the Grand Jury for not pre-
scribing the drugs used by the ' ' regular faculty " man :

' 'Where'er [ have met them, I've found a repulse,

Too dreadful to mention ; I'm almost convulsed ;

I thought I should conquer, the laurel should wear,

But the thought of my fortune I hardly can bear.

I found me afflicted with a sore disease,

Which took off my child, my wife did not please.

She often distrusted my honor before ;

She caught me too sleek by the meal on the floor."

And then there is " A Remarkable Vision " which
came to Dr. Cyrus Thomson "while in silent repose
upon his bed." The apparition, clothed in a long-
white garment, said his name was Deception, the
representative of many who kill their patients by
deadly weapons, such as arsenic, mercury, quinine,
opium, nitre, lancet and knife. The dream caused
some serious reflections in the Doctor's mind. He
said to himself: " If arsenic, mercury and nitre are
in their nature poison, can they in the hands of a
physician be medicine ? If when taken by accident,
these things kill, will they cure when given designedly?
Does not mercury go to the same part of a man when
taken by accident as when given by the doctor?"

There is another long poem called " A new Song,
composed by the Friendly Botanic Society." The
following verses describe the principles of the Thorn-
sonian system :


" Tis now my object to unfold,

In a brief way to you,
My system, or the gen'ral rule,

Which you must keep in view.

" See when the patient's taken sick,
The coldness gained the day,

And fever comes as nature's friend,
To drive the cold away.


" The body now has lost its fire.

The water bears the sway ;
Quick must the air be rarified.

Or it will turn to clay.

' ' Then place the patient in a room,

A lively fire prepare ;
And give him Nos. one and two,

As warm as he can bear.

" And place his body o'er a steam.
With hot stones from the fire,

And keep a blanket round him wrapped,
To shield him from the air.

' The body now receives the heat,

To overpower the cold :
If there be inward fire,
Life will the vic'try hold.

' ' But if there is no inward heat,

For you to kindle to,
Then all your labor is in vain,

You must bid him adieu. "


There is an ode to Lobelia, a seed which the
Creator has

" strewed on hills and plains,
To ease mankind of gripes and pains. - '

The pamphlet closes with " Lines on the Thorn -
sonian System," written by a patient at the Infirmary.
This eulogistic poem concludes thus :

" The spark is struck that shall illume the world,

The sacred banner of the Truth unfurled.

Thomson appears — upreared by nature's hand,

A second Luther — sent by God's command ;

Poor and unlearned, untutored from the farm,

To pluck from trampled herbs, a healing balm,

Though ' all the powers of darkness ' storm and rage,

A ruthless war against the system wage,

'Tis vain — the day is past — Truth's sacred light

Shall banish error to the shades of night."


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. 4»«ii^ MliBII'f 1 ^, ™

THE JKUKV RESCUE BLOCK.— From n recent photograph.



The rescue of the fugitive slave Jerry, in the fall
of 1851, was probably the most stirring event in the
history of Syracuse. This city was at that time a
busy, active place of some twenty-five thousand
inhabitants. The citizens were intelligent, cultured
and very patriotic. Public meetings in the Town
Hall for the consideration of public questions were
common. To be sure, in the early days of the imme-
diate emancipation movement, those who came to
Syracuse to propound abolition had met with a
reception which literally made them feel " at home;"
cabbages and more offensive missiles had been show-
ered upon the speakers by an excited audience, and
the meetings had been broken up. But far sooner
than in most places, William Lloyd Garrison and his
friends, on the one hand, and Gerrit Smith and his
friends, on the other, persuaded the people in Syracuse
to listen quietly to their pleading. Some converts
were soon made, especially by the less radical wing,



led by Gerrit Smith. When the Rev. Samuel J. May,
the ardent abolitionist and admirer of Garrison, took
charge of the Unitarian Church in 1845, he found the
ministers and many of the members of the orthodox
Congregational Church, as well as the Unitarian,
were decided abolitionists; and several members of
the Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist Churches
openly favored the great reform.

When the " underground railroad" was started,
Syracuse became a favorite " station." Two colored
clergymen, the Rev. J. W. Loguen and the Rev. S. R.
Ward, were at the head of this movement. They
found a ready and willing helper in the Rev. S. J.
May. Mr. Loguen's house, located at the northeastern
corner of East Genesee and Pine streets, was used as
the stopping place for the poor fugitives on their way
to Canada. Several of the leading bankers and busi-
ness men always stood ready to contribute funds and
ask no questions. Hotel keepers complained because
Southerners were learning by experience that Syracuse
was not a safe place to visit with a retinue of slaves.
The trustiest negro was apt to be persuaded by some
one of his moral duty to escape from bondage during
the night ; and next morning his master would leave,
swearing to go to some other town next time he had
to stop in the North. Not a few negroes preferred
remaining in Syracuse to continuing on to Canada.
The Syracuse directory for 1852 gives the names of


ninety-seven negroes at the end of the book in a
separate list headed " Colored Persons." There were
probably more than this in the city, and the greater
part were escaped slaves.

Such was the condition of the city when, on the
18th of September, 1850, Millard Fillmore, President
of the United States, signed the Fugitive Slave Bill.
The " monstrous " provisions of this law caused great
indignation among the abolitionists of the North, and
in many cases the resentment spread to the less radical
members of the more liberal communities.

In a few places public indignation meetings were
held. What place could be more fitting for such a
meeting than Syracuse ? All the city papers printed a
notice, calling "the citizens of Syracuse and its vicin-
ity, without respect to party," to meet in the City Hall
on the 4th of October at early "candle lighting," "to
make an expression of their sense of the act of the
present Congress," known as the Fugitive Slave Law.
This notice was signed by nearly twenty names, some
of them being those of men never identified with the
abolition movement.

On the day appointed, the City Hall was filled to
overflowing with men whose party scruples had at
least been overcome by their sense of justice. The
Mayor of the city, Alfred H. Hovey, presided, and
the following prominent citizens were elected vice-
presidents: E. W. Leavenworth, Horace Wheaton,


Jason Woodruff, Oliver Teall, Robert Gere, Lyman
Kingsley, Hiram Putnam and Dr. Lyman Clary, who
was the only one among them previously known as
an active abolitionist. A set of thirteen resolutions
was passed with but one dissenting voice. J. H.
Broad, a young Democrat and a lawyer, made a speech
in favor of upholding the law; but the speech was
received in silence.

The resolutions referred to the Fugitive Slave Law
as "a most flagrant outrage upon the inalienable
rights of man and a daring assault upon the palladium
of American liberties ;" they called upon the people
to read the law "in all its details, so that they may
be fully aware of its diabolical spirit and cruel
ingenuity, and prepare themselves to oppose all
attempts to enforce it;" they "recommended the
appointment of a vigilance committee of thirteen
citizens, whose duty it shall be to see that no person
is deprived of his liberty without due process of law."
The names of the vigilance committee as announced
were: C. A. Wheaton, Lyman Clary, V. W. Smith,
C. B. Sedgwick, H. Putnam, E. W. Leavenworth,
Abner Bates, George Barnes, P. H. Agan, J. W.
Loguen, John Williams, the Rev. R. R. Raymond
and John Thomas.

The meeting was adjourned till the 1st of October.
During the week the "Friends of the Union " had
opportunity to get themselves together if they could,


but the public sentiment against the new " Law" was
too strong. The second meeting was even more
strongly enthusiastic than the first. Resolutions were
passed declaring ife to be "the dictate of prudence as
well as good fellowship in a righteous cause that we
should unite ourselves in an association pledged to
stand by its members in opposing this law, and to
share with any of them the pecuniary losses they may
incur under the operation of this law ;" and also that
"such an association be now formed." Besides this,
a petition for the repeal of the act was signed by a
large number of people and sent to Congress.

In justice, it must be said that there was a sparsely
attended meeting of the " Friends of the Union " men
afterwards. This was presided over by Major Moses
D. Burnet, but this counter-convention proved a failure
and its officers deserted it.

The leaders in the abolition movement in the
central and western parts of New York, most of them,
belonged to the Liberty Party, at whose head stood
Gerrit Smith. This party differed from the Anti-
Slavery Party, whose stronghold was in the New
England States, in that it claimed that slavery was
unconstitutional; while the Anti-Slavery Party ad-
mitted its constitutionality, but preferred the destruc-
tion of the Union and the constitution to the contin-
uance of slavery. This difference of point of view
between the two parties, which were really working


for a common end, often caused much bitterness of

When, however, the Anti-Slavery Party, in the
spring of 1851, was denied a place of meeting in New
York city, it was glad to accept the invitation of the
Syracuse abolitionists to hold its meeting in this city.
The convention was held on the 7th, 8th, and 9th of
May, and was very successful. Gerrit Smith and the
Rev. Samuel J. May welcomed the society. The reso-
lutions unanimously passed by the society were as
radical as usual. One of the resolutions read : "That
as for the Fugitive Slave Law, we execrate it, we spit
upon it, we trample it under our feet."

The Liberty party itself had several local meetings
in Syracuse during the spring. The doctrines of this
party, as announced in the resolutions adopted at its
national convention in Buffalo on September 17, 1851,
were: "That righteous civil government enacts no
laws, enforces no laws, obeys no laws, honors no laws

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Online LibraryGurney S StrongEarly landmarks of Syracuse → online text (page 15 of 22)