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By Hillary Delaney
The practice of healing, either by formally educated practitioners or traditional, self-taught healers, has always been essential to the survival of the species. Consequently, where there are people, there are doctors. In fact, the local practice of medicine would certainly have pre-dated the 1798 formation of Boone County, as early settlers were already in the area for a number of years. One can only imagine the challenges faced by early practitioners on the wild frontier of Kentucky.
As the area developed, the need for more trained medical professionals grew in proportion with the population. Many of the doctors who began practicing in Boone County started their own local medical dynasties, with subsequent generations serving the community. These physicians are present at the most pivotal and vulnerable moments in life, from birth to death, and most have seen their share of strange and overwhelming medical moments.
In addition to the usual farm accidents, tragedies involving the river, fires and the harm humans inflict on one another, our doctors were called upon to treat disease. Yellow fever, small pox and three epidemic-level cholera events, along with diphtheria and influenza all attacked the citizens on Boone County through the years, and more were saved than lost.
One example of successful treatment, or simply a robust patient, can be found in the case of patient William Moore. Moore, born in 1827, suffered paralysis from a fall suffered when he was about eight years old. When interviewed in 1898, the then 71-year-old man, though bed-ridden for 63 years, was otherwise healthy, alert and engaging. Though he was affected by a lifetime of immobility in a time when medicine did little in the way of assistance for sufferers of paralysis Moore left the impression of having had very succesful palliative care.
Another interesting medical moment in Boone County occurred when Ott Gaines released the coroner and called for a doctor to examine his maid, Lillie Pool. Lillie worked for Gaines as a cook and housekeeper, and when Gaines expected his meal at breakfast, and there was no sign of Lillie, he became concerned and went to look for her. He found her lifeless body in her room, and took the appropriate step of notifying the coroners office. Upon arrival, they discovered the “dead” woman up and about, and seemingly in a normal state of health. It was soon discovered that Lillie suffered from “fits” and would be rendered unconscious and seemingly lifeless by them, to the untrained eye.
Sometimes even the numerous and experienced doctors of Boone County would need outside consultations. Such was the case in 1855, when a mass was discovered in the abdomen of Mrs. Joseph Richardson. Upon examination, this was no run of the mill procedure; the situation called for medical reenforcements. Our own capable professionals sought the expertise of surgeons across the river, who successfully removed a tumor from Mrs. Richardson weighing over 40 pounds. At last report, all was well, and the patient was recovering nicely.
By 1878, Boone County’s surgeons had a bit more confidence, and higher numbers within the county medical community; many of the doctors in the county had survived the Civil War, some as battlefield surgeons; they had seen it all. A group of area physicians removed the 15-pound ovarian tumor from a Bullittsburg patient with great success. Dr. Terrill, a veteran, was the head surgeon, assisted by Drs. Dawson, James and Anderson of Cincinnati and Boone County physicians: Sayre, Grubbs, Grant, Smith, W. Terrill, W.H. Terrill, L. Terrill and J. Terrill. Is there a doctor in the house?