Sue Young Histories

The Beckwith Family and Homeopathy

February 03, 2008

cleveland homeopathic hospitalDavid Herrick Beckwith - 1909 was a distinguished Homeopathic historian, President of the Ohio State Homœopathic Medical Society and President of the American Institute of Homeopathy and President of the Ohio State Board of Health in 1890 and Emeritus Professor of Sanitary Science giving lectured in Climatology.

Seth Beckwith founded the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital as Dean and Chair of Surgical and Pathological Anatomy and was Surgeon of the Cleveland Railroad and an officer of the American Institute of Homœopathy and of the Ohio State Homœopathic Society.

The Beckwith family played an important role in Homeopathy in Cleveland.

William S. Beckwith and Thomas Sterling Beckwith opened a dry goods store in 1850 which became Sterling Welch and Company by 1889. Thomas Sterling Beckwith was part of the organisation for the Lincoln Memorial in 1865, and he was on the voyage to the Holy Land onboard the Side wheeler Quaker City with Mark Twain in 1867, and he assisted in the foundation of the Beckwith Presbyterian Church in 1885, known as the Beckwith Memorial Church.

Thomas Sterling Beckwith played one of the first tennis games in Cleveland in 1880 and he directed the first tennis tournament in Cleveland in 1890, winning the doubles championship in Ohio in 1899. In 1895, Thomas Sterling Beckwith founded the Cleveland Golf Club and in 1913 his former home was transformed into the University Club of Cleveland.

The Ohio Medical and Surgical Reporter was published between 1867 and 1877 by Beckwith and Co.

Dr. David H. Beckwith graduated at the Eclectic Institute in 1849 (with Lemuel Rosa, E. R. Fuller, George Storm, L. E. Ober), went East for honorary degrees and settled in Cleveland.

In 1851-1852 he, with others, had entire control of the county buildings and they tested thoroughly the comparative methods of the two schools of medicine in scarlet fever and dysentery. The result was so favorable to Homeopathy that the old use of drugs was abolished.

In the next forty years it was said of him that he rang more silver door bells in Cleveland than any other doctor in the city.

In 1868 David and others founded the Wilson Street Hospital Association and the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital in 1874.

It was during this year that Dr. D. H. Beckwith became connected with the college as a lecturer on physiology. He was a graduate from the Eclectic Medical Institute in 1850, afterward attending the Western College of Homœopathy.

He at once entered into practice, rapidly pushing his way to the front. After more than half a century of hard work Dr. Beckwith is still engaged in active practice, although past four score years. He has been associated with the local state and national societies since 1867, having been President of the Ohio State Homœopathic Medical Society and President of the American Institute of Homœopathy.

He has always taken a special interest in sanitary science, having been for a number of years a member of the city board of health, and also for a term President of the Ohio State Board of Health in 1890.

He also is a member of the American Public Health Association. He is today a worker in the college, being Emeritus Professor of Sanitary Science, each year delivering a special course of lectures on climatology.

David was cautious about vaccination, which homeopaths did not favour, including Constantine Hering, because it suppressed the Vital Force and natural immunity of individuals, but as vaccination was based on a homeopathic principle of simila similibus curentur, there was some initial applause from homeopaths until they realised that orthodox medicine intended to blanket the entire population without individuation, thus contravening the principle that people should be treated as unique.

David was a member of the American Institute of Homœopathy, the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of Ohio and a member of the Bureau of Sanitary Science and the State Board of Health. He was Emeritus Professor of Sanitary Science at the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital and he practiced in partnership with Nathaniel C. Schneider.

In 1892, David’s wife Ruth Kirch Beckwith also graduated from the Cleveland Medical College.

David wrote Address Delivered Before the American Institute of Homoeopathy, The Erie Street Medical College, 1848-1849, The history of the Western college of homeopathic medicine from 1850-1860_ (full text here)_, and he contributed to the Annual Report of the American Historical Association in 1911.

Dr. Seth R. Beckwith graduated from the homeopathic Cleveland Homeopathic College in 1845 (Seth Beckwith founded this hospital) in 1853 and located in Norwalk. From there he was called to teach surgical anatomy at the college (Chair of Surgical and Pathological Anatomy).

He was the surgeon of the railroads entering Cleveland. He opened the first organized hospital in Cleveland in 1856—the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital of twenty beds, on Lake Street. Beckwith used it for those injured on the railroads and it was open to all surgical cases.

During 1855-1856 the name of the college was changed to the Western College of Homeopathy. Including 1858, the years of the college were successful in having a strong faculty and splendid graduating classes numbering from twenty to thirty each year.

In 1845 a homeopathic pharmacy was opened in Cincinnati, an agency for the Leipsic pharmacy in Germany. In 1846 the first homeopathic pharmacy was opened in Cleveland at the corner of Superior and the Public Square. A homeopathic drug store was opened in this epoch in Cleveland to be owned eventually by Beckwith and L. H. Witte.

Dr. Seth R. Beckwith was no less notable in his relation to the homœopathic cause throughout the middle states. After graduating from the college in 1853, he located in Norwalk, Ohio, where he was practicing at the time of his call to take the chair of surgical anatomy in the Cleveland college.

He interested himself particularly in surgical work and was the surgeon of the railways entering Cleveland. Later he secured the control of the county hospital, using it for clinical teaching for the benefit of his students.

He became prominent in national circles, having been an officer of the American Institute of Homœopathy and of the Ohio State Homœopathic Society.

In 1868, In this department Prof. S. R. Beckwith had orthopaedic surgery; Prof. Thomas Pardon Wilson, ophthalmology; Hamilton Fisk Biggar (homeopath to John Davison Rockefeller Senior), surgical diseases of the genito-urinary organs; Prof. N. Schneider, military surgery; Prof. J. C. Sanders, uterine displacements; Prof. L. W. Sapp, instrumental labor; and Prof. H. L. Ambler, a prominent dentist of the city, dental surgery.

Homeopathic physicians started to trickle into Ohio in the early 1840s, practicing in smaller cities because of their poor reception among “regular” (allopathic) physicians in larger cities.

By the 1890s, fully twenty percent of physicians in Cleveland called themselves homeopaths. Among the more well known local homeopaths were Seth R. Beckwith, with a large Cleveland practice as physician and surgeon to railroads; Benjamin L. Hill, one of the founders of the Western Homeopathic College of Cleveland; and Hamilton Fisk Biggar, nationally known medical advisor and intimate friend of John Davison Rockefeller Senior.

B. H. Bartlett opened the first homeopathic pharmacy in Cleveland in 1846, at the corner of Superior Ave. and Public Square.

Homeopathy depended upon teaching institutions and hospitals for its survival. In 1850 the Western Homeopathic College of Cleveland, the second such institution in the country, came into being, and in 1856, Seth Beckwith opened the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital, the first privately owned hospital in Cleveland. These two institutions soon affiliated, and college faculty practiced and taught at the hospital.

The CLEVELAND HOMEOPATHIC HOSPITAL (May 1856-1917), founded by Dr. Seth R. Beckwith, was the first privately owned hospital in Cleveland. Beckwith took over a 2-story house on Lake St. (Lakeside Ave.) at Clinton Rd. and modified it to accommodate 20 patients, mainly sick and injured employees of the Lake Shore and the Cleveland, Columbus, & Cincinnati railroads.

It soon affiliated with the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital College, formed in 1850 as the Western College of Homeopathy, where Beckwith was an instructor and later dean.

The college faculty practiced and taught at the hospital. In 1869 homeopathic physicians withdrew from the Willson St. Hospital and opened Cleveland Protestant Homeopathy Hospital. In 1873 that hospital moved into the Humiston Institute building on Huron Rd. The hospital consolidated with Beckwith’s hospital, and the following year incorporated as the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital (sometimes referred to as the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital Society).

The incorporators were Drs. Beckwith, Hamilton Fisk Biggar, and John C. Sanders. Dr. H. H. Baxter was also prominently identified with the project. A new hospital was constructed on the Huron Rd. site in 1879, and a larger building replaced that one in 1895.

The Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital closed in 1919 because of competition from SAINT VINCENT CHARITY HOSPITAL AND HEALTH CENTER, and became Huron Rd. Hospital, later MERIDIA HURON HOSPITAL.

Unfortunately Seth was very opposed to the training of women in medicine, going so far as to resign from Cleveland Hospital in 1869 to join Pulte’s Cincinnati Medical College where he continued his opposition. In his absence, the Western Homeopathic College passed a resolution that “there shall never hereafter be made any distinction in regard to sex, colour, nationality or religion” in the admission of students…

However, it is not clear whether his opposition was really to ’the association of both sexes in the same medical school’ was more his point, as David’s wife eventually graduated from the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital

The following year the woman’s college gave up the fight and transferred the property, if not the good will, of the Cleveland Homœopathic College and Hospital for Women to the Cleveland Homœopathic Hospital College. Then Prof. S. R. Beckwith, whose opposition to co-education was pronounced, gracefully surrendered and took the lead in announcing to the medical profession that the college doors would thereafter be open to women, with equal rights to those of the men.

In 1898, Dr. S.R. Beckwith, of New York, published his booklet describing the use of his invention, the Thermo-Ozone Generator, in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases.

Seth wrote The Electro Ozone Company: Controls the Discoveries and Inventions of S.R. Beckwith_ _and organised the Overland Telephone Company in 1883, and also a company with Antonio Meucci, which brought him into legal suit with the Bell Telephone Company. At the World’s Homeopathic Convention of 1876:

Dr. S. R. Beckwith proposed an amendment to the Bylaws to increase the initiation fee to $5.00 and that $2.50 be charged in addition to the annual $5.00 fee to cover the cost of the bound edition of the Proceedings of the World’s Homeopathic Convention.

After lengthy discussion, A. E. Small, M.D., Chicago, proposed a substitute motion which was unanimously approved, to wit, that two dollars and fifty cents be assessed for the next year on each member of the American Institute of Homeopathy, including seniors and juniors, towards defraying the expenses of the World’s Homeopathic Convention of 1876.

Edmund B Beckwith graduated from the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital in 1865. Hering medical college

H. M Beckwith was Secretary to the Illinois Homeopathic Medical Association in 1926.

J. T Beckwith graduated from the Cleveland Homeopathic Hospital in 1885.

N. D. Beckwith was a member of the Illinois Homeopathic Medical Association in 1926.

Corydon Beckwith was a circuit judge at the Court of Illinois and an adviser to Abraham Lincoln.

Paul Edmond Beckwith wrote a history of his family in 1891.

Sidney Beckwith was also a homeopath in 1905.


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