[1845–1851, 17 Autograph Letters Signed from Physician O.L.R. White of Illinois to his Brother].
[1845–1851, 17 Autograph Letters Signed from Physician O.L.R. White of Illinois to his Brother].

[1845–1851, 17 Autograph Letters Signed from Physician O.L.R. White of Illinois to his Brother].


In 1847, New Englander Dr. O. L. R. White emigrated to Gap Grove, Lee County, Illinois and there established a medical practice. Thirteen letters in the group were written from Illinois to his brother J. B. White (1824–1869). In them Dr. White describes the setting up of his practice, his patients and their illnesses, and the best route to travel from New England to Illinois.

The remaining four letters from Dr. White to his bother Jacob (or, as he calls him, J.B.) were written before the doctor made his move to the western prairies. J. B. White followed his brother’s lead: both men appear to have been educated at Dartmouth and J. B. too emigrated westward. J. B. Emigrated to Iowa College in Davenport, Iowa, in late 1849 or early 1850 and there and at other nearby places received six letters from his brother.

It appears by your letter that the people [of Sandwich, Mass.] take a great interest in my business .... I told them time and again before I left Sandwich that I should certainly go to Illinois. They would not believe it. Since I left they will have it that I impregnated every female in Lowell between the ages of sixteen and sixty. The Damned fools might as well attend to their own business .... I am in debt you know, and I am where money is very scarce. As to my business I think I have no reason to complain of the amount that I have done, or the success I have had. I have had much better success than (as a beginner) I could have reasonably expected—if I had the cash for what I have done it would be better for a poor “gentleman of color,” but it is all, or nearly all in good hands, and will come sometime. There has not been half the sickness here this season that there was the two last seasons, but I have had business enough for two horses a part of the time. ... I do mean to send some money East before many months. The idea of being in debt does goad me most tremendously. (September 17, 1847)

My health is good, and I still like the Western country, but I should like to visit N[ew]. England very much. It is not sickly here now but I have something to do every day. I have one patient fourteen miles from home. I have had a considerable practice in a settlement eight miles from this. The Law allows us fifty c[en]ts. a mile besides our services, which is better than the N[ew]. E[ngland]. Laws I think. (April 24, 1848)

About your journey &c. &c., and first about the prospect of you getting large wages I cannot say positively about that. What I wrote you, I gathered from a conversation I had with a man more than a year ago. He told me they had paid as high as $30 a month in a district school about 12 miles from this place… The way & expenses of coming from Whitehall you would take the canall to its junction with the Erie if no farther. You could leave it and take the rail road (I suppose) there or near [indistinct], It is about 450 miles from Whitehall to Buffalo by canall, and will take a line about 8 or nine days to go the [small loss] the fair [fare] about one cent a mile and will be boarded. Perhaps you can come for less than that, but do not take your ticket at the Office. Go to the captain. Make as good bargain as you can, and pay him at the end of the route. They have no fixed miles, and will gouge in all possible ways. ... Fair [fare] from Albany to Buffalo last year was $12.00 by railroad. From Buffalo to Chicago around the Lakes the fair [fare] a few weeks ago was $10.00 Cabbin [sic] passage and $5.00 for Deck. I think it is less now, but I’m not sure. From Chicago here by stage, Last year was $5.00, the time 24 hours. (June 16, 1848)

I have but little to write and but little time to do it. I have just lost a patient. A son of the man with whom I board. He died of Typhus fever, the 24th day of his sickness.This is the 2d case of the kind I have seen since I came to Il[linoi]s. The other one recovered. He was confined to his room about seven weeks. He was taken the day after he arrived here from New York City. He was sick at Mrs. Martin’s, widow of Mr. Martin. I think he would have died if he had not had the best of nursing. It is not sickly now in this section, though I have been quite busy through the spring. (June 17, 1849)

I received your letter yesterday and will answer it forthwith. I am very glad to hear of your prosperity in your professorship &c. I have nothing of great importance to write excepting that we are all well getting along about as usual. I have one patient about nine miles from here. Have visited him about ten days. He is a maniac. (January 26, 1850)

Letters from a newly-established medical practitioner in the 1840s, working hard in hard times.

Description: [1845–1851, 17 Autograph Letters Signed from Physician O.L.R. White of Illinois to his Brother].

[Various places in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and] Gap Grove, Illinois, 1845–1851. [49]pp. 17 ALSs. Bifoliums and 1 folio; with integral address leaves. Fold lines; minor losses at some seals affecting some text, but not sense; very good.



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