John Milton 7 BIGELOW
16814.12 John Milton 7 BIGELOW, son of Marshall 6 ( Roger 5 , Joseph
4, Joseph 3, Joshua 2,John 1)
and Elizabeth (HILL) BIGELOW, was born in Peru, Bennington co,
VT, 23 June 1804. After the War of 1812 he moved with his parents to OH.
He married in November 1832 in Fairfield county, OH Maria L. Meiers, the
daughter of H. Meiers, Esq., of Lancaster, Ohio. John was a surgeon, botanist,
explorer and is known for his treatise on grasses of OH and another book
on the flowering plants of OH. He also is known for identifying and classifying
plants of the Southwest from his trips for the Army and the railroads in
the 1850's. He died at Detroit, Wayne, MI on 18 July 1878. From the 1850
census of Lancaster, Fairfield, OH, we determine the children as follows:
Children of John and Maria (Meiers) Bigelow, all born in OH:
16814.121 Henry, b ca 1834.
16814.122 John G., b ca 1836.
16814.123 Rachel E., b ca 1838.
16814.124 James M., b ca 1840.
16814.125 William L., b ca 1842.
16814.126 Francis C., b ca 1844.
16814.127 Mary B., b ca 1846.
16814.128 Cordelia, b ca 1848.
Bigelow Family Genealogy Volume. II page.257;
Bigelow Family Genealogy Volume. I ;
Howe, Bigelow Family of America;
1850 census Lancaster, OH.
Volume 51 Ohio History
OHIO MEDICAL HISTORY, 1835-58
DR. JOHN MILTON BIGELOW, 1804-1878
AN EARLY OHIO PHYSICIAN--BOTANIST By A. E. WALLER*
Meeting the name Bigelow in botanical publication the
reader is sometimes confused. The name of John M. Bigelow, the subject of
this paper is close to John Bigelow a journalist and newspaper correspondent
of New York City of the same period and also to a Dr. Henry Jacob Bigelow
interested in anesthetics of whom this paper will make no further mention,
as well as to Dr. Jacob Bigelow of Massachusetts.
Dr. Jacob Bigelow 1 requires a brief notice here since
he is more frequently mistaken for John M. Dr. Jacob Bigelow in 1814 published
a list of the plants growing in the vicinity of Boston under the title Florula
Bostonensis. It became a popular work for all those persons wanting a small
guide book to the plants of the area and it passed through three editions.
It followed the Linnean Sexual System for naming plants. The 1824 edition
is sometimes offered for sale as a literary curiosity, having the reputation
of being the last work published in the United States which followed the
Linnean system. Dr. Jacob Bigelow also
authored the American Medical Botany, a recognized forerunner of the modern
American pharmacopoeia establishing the
standard practice for the current Food and Drug Acts. Three volumes of this
work were published between 1818 and 1820. As a result of this great editorial
labor Dr. Jacob Bigelow was the correspondent of a number of scientific men
in European countries. The Swiss botanist, De Candolle, honored and commemorated
his name by applying it to a newly discovered golden rod.
Dr. Asa Gray of Harvard described several American species
in this genus, Bigelovia. Dr. Jacob Bigelow's name is to that extent perpetuated
for the botanists. By the rules of priority followed in naming plants, the
creation of this genus automatically prevented John M. Bigelow having any
of the genera he discovered named in his honor. There are a number of species,
new to science when he collected them, carrying his name. Even the most virtuous,
however, are not above folly. It does not harm the memory of Dr. Jacob Bigelow
now to record that once he was a member of a committee of Boston citizens
who solemnly listened to statements of eight persons who swore they had seen
a sea serpent off the Massachusetts coast. In all seriousness the committee
prepared a pamphlet from these hearings and sent it off to the distinguished
explorer and sea captain, Sir Joseph Banks, in 1817. Astonished but canny,
Sir Joseph replied, as might the scientist of today under similar circumstances,
that "future observation will no doubt clear up" the remarks noted in the
This connection with the Atlantic seaboard and Europe
will or should be sufficient to clear up the confusion between Jacob Bigelow
and John M. Bigelow. For John M. spent all but a few years of his life in
Ohio and Michigan, and his botanical collections cover the southwest and
include Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, as well as his early work
in central Ohio.
Dr. John M. Bigelow's birth reputedly occurred in Peru,
Bennington County, Vermont, June 23, 1804. 2 In 1815 his father
moved to Licking County, Ohio, near or in Granville, where he had his boyhood
schooling. This was meager and the family was poor. Young John was a voracious
reader and spent time poring over any books he could obtain. Legend also
drapes him with the familiar garments of a boyish school teacher by which
means he earned enough money to attend and receive a diploma March 8, 1832,
from the Medical College of Ohio at Cincinnati.
In November, 1832, he married Maria L. Meiers, daughter
of H. Meiers, Esq., of Lancaster, Ohio. At the Medical College of Ohio, Dr.
John Leonard Riddell 3 was professor of botany and adjunct professor
of chemistry between 1830 and 1836. It may well have been this mentor's enthusiasm
that was communicated to John M. Bigelow and inspired in him a love of plants
that was to remain with him throughout his life. Dr. Riddell's Synopsis of
the Flora of the Western States published in 1835, together with a supplementary
Ohio list is the first catalog of Ohio plants
published by a resident botanist. There is, however, no written testimony
to prove this interesting teacher-pupil relation.
The first public record of Bigelow's medical practice
is from the Lancaster, Ohio, Gazette and Enquirer of January 2, 1834. It
reads, "Dr. J. M. Bigelow has removed his office to his dwelling on Columbus
Street, a few doors south of General Sanderson's residence." A small but
thoughtful notice establishing a young medical practitioner in a distinguished
neighborhood. He was about 30 years old, and was beginning to take his place
in the community. Similar notices of changes of address, probably because
of the increases in the size of his family or because he was seeking a more
convenient office and of medical partnerships formed and dissolved are to
be found in the Lancaster newspapers between 1834 and 1860. It is thus known
that he was associated in a partnership with Dr. Robert McNeil in 1844-1845.
This is the younger Robert McNeil who, in 1847, became a surgeon in the Mexican
War. Again in 1856 he formed a partnership with Dr. G. W. Boerstler which
lasted for two years. Dr. Boerstler was a founder of the Ohio State Medical
Society, and active throughout his long life as a Lancaster physician.
Aside from the assumption that the partnerships displayed
good sense in increasing his office practice, what we now know of
Dr. Bigelow indicates that he had his own reasons for wishing to
be away from his office. We do not know exactly how remu-
nerative or absorbing his work with his patients may have been.
We do know that he was developing another sort of work that
was to demand a share of his time. His other love was botaniz-
3 Clara Armstrong, "Plant Names Commemorative of Ohio Botanists," Ohio
Naturalist (January, 1901).
2 W. B. Atkinson, Physicians and Surgeons of U. S. (Philadelphia, 1878)
* Papers from the Department of Botany, Ohio State University, No. 449.
1 Howard Kelly, Some American Medical Botanists (Troy, New York, 1914).
Modified - 12/10/2005
(c) Copyright 2005 Bigelow Society, Inc. All rights
Rod Bigelow - Director
Box 13 Chazy Lake
Dannemora, N.Y. 12929
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