Графични страници
PDF файл




THIS amongst a rude and illiterate people consisted mostly of specifics. As far as I can recollect them, they shall be enumerated, together with the diseases for which they were used.

The diseases of children were mostly ascribed to worms; for the expulsion of which a solution of common salt was given, and the dose was always large. I well remember having been compelled to take half a table spoonful when quite small. To the best of my recollection it generally answered the purpose.


Scrapings of pewter spoons was another remedy for the worms. dose was also large, amounting, I should think, from twenty to forty grains. It was commonly given in sugar.

Sulphate of iron, or green copperas, was a third remedy for the worms. The dose of this was also larger than we should venture to give at this


For burns, a poultice of Indian meal was a common remedy. A poultice of scraped potatoes was also a favorite remedy with some people.Roasted turnips, made into a poultice, was used by others. Slippery elm bark was often used in the same way. I do not recollect that any internal remedy or bleeding was ever used for burns.

The croup, or what was then called the "bold hives," was a common disease among the children, many of whom died of it. For the cure of this, the juice of roasted onions or garlic was given in large doses.— Wall ink was also a favorite remedy with many of the old ladies. For fevers, sweating was the general remedy. This was generally performed by means of a strong decoction of Virginia snake root. The dose was

always very large. If a purge was used, it was about half a pint of a strong decoction of walnut bark. This, when intended for a purge, was peeled downwards; if for a vomit, it was peeled upwards. Indian physic, or bowman root, a species of ipecacuanha, was frequently used for a vomit, and sometimes the pocoon or blood root.

For the bite of a rattle or copper-snake, a great variety of specifics were used. I remember when a small boy to have seen a man, bitten by a rattle-snake, brought into the fort on a man's back. One of the company dragged the snake after him by a forked stick fastened in its head. The body of the snake was cut into pieces of about two inches in length, split open in succession, and laid on the wound to draw out the poison, as they expressed it. When this was over, a fire was kindled in the fort and the whole of the serpent burnt to ashes, by way of revenge for the

injury he had done. After this process was over, a large quantity of chestnut leaves was collected and boiled in a pot. The whole of the wounded man's leg and part of his thigh were placed in a piece of chestnut bark, fresh from the tree, and the decoction was poured on the leg so as to run down into the pot again. After continuing this process for some time, a quantity of the boiled leaves were bound to the leg. This was repeated several times a day. The man got well; but whether owing to the treatment bestowed on his wound, is not so certain. ·

A number of native plants were used for the cure of snake bites.— Among them the white plantain held a high rank. This was boiled in milk, and the decoction given the patient in large quantities. A kind of fern, which, from its resemblance to the leaves of the walnut, was called walnut fern, was another remedy. A plant with fibrous roots, resembling the seneca snake root, of a black color, and a strong but not disagreeable smell, was considered and relied on as the Indian specific for the cure of the sting of a snake. A decoction of this root was also used for the cure for colds. Another plant, which very much resembles the one above mentioned, but which is violently poisonous, was sometimes mistaken. for it and used in its place. I knew two young women, who, in consequence of being bitten by rattle-snakes, used the poisonous plant instead of the other, and nearly lost their lives by the mistake. were applied to their legs in the form of a poultice. The violent burning and swelling occasioned by the inflammation discovered the mistake in time to prevent them from taking any of the decoction, which, had they done, would have been instantly fatal. It was with difficulty that the part to which the poultice was applied was saved from mortification, so that the remedy was worse than the disease.

The roots

Cupping, sucking the wound, and making deep incisions which were filled with salt and gun-power, were also amongst the remedies for snake bites.

It does not appear to me that any of the internal remedies, used by the Indians and the first settlers of this country, were well adapted for the cure of the disease occasioned by the bite of a snake. The poison of a snake, like that of a bee or a wasp, must consist of a highly concentrated and very poisonous acid, which instantly inflames the part to which it is applied. That any substance whatever can act as a specific for the decomposition of this poison, seems altogether doubtful. The cure of the fever occasioned by this animal poison, must be effected with reference to those general indications which are regarded in the cure of other fevers of equal force. The internal remedies alluded to, so far as I am acquainted with them, are possessed of little or no medical efficacy. They are not emetics, cathartics, or sudorifics. What then? They are harmless substances, which do wonders in all those cases in which there is nothing to be done.

The truth is, the bite of a rattle or copper-snake, in a fleshy or tendinous part, where the blood vessels are neither numerous or large, soon healed under kind of treatment. But when the fangs of the serpent, which are hollow, and eject the poison through an orifice near the points, penetrate a blood vessel of any considerable size, a malignant and ineu


rable fever was generally the immediate consequence, and the patient often expired in the first paroxysm.

The same observations apply to the effects of the bite of serpents when inflicted on beasts. Horses were frequently killed by them, as they were commonly bitten somewhere about the nose, in which the blood vessels are numerous and large. I once saw a horse die of the bite of a rattlesnake: the blood for some time before he expired exuded in great quantity through the pores of the skin.

Cattle were less frequently killed, because their noses are of a grisly texture, and less furnished with blood vessels than those of a horse.Dogs were sometimes bitten, and being naturally physicians, they commonly scratched a hole in some damp place, and held the wounded part in the ground till the inflammation abated. Hogs, when in tolerable order, were never hurt by them, owing to the thick substratum of fat between the skin, muscular flesh, and blood vessels. The hog generally took immediate revenge for the injury done him, by instantly tearing to pieces and devouring the serpent which inflicted it.

The itch, which was a very common disease in early times, was commonly cured by an ointment made of brimstone and hog's lard.

Gun-shot and other wounds were treated with slippery elm bark, flaxseed, and other such like poultices. Many lost their lives from wounds which would now be considered trifling and easily cured. The use of the lancet, and other means of depletion, in the treatment of wounds, constituted no part of their cure in this country, in early times.

My mother died in early life of a wound from the tread of a horse, which any person in the habit of letting blood might have cured by two or three bleedings, without any other remedy. The wound was poulticed with spikenard root, and soon terminated in an extensive mor


Most of the men of the early settlers of this country were affected with the rheumatism. For relief from this discase, the hunters generally slept. with their feet to the fire. From this practice they certainly derived much advantage. The oil of rattle-snakes, geese, wolves, bears, raccoons, ground-hogs and pole-cats, was applied to the swelled joints, and bathed in before the fire.

The pleurisy was the only disease which was supposed to require blood letting; but in many cases a bleeder was not to be had.

Coughs and pulmonary consumptions were treated with a great variety of syrups, the principal ingredients of which were spikenard and elecampane. These syrups certainly gave but little relief.

Charms and incantations were in use for the cure of many diseases. I learned, when young, the incantation, in German, for the cure of burns, stopping blood, tooth-ache, and the charm against bullets in battle; but for the want of faith in their efficacy, I never used any of them.

The erysipelas, or St. Anthony's fire, was circumscribed by the blood of a black cat. Hence there was scarcely a black cat to be seen, whose ears and tail had not been frequently cropped off for a contribution of blood.

Whether the medical profession is productive of most good or harm, may still be a matter of dispute with some philosophers, who never saw any condition of society in which there were no physicians, and therefore could not be furnished with a proper test for deciding the question.Had an unbeliever in the healing art been amongst the early inhabitants of this country, he would have been in a proper situation to witness the consequences of the want of the exercise of this art. For many years-in succession there was no person who bore even the name of a doctor within a considerable distance of the residence of my father.

For the honor of the medical profession, I must give it as my opinion that many of our people perished for want of medical skill and attention. The pleurisy was the only disease which was, in any considerable degree, understood by our people. A pain in the side called for the use of the lancet, if there was any to be had; but owing to its sparing use, the patient was apt to be left with a spitting of blood, which sometimes ended in consumption. A great number of children died of the croup. Remittent and intermittent fevers were treated with warm drinks for the purpose of sweating, and the patients were denied the use of cold water and fresh air; consequently many of them died. Of those who escaped, not a few died afterwards of the dropsy or consumption, or were left with paralytic limbs. Deaths in childbed were not unfrequent. Many, no doubt, died of the bite of serpents, in consequence of an improper reliance on specifics possessed of no medical virtue.

My father died of an hepatic complaint, at the age of about forty-six.He had labored under it for thirteen years. The fever which accompanied it was called "the dumb ague," and the swelling in the region of the liver, "the ague cake." The abscess burst, and discharged a large quantity of matter, which put a period to his life in about thirty hours after the discharge.

Thus I for one may say, that in all human probability I lost both my parents for want of medical aid.



THESE were such as might be expected among a people, who, owing to their circumstances as well as education, set a higher value on physical than on mental endowments, and on skill in hunting and bravery in war, than on any polite accomplishments or fine arts.

Amusements are, in many instances, either imitations of the business. of life, or at least of some of its particular objects of pursuit. On the part of young men belonging to nations in a state of warfare, many amusements are regarded as preparations for the military character which they are expected to sustain in future life. Thus the war-dance of savages is a pantomime of their stratagems and horrid deeds of cruelty in war, and the exhibition prepares the minds of their young men for a participation in the bloody tragedies which they represent. Dancing, among civilised people, is regarded, not only as an amusement suited to the youthful period of human life, but as a means of inducing urbanity of manners and a good personal deportment in public. Horse racing is regarded by the statesman as a preparation, in various ways, for the equestrian department of warfare: it is said that the English government never possessed a good cavalry, until, by the encouragement given to public races, their breed of horses was improved. Games, in which there is a mixture of chance and skill, are said to improve the understanding in mathematical and other calculations.

Many of the sports of the early settlers of this country were imitative. of the exercises and stratagems of hunting and war. Boys are taught the use of the bow and arrow at an early age; but although they acquired considerable adroitness in the use of them, so as to kill a bird or squirrel sometimes, yet it appears that in the hands of the white people, the bow and arrow could never be depended upon for warfare or hunting, unless made and managed in a different manner from any specimens of them which I ever saw.

In ancient times, the bow and arrow must have been deadly instruments in the hands of the barbarians of our country; but I much doubt whether any of the present tribes of Indians could make much use of the flint arrow heads, which must have been so generally used by their forefathers.

Fire arms, wherever they can be obtained, soon put an end to the use of the bow and arrow; but independently of this circumstance, military, as well as other arts, sometimes grow out of date and vanish from the

« ПредишнаНапред »