Saturday, June 6, 2009

Why, how did the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Samuel Meeker come to California; the uncommon circumstances!

Westward Ho!!
In the previous post we learned about my grandfather Pops, born to Carrie and Lewis Cory. Carrie was born to the Martin family of the Westfields, NJ and it was through Carrie that the portrait made its way west; she married Lewis Lincoln Cory, born in 1861 in San Jose, Ca to Sarah (Braly) Cory and Dr. Benjamin Cory, pictured above.

The story of Dr. Benjamin Cory
Dr. Ben Cory is known as the first horse and buggy doctor in San Jose, California. This branch of the Cory family stems from John Cory of Southold born in 1611 in England, eventually John Cory II, John Cory III, Joseph etc settled in New Jersey. Dr. Ben’s father Dr. James Manning Cory went “west” to Ohio, where he established his medical practice and raised a family of 7 children (not all reaching adulthood). Son Ben was born in Oxford OH in 1822. After receiving his medical credentials from the Medical College of Ohio, Ben dreamed of leaving. In a letter to his cousin Fanny, Nov 30. 1846, he wrote: “There are seven doctors here, but I am confident that I do more practice than any of them, not excepting my Father—the ‘foolish’ people seem to have confidence in me. We will book about 3000 dollars this year but on account of the poor pay, changeable nature of the climate, small fees and a few other things, it is my intention to remove to Mississippi or Louisiana next spring. Father’s health [Dr. James Manning Cory] is rather poor every winter, and it would be well for him to reside in the South during the winter—which is an aditional motive for me to remove, so that I can have a home for him.” Ben was only a young 23 years old when he received his M.D. in Cincinnati and only 25 when he set foot in California for the first time. Tales of the warmth and beauty, and not least opportunity, to be had in California clearly provided enough motivation for the young adventurer to set out for the west vs the south. He chose not to set up practice in San Francisco, as there were already too many doctors (two). This bold and adventurous spirit traversed the Plains by foot, with two companions, alongside a wagon loaded with food, ammunition, books and medicines, pulled by four oxen in the spring of 1847, before gold was even discovered. He opened up his practice in the dirt of the Plaza, in a tent in what was then only a Mexican pueblo. He eventually married, had eight living children, and made his permanent home in San Jose, residing in the house he built in 1864 at 435 South Second Street until the end of his days.

The image of the ‘shack’ (top above) is the earliest known photo of Dr. Ben Cory’s office in San Jose. The second image is of the Santa Clara County Hospital. Ben and his brother Andrew Jackson Cory (who arrived in Ca 10 years later and became the county’s chief medical officer in 1871) led the campaign to build this new county medical facility, both of these men recognizing the urgent need for services to the poor and indigent and the importance of charity health care in society.

Dr. Ben Cory age 70, in this family photo from 1892, and his wife Sarah Braly; to the right under the black arrows are my gt grandfather Lewis L. Cory and wife Carrie (how the portrait comes to Ca). The red dots show Lewis’ brother and sisters (children of the Doctor and his wife Sarah.) Sarah’s mother Susan (Hyde) Braly is the matron in the center of the photo. The Braly family also came across the plains in the same year 1847, and settled in Santa Clara county.

The photo is of downtown San Jose in the year 1906. Although the Doctor is by now deceased, one can see that cars are just beginning to arrive on the scene, there is no rhyme, reason or logic in the driving on the street. The main point here is that one must picture how, for decades, the good Doctor made his rounds, over hill and dale, in the beginning by horseback, and later in the luxury of a horse and buggy! (click on the photo to have a great view!)

My gt grandfather Lewis, father of Pops [see post before this one] and son of Dr. Ben, looked for opportunity in the up and coming area of Fresno. Before settling there, back east at Columbia Law School, he met his wife Carrie Martin. The circumstances of this meeting are not known to me, but I suspect these two families remained in close contact through the years (the Cory family being well-established in the Westfields). Carrie’s father Thomas, was a bookbinder in Rahway, New Jersey. Lewis and Carrie were married on 17 Oct 1882, in Rahway.

The good Doctor Ben, singer of hymns and providing services in exchange for eggs, chickens or gold dust, or for free, died in 1896.

Next: the whole letter from Nov 30 1846 from Ben to cousin Fanny;
Who is that doctor to whom you have given your sympathies? What kind of a bargain did you make with him? Did you make an equal exchange of hearts?

and a letter to his brother Andrew Jackson, from the gold mines.

1 comment:

Rouchswalwe said...

Fascinating! I very much look forward to the letter after your tickler quote. Grand English!

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