Biography of William Hartford, D. O.

William Hartford, D. O. The science of osteopathy, which has its fundamental principle in the theory that most diseases of humanity are traceable to malformation of some part of the skeleton, long since has passed the experimental stage and has become a widely recognized and sane factor in the alleviation of the suffering of mankind. A capable and enthusiastic promoter of this method of cure is found in Dr. William Hartford of Champaign, who has been engaged in practice here since 1899, and whose professional career has been one characterized by remarkably successful results. He is a native of Henderson County, Illinois, and was born December 6, 1856, a son of Winfield Scott and Lucetta Rebekah (Thomas) Hartford.

The family history of Dr. Hartford is a decidedly interesting one. In 1579 Sir John Hartford, son of Thomas Hartford, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for brave and honorable service rendered in the wars of that period, and was given a province, or manor, in southern Scotland. While he had been born in Northumberland County, England, after being given this manor he settled in Scotland, where the family resided until during the persecution of the Church of Scotland by the ruler of England, when the younger members of the family were driven into northern Ireland and became what is known as Scotch-Irish. About 1730 James and Patrick Hartford, descendants of Sir John, who were attending college at Belfast, Ireland, as students, were enticed aboard one of the vessels lying in the harbor one Saturday afternoon, and before they were aware of it anchor had been weighed and the vessel had put to sea. They were impressed into service as cabin boys and on arising one morning Patrick Hartford, finding his brother missing, was informed that his brother had fallen overboard, had died after being taken from the water, and had subsequently been buried at sea. In reality, the brothers had been kidnapped to be sold in the New World as bond slaves, a not unusual custom of the day, and were only kept apart for that purpose, although Patrick Hartford never knew but that his brother was dead, and, in fact, both brothers died ignorant of the fact that the other was living. However, the grandchildren of each brother met in Henderson County, Illinois, in 1865. In giving their family history both told the same story, when William Hartford, grandson of Patrick, asked James Hartford, grandson of James, what his grandfather’s given name was. He was told and was also informed that James had been landed at New York, while Patrick had been landed at Philadelphia. When the young men became twenty-one years of age they were released from their bondage, after which each married and became a citizen of the New World.

When the French and Indian war broke out, in 1763, Patrick Hartford entered the service of the Crown, under Major George Washington of the Colonial army, was promoted to the position of exchanging officer, and led a company of Colonial soldiers against the siege of Louisburg. In the exchange of prisoners on the western frontier, Patrick Hartford came upon a number of women and children who had been captured by the savages, and negotiated a trade with the Indians whereby he paid one quart of rum each for the prisoners, whom he safely conducted back to their families and friends in eastern Pennsylvania. In later years he met a young lady by the name of Jane McCammant, who had been stolen by the Indians when eight or nine years, of age and held prisoner by them for a period of three years and nine months, when rescued. She was the daughter of a wealthy Scotch-Irish farmer in the Susquehanna Valley. She became his wife, and in later years, when they were talking over the exciting incidents of their childhood period and he had told her of his having been kidnapped and sold as a bond slave, she in return told him of her years spent in Indian captivity. When, in a reply to her husband’s question, she said that she had been exchanged at a Detroit Indian station and gave the time, he exclaimed: “Why, you were not exchanged; I bought you free with a quart of rum from the Indians,” and so it developed that she was one of the party of women and children that he had been called upon to rescue when he was exchanging officer for the British army. Nine children were born to Patrick and Jane (McCammant) Hartford, Dr. William Hartford being descended from the third son, John.

John Hartford moved to Canada in 1795, when his son William, the grandfather of Dr. Hartford, who had been born in Pennsylvania, was about six months, old. He resided there until the period of the War of 1812, when he moved to Muskingum County, Ohio, where ‘he spent the remainder of his life, passing away January 13, 1833. He married Betsy Patterson, whose family was of Scotch-Irish origin. Her father and four brothers, William, ‘John, Alexander and James, enlisted for service in the Revolutionary War and when their terms of service expired reenlisted, all being mustered out with honorable discharges at the close, with the exception of one brother, who was killed at the battle of Brandywine. This family were Covenanters, or Presbyterian, and Seceeders there were no atheists, no Universalists or Catholics among them.

At the close of the Revolutionary War, as a special inducement to secure settlers, Canada offered to give to each settler 200 acres of land and the privilege of choosing their own Legislature and making their own laws, as they were in the United States. A proclamation was issued to this effect, and as a result hundreds of poor men flocked into Canada, among them being John Hartford, who, as before noted, went there in the summer of 1795. He found, however, when he arrived that the laws were already made and that in order to secure the land he would be required to take the oath of allegiance to the king, this oath being set down by his son as reading as follows: “You do solemnly swear that you will bear true allegiance to King George III, and that you will forever disown and disdain any pardon from any foreign power, or dispensation whatever.” This oath John Hartford refused to take, but bought a tract of a young man by the name of Gabriel Evans, who had taken the oath and secured the land, but who, in an altercation with a British officer, due to his failure to remove his hat when meeting him, had struck the officer (who had first knocked his hat off with his sword), and was thus guilty of treason and was compelled to flee the country. John Hartford bought his place by assuming his indebtedness for 1,000 rails which Evans had ordered split. The place consisted of 188 acres, on which Evans had built a cabin and cleared four or five acres, and on this John Hartford settled with his family.

William Hartford remained on this property with his father until March, 1812, when he left home to learn the trade of blacksmith. In June of the same year the second war with Great Britain was declared, and his elder brothers were drafted into the British army. When the war broke out the governor-general of Canada ordered all who claimed allegiance to the United States to appear upon the Niagara River at Queenstown and there they would be sent over to Lewiston on the American side. William Hartford, who had returned home, was among those who appeared, but the transports were so busy with a great crowd that it made it look as though Canada were to be depopulated, and he did not succeed in getting across. At this time the battle of Queenstown occurred, in which General Brock was killed, and the commander-in-chief of the British fort cancelled the order and drafted every man from the age of sixteen to sixty years into the British service, ordering them to appear at the parade grounds at Terry Berry’s cross roads at ten o’clock the next day. William Hartford evaded the service through losing his way to the point of meeting, for his sympathies were with the United States, where he had been born, but eventually he was seized by some British soldiers and taken to headquarters, where he was court-martialed and sentenced to be shot, but through the friendly intervention of a British officer, who was a friend of his father, was taken with a gang of prisoners to fell some trees to form a block house and was put to work by himself in an isolated spot, which was the cue for him to make his escape. He did so and arrived home that night about midnight, disguised as an Irish “paddy,” with a halter on his arm as though looking for horses. His father gave him all the silver he had in the house, about $2.25, for Canadian bills were’ of no use to him in the United States, for which country he was heading. After numerous thrilling adventures, he finally reached his destination and found his way to the home of some relatives on his mother’s side in eastern Pennsylvania. He was later arrested as a spy, but after satisfying the army of his loyalty he was allowed to enlist as a soldier in the War of 1812-14. He fought at Lundy’s Lane under General Winfield Scott, and was at Fort Mackinac,. Michigan, when its inhabitants were massacred by the Indians. With one or two others he escaped, and they subsisted on roots and bark and on rabbits which they killed with stones until they finally reached Niagara. They were never mustered out. William Hartford dared not go back into Canada and had no means of communicating with his father for three years, when a horse-trader, going up into that country, carried a letter from him to his father. He brought back a reply, and the father eventually sold his personal property under the hammer for ready cash and came to the United States, buying about three hundred two acres of land eighteen miles north of Zanesville, Ohio, where he spent the rest of his days. William Hartford was married at the age of twenty-five years to Eliza James, and they became the parents of ten children, of whom Dr. Hartford’s father, Winfield Scott, was the second born.

Winfield Scott Hartford was born in Muskingum County, Ohio, and received an ordinary education in the schools that the day and locality afforded. He was reared to the pursuits of agriculture and was still a young man when, in the fall of 1846, he passed through Champaign County and Urbana at a time when there was but a little tavern at that point, he being then on his way to Henderson County, Illinois. Doctor Hartford has heard his father tell how the land all around Urbana was bog land, and of how one could stand and shake the ground under his feet. Winfield S. Hartford accumulated land in Henderson County, where he remained for four years engaged in farming, and at the time of selling out and leaving had over 400 acres. He returned to Ohio and remained that winter, and then prevailed upon his father to sell out his Ohio holdings and come to the west. William Hartford came through by wagon in 1852 and his first impressions of the country could not have been very favorable, for on the present site of the Flatiron Building, of Urbana, Champaign, his teams mired down, so that it took him a whole day to get his wagons out of that bog hole. Land values at that time were fifty cents an acre here, and it may be that he would have purchased property had he known what they would increase to, but instead he pushed on to Henderson County, where the family made their home for more than twenty years. In later years Winfield S. Hartford moved on to Adair County, and later to Springfield, Missouri, where his death occurred November 12, 1900, the mother, Lucetta Rebekah (Thomas) Hartford, a native of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, having passed away in Adair County, Missouri, November 5, 1867. To their union there were eleven children born: Eliza, who is the widow of Robert G. David, and resides at Cana, Kansas; Mary A., who is the widow of James Brooks, of Idaho; Sarah E., who is the widow of Alexander McLelland, of Miami, Oklahoma; Justice, who is deceased; Doctor William, of this review; John T., a resident of Missouri; Isaac J., of Manitoba, Canada; Elmira L., who is the wife of H. L. Walker, of Idaho; Martha R., who is the wife of Robert E. Bledsoe, of Oklahoma; and Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, twins, the former deceased and the latter a physician and a resident of Gibson City, Illinois. The mother died at the time the twins were born.

William Hartford remained with his father until he was twenty-one years of age, in the meantime receiving such education as the meager opportunities of that time afforded. At the time that he reached his majority he entered the State Normal School at Kirksville, Missouri, but remained at that institution only one semester, then returning home to begin teaching his old district school where he had first attended. For four years he remained in charge of that school, each year receiving an increase in salary as an appreciation of his capable services, and in the meantime returned to the normal school during the vacation periods, thus improving his own education all the time. He graduated from the normal school in 1886, and following this taught in the city school of Middle Grove, Missouri, for two years, then being elected county superintendent of schools for that county in 1888. At the expiration of his term he went to Saint Edwards, Nebraska, where he was superintendent of city schools for two years, and in 1892 was nominated as county superintendent of schools for Boone County, Nebraska, but on account of his wife’s ill health was forced to decline the nomination. He then returned to Kirksville, Missouri, where resided an osteopathic physician whom he knew and in whom he had the greatest confidence. Physicians in Nebraska had given his wife up as incurable, but under the skillful treatment of this osteopath, Dr. A. T. Still, she fully recovered her health.

For some time Doctor Hartford had been carefully watching and investigating Doctor Still’s methods of practice, and his success in curing his wife caused him to fully decide to enter the American School of Osteopathy. He made rapid progress and graduated in osteopathy June 22, 1897, almost immediately thereafter going to Clarinda, Iowa, to practice, only to find that there was a state law against it, but while there he made several remarkable cures. Subsequently he went to Ogden, Utah, opened an office and began professional business, but after thirty days was arrested for the practice of osteopathy. He was acquitted at his trial, but within fifteen minutes was again arrested, was again acquitted and was arrested for the third time. He stood this trial before the judge of the Circuit Court and it lasted from 8:00 A. M. until 5:00 P. M. The judge took it under advisement for two weeks before making his decision, and during those two weeks the case was thrown out of court. It was at the instigation of the State Board of Physicians that he was arrested, and after his final acquittal Doctor Hartford sued this board for $10,000 damages, but the matter was compromised by leaving him to practice in peace thereafter.

A little later Doctor Hartford returned to Illinois, where he learned a law also existed against the practice of osteopathy. Later he went to Iowa and was instrumental in securing the passage of a law permitting the practice of osteopathy in that and other states, and in 1899 came to Champaign, Illinois, where he passed the examination of the State Board of Health. He opened an office in the annex of the Beardsley Hotel January 1, 1900, and remained in that office for three years, at the end of which time he removed t6 the Illinois Building. In 1912 he came to his present offices, in the First National Bank Building, where he is enjoying a large practice. His office is unexcelled in equipment, containing the most practical apparatus thus far discovered, as well as the latest periodicals and books bearing upon the subject which is enlisting his best energy and thought.

Doctor Hartford was married March 26, 1882, to Miss Hattie Sterrett, a native of Putnam County, Missouri, and to this union there have been born two children. The first, Dr. William Scott Hartford, of Los Angeles, California, is a graduate of the Chicago College of Osteopathy and Herring Homeopathic College of Chicago. In 1906 he located at Urbana, Illinois, where he had a large practice until 1916, and in that year disposed of his property interests and went to Los Angeles, California, where he is now located at No. 310 Story Building. Naoma Rebekah, the only daughter of Doctor and Mrs. Hartford, is a graduate of the Champaign High School, of the National Park Seminary, Washington, D. C., and of the University of Illinois, and for two years before her marriage was a teacher in the city schools of Champaign. She is now the wife of William L. Ashbeck, of Chicago, Illinois.

Politically Doctor Hartford is a Republican. His fraternal affiliations are with the Masons, the Knights of Pythias and the Guardians of Liberty, and, with the members of his family, he belongs to the Methodist Episcopal Church.


Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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