Biography of Leland J. Graves, M.D.

Leland J. Graves, M.D., was a progressive physician of Claremont, who by the introduction of more advanced ideas in the treatment of disease aided considerably in carrying the healing art to its present high standard of excellence. It is a well-known fact that the greatest amount of good in the way of scientific development has been accomplished by self-made men, and the subject of this sketch belonged to that worthy type of American citizenship.

Leland J. Graves was born in Berkshire, Franklin County, Vt., May 24, 1812, son of David J. and Mary (Leland) Graves. The founder of the family came from England, where its printed genealogical record covers a period of eight hundred years. The original form of the name was Greaves. Thomas Greaves, who ranked as a Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy, settled in Charlestown, Mass., in 1636; and his family was prominent in early Colonial affairs. His son was one of the first physicians graduated from Harvard College; and a grandson, who also graduated from that institution, became a Judge. Dr. Graves’s great-grandfather was Peter Greaves. His grandfather, Luther Greaves, who resided in Leominster, Mass., was born April 20, 1749. Luther served in the Revolutionary War as a minute-man in Sergeant Samuel Sawyer’s company, and was a Lieutenant in the company of Captain Ephraim Harris from May, 1778, to July 31, 1779. He died in Leominster in 1790. He married Phœbe Jewett, of that town, and had a family of ten children. His widow married Colonel John Boynton, and moved to Weathersfield, Vt. David J. Graves, who was born in Leominster, October 2, 1785, accompanied his mother and stepfather to Vermont, where he was brought up as a farmer. The latter part of his life was spent in Wisconsin. His wife, Mary, whom he married in Weathersfield, became the mother of four children; namely, Sereno, Leland J., Calvin Jewett, and I. Franklin.

As soon as he was able to make himself useful, Leland J. Graves began to assist upon farms in his neighborhood. He did not attend school until he was fifteen years old. An ambition to advance developed with his mental faculties; and in April, 1829, he bound himself to his uncle, Cyrus Boynton, with the understanding that he was to have three months’ schooling each year, and that his wages were to be given to his father. That he made good use of these limited educational facilities is attested by the fact that, when he reached his majority, he was competent to teach school. He taught in the winter, and worked at farming in the summer, saving his earnings, and at intervals attending Chester, Cavendish, and Ludlow Academies. He was about to enter college when he was attacked by a severe illness, which, in spite of constant medical aid, continued for four years. The suffering he endured at this time caused him to change his plans for the future. Excessive doses of calomel, prescribed by the physicians to break up his stubborn fever, produced such injurious results upon his system that he decided to study medicine, with a view of ascertaining if less dangerous and more effective modes of treatment could not be devised. Upon his recovery he entered upon a course of preliminary medical instruction under the Drs. Crosby, Peaslee, and Hubbard. He attended lectures at Dartmouth College, and subsequently received his degree on his thirtieth birthday. Shortly after he entered upon his profession in Langdon, N.H. When firmly established, Dr. Graves began to depart from the usual course of treatment recognized in those days. In the treatment of fevers he substituted fresh air and water for mercurial preparations. By so doing he aroused the indignation of the medical fraternity to such a pitch that at one time he was declared an impostor and threatened with violence. He fearlessly adhered to his theory, however; and, when it became known that his patients rallied more quickly under the new treatment, the wrath of his brother physicians was turned to jealousy. The introduction of his mild remedies ultimately displaced the harsh treatment formerly used, and in this locality he may be said to have been mainly instrumental in securing the much needed change. He acquired a large practice, his regular circuit including the towns of Langdon, Acworth, Walpole, and Charlestown, and other places; and for a quarter of a century he devoted himself to his professional duties. In 1868 he decided to rest from his labors, and with a view of permanently retiring he moved to Claremont. Popular pressure, however, was such as to make it impossible for him to carry out his resolution at that time; and he continued in practice here for some years afterward. He was especially noted for his charitable and patriotic disposition. The poor and needy were never turned away, and during the war of the Rebellion he steadfastly refused to accept pay for treating soldiers or their families. He was a close student of botany, geology, and astronomy, and was familiar with the terrestrial formation and vegetation of the United States from the State of Maine to the Rocky Mountains. With the practical value of plants he was thoroughly conversant. A large collection of minerals, which he had spent years in collecting, was recently presented to Durham College by his daughters. In politics he was originally a Whig, and he became an ardent Republican at the formation of that party. He was Superintendent of Schools in Langdon for fourteen years, and he was a member of the legislature during the years 1867 and 1868. For fifty years he was a leading member of the Baptist church in Springfield, Vt. He was a member of the New Hampshire State and Connecticut River Medical Associations. In Masonry he had advanced to the Commandery, was at one time Eminent Commander, and he was the organizer of the commandery in Claremont. He died February 22, 1891, at his home in Claremont, nearly seventy-nine years of age.

On May 24, 1843, Dr. Graves was united in marriage with Caroline E. Strow, daughter of Reuben and Elizabeth (McEwan) Strow, of Weathersfield, Vt. Previous to her marriage she taught in the Unity Scientific and Military School. She was a woman of superior mental endowments and noble character. She died August 29, 1885, leaving three daughters-Mary E., Harriet M., and Agnes J. Mary E., who graduated from the New London Academy in 1864, and has since been engaged in educational work, was for a time principal of the Arcadia Female Seminary, Wolfville, N.S. She is an accomplished German scholar, a devoted art student, and is now upon her fifth visit to Germany. Harriet M., who married James M. Coburn, died in Kansas City, Mo., June 21, 1886. She left two children: Mary Agnes, who is studying music in Berlin; and Grace Eleanor, who is attending Smith College. Agnes J. Graves was married on October 15, 1879, to Pascal P. Coburn. Mr. and Mrs. Coburn occupy the Dr. Graves homestead. She has two daughters-Elizabeth Ames and Harriet Graves.



Biographical Review Publishing Company. Biographical Review; containing life sketches of leading citizens of Merrimack and Sullivan counties, N. H. Boston. Biographical Review Publishing Company. 1897.

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