Biography of Amos Fowler, M. D.


IN THE galaxy of Albany physicians whose professional labors have done so much toward alleviating physical suffering, the name of Dr. Amos Fowler stands conspicuous. This celebrity he has attained after long years of patient toil, deep study, and constant practice. He was born in the town of Cohocton, Steuben county, N. Y., on the 5th day of July, 1820. His ancestors were among those from the old, enterprising eastern states, who loved so much to set the wheels of civilization in motion and turn the wilderness into a garden. Removing at an early day from Lebanon, Connecticut, they came to the wild forests of Herkimer county, N. Y., and there with brave hearts and strong hands went to work to open up the wilderness around them, little dreaming that in after years flourishing towns and villages should spring up in this delightful region of Central New York. Among those pioneers were Mark Fowler, uncle of General Amos Fowler, and Rev. and Hon. Orin Fowler. Mark Fowler had a family of nine children, most of whom were sons, and who grew up to accomplish heroic work in leveling the thick old trees, in developing the resources and aiding in the prosperity of the new country. Mr. Fowler died in 1813, during the second war with England, on the very day (April 27) when the American army was triumphantly transported from Sackett’s Harbor and took possession of York, the capital of Upper Canada.

Alvin, the youngest son of Mark Fowler, was the father of Dr. Fowler, the subject of this sketch. A remarkable story is told of Alvin when he was about two years old. Living in the old log cabin, amidst the dense forests around it, where bears, wolves and other wild animals nightly prowled, and where the cheering rays of the sun scarcely ever penetrated, he was one day seized by a bear which had been caught and chained near the cabin door. Mrs. Fowler, agoryzed with grief, tried in vain to release her baby boy from the threatening embrace of the bear, and it was not until Mr. Fowler returned home from his work in the evening that the child was delivered, like David of old, from the paws of the bear. Though the writer had heard this story repeated, yet he was disposed to regard it as one of the many sensational bear stories so frequently told through the country, until he learned from the lips of the present Dr. Fowler himself that it was indeed true. It was certainly a surprising instance of infantile preservation, sparing one who was to become the father of a man, who, under God, has been the humble instrument of saving many a patient from the jaws of death.

Alvin Fowler was by occupation a clothier and stone mason. He was a man of indomitable courage and high moral character. The present Dr. Amos Fowler was the eldest of four children, and while he was an infant his father removed with the family, first to Evans’ Mills, Jefferson county, thence five years afterward to Fayetteville, Onondaga county, where he operated some mills for the manufacture of woolen goods. In 1836 he settled on a farm in the town of Victory, Cayuga county, where about twenty-five years of his useful life were happily passed amidst ” rural sights and rural sounds.”

Young Amos Fowler was sent at first to the public schools, and afterward he became a student at the academies of Fayetteville and Victory. He was noted as a diligent student, manifesting supreme devotion to his books and making commendable progress in the elementary branches of education. He worked on his father’s farm during the warmer months and attended school in winter. On account of the limited pecuniary means of their parents this was the way that many of the sons of the old pioneers, who afterward rose to distinction and became sterling, useful members of society, were obliged to obtain their early education. On leaving the academy young Fowler taught school two winters in Wayne and one in Cayuga county. But he had no idea of becoming a life-long teacher. It was about this time that his attention was turned to his much-loved study and investigation of medical science. His father tried to discourage him from the study of medicine, but his genius lay entirely in this direction, and he preferred to struggle on amidst hardships and poverty to obtain the prize of his youthful ambition. He first read medicine in the office of Dr. Blanchard of Victory, and a year or two afterward became a student and assistant of Dr. Root at Memphis, Onondaga county. In the meantime he attended a course of lectures at the Geneva Medical college, and graduated at the University of the City of New York in 1846. Dr. Valentine Mott, the eminent surgeon, was then at the head of that renowned university, ably assisted by Professors Granville S. Paterson, John Revere, Martin Paine, Gunning S. Bedford and John W. Draper. On graduation Dr. Fowler had little or no money, but plenty of pluck, energy, perseverance combined with rare medical skill. His practice opened auspiciously. His former teacher, Dr. Root, had just died, and our young doctor took up his practice, gaining the confidence of Dr. Root’s old patients, and exhibiting more than ordinary skill in his professional work. His practice soon became quite extensive, and he was sent for from distant parts of the country in consultations over difficult or dangerous cases. Success attended him, and he was esteemed not only for his excellent professional attainments, but for his substantial personal traits of character. While practicing at Memphis about the year 1847, a fearful epidemic of typhoid dysentery broke out, spreading with alarming rapidity over the surrounding country. Dr. Fowler was now called upon to exercise his greatest skill. For weeks he rode day and night, visiting as many as eighty patients a day, and it is a remarkable fact that out of the six hundred cases he treated he lost but two or three patients.

After practicing at Memphis about four years Dr. Fowler came to Sand Lake, Rensselaer county, and after remaining there four years, he found a much larger field of labor by taking up his permanent residence in Albany in 1854. He first located at 40 Second street, and in 1872 crossed over to his present residence. No. 29 of the same street. In 1854, during the prevalence of the cholera in Albany, Dr. Fowler was called to attend numerous cases, and was successful in saving the lives of many who were stricken with the disease, some of whom were given up to die by other physicians.

Dr. Fowler’s medical career in Albany has been one of continued and growing success. His practice is now one of the most extensive of any physician’s in the city. He is a hard-working physician, and his familiar form may be daily seen riding through the streets attending to the calls of the sick and suffering.

It is particularly worthy of notice here that when the great epidemic of diphtheria – a disease then almost unknown to our physicians here – broke out with such fearful mortality in 1858, carrying off so many hundreds of children, Dr. Fowler struck on a mode of treating the disease which proved so wonderfully successful in saving Hfe, that several of our leading physicians came to him to find out his peculiar mode of treatment.

Dr. Fowler has been vice-president of the Medical society of Albany, a delegate to the State Medical society and he is now a permanent member of the State Medical society. In 1850 he married Miss Harris of Sand Lake, who died suddenly at Savannah, Ga., in 1880, while returning from the South. In 1882 he married his present wife, whose maiden name was Mary Evans. The doctor and his estimable lady are now members of the Fourth Presbyterian church of this city.



Noted living Albanians and state officials , A series of biographical sketches. 1891.

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