Biography of Doctor Joseph Lewis

Doctor Lewis was the son of William and Naomi Lewis was born at Old Lyme, Connecticut, in November, 1746, and came to Norwich, Vermont, in 1767.

During his minority young Lewis showed a fondness for the study of medicine and devoted much of his time during the last years previous to his leaving Connecticut to the study of that science. After settling in Norwich he devoted a year or two to further study, after which he commenced the practice of medicine and continued in practice for more than fifty-five years. During a large portion of this time (from 1785 to 1820) his practice was large, and extended not only through Norwich but into Thetford, Sharon, Hartford and Strafford in Vermont, and to Lebanon, Hanover and Lyme, New Hampshire. The larger part of this practice was performed on horseback. In the winter when the roads became impassable for horses, the doctor resorted to snow shoes, guided through the wilderness by blazed trees; always ready to do what he could to relieve the suffering and the ills of the settlers of those days. No plea of inclement weather or poor health was made in order to shirk his duty in visiting the sick. The poor and destitute were welcome to his services and none who showed a desire to pay were pressed to do so.

Doctor Lewis was married in 1771 to Experience Burr, a lady well qualified to fill the position of wife of a physician of the times in which they lived. By her he had eight children, four sons and four daughters. Three of the sons, Lyman, Joseph and Enos, studied medicine at the Dartmouth medical college. Lyman and Enos settled in Norwich and Joseph in Waterbury, where they became successful practitioners. Joel, the other son, was an invalid from childhood and remained at home. One of the daughters, Naomi, died in infancy; Lucy died at the age of four years; Naomi, 2d., married Doctor David Fisk; Alpa married Abel Partridge, Esq., of Norwich [Vt.]

The doctor first resided in a log house which stood about half a mile southwesterly from Norwich village and about sixty rods from Gideon Lord’s farm house [now Myron Armstrong‘s], where he resided for a number of years. In 1793 he purchased of Aaron Storrs the large, two-story dwelling house which stood where Edward M. Lewis resided (now the house of his widow), together with 100 acres of land contiguous with a gristmill and sawmill standing on the same site that the Doctor Rand mill now occupies. On this farm the doctor continued to reside until his death. In 1800 he purchased of Solomon Curtis the farm now owned and occupied by Henry S. Goddard, which adjoined his home farm on the west. This farm remained in the possession of the Lewis family forty-three years.

In November, 1829, the doctor’s dwelling-house and buildings adjoining, together with the furniture, library and provisions in store for the winter, were consumed by fire. They were wholly uninsured. From this time his health rapidly failed.

Doctor Lewis was a man of undoubted integrity. He had decided convictions and never hesitated to express them when necessary. He was social in his habits and fond of the society of his friends and neighbors. t He had sound judgment and great self reliance. He was a great reader and w r ell informed on all the general matters of the day. He was neither an office seeker nor office holder. Although often urged by his townsmen to accept office, he invariably declined. Owing to party dissensions at the time, he was elected town representative at the September election in 1808. At the next election he declined to be a candidate.

In 1775 Doctor Lewis suspended his practice, temporarily, having been appointed surgeon’s mate and ordered to join the projected expedition by General Washington against Quebec by way of the Kennebec River. The arduous enterprise was committed to Colonel Benedict Arnold. After surmounting incredible difficulties and hardships the expedition appeared before Quebec on the 9th of November of that year and was present at the assault on that place by the troops under the command of General Montgomery, when that gallant officer was slain.

During the winter of 1775-6 Doctor Lewis was engaged in the hospitals, mostly in treating soldiers who had taken the smallpox! Having passed through most of the campaign in Canada, he resigned his office, returned to Norwich, and resumed his practice.

On the 16th of October, 1780, Doctor Lewis, on horseback, with his son Lyman, five years old, behind him, was visiting his patients at quite a distance from his home, when he heard that the Indians were at Royalton and had burned that place. He took his little son from the horse, gave him instructions how to find his way home, borrowed a gun from a neighbor and immediately left for the field of conflict.

Doctor Lewis died June 1, 1833. His wife died Jan. 18, 1819.

See also: Biography of General William E. Lewis



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