Monday, April 27, 2015

Unexpected treasures: The story of Dr. Timothy T. Lockwood

By Robert J. Higgins

We are still waiting for the arrival of Spring in Western New York so I am keeping busy with Dr. Newman's cholera ledger from 1854 at the Buffalo History Museum.  Dr. Newman, who was the city Health Physician during the epidemic that year, recorded both area hospital cases as well as patients attended in their homes by local physicians.  Often when I am doing research my attention gets diverted by interesting details that are not necessarily related to my novels or my scholarly work.  This time it was the list of attending physicians in the ledger that piqued my curiosity.

The efforts of local doctors to understand the nature of cholera were evident in their case notations.  Comments on patient habits or residences
sometimes revealed both compassionate and judgmental attempts to determine the causation of illness.  Dr. Rochester wrote of a particular fatal case where the patient had diarrhea for a week and neglected it, while Dr. Nott's comment "Had been injudicious in drink and died" was one of several made by physicians that implicated alcohol abuse in the disease process.  Dr. Hamilton wrote of a particular location near Jefferson Street where the accumulation of standing water invited a variety of infectious diseases during the summer months, while Dr. Bronson attributed one death to "very poor and filthy habits."

Beyond the physician comments were the men themselves.  Several names appeared over and over in the ledger.  Drs. Newman, Dellenbaugh and Weiss saw two or three new patients each day at the height of the epidemic in July and early August.  Dr. Pratt, the poorhouse physician, saw as many as 8 or 9 new patients each day during that time.  Cholera is an acute disease characterized by explosive gastrointestinal symptoms.  Managing multiple new patients each day for weeks on end must have been a formidable task.  Eventually I discovered a physician listed among the patients.

On July 30 Dr. Timothy Lockwood, a physician whose name I had observed sprinkled throughout the ledger, was recorded as one of the patients, with Dr. Pratt serving as his attending physician.  It seemed odd to me that the poorhouse doctor, who was inundated with cholera patients, attended one of his colleagues. Perhaps the two gentlemen were friends.  Even more unusual, on August first Dr. Lockwood was again listed as the attending physician for a few new patients. Unfortunately there were no comments attached to Dr. Lockwood's record and therefore no details regarding his illness and apparently miraculous recovery.  However, I became intrigued with the man who contracted a near fatal disease one day and was back to work just a few days later.

After a bit of searching, and I learned that Dr. Lockwood became a member of the Medical Society of the County of Erie in 1842 and published occasionally in the Buffalo Medical Journal on a variety of topics.  He became the city Health Physician in 1851 and the mayor of Buffalo in 1858 and 1859.  He died in December of 1870.  Dr. Lockwood had not made any notations in the ledger that aroused my interest, as other physicians had.  If he had not contracted the disease himself, I would never have learned of his contributions to the city during its formative years.  Perhaps there is a place for a character like him in the third book of the Orphans and Inmates series.