1832: Dr. Amos Botsford to Charles Callender

This letter was written by Dr. Amos Botsford (1780-1863), the son of Henry T. Botsford of Greenville, Greene County, New York. He wrote the letter to his son-in-law, Charles Callender (1803-1859), the son of Levi and Lucy (Cottle) Callender.

What Dr. Amos Botsford might have looked like

“Amos Botsford entered upon the study of medicine at the age of eighteen years, received his diploma at twenty-one years, and immediately afterward came to the new town of Greenville and settled for the practice of his profession. Dr. Amos Botsford was married on September 20, 1801, to Elizabeth Clark, daughter of Joseph Clark, of Connecticut; and his house-keeping began in what has been known as the Ell. Knowles place. A few years after he purchased a lot and built the house in which Pierce Stevens now resides. Later he purchased of Jonathan Sherrill the lot and dwelling now occupied by his son-in-law, Dr. B. S. McCabe, and there resided until his death.

“For many years Dr. Amos Botsford was the only physician of standing or professional ability in this section of the country, consequently his services were much sought and his labors were arduous. His custom when visiting his patients was to ride on horseback. Few men possessed a finer physique than the doctor. Of dignified appearance, he commanded the respect of all, even at first sight. He was a faithful, intelligent, and successful practitioner for over fifty years. He represented his town in the Board of Supervisors in the years 1826, 1827, 1831, 1834, and 1849. He was one of the incorporators of Greenville Academy. He was a faithful member of the Presbyterian church in Greenville, and for many years an acting Elder in it. He died August 16, 1863. His wife died December 3, 1855.

“There were born to them two sons and two daughters. Eliza, the eldest, born June 5, 1807, was married to Charles Callender, and died April 4, 1871, leaving three children, John [born 1834], Charles [born 1837], and David [born 1840]. Of these, John is engaged in the manufacture of brick in Boston. Charles (deceased) was a manufacturer of paint in Newark, N.J. David is now deceased.

The content of the letter is dominated by the discussion of a tumor on the skull of a son of Charles and Eliza Callender’s. The boy’s name is not given, but we know that he was not one of the three sons mentioned above as they were all born after 1832. The earliest census showing the family members by name is 1850 and that census enumerates Charles and Eliza Callender with their three sons in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Charles’ occupation is given as Book Keeper.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. Charles Callender, Burdett, Tompkins County, New York ¹

Greenville, [Greene County, New York]
May 18th 1832

Dear Son,

I intended to have written by your father, but was unavoidably absent the morning he left and from the calls had not given sufficient attention to the subject of your letter to answer it to my own satisfaction by the attention since to the examination of others. And from the description given of the case by your physicians, I am inclined to think rather more favorable of it that I at first did and am in hopes it is not the complaint at first supposed, although the situation being on the occipital bone agreeable to their description alone would not alter the opinion of its being of that character. But the fact that the bone under the tumor being sound a defect in which and the tumor being formed from a fluid lodged beneath the membranes forced out at some unossified portion of the skull or at the sutures where the bones join each other constituted the danger,

The health of the child is another important consideration. Tumors of the character which we first apprehended this to be are soon attended with a character or bad habit of body inducing decay, debility, &c. The circumstance of the childs voiding urine more frequently and in larger quantities also being attended with diarrhea, should it continue, I should consider rather unfavorable symptoms. I have given you a description of the most unfavorable character and result which may be apprehended from the case and which is very important in directing the treatment of it.

Should your physicians be satisfied from a careful and close examination of the tumor in connection with the constitutional health of the child that there does not exist a communication from the external tumor with the internal membranes of the brain through some fissure or aperture in the skull, and the soul bone is perfectly sound under it, you need not apprehend very much danger from it but may conclude it to be of a different character from what we had apprehended. I have seen tumors formed from compression & consequent obstruction in the external vessels of the covering of the cranium, the contents of which have been evacuated with perfect safety and the children remain well & perfectly healthy.

I have suggested the above hints for your consideration & your physicians also, who will act agreeable to their own judgement in the case as I cannot give any particular directions or form a correct opinion without seeing it. I should like to come out and see you and examine the case of the child myself very well, but it is almost impossible for me to leave my business and am in hopes you will think it will answer to come out here next month if your child’s health is not otherwise impaired than by the inconvenience of the tumor. I think there would not be much risk on that account. The comfortable conveyance on the canal would not be attended with much risk, I should think. Your brother ____ & wife would accompany you from New London which would be some relief to Eliza in the assistance which they would render in taking care of the child, &c. Mr. Callander will have reached home probably before you receive this & you will all consult together respecting the propriety of coming out.

Give my love to your mother & accept of our best regard for all the family. Yours most affectionately, — A. Botsford

P. S. Arabell arrived yesterday. Please to write immediately on the receipt of this.


¹ The village of Burdett is now in Schuyler County, New York.


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