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Dr. William Bowie Magruder

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Location: Montgomery County MDmap
Surname/tag: Magruder, Willson, Hammond
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WILLIAM BOWIE MAGRUDER was born November 2, 1802, near Little Seneca, Montgomery County, Maryland, where his father Dr. Zadok Magruder, practiced medicine for a while before returning to the home where he was raised -"The Ridge".

This property passed to the latter's father, Colonel Zadok Magruder, upon the death of his father, John Magruder of "Dunblane," in 1750, and it has been held by his descendants ever since.

Dr. Zadok Magruder named his fourth son after his half-brother William Bowie, who died September 17, 1808. His own death occurred December 2, 1809, when he was forty-four. His widow, Martha (Willson) Magruder, was left with ten children, six sons and four daughters; a number of slaves and a large body of land; but, as was apt to be the case in those days, with very little money. She was a woman of very decided character, and brought up her children to work. It is related of her that when at one time her daughters complained of the amount of work that she required of them when there were so many servants, she replied that she loved her daughters better than she did her slaves, and that she would rather bring them up in idleness than permit her children to grow up worthless.

One of her sons (John, who remained on the farm) while a boy made extra money by breaking steers and selling them. On one occasion he wished to take a girl friend out sleighing, but his mother was not willing to have him use her horses. He hitched up a quick stepping ox that he had trained and later in the evening drove up to his home, ¨DThe Ridge, with the young lady who paid a call on his mother. After that he had a horse when he wanted it.

Her sons, each of whom became a more than ordinarily useful citizen, lived the healthy life of boys on a farm. They often went barefooted and could continue to do this after the weather became quite cold. My father has told of having made a cow get up so that he might warm his feet on the spot in the field where she had been lying.

During his school days William Bowie Magruder lived with his uncle Robert Pottinger Magruder about three miles from Rockville on a farm later owned by Mr. Lemuel Clemens. He made money to buy his school books by trapping partridges and rabbits and making chicken coops for the aunt with whom he lived, Elizabeth (Perry) Magruder. He made an arrangement with the teacher of the Rockville Academy to give him Greek lessons in exchange for his hearing the recitations of the lower classes.

Later he went to Frederick to study medicine with Dr. Tyler, who was a prominent physician in his day. Dr. Rush of Philadelphia sent patients whose eyes needed treatment to him. Dr. Tyler prepared a number of physicians for college, it being the custom in those days for doctors to receive part of their training in the offices of successful physicians. While my father was with Dr. Tyler his first cousin, William Waters, was also a student there.

Dr. Tyler, while a candidate for governor, sent his students to visit his patients more than usual, and my father used to tell of finding those who expected Dr. Tyler dissatisfied with his coming instead, and being told that a boy was not wanted. He would talk of other subjects a while, be asked to see the patient and have no further trouble from lack of confidence in his ability.

While he was in Frederick his Uncle Robert Pottinger died. He always spoke gratefully of him, and nearly thirty-nine years after his death he named his youngest son Robert Pottinger in remembrance of the childless uncle with whom part of his boyhood was spent.

William Bowie Magruder attended medical lectures at the University of Maryland. William and Washington Waters were room-mates. All three became successful physicians and continued intimate friends. Dr. Augustus Riggs who was in the same house had an uncongenial room-mate and spent much time with the Montgomery cousins. This friendship also lasted through life. One of their professors had so much faith in calomel that his students said jokingly that his prescription for yellow fever was a cup of calomel mixed with mush and fed to the patient. While at the University my father was drawn into gambling by the love of games, which was one of his characteristics. After losing a hundred dollars and winning it back he thought of his mother and resolved never to play for money again - a resolution which he never broke. He played many games well -whist, checkers, back-gammon and chess -chess being his favorite.

He was graduated from the University of Maryland with the class of 1825. Shortly afterward, his uncle, Thomas Perry Wilson, of Rockville, Maryland, told him that he had heard that he expected to locate in Brookeville, and asked how he could begin without money for an outfit. My father replied that he would have to trust to Providence. His uncle remarked that he was afraid Providence would prove a poor dependence if he had no money, but that he would lend him a hundred and fifty dollars until he could conveniently return it.

In his first order for medicine, he included one ounce of quinine and the druggist by mistake read the one as four, these figures being written more alike in those days than now. The bill came for one hundred dollars for quinine, the price for this novelty being twenty-five dollars an ounce. The young physician was appalled, but it proved the most profitable investment of his life. Bilious and intermittent fevers in severe forms were prevailing, and were treated by Peruvian bark in port wine which made a bulky and nauseous dose, and many patients objected to taking it. Young Dr. Magruder prescribed his quinine which the older physicians were afraid to try, and the effects were so satisfactory that he obtained practice for which he would otherwise have had to wait much longer.

He engaged board in Brookeville with Miss Betsy Thomas, who lived in the house used afterward as the Rectory, which was burned in the spring of 1911. A man of the neighborhood who was sorry to see a young physician locate there on account of his admiration for Dr. Henry Howard, advised her not to take Dr. Magruder, expressing a doubt as to his being able to pay his board. She said she was pleased with him and would run the risk. She had many reasons for being glad that this had been her decision. She had been in the habit of buying her vegetables, but my father offered to make a garden for her, if she would have the land plowed. He spent his spare time planting and working it, and it not only supplied her boarding-house with vegetables, but gave her a surplus to sell. Later when he had a farm, much was sent from it to her, and she had no doctor's bills to pay, so his gratitude for her faith in him at the beginning of his career was generously expressed until her death after years of helplessness from paralysis.

Early one morning a substantial farmer (Caleb Gartrell) with a large family connection came into the village and said he had come for "the boy doctor." When asked if he was not afraid to trust him he replied that his child would die anyhow, so he thought he would give the young man the case. The child recovered, and all his relations became patients of Dr. Magruder, and remained loyal to him as long as he practiced.

On another occasion the older physician declined to go out at night when he imagined he had been sent for by an Irish ditcher, and a well-to-do man of the same name became a permanent patient of the boy doctor, who went back with the messenger. These were the small beginnings of a very large practice. Until the last four years of his life he rode on horse back, unless there was good sleighing. His practice was more widely scattered than any physician of the present time would think of undertaking. He had patients nine or ten miles from home in opposite directons. He was considered the best physician in his county.

In 1831 he married Mary Ann Hammond, daughter of Dr. Lloyd T. Hammond, who lived near Ellicott City-called Ellicott's Mills in those days. They were married in November, and there was a tremendous snow storm. Some of the guests went to the wedding in four horse farm wagons, being unable to get through the drifts any other way. The musicians were among those who were prevented from being there, and the bride played her violin for the dancing while making up a set. She was an attractive and popular woman who had an unusual number of accomplishments. She played five musical instruments, the piano, violin, harmonica, flute and clarionette. She could draw and paint, and was a reader of good literature in English and French. She was very efficient about the work done by the ladies of her time. As the wife of Dr. William Bowie Magruder, Mary Ann Hammond superintended the cutting out and sewing done for the large family in the quarters in addition to the duties which came to her as the mother of ten children. Her housekeeping was necessarily on a large scale, and one kind of pickle was made in a barrel. A little over twenty years after her marriage she died, and was sincerely mourned by all who knew her.

Dr. Magruder began his married life in the boarding house of Miss Betsy Thomas, and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth Hammond, was born there. His oldest son, William Edward, was born in a Brookeville, Maryland, house which he bought before going to the home in which he lived the rest of his life.

The farm of ¨Oakley was bought from Richard B. Dorsey, and ¨Dopen house was kept there for about thirty-eight years, when it was sold to J. J. Hutton. Unfortunately there is no guest book recording the visitors entertained in this hospitable home. Among those who lived with him as students, were his brother Dr. Robert Pottinger Magruder of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, Dr. Worthington of Howard County, Maryland, Dr. John Cooke, Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet and Dr. J. Willson Magruder of Montgomery County, Maryland.

Dr. William Bowie Magruder farmed with energy and interest as he did every thing he undertook. He was considered one of the best farmers in Montgomery County. He was one of the first to use lime, and he had a kiln in Howard County. He put on a hundred bushels to the acre, which was more than has been found necessary. He was the first in his section who raised peaches for the Washington market, and he had the reputation of sending the best received there. He never allowed his peach baskets to be ¨Dtopped,¡¬ but had them carefully picked over and divided into three grades, so each basket contained the same throughout. He planted apple trees around all his fences, besides having a large orchard, and he grew locust trees to supply fence posts. He always had a good and early garden, raising plants in hot beds when that was seldom done. He was fond of flowers and his roses were remarkably fine, including the best varieties of his time.

He was a public spirited citizen and served the community in various ways. He was vestryman of St. Bartholomew¡®s Protestant Episcopal Church for years, and did much toward getting St. John¡®s Church built. When Ignatius Waters gave the land for it, the deed was made to Richard Holmes, Dr. William B. Magruder and Thomas John Bowie. Ministers of all denominations were welcomed in Dr. Magruder¡®s home as he had the broadest sympathy for other churches besides the one with which he worked.

While he was president of the trustees of the Brookeville (Maryland) Academy, his friend, Allan Bowie Davis, who was also a trustee, wrote to him from the legislature that if a good petition were sent to Annapolis, a bill could be passed prohibiting the sale of liquor near the Academy. Dr. Magruder forwarded the petition containing the names of every man, some of them drunkards, within two miles of the school building. Such a prohibitory law was passed in 1833, being one of the earliest prohibitory enactments passed in the United States, and proved so satisfactory that it has never been repealed.

He was active in building the Brookeville and Washington turnpike, which is of great benefit to those who use it. Before it was made teams hauling produce to Washington (though carrying smaller loads than the pike has made possible) were frequently unable to get through bad places without help from other teams, and much time was lost by hands and horses in rendering assistance to one another.

He was an Old Line Whig as long as that party lasted, and when it went to pieces he became a Democrat reluctantly, but considered it the lesser of two evils, as he was very much opposed to ¨DKnow Nothingism. He was a Union man throughout the war, but none of his children espoused that cause. He had always been opposed to slavery, being in favor of gradual emancipation but he kept the negroes he inherited. The only one he ever bought was one offered for sale by a brother-in-law who had lost patience with her high temper. He was not willing that one who had been a family servant should be separated from her relations, so she became a member of his household. He never allowed his overseers to punish grown hands by whipping.

His men made a good deal of money in their spare time, a habit that he encouraged. Occasionally one was punished by being required to make a mat or basket for the farm instead of having the privilege of offering it for sale. The wagoner, for instance, had to make a mat in his own time if he struck a wheel against a gate post. One servant, ¨DUncle York, had over fifty dollars saved at the time of his death, a part of which was earned by raising sweet potatoes which few people grew in his section at that time.

When in his fifty-second year William Bowie Magruder married Elizabeth Worthington Gaither, daughter of Ephraim Gaither and Sarah E. Goldsborough. She was twenty-three years younger and their three children were the play-fellows and intimate friends of his older grandchildren. When his youngest child was born his oldest was twenty-nine. Elizabeth Worthington (Gaither) Magruder was a woman who sincerely tried to perform all her duties in life. She was a conscientious mother, a loyal wife and a kind friend. She died October 18, 1886, having survived her husband over thirteen years. Her children were Ella Gaither, who married Philip D. Laird; Sarah Goldsborough, who married Pierre C. Stevens; and Robert Pottinger, who married M. Lavinia Higgins.

The other children who survived their father were, Elizabeth Hammond, wife of Zachariah D. Waters; William Edward, who married Margaret H. Brooke; Lavinia, wife of Samuel H. Coleman; Isabella, Adelaide V., who later married Samuel H. Coleman; M. Emma, wife of Thomas W. Waters; Bowie and Martha.

Dr. William Bowie Magruder died January 22, 1873, in the seventy-first year of his age. Soon after E. Barrett Prettyman wrote a memorial notice of him from which all that follows will be quoted: ¨DThe attendance at Dr. Magruder¡®s funeral was an eloquent token of the respect and esteem of his neighbors. Though more than two years before his death he had been stricken with paralysis, and thereby almost secluded from society, the interest of the community in him had not abated; and though the day of his burial was probably the most inclement of a severe winter, the church was filled with saddened friends, from far and near, comprising the representatives of all the families of the community, as well as his former servants, to whom he had been a just and kind master.

In the delicate and almost sacred relation of family physician in his always extensive practice, he so acted that he has left an enduring monument in the affectionate regard of hundreds of homes, where dwells the memory of his kindness, and self-sacrifice, his cheerful endurance of fatigue, and his manly sympathy. Though always busy, he was never hurried, and no household was too humble to claim his services, unrequited though they might be save by gratitude and his own consciousness of duty fulfilled.

The capacity for labor of most men would have been exhausted by the demands of such a professional life, but it was not so with Dr. Magruder. By a strict adherence to method, he found time to supervise, in detail, his large and admirably conducted farm, to plant orchards of choice fruit of almost every variety, and to keep abreast of his most enterprising neighbors in agricultural and horticultural knowledge and improvements. And although he was emphatically a practical¡® man, he exhibited the refinement of his taste in the study, selection and personal care of the varied and rare flowers with which he adorned his grounds.

He was a man of remarkable sincerity, of unswerving rectitude, of indomitable energy, of decided and independent opinions, of fine literary taste and cultivation, and of extensive and accurate general information, and yet eminently modest, cheerful, social, hospitable and courteous.

May the present and the rising generation take him as a model for imitation, that we may realize it as a fact in our lives that he being dead, yet speaketh.'"


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