Franklin District Medical Society
The Williams family, of Deerfield, has produced a number of eminent physicians. Notices of several of them may be found in the history of the town of Deerfield, furnished to this volume by Hon. George Sheldon. The following notice of Dr. William Stoddard Williams is compiled from a biography by his son, Dr. Stephen W. Williams, published in his "American Medical Biography" in 1845.
Dr. William Stoddard Williams, the son of Dr. Thos. Williams, the first physician who settled in Deerfield, was born in that historic town Oct. 11, 1762. His father died while he was very young, but this untoward event did not prevent him from devoting his time to study. About 1780 he entered Yale College, where he continued a year or two, but never graduated.
About 1782-83 he commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Sargeant, of Stockbridge, Mass., a very eminent physician, and for many years a worthy member of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Here he continued two years, at that period the usual time of professional study. About 1785 he began to practice his profession at Richmond, in Berkshire County, where he remained something less than a year. Soon after, he settled permanently in Deerfield, where, in spite of numerous embarrassments and discouragements, he finally established an extensive and honorable business, which continued to the day of his death. In the year 1800 he was elected a Fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society, which connection was maintained until 1819, when he resigned the position on account of the difficulties in the way of attending the society meetings, which were held in the eastern part of the State. In 1794 he was appointed by the Governor surgeon of the 2d Regiment, 2d Brigade, and 4th Division of Massachusetts Militia, which position he held with honor for sixteen years. He received from Williams College, in 1823, the honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine. In the year 1800 he was commissioned a justice of the peace for his native town; and such was his standing among the people and with the civil authorties that he ever afterward held the office.
He was one of the trustees of the Deerfield Academy from its incorporation, in 1797, and from 1803 was secretary and treasurer of the institution. He was town clerk for nineteen years, and filled several other important town offices for many years. He was also for a long period clerk of the First Congregational Society in Deerfield.
He was a great and attentive reader, and possessed one of the best medical libraries in the country, sending regularly to Europe for standard works not obtainable (at that time) in this country.
His practice was extensive, and his services as a counselor were in greater demand than those of any physician in the county. He was often called to visit places in the States of Vermont and New Hampshire, and the various towns of Franklin, Berkshire, Hampden, and Worcester Counties, in Massachusetts.
He was very attentive to his patients, and his presence in the sick-room was perhaps of equal avail with his prescriptions. He was wont to spend hours, and sometimes days, at the bedside, watching with the utmost attention the varying phases of disease.
In the department of obstetrics his practice was very extensive and successful, as was also his knowledge and treatment of children's diseases.
He was theoretically well acquainted with surgery, and had considerable practice, but in his later years did not perform many capital operations. In dressing and treating wounds and. amputations he held a foremost place in the profession.
Dr. Williams educated a large number of students in the profession, all of whom, so far as known, became good physicians, and many rose to eminence.
So solid was his reputation among his professional brethren that his son mentions it as a well-known fact that he was employed, first and last, in the family of nearly every physician in this region. He was very kind to the poor, and as evidence of this it is stated by his biographer that more than one-third of his book accounts were never collected, and could not have been. He was temperate and abstemious in his living, and rarely tasted liquors of any kind.
He died, after a severe though brief illness, Jan. 8, 1828. His funeral was attended, on the 11th, by a vast concourse of friends and citizens, including no less than eighteen of his medical brethren from Deerfield and the adjoining towns. His biographer closes an excellent notice of him in these words:
"As a religions and moral man, as a tender husband and an affectionate parent, as an honorable man and an eminent physician, his family, his townsmen, and the community bewail his loss as one of no ordinary magnitude."
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