Elisha Cullen Dick (1762 - 1825)

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Elisha Cullen Dick, M.D. (attending physician at George Washington's death)'s Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Chester County, PA, USA
Death: Died in Alexandria, Fairfax or Alexandria Co., Virginia, United States
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:

About Elisha Cullen Dick

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Possible alternate birth year - 1750? - Find A Grave Memorial # 15014649. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisha_C._Dick

Elisha Cullen Dick, M.D. (15 March 1762 in Chester County, Pennsylvania – 22 September 1825, at his property Cottage Farm) was a mayor of Alexandria, Virginia, and attending physician at George Washington's death.


His father was Archibald Dick (b. 1715 Edinburgh – 1782), who was a Major in the Revolutionary army, under Assistant Quartermaster General Frazer. Archibald married Mary Barnard and they had two children: Elisha Cullen Dick, and Thomas Barnard Dick. Elisha Dick had a son Archibald B. and a daughter Julia. Archibald married Sarah S. Hamersley (d. 1848). Julia married Gideon Pearce, and they had two children, James Alfred Pearce (1805–1862), and Ann Ophelia (1807–1866), who married Dabney M. Wharton. Thomas Barnard Dick had a son Archibald Thomas Dick, and grandson Franklin Archibald Dick.

Dr. Elisha C. Dick was also a veteran and patriot of the Revolutionary War.

Elisha Dick studied with Benjamin Rush, and William Shippen, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1782, and in October 1793, he married Hannah Harmon (1763–1843), the daughter of Jacob and Sarah Harmon of Marcus Hook, Chester County, Pennsylvania, reported to have been Quakers. Soon afterwards Dr. Dick settled in Alexandria, where he took over the practice of the ailing Dr William Rumney. Thomas Semmes read medicine with him. Elisha sold his half of his father's legacy, Marcus Hook property,for ₤ 985 to Isaac Dutton on April 29, 1783. n 1794, he commanded a cavalry company during the Whiskey Rebellion. On July 24, 1794, he was among the founders of the Alexandria Library Company.


Elisha Cullen Dick lived at 408 Duke Street, Alexandria, Virginia, property he bought from Elizabeth Muir Donaldson for ₤ 2,169. On June 8, 1796, he insured the home, with the Mutual Assurance Society. The house was brick, 32 by 24 feet (7.3 m), and one story high; the house stood between his vacant ground on the east and the west. Outbuildings consisted of a wood kitchen, a wood stable, and a brick smokehouse, the whole valued at $3,700. He used a trust on the home for loans totaling $6,082.


Political Career: As Superintendent of Yellow Fever Quarantine at Alexandria, he corresponded with Governor James Wood on October 10, 1798. Elisha was appointed to the Republican Party Committee of Correspondence in Virginia in 1800, along with Roger West, Francis Peyton, Thompson Mason, and Walter Jones, Jr. In the wake of Gabriel's Rebellion, Elisha C. Dick said abolition societies tended to produce "the most serious calamities." Writing to Governor James Monroe, Dick called for: "immediate legislative measures ... to restrain if not entirely suppress the schools supported by [antislavery advocates, who] are constantly inculcating natural equality among the blacks of every description[;] they are teaching them with great assiduity the only means by which they can at any time be enabled to concert and execute a plan of general insurrection." At the time of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801, he was chairman of a local committee, petitioning the Congress about local government of the District of Columbia.


Elisha Dick was a fine doctor, but speculated too much in real estate investments. In 1801, he went bankrupt and lost his home at Duke Street in Alexandria. He rented a house at 211 Prince Street from the widow Mary Harper. Despite his financial woes, the town considered him a worthy citizen, and he was chosen justice of the peace and coroner in 1802. From 1804-1805, he was Mayor of Alexandria, D.C., (now VA). In 1804, he wrote the speaker of the House of Representatives, opposing retrocession. On 10 Apr 1807, he was appointed Magistrate of the Alexandria Court, along with Cathbert Powell, by Jonah Thompson, Mayor of Alexandria.


Ferdinando Fairfax left him $1000, and his son Archibald $500, in his Will. Although raised as an Anglican, he joined the Society of Friends Alexandria Meeting on 20 February 1812. Following Quaker precepts, he manumitted a slave. In 1814, he was among the Alexandria delegation to Admiral Cockburn, after the Burning of Washington, during the War of 1812; he is credited with convincing British Admiral Cockburn not to destroy the town of Alexandria in 1814, having led a delegation of Quakers who rowed out to the Admiral's flagship.


Cottage Farm: Dr. Dick retired to Cottage Farm, on the Columbia Turnpike (now Lincolnia Road Route 613), 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Alexandria, along the Little River Turnpike. In 1814, he bought 80 acres (320,000 m2) for $1.26 per acre from Thomas Summers; in 1817, he bought 90 3/4 acres for $1.26 per acre from Thomas Wilson. In 1820, the tax rolls show he had 80 acres (cleared) worth $20 per acre, and a house worth $2,060. The house was torn down in 1952.


In July 1825 Dr Dick resigned from the Quakers. There had been some controversy regarding his non-attendance at Meeting. At this time he was living at Cottage Farm and perhaps too ill—just two months before his death—to travel to town. He died 22 September 1825, at his property Cottage Farm. His casket was placed on a funeral wagon and carried to Alexandria, where he was buried in an unmarked grave in the Friends Burying Ground on Queen Street. His passing was reported in the Alexandria Herald on 30 September 1825. A plaque to him remains at the site, now the Alexandria Library. His inventory of medical paraphernalia was 9 pages long, and brought $461.51 at auction January 13, 1826.


Works:

"Nursing and Lying in of Women, with some remarks concerning the treatment of newborn infants", Alexandria Gazette, February 28, 1798

"Yellow Fever at Alexandria", New York Medical Repository, Vol. i, 1803

"Facts and Observations about the Disease Cynanche Trachealis, or Croup", Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal, Vol. iii, p. 242, 1808


Masonic Membership: He was a Mason, founding member of the Alexandria. VA Lodge. In 1789, Dick succeeded General Washington, as Worshipful Master of the Masonic Lodge No. 22, and as such laid the cornerstone of the District of Columbia, at Jones Point in Alexandria, in 1791. With his Lodge as Escort of Honor, he accompanied General Washington, and assisted in laying the cornerstone of the National Capitol in 1793. His duelling pistols are on display in the archives of George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria.


Dinner Invitation - A celebrated dinner invitation written in Rhyme by Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick:


If you can eat a good fat duck

Come up with us and take pot luck,

Of whitebacks we have got a pair

So plump, so round, so fat, & fair

A London Alderman would fight

Through pies and tarts to get one bite.

Moreover, we have beef or pork

That you may use your knife and fork.

Come up precisely at two o’clock

The door shall open at your knock.

The day tho’ wet, the streets tho’ muddy

To keep out the cold we’ll have some toddy.

And if, perchance, you should get sick,

You’ll have at hand.

Yours E. C. Dick


This unusual missive was addressed to Philip Wanton, Dr. Dick’s good friend, who lived at 216 Prince Street. The original invitation turned up some years ago in a treasure trunk in an old Alexandria attic. It is now on exhibit in the museum of the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop.


President George Washington's Death


On December 12, 1799, George Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow and later hail and freezing rain. He sat down to dine that evening without changing his wet clothes. The next morning, he awoke with a bad cold, fever, and a throat infection called quinsy that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia. Dr. Dick was well known as a close personal friend and confidant of President George Washington; he was one of three attending physicians with Washington the night he died. Diagnosing Washington's condition, he recommended a tracheotomy to restore breathing, but this still-experimental procedure was vetoed by his two older, more experienced colleagues who continued "bleeding" and other primitive remedies. Dr. Dick wrote later: "I pronounced decisively that death was inevitable, unless it could be arrested by the operation of tracheotomy, to which I strenuously recommended an immediate resort, as the only expedient that could possibly preserve the life of a man, whose loss every virtuous man in the community would deplore. " (Then Dr Dick goes on to discuss the unfavorable opinion of Drs. Craik and Brown.) "I know not what might have been the result and it would be presumption to pronounce upon it; but I shall never cease to regret that the operation was not performed." Modern medical specialists unanimously agree that a tracheotomy would have relieved the immediate medical crisis and would have prolonged the President's life. Dr. Dick was in charge of Washington's Masonic funeral. Washington died on the evening of December 14, 1799, at his home aged 67, while attended by Dr. James Craik, one of his closest friends, and Tobias Lear V, Washington's personal secretary. Lear would record the account in his journal, writing that Washington's last words were "'Tis well."


Dr. Gustavus Brown later wrote to Dr. James Cralk, January 21, 1800: "Sir: I have lately met Dr. Dick again in consultation and high opinion that I formed of him when we were in conference last month, concerning the situation Of our Illustrious friend, has been confirmed. You remember how, by his clear reasoning and evident knowledge of the cause of certain symptoms after the examination of the General, he assured us that it was not really quinsy, which we supposed it to be, but a violent inflammation of the membranes of the throat, which it had almost closed, and which if not immediately arrested would result in his death. You must remember he was averse to bleeding the General, and I have often thought that if we had acted accordingly to his suggestion, when he said, "he needs all his strength - bleeding will diminish it", and taken no more blood from him, our good friend might have been alive now. But we were governed by the best light we had: we thought we were right, and so we were justified."

Other interesting information can be found at http://www.localkicks.com/community/news/Dr_Elisha_Cullen_Dick_517_Prince_Street, http://www.gwmemorial.org/tours/4_Museum.html, and www.gwmemorial.org/Collections/menu2.htm.

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Elisha Cullen Dick, M.D. (attending physician at George Washington's death)'s Timeline

1762
March 15, 1762
Chester County, PA, USA
1784
1784
Age 21
1825
September 22, 1825
Age 63
Alexandria, Fairfax or Alexandria Co., Virginia, United States
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Inscription: "HOME OF ELISHA CULLEN DICK (BORN 1750 DIED 1825) WAS CONSULTING PHYSICIAN IN WASHINGTON'S LAST ILLNESS. AT THE MOMENT OF WASHIINGTON'S DEATH HE STOPPED THE BEDROOM CLOCK, WHICH CAN BE SEEN IN ALEXANDRIA WASHINGTON LODGE, AND CONDUCTED THE MASONIC FUNERAL SERVICE AT HIS GRAVE." The plaque was erected by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.

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Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia, United States