The Medical Journal of Dr. Leroy Milton Yale Sr.

An Index to Names in this Journal.

Leroy Milton Yale kept a medical journal during his stay in Tisbury which starts in 1831 and ends regular entries in 1841 (two additional entries were added in 1842 and 1846.) It is about 63 pages in length. It is a unique document, as many of the deaths he attended during 1831-1841 went unrecorded by the town and do not appear in Vital Records of Tisbury to 1850. Leroy Milton Yale kept a medical journal during his stay in Tisbury which was recently donated to the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society by Marion H. (Carey) Alton (a descendant of Leroy Jr.'s sister, Sarah Smith Boardman (Yale) Carey.) The journal starts in 1831 and ends regular entries in 1841, and two additional entries were added in 1842 and 1846. It is about 63 pages in length. It is a unique document, as many of the deaths he attended during 1831-1841 went unrecorded by the town and do not appear in Vital Records of Tisbury to 1850. This journal is being transcribed and published privately in the family newsletter Fish Tales by Tom Morse, and may also appear in serial form in future editions of the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society's periodical, the Intelligencer.

Mrs. Alton writes about the journal: "It was not just a journal, but it also was a record of all the patients for which he cared, their illnesses, etc., how they died. It also spoke of the life on the Vineyard, how it was when the freeze was so hard that no boats could come out to them; how the vote went in Holmes Hole for and against William Henry Harrison and every day the weather and temperature. Almost all the patients mentioned in the journal are now in the Tisbury Cemetery, including Leroy Milton Yale, Sr., himself."

Here is a sample from the journal of Dr. Leroy Milton Yale:

1832, Dec. 21 - There has been a slight fall of snow today which melted nearly as fast as it fell. This day is my thirtieth anniversary & has thus far been spent in the usual manner, that is in attending to a few sick patients, preparing a little medicine, &c. The thought has occurred to me whether a man may derive any material benefit from writing down his views at particular times and his occasional thoughts. The notice of them may serve to remind him at some future period, of his particular situation which led to the train of thought & like the notice of sequences (?) of a particular nature, assist the memory. Some importance perhaps ought to be attached to certain seasons or eras in a man's life. Such as a birthday, or in other words it appears to be a fit season to review his past life and see where & in what he has erred, and also to take a perspective view of the future, as far as he may be permitted, and form new resolutions for his own guidance, but these resolutions cannot well be made any other than of a general character on account of our inability to foresee the precise circumstances in which we may be placed.

1833, Jan. 4 - Clear & warm, wind SW & blew fresh in the forenoon. At 4 P.M. thermometer in the shade stood at 48 above the 0. Nothing of importance has transpired in the Village of late. Some fears are entertained that war will be declared by our Government & Buenos Ayres, in which event our Shipping which is engaged in the Whale fishery will be likely to suffer. The people of the Island are more extensively engaged in this business than any other and consequently depend on it chiefly for support. A large amount of capital is invested & almost everyone who goes to sea is personally engaged in the fishery. Out of this village, where there are not more than 600 inhabitants, there are about 75 or 80 men and boys who are absent most of the time in this employment. The greater part sail from New Bedford, a few from Edgartown & Nantucket, Boston & almost every place where there are vessels engaged in that business. Ships fit for 3 or 4 years that intend to cruise for Sperm whales & for one & two years when they go after Right whales. The business has been very lucrative for 8 or ten years past & now the Sperm fishery is much more so than the right whale, though the latter has paid a fair percent but is much more uncertain than the former on account of the markets, there being a steady demand for the Sperm oil for home consumption, while the other is mostly reshipped to a foreign market.

1833, Jan. 6 - The thermometer at 1 o'clock stood at 58 degrees above zero in the shade. A little cloudy, wind west & very moderate, no frost in the ground & no ice to be seen about the ponds & indeed it appears more like the month of May than like January. It is the Sabbath and we have no preaching in the Village today. The only organized societies in this place are Methodists or Baptists and there is but one meeting house in which both societies worship alternately, the Methodists employing a preacher half the time & the Baptists at present one third of the time only. Consequently we have no preaching a part of the time. It had been the case till very lately that both societies have attended the meetings of each denomination on the Sabbath indiscriminately, but now there seems to be an effort on the part of each to maintain their ground separately & when one denomination occupies the meeting house, the other occupies a school house, either with or without preaching as they happen to be situated & the Methodists are now about building a meeting house for their own use. The have also opened a singing school for the purpose of preparing a choir of singers for the new hall (?)

The Methodist minister that is now occupied here is M. Louis Landen, an Englishman by birth, young, say 27 or 28, active possessed of some natural talent, but not a very thorough education & his sermons are mostly addressed to the passions of his mercy without being very instructive & this is true of most of the preachers of that denomination that I have heard. There has been, however, a good deal of religious excitement under his preaching & a number give good evidence of having met with a saving change & have united with the class, which I understand to be a state of probation for six months previous to joining the Church, during which time if they walk orderly, they are afterward admitted, but, if not, rejected.

The Baptist minister employed here is Mr. Seth Evers (?) a man about 50 years of age, very resolute and determined in whatever he undertakes. He is not well received by the people . Should not think him to be a man of very extensive information or much of a scholar but has a degree of confidence & a faculty showing that he has to the best advantage & his sermons though usually long are for the most part meager & uninstructive, and often quite urjsine to hear on the account the emphasis put upon almost every word which is altogether misplaced. He has now been here almost two years and on the whole should fear that little good has been affected by him as the society appeared to be on the wane ever since he came among us. Besides some members of the church are so much disaffected toward him that they will not hear or support him.

1833, Jan. 07 - Have this day made a proposition to a member of the Baptist Church to get up a paper for the purpose of obtaining subscriptions to support a Congregational minister in this place half of the time & a Baptist the other half to which he acceded, though I feel somewhat doubtful about the success of the plan.

Having just read the 5th Annual report of the American Temperance Society & the facts brought to light in it are appalling & the arguments appear to be irresistible to a candid mind & enough to deter every one from trafficking in Spiritous Liquor and from the use of them as a drink for the object is such as will make it harbinger of peace to all who heartily embrace it.

1833, Jan. 9 - The ship Cices (sic) arrived in New Bedford on the 8th from the coast of Africa full of whale oil after an absence of 18 months. Also the Barbque Minerva from the Pacific with 1200 bbls Sperm about 3 years ...(Illegible)

1833, Jan. 13 - Sabbath - Have not attended meeting today but have been reading some in the memoir of Dr. E. Payton.

1833, Feb. 6 - I have been reading Walter Scott on Demonology and Witchcraft for a few days past. Some parts of which are interesting but the subject that occupies the most of my leisure moments at present is that of Conchology (the study of shells and mollusks) which I find more interesting the farther I pursue it though I find myself much perplexed in ascertaining the names of many specimens. A lot of fresh water shells received from Doct. Ivy of N. York has increased my collection considerably, both in number & value. Some of the Unio's are beautiful as well as the Anidota, Atlas, Modonta, Symia, Helix, Paludina, etc.

1833, Feb. 8 - Yesterday and today we have had the most severe cold that has been experienced for the season. The wind has blowed a gale from the N. West almost all of the time for two days & last night & today the harbour has frozen over down to Thomas H. smith on the west side across to Ebens (/) Smiths on the east - side. There is not much snow on the ground at present, say 1 inch. The thermometer stood at 20 degrees above zero in my room this morning at 8 o'clock & probably would have fell 10 more degrees in the open air.

I have been for several days writing down rather a vague and indefinite account of the weather and I scarcely know for what, unless it be for the same reason that it is said the weather is a general topic of conversation among people when they meet for a few moments. This is because it can be spoken of without implicating persons & exciting jealousy, envy, malice, or any of those feelings that are brought into action when topics of personal interest are the subjects of conversations. But waving this, I will just say a few words respecting the state of feelings in this village. And, first in relation to one another of their townsmen, there appears to exist an unusual degree of envy. So much so, that there is a marked enmity towards anyone who is prosperous in business and apparently rising above a state of mediocrity in point of wealth. In relation, such as come to this place from abroad , there exists apparently much jealousy lest they should take some interest in their affairs of a public nature, or in some way exert an influence for their individual benefit, as though they possessed some reserved or inherent rights, which a stranger (as they term those who gained a residence here) has no right to interfere with. Hence there arises a peculiar inquisitiveness respecting the affairs of one another as though an interest was felt in a neighbor's prosperity, but is for the most part merely envy, and in regard ...(illegible line) ... business, who they are, when ... (illegible line) ...There is very little public spirit manifested and it's difficult to persuade many to favour any object by which they are not to be personally benefited, but , notwithstanding, most are very kind and obliging in the usual round of social intercourse. On account of there being so few active men at home for any length of time, it is extremely difficult to carry into effect any design for improvements and consequently we have societies or associations for scientific or literary purposes. Primary schools, Sabbath schools & religious meetings use the only places of public nature for instruction. The primary schools are 2 in number & average 40 scholars each & are kept by male instructors this year. A temperance society has been formed within the last year & a considerable number adopted the plan for abstinence. No licenses for retailing have been granted in this town this year, but the law appears to be evaded to some extents.

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