About 1941, Dr. Yale's granddaughter Julia Milton (Yale) Cornwell wrote about her grandfather, Dr. Leroy Milton Yale Sr. in The Island Doctor, Dr. Leroy Milton Yale, reproduced here:

The Island Doctor, Dr. Leroy Milton Yale
by Julia Milton (Yale) Cornwell

My first memory of my Grandfather Yale is the recollection of an argument with my mother. How could she mean what she was telling me about the young man up there over the headboard of her bed, she must mean the other man with the beard. Grandpas were older, they had beards, so did Papa have a big white beard, and yet she seemed to expect me to believe his father had only a twinkle in his eye and where a beard should grow, just a hint of the same dimple I had myself. Papa had that last too, though he was lucky enough to conceal it.

Grandpa Yale was a pleasant inhabitant of the bedroom, never quite smiling, but always ready to do so, always with that twinkle in his eyes, and that upspringing dark hair. Oh yes, I felt well acquainted with him from the start.

I could not say how many years went before he was more than a twinkle from the wall. Certainly he kept that position through all the years until I was fourteen, but during those years I had gathered more details of his life - how he had been the doctor on the Vineyard, - the only doctor as I understood it. Can I have been right? Can it ever have been possible for one doctor to cover only the town of Tisbury leaving the inhabitants of Edgartown, Chilmark, and Gay Head to be born and buried by themselves? For his sake, I hope so, but I really do not know.

I do know, for I possess, the long, brown woolen shawl that he pinned around him with horse-blanket pins for a winter overcoat. If it is folded double it quite covers a full width bed, but I do hope the dear man had a lap-robe as well.

His medicine cabinet I have too. Papa had cleared out whatever poisons may have been kept in the sturdy bottles of brown glass that still stand in the handsome mahogany case. It has a secret compartment in the back where the more virulent kinds of doubtless lurked a pottery mortar with its small pestle to match and a tiny scales with its comic little weights and a slim book of instructions are all where they show it stands open. Not a very portable doctor's bag, he must have had a lighter one.

When we packed up to leave New York in May 1906, the portrait came with us and we, bag and baggage, moved to New Bedford. Papa meant to retire then and we were to settle in a house near my mother's parents. I cannot believe my father could ever have been happy there, but he did not have to prove that as he died in Quissett at the end of the summer, leaving his last baby case a week old. We never used that house we had rented, but moved straight into my grandparents home.

The old portrait went with us and passed more than a dozen years in a third floor closet. Then my mother sent it to my house as I was then married and had closets of my own.

My mother never liked the portrait. Her taste had been formed in the period that considered such a thing of necessity a daub. Tastes vary, however, and to me the portrait is far better than I was taught to believe. As I see it, a portrait that follows one with its eye, and alters its expression, as the thought of the beholder alters, is worthy of a place of honour on the wall.

All of this makes me feel I must have known more about him than I can, so let us revert to a few facts, -- they are woefully few and this is why.

No one now living can ever have known Dr. Yale. He was born in 1802 , the next to youngest son of Amerton Yale, who had served with the Connecticut Militia, and Mercy Scoville Yale, his second wife. He was graduated from Harvard, and in medicine in 1829.

Soon after leaving medical school, he went to the island of Martha's Vineyard to visit a classmate, and, on arrival, found that the Island Doctor had recently died. Whether some accident took place just then, or whether there might have been more than the usual quota of illnesses to need attention is not known, but his friends invited him to become their doctor and he accepted the call. In 1839 he married Maria Allen Luce of Tisbury.

From that time on his life must have been more than busy, though he had time to earn the following which appears in an old Yale Genealogy: "A Doctor of no ordinary eminence, he was as such respected and beloved by all who knew him."

Unfortunately, some ten years later, a boat came in from 'foreign parts' bringing a crew down with 'ship fever,' who were badly in need of the doctor's assistance. The end was clear, he treated them, caught the fever, and died in 1849 in the 47th year of a useful life.

He was a great loss to the widowed mothers of many families who had grown to depend on his judgment.

His wife, Maria Allen Yale, had been named after the Maria Allen who was one of the three young girls whose patriotism burst into flame with the blowing up of the 'Liberty Pole' before the Revolution.

This Liberty Pole was a fine upstanding flagstaff that stood in Holmes Hole during the years before 1775. A British ship is said to have anchored in the harbor and the captain admiring the straight strength of it, sought to buy, if not take, it to repair his own mast. He told the town fathers of the day, who demurred.

Next morning when the boatmen came ashore to take what they fancied, they discovered the cause of a load 'Boom' that had troubled their rest in the night. The fine, tall staff was a mass of charred splinters. Today a new staff marks the place with a bronze tablet bearing the names of the three girls.

After the sudden and premature death of her husband, Dr. Yale's widow lived on in Holmes' Hole until Leroy, her eldest son, was ready for college. She then moved with her four children to Brooklyn from whence Leroy went to Columbia. After his graduation there he continued at Bellevue Medical School to become Dr. Leroy Milton Yale the second, who was my father, and who practiced for many years in New York City.

His mother, the widow of Leroy M. Yale the first, survived her husband by twelve years and then, curiously enough, died of the same fever that had killed her husband, which by then was known as 'Typhus'.

Leroy M. Yale of Holmes Hole was always fond of singing. My father has often told me of driving with him to make some of his outlying calls. His story never varied. The doctor would try to teach his son to sing, beginning "Doh -- Re -- Mi --" but the small boy would soon interrupt by cutting in with his baby treble "Teedley -- teedeldy -- teedley!" and the lesson was over.

The little boy, then a white haired man, often told of hearing the older residents of Holmes Hole who had just listened to a singer of international prominence, say, with a shake of the head, "Hm -- yes -- very fine, -- but I'd rather hear Dr. Yale sing any day!"

Dr. Yale kept a diary which has unfortunately disappeared. His son had it at one time, whereby we learned that he was on the committee to establish the Congregational Church at Holmes Hole. The old cemetery of the town is the one immediately behind this church. The graves of Leroy M. and Maria A. Yale are under a clump of evergreens in a corner of this Cemetery. Near by the grave of Mercy Scoville Yale, who was the doctor's mother, and also the small headstone which marks the resting place of his first child, Eliza Osborn, 1839 - 1843. None of his other children are buried on the Island.

The Yale stones, however, are surrounded by the graves of Dr. Yale's patients of the past century.

Leroy Milton Yale is buried at the Holmes Hole/Tisbury Old Town Cemetery, which is located immediately behind the Congregational Church in Tisbury, Martha's Vineyard, MA.

Suggestions, corrections, or comments about this web page? Email me!

Return to the Biography of Dr. Leroy Milton Yale Sr.