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This biography is from ANNALS of the Medical Society of the County of Albany, 1806-1851, by Sylvester D. Willard, M. D.

Elias Willard

Dr. Elias Willard occupied a conspicuous position as a physician and surgeon among the medical men of Albany at the beginning of the present century. He was the second son of Lemuel Willard of Harvard, Massachusetts, and descended in the fifth generation from Major Simon Willard, the common ancestor of the family in America, and who came from the county of Kent in England in 1634, and settled in Massachusetts. Major Willard is distinguished in the history of Massachusetts as rendering important public service to the colony as representative in its councils, as comptroller, judge, commissioner and military commander. He was a man of sound understanding, fine judgment and practical skill, conscientious, devout, and thoroughly in earnest both in word and work, giving by his sagacity and wisdom protection to the infant colony, and imparting strength and vigor to its government.

Lemuel Willard, the father of Elias, sustained a good reputation as a useful, respected, public spirited citizen. Elias was born in Harvard, on the 7th of January, 1756. He early gave attention to study and expressed a strong desire to receive a collegiate education, which his father, in justice to his other sons, was unable to afford him; but he was placed under private instruction, and made considerable progress in acquiring the Latin and Greek languages. At the age of eighteen years he commenced the study of medicine, which he was pursuing when the war broke out which separated the colonies from Great Britain. The father, an elder brother, and Elias obeyed the first call for troops, and left home on the eighteenth of April, 1775, for Cambridge, where the army was collecting. Early the next day they pressed forward to Lexington, and shared in the country's first bloody struggle for liberty in the battle of the 19th April.

After a brief service as a common soldier, he applied to the provincial congress for the position of assistant surgeon, and meantime tendered his services as a volunteer in the hospital at Roxbury under the charge of Dr. Samuel Hayward. In order for a greater protection from diseases of the camp Dr. Hayward and young Willard decided to receive small pox by inoculation, and they accordingly went into a lonely seclusion until the danger from it was past. After his recovery, wishing to study more closely than he could do in a hospital, he placed himself under the tuition of Dr. Joseph Gardner of Boston, and there remained until the hospital was established in New York, when he became the assistant of Dr. John Warren, a brother of the lamented patriot, General (and doctor) Joseph Warren, who fell at Bunker Hill. He was subsequently in the early part of 1777 transferred as junior surgeon to a hospital in Boston.

In 1777, at the age of twenty-one years, he received the appointment of surgeon to a regiment from the province of Maine, commanded by Colonel Frost, which was brought into active service by its removal to White Plains, in this state. He was successively removed with the army to German Flats and Ticonderoga. He was invited by General Lincoln to become a member of his staff, but he had suffered so much from the cold during the winter that he accomplished his desire to return to hospital duty, where he remained until the close of the war.

In July, 1780, he married Catharine, daughter of John Livingston, Esq., whose mother was a sister of General Abram Ten Broeck of the revolutionary army and mayor of Albany in 1796.

After the close of his military service, in which time he had added largely to his professional experience and skill, but nothing to his purse, he removed in 1785 to Stillwater in Saratoga county, where he entered into a large practice, residing on Bemis Heights, the battle ground near Saratoga. A few years later he visited Montreal and Quebec with a view to a change in his residence, but the manners and customs of the province were not his own, and the process of assimilation with them was not an easy one, and after one year he returned again to Stillwater. He removed to Albany in 1801, and for a period of twenty-five years, was actively and extensively engaged in his professional duties. He united with the Medical Society at the period of its organization.

In 1811 the Society demanded of Dr. Willard the components of a certain remedy he used in cancer. For some reason (and it is probable that he was not as yet himself fully satisfied as to its positive virtues), he did not promptly comply with the demand, and the Society passed a resolution by which he was expelled.

This act, however, did not lessen him in public estimation, and the Medical Society of Massachusetts elected him to honorary membership in 1814, an evidence of the esteem and undiminished confidence in which he was held by the medical profession of his native state.

He died in this city on the 20th March, 1827, in the seventy-first year of his age, having been more than fifty-one years in professional life. His wife died on the 20th January, 1827. Delightfully associated in life, they were not separated by death.

Although it is now a considerable more than a third of a century since Dr. Wiilard terminated his career, yet his name remains familiar to the present generation as a man. of high rank in his profession. Dr. Willard's character had developed, amid the trying scenes of the American revolution, and in those scenes he had learned great practical lessons and they gave complexion to his life. They had taught him skill in his profession by a stern and painful experience; they had taught him patience, diligence and forbearance. Suffering with his country, gave him for it an enthusiastic love and a devoted patriotism. His manners were agreeable and courteous, and his deportment at all times consistent and dignified, and in later years his appearance was not only prepossessing but impressive and venerable. The distinguishing traits of his character were his devotion to his profession and his ardent piety. His religious convictions were clear and enlightened; he had been early impressed with the truth of religion, and his long life was that of a consistent and exemplary Christian, while his position was one of influence in the church as well as in the profession.

He inherited energy of character and possessed a mind calm, well balanced and harmonious in its action. With great industry he united a disposition to do good to all around him. Dr. Willard left two sons and eight daughters, and has been represented in the profession in this city by two grandsons, Dr. Edward Willard Ford, and Dr. John H. Trotter.

Dr. Moses Willard was a younger brother of Elias, and was born in Harvard, Sept. 19, 1760. He studied medicine in Boston with Dr. Hayward, and probably with Dr. Warren also, and entered the military service in 1782 as assistant surgeon in Colonel Willet's regiment, where he served until the close of the war. He afterwards commenced practice in Massachusetts, but removed to Lansingburgh and subsequently to Albany, where he resided several years. His position was prominent in his profession: he was an occasional contributor to the New York Medical and Physical Journal. In 1808 he was elected an honorary member of the Medical Society of the State of New York. He removed to New York in 1821, where he engaged in practice, and was elected Fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons. He died December 6th, 1826, at the age of sixty-six years.

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