Hosted by Bowan Farm, 7609 Longwoods Road, Mount Brydges, ON
Painted by Glencoe District High School Paint Team
My name is Hannah Dolsen. You may have heard of my husband Matthew who earned some repute as a successful merchant. Our home on the La Tranche River (Thames) was a well known trading post and tavern. Because the area was heavily forested, the river offered the only safe and efficient means of travel. Goods, lodging and the odd libation were not the only reason people stopped here. You see, I had received my own reputation as a kind of backwoods doctor.
Back in Pennsylvania I was a rather serious child who preferred adult company, especially that of a neighbour, our local midwife. She saw in me a curiosity and allowed me to help gather the wild and cultivated plants she used to prepare poultices, ointments, liniments, teas and other remedies. Her medicinal recipes had been handed down from generation to generation. Many treatments she learned from the local Chippewa and Delaware people.
When I established my own home, I took shoots from her rose bushes. She stressed the importance of the wild rose leaves, petals and especially the hips for a wide variety of medicines. Indians, she said, were known to string the dried berries into necklaces to be used as food in times of famine.
In all my years of doctoring, two events stand out above all the rest. In the winter of 1798 I was summoned by the distraught parents of Ann and Mary Smith. The girls had gone to the bush to bring home the cows when a sudden storm blew up. The girls were found wrapped in each other’s arms. Mary, eleven, was dead. Ann, thirteen, was alive but both her legs were severely frozen and I had no choice but to amputate. Ann survived and lived another 72 years as a feisty
and happy woman.
The second event in October of 1813 was of even greater proportions – the aftermath of the Battle of the Thames in which the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh was killed. For days, British and American soldiers, and Tecumseh’s people straggled by as they attempted to find their way home. Many were wounded, half starved and suffering from exposure. Our neighbours along the river did their best to help but there were so many. The sheer numbers made helping only the worst cases possible.
As I reflect on days gone by I know my recipes have served me well – from broken bones, gangrene, gout, fever to the ague, consumption, melancholia and of course childbirth. I thank God for this gift of healing.
Written by Chris Crawford, February 2012
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