1841: Basil Brown Brashear to Stuart Beebe Shotwell

Surgeon Basil Brown Brashear, ca 1862

This letter was written by Basil Brown Brashear (1822-1903), the son of Otto Brashear and Hannah Collins. He wrote the letter while a 19 year-old student at Madison College in Antrim, Ohio. In the letter he professes his interest in a medical career but his conviction to pursue the law instead. Apparently he gave up the idea of being a lawyer because he graduated from the Medical College of Baltimore and took a post graduate course at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He practiced medicine in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, until the Civil War when he volunteered his services as a surgeon, rising to the position of Medical Director of the Department of the Gulf. After the war, he practiced his profession in Pittsburgh and Akron. His last job was chair of the Cleveland College of Physicians and Surgeons. He retired in 1898 and died at the age of 81 from ptomaine poisoning in Maryland.

Upon the death of Stuart Beebe Shotwell (1819-1890), to whom this letter was addressed, it was said he was “probably the largest land and property owner in Eastern Ohio, and one of the oldest and best known lawyers in the State.” Shotwell was a graduate of Franklin College (later Muskingham College) in New Athens, Ohio. His parents were William Shotwell (1798-1855) and Rhoda Beebe (1792-1876). Stuart married Nancy Gaston in 1851.

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Addressed to S. B. Shotwell, Esq., Cadiz, Ohio

Madison College
Antrim, Ohio
March 1, 1841

Dear Sir,

According to your request communicated to me by my friend Mr. Kirkwood, I now write you. I have known you by reputation for several years and I should very much like to have a personal acquaintance. I have ever considered epistolary writing as conducive to improvement in composition, taste & a refined style. But I have been too neglectful in corresponding with my friends from whom I might learn something. So much, in fact, that I am unable to write a good letter. Accept my thanks for your kindness in wishing an epistle from me and excuse me if I should not please you.

Our school, under the auspices of Mr. Campbell, is is a flourishing condition. I consideration of the present “hard times,” we could not expect a better or a greater number of students. The prospects for the coming sessions are quite favorable. We will have a contest on the 26th inst. I would be pleased if you could attend. It will be as respectable in some of the performances as they can have at Athens. I have heard that great endeavors are making the faculty and others concerned of Franklin College to enlarge the college buildings, procure philosophical & chemical apparatus, etc. If they succeed, & I pray they may, Franklin will be one of the best colleges of the West.

You are studying law I have heard. It is a study of which I know but little. My opinion is that it is very dry & uninteresting. On account of having some little acquaintance with the science of Medicine, I have a kind of predilection for studying it. Although never born to be great, I intend “Deo votent” to study law. Every man is the artificer of his own fortune, and if perseverance, industry, and assiduity will make me a “wee bit of a lawyer,” then “by the powers above,” I will be one.

Your townsman, Mr. Croskey, was here a few days during which I “scraped an acquaintance” with him, and I think him a very fine fellow, and a gentleman. If you are acquainted with him, please give him my respects. Tell him we do not “abschize on the gigantic abstropulations of the hycoctolorums, and hypernutrenus,” as we did when he was here. In the “fortuitous eventuation of extraordinary concatenations,” the using of “big words” as they are called, has become too common. We, therefore, have quit it and seceded into our former insignificant style.

I suppose Mr. [John Armour] Bingham will be here as a judge at our contest & if you can attend, we would be much gratified. I have not time to write further. I must be making “preparations to prepare” for that great day, “big with fate” on which I am either to gain a “glorious” victory, or suffer an “ignoble, shameless, and disgraceful defeat: or else not.”

“Concurretur; aut cita mors, aut lacta vistoria.”

As this epistle was written hastily, you will excuse inaccuracies, also brevity. Write as soon as convenient. Respectfully your friend, — B. B. Brashear

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