1841: Eugene Weld to John Austin Stevens

Cut Silhouette Portrait of Eugene Weld, Bowdoin Library Archives

This letter was written by Dr. Eugene Weld (1805-1849), the son of Benjamin Weld (1758-1839) and Abigail Perkins (1773-1840) of Maine.

Before attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, Eugene attended Bowdoin College, where he befriended Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow — fellow grauates in the Class of 1825.

It seems that Dr. Eugene Weld nearly lost his life at the tender age of 24 when the Schooner Alacrity, on which he was a passenger, sank in waters off the coast of Cape Cod. The following news was posted in the 31 October 1829 issue of the American Advocate:

Loss of sch. Alacrity — The Sch. Alacrity, Tibbets, which sailed from this port Oct. 19, for New York city, laden with granite, sprung a leak Oct. 21, 40 miles NE Cape Cod Light, and in 3 hours had 3 feet of water in the hold, and was in a sinking condition. The ssh. Mary of Portland fortunately hove in sight, took off all hands, and landed them at Provincetown. The Alacrity was owned by Joseph Southwick and Daniel Marshall of Vassalborough, and the cargo by the proprietors of the Haines Ledge in this town. The loss is estimated at between 4 and $5000 and falls on the underwriters, A. & I. Leonard of this town. Amongst the passengers was Dr. Euene Weld, late of this town, who lost his trunks, &c.

An obituary notice in the 17 February 1849 edition of the Maine Cultivator and Hallowell Gazette reports that:

In New Iberia, Louisiana, of cholera, Jan. 21 [1849], Dr. Eugene Weld, formerly of Brinswick, Me., aged 44.

From the letter we learn that Dr. Weld entered into a partnership practice in St. Martinville, Louisiana, with Dr. Jerome Francis Mudd (1799-1864) — a native of Maryland who graduated from Georgetown University. Dr. Mudd relocated to Cincinnati some years later where he died in 1864. Though I have not traced the connection, he was undoubtedly a relative of Dr. Samuel Alexander Mudd, who is recognized as the Maryland physician who set John Wilkes Booth’s fractured leg and was implicated in the Lincoln Assassination conspiracy.

Dr. Weld wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, John Austin Stevens (1785-1874) — the son of Boston Tea Party participant Ebenezer Stevens (1751-1823) and Lucretia Ledyard (1756-1846). John was married to Abigail Perkins Weld (1799-1886) in 1824.

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Addressed to John A. Stevens, Esq., Care of Ebenezer Stevens’ Sons, New York

St. Martinville [Louisiana]
20th March 1841

My dear sir,

I write in haste to request of you to call on Dr. Stevens to obtain for me the diploma to which I am entitled from the College of Physicians & Surgeons in the City of New York. I passed my examination before the professors as appears by a Certificate of the said professors dated March 11th 1828 & also subsequently passed a satisfactory examination for the said degree before the Board of Trustees of said college, and also read my Thesis. A diploma was not granted at that time because I had not entered my name in a Physician’s Office three full years. My name was entered at Dr. Steven’s Office in September 1825. My examination took place 11th March 1828 making only two years and six months. They informed me that I could obtain my diploma at any time after the three full years was completed on making application & paying the fee for the diploma at $25. I never found it essential until the present moment.

I have now associated myself in practice at this place with Dr. Mudd and we are now doing a tremendous practice. We have four horses and are constantly on the go. I agreed with him for one fourth the first year and one third the second, besides he furnishes board, &c. Last year he made $7000 and this year we expect to make $10,000 or $12,000. Dr. Mudd established himself at this place at the right time. The people are very much prejudiced against the French physicians who have been very unsuccessful & Dr. Mudd has been very fortunate. The French physicians are exceedingly jealous, and we have been privately informed by a Frenchman — a friend of ours — that they have written down to the Attorney General at New Orleans to indict us. This will be a futile attempt but we wish to be armed at all points and we are determined to go ahead, unless we are shot down.

I wish the diploma to be dated 1829 at which time three and a half years had elapsed since I entered Dr. Stevens’ Office. If it cannot be dated so far back, let it be dated some time in March this year previous to the 25th. You have befriended me much through the many difficulties I have had to encounter and I look back to you as my nearest friend to do your utmost to obtain for me the diploma, and advance the necessary amount. Forward it to me as soon as possible and direct to St. Martinsville. I have not the money at present but will send it to you as soon as I possibly can. If I retain my health & strength, I can make a fortune; at least a small one. Dr. Mudd & myself have strong friends in this part of the country who will back us if necessary. But the French physicians will not be able to get the State Attorney to indict us — at least we think so. They tried it last year against Dr. Mudd before the District Attorney but he would not bring suit. But as I said before, I wish to be fully armed.

I have the following certificate, which I would forward if necessary, but I wished to retain it to present to the Board:

New York, August 19th [date obliterated by sealing wax]

This is to certify that Mr. Eugene Weld has passed a satisfactory examination for the Degree of Doctor of Medicine in the College of Physicians & Surgeons in the City of New York as appears by a Certificate of the Professors of said College, dated March 11th 1828, and also that Mr. Weld subsequently passed a satisfactory examination for the said degree before the Board of Trustees of said College. — N. H. Dering, M.D., Registrar

Dr. Stevens will recollect the circumstances and will see that the Diploma is obtained for me, and I shall anxiously await for it.

We shall soon see if native-born Americans are to be put down in their own country by these foreign French, who have long preyed upon the credulous Creoles. They are now putting them aside, and we obtain nearly the whole practice in a very wealthy section. Give my love to all. At another time, I will write more explicitly.

Yours truly, — Eugene Weld

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