1849: Dr. Vincent Tharp West to Dr. Thomas Matthew Pinkham

This letter was offered for sale on the internet in February 2011. I transcribed the letter directly from the internet.

In this letter, 37-year-old Dr. Vincent Tharp West writes to his 47-year-old brother-in-law Dr. Thomas M. Pinkham. Dr. West was the eldest child of Hugh West (1770-1839) and Rosannah Hanley (1792-1868) of Clermont County, Ohio. He was born 16 February 1812, some eleven months after his parents marriage. Dr. West married twice; first to Charity Robb in 1841, and then to her sister, Cordelia Robb in 1845. Charity and Cordelia were the daughters of David Barr Robb (1771-1844) and Nancy Eckley (1779-1855). Dr. West and Cordelia had four children: An infant that died in 1846, Eckley Charity West (1848-1919), Nancy California (“Forney”) West (1850-1913), and Laura Eleanor West (1852-1882). The West’s made their home in Gibson County, Indiana. Dr. West died there on 28 April 1889.

Dr. Thomas M. Pinkham, to whom the letter is addressed, was born in 1802 in Massachusetts. He married Cynthia Ann West (1821-1902), Vincent’s sister, in September 1839. Another sister, Margery West (1824-1912), may be the “Margery” mentioned in this letter.

Pinkham Emmenagogue Bottle, ca 1850

Dr. Thomas Pinkham made his home in Bantam, Clermont County, Ohio. His father, Capt. Andrew Pinkham (1767-1840) was a prominent Nantucket whaleman before moving his family to the Ohio River Valley east of Cincinnati after the War of 1812. Thomas earned his degree from the Cincinnati Medical College in 1828 and became a noted physician in Cincinnati. Dr. Pinkham is thought to have been the producer of an elixir for treating women’s reproductive disorders, called an Emmenagogue. For a great website on the Pinkham family, click here.

Dr. West mentions the outbreak of cholera in the Ohio River Valley, particularly in Evansville. For a good summary of this epidemic, click here.

In his letter, Dr. West also mentions that he is returning from the “Springs.”  I believe he may be referring to the sulfur springs at French Lick in present day Orange County, Indiana. These springs were already being sought for their miracle healing powers in the 1840’s, a hotel being established there in 1845.


Washington, Daviess County, Indiana
July 2, 1849

Dear Brother

I am now on my way home from the Springs, left Cordelia, E[ckley], and Margery going home. It has been raining ever since we have been up here, but clear this morning. It is said the cholera is on the increase in Evansville. Some cases reported here this morning.

If the Cholera is as bad on the [Ohio] River as is represented, I think E[ckley] had better not leave here until it abates. We are all in firm health.

I have given out coming up this summer. We have the prospects of a early Summer, and I am going to stay at home a while as I have been absent nearly all spring.

Yours in haste, — V. T. West

Vincent T. West Gravestone

Readers may also be interested in pictures of the David Robb Cemetery in Gibson County, Indiana.

Two articles in the Cincinnati Daily Gazette related to the Dr. V.T. West family include:

  • Miss Echley West married Lt. James Rockwell of West Point, NY in November 1874.
  • Miss Fornie West graduated from Ohio Female College in June 1869.

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