J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Dr. Ebenezer Dexter Practicing Medicine in Marlborough

Ebenezer Dexter was born in 1729, son of the Rev. Samuel Dexter of Dedham.

Ebenezer chose to go into medicine, and after marrying Lydia Woods, daughter of a selectman in Marlborough, he set up his practice in that town. In 1754, the year of their marriage, Ebenezer was twenty-five and Lydia was eighteen.

We can glimpse Dr. Dexter at work in the diary of the Rev. Ebenezer Parkman in nearby Westborough. That minister is shown here, and his diary is fully transcribed and annotated at this website.

Westborough’s northern precinct, which would eventually split off as Northborough [stay with me here], had its own meeting and minister, the Rev. John Martyn. On 13 Aug 1756, Parkman wrote about his colleague’s fifteen-year-old son Nathaniel being ill:
Sarah and Suse undertake to go to Mr. Martyn’s: they return at Eve Well. They tell me Natty Martyn, tis feared, grows bad.
Twelve days later, the father traveled to see Dr. Dexter:
Mr. Martyn has carryed down his Son Natty, to Marlborough to Dr. Dexter’s, who gives great Encouragement concerning the Sore, that he Shall effect the Cure of it.
And indeed, almost a year later Parkman mentioned the son again, apparently healthy: “Natty Martyn brought a Letter from Leominster.” Nathaniel Martyn survived and eventually became a doctor himself.

(The trouble in Leominster was that the Rev. John Rogers had turned into an Arminian, or what a later generation would call a Unitarian. This required a council of other ministers and eventually an approval to allow the Leominster congregation to split. But I digress.)

Dr. Ebenezer and Lydia Dexter had four sons between 1755 and 1762: William, Samuel, John, and Jason Haven, the last named after the minister who had succeeded the doctor’s father in Dedham. Dexter also served Marlborough as the town clerk starting in 1768.

But in May 1769, Dr. Dexter, still only thirty-nine years old, fell seriously ill.

TOMORROW: Opening for a young doctor.

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

The Rev. Jason Haven not only succeeded the Rev. Samuel Dexter in Dedham, but he also married one of the older minister’s daughters. Thus, Dr. Ebenezer Dexter named his fourth son after his brother-in-law.