Medicine on the Frontier


The following is an excerpt from a memoir written by Jesse Green, recounting tales of life in early Dayton and promoting a truly terrifying prescription for cholera:

“The next day after reaching home, I was taken down with the scarlet fever, which we supposed was contracted on a trip to St. Louis a short time previous.  This came very near to ending my earthly career, being the first and only time I ever fainted.  We had a German doctor who bled me with a high fever on.  I keeled over and was unconscious for quite a spell.  This was my first severe attack of sickness, but afterwards I had five others equally as severe, scarlet fever, lung-fever or pneumonia, inflamation of the bowels, cholera on route to California in 1849, and a fall on my head and shoulders, that came near to proving fatal.  I was saved in my attack of cholera by a prescription found in a medicine chest we bought in St. Louis put up by Dr. Westbrook.  It proved successful in every case where I knew it to be used.

“I will herewith give the formula from Dr. Westbrook:

Camphor                     6 grains
Capsicum                    6 grains            One dose in severe cases,
Blue-Mass                   6 grains            to be repeated often if
Pow’d Opium              3 grains            necessary.  1/2 dose
Prepared Chalk         20 grains            sufficient in mild cases.

“Some doctors claim that this is too large a dose, but I took three or four full doses myself.  It should be repeated every ten or fifteen minutes, but in mild cases of cholera morbus I found that a half dose was sufficient, and soon effected a cure.”

5 thoughts on “Medicine on the Frontier

  1. I had never heard of Blue-mass so Googled it and got this explanation which originally came from Wikipedia:
    “Blue mass (also known as blue pill or pilula hydrargyri) was the name of a mercury-based medicine formerly common from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The oldest formula is ascribed to one Barbarossa, in a letter to Francis I of France.”
    I certainly agree with your comment that this is a “truly terrifying prescription!”


  2. His illnesses could have been life threatening of course, however after reading the ingredients in his medicine…that too seems to be life threatening!!! Of course this goes without saying that our medications today would probably scare all of us too if we knew the ingredients contained in them!
    GREAT information from the past! Thank you Candace!


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