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Shawnee trail association: Moccasin Mail

Primitive Medicine


t our February meeting, Charlie Mounts, assisted by his wife Charlene, presented a program to us on primitive medicines.

He piqued my interest when he said the only requirement to be
a doctor was that you be able to stand the sight of blood. Cool!
Give me a scalpel! I'm ready!

Course it wasn't quite that easy. Most doctors were trained as
apprentices by others already practicing.

Medical schools in the frontier were a rarity and methods of
treatment were mostly trial and error. Some things that appeared
to work may have just caused a masking effect. For example:
putting a spoon of honey into whiskey or moonshine with a drop
of lemon or black pepper. Drink enough of it and of course you
wouldn't feel anything.

The following information was given to me by Charlie as an
overview of his program. (It was most excellent, by the way)
Hope the notes help you keep his presentation as a reference.

  • medical schools were a rarity

  • starve a fever, feed a cold was a rule of thumb

  • borax was used as  a mouth wash

  • Epson salts were used for sore feet

  • sulfur was used for sore feet

  • blood letting, usually on the hand, was the treatment of choice



The old medical arts seem better remembered by the patient than by
his physician.

  • apprentice system was the preferred practice

  • hometown doctors were the rule

  • doctors had varied abilities

  • a doctor needed only the approval of the regimental commander to practice

  • There were 3500 doctors at the time, only

The Virginia Frontier
By Ron Moxley


istorical Research of the western Virginia frontier (autumn of 1779). The Shawnee Trail is based on events that happened between 1777 and 1780. There are two books that I highly recommend reading in order to
get a better understanding of what was happening along the frontier that affected the settlers and the Shawnee. The first book is "A History of Logan County" by Henry K. Ragland (reprinted by Sam Rogers),
available for $12.00 from the Logan County Chamber of Commerce. This book gives facts and background information into the early explorations along the Guyandotte
River. Place names, family names, and other facts can assist you in developing a personna (remember events that happened after the autumn of 1779 have not occurred, (so you

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