Dr. William Beaumont birthplace

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The Beaumont Homestead


William Beaumont

 

birthplace of Dr. William BeaumontThis web page is about the birthplace of Dr. William Beaumont (1785-1853), the famous American physiologist who wrote the groundbreaking "Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion" (1833, Plattsburgh: F.P. Allen).

VISITOR INFORMATION

The birthplace is located at 16 West Town Street, on the Green, in Lebanon, Connecticut. It is open to the public from the third Saturday in May through Columbus Day weekend, Saturday afternoon 12 noon to 4:00 p.m. and by appointment with the Lebanon Historical Society; telephone (860) 642-6579. It was restored by the Beaumont Homestead Preservation Trust, and is now owned and maintained by the Lebanon Historical Society.

HOUSE'S ORIGINAL HISTORY

Dr. William Beaumont's parents were Samuel Beaumont (1755-1814), a Revolutionary War veteran who became a farmer here in Lebanon; and Lucretia Abel. William was one of nine children.

Samuel Beaumont built the small farm house in the Village Hill section of Lebanon; it was then "four miles and 59 rods" from the original Meeting House site. William lived here until age 21 when he moved to Champlain, New York, to be a schoolteacher. He eventually sold the house in 1850 to Samuel Sherman.

RECLAIMING THE HOUSE

In 1970, nine members of the Beaumont Medical Club of Yale University School of Medicine established the Beaumont Homestead Preservation Trust, whose purpose was to purchase the house and restore and open to the public this birthplace and boyhood home of Dr. William Beaumont. The Trust established the authenticity of the house and purchased it in May 1973, through supporting benefactors.

The house's original site was remote from the town, leaving the house open to threat of vandalism and destruction, so Trust members began a search for a suitable site for the home near "the green." This occurred when the Connecticut chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) graciously made space available on their property facing the green. The DAR had already restored three historic properties nearby: the Governor Trumbull Home, the Wadsworth Stable, and the War Office. The Trust members then undertook to dismantle the house and re-erect it on its present site.

RESTORING THE HOUSE

When acquired, the Beaumont house was in forlorn condition, but structurally sound. The roof and sill timbers were solid, and the gunstock corner posts in good condition. The interior had suffered many changes.

For the restoration work, Mr. Leon Lewis, a restorer of old houses who lived in Norwich, Connecticut, agreed to undertake the work. By December 1974, the house had been disassembled and moved into storage. Reconstruction began in spring 1975 on the site where the house now overlooks Connecticut farmland and orchards in a setting similar to its original site.

The homestead was dismantled board-by-board with some exciting findings. Underneath the modern plyboard, Mr. Lewis found 12-to 14-inch wide floor boards. Carved on a section of kitchen wall was the name, "S. Beaman" for Samuel Beaumont. "S. Beaman" also appears on a carrying beam in the kitchen and on a floor board in the hallway.

In the process of dismantling the house, Mr. Lewis was able to reconstruct the original layout of the rooms:

The original stairway from the kitchen to the loft has been replaced. Windows have been restored with old glass panes, nine over sixes.

During the razing process, all hearthstones were found in place, but a large piece of stone measuring 36" by 18" was missing. This broken piece was found in rubble outside the kitchen door where it had been used as covering for a dug well. When Mr. Lewis placed it on the hearthstone's broken section, it fit perfectly. Most of the chimney had been destroyed except for the base in the cellar. The entire chimney has been beautifully rebuilt by Mr. Lewis, using stones from Lebanon fields.

A modern entrance was removed and, following the line of the old frame, the house was fitted with a wide door carrying wrought iron hardware from the 18th century. The stone at the front (west) entrance is the original step stone of the house. Some of the original doors and hardware are in their proper place.

In a small room in the rear next to the kitchen, an effort is being made to recreate a doctor's examination room of the early 19th century. Already on view in the collection are Dr. Beaumont's own trunk, memorabilia from the Edward Streeter collection of the Yale Medical Library, and antique medical instruments typical of period, kindly donated by members of the Beaumont Club and others closely associated with the effort.


Life of Dr. William Beaumont

HIS PATH TO MEDICINE

William Beaumont, the "Father of Gastric Physiology," is one of the most respected figures in American medicine. Educated in the local Lebanon schools, he showed proficiency in English and Latin, but took no interest in farming the family's holdings. At age 21 he left home to live in Champlain, New York, near his older brother Samuel Beaumont (1755-1813) and two uncles. There he briefly taught school and spent his evenings pouring over medical books borrowed from a village physician.

For two years, from 1810 to 1812, William Beaumont studied medicine under the tutelage of a local practitioner in St. Albans, Vermont. In June 1812, he was granted a license by the Third Medical Society of the State of Vermont. Three months later, he joined the United States Army as an assistant surgeon.

In the War of 1812, Beaumont saw action along the Canadian border. Upon the war's termination in 1815, he entered private medical practice in Plattsburgh, New York, but he soon returned to military service in 1820.

UNIQUE STUDIES IN PHYSIOLOGY

His first Army assignment was to be post surgeon at Fort Mackinac in northern Michigan. On June 6, 1822, there in the wild life of a frontier fort, he was asked to attend a young French-Canadian fur trapper, Alexis St. Martin (1794-1880), who had been shot in the left lower chest and stomach. The wound never did seal off and the stomach remained open to the outside. St. Martin regained and kept his health, and he outlived the doctor by many years.

Dr. William BeaumontBeaumont had his patient under observation off and on for eleven years. He took advantage of this unique opportunity to make a series of remarkable studies on gastric secretion, the first ever made on a living person. Carried out under primitive conditions, the studies culminated in his now classic "Experiments and Observations on the Gastric Juice and the Physiology of Digestion," published in 1833.

Beaumont established the fact that the important element in gastric juice is hydrochloric acid, that gastric juice and mucus are separate secretions, that the mind has an effect on gastric secretion, and that different foods are digested differently. Nearly all of his 51 conclusions are still accepted.

Beaumont's book was critically acclaimed and widely republished in many countries. Sir William Osler wrote of Beaumont, "The pioneer physiologist of the United States, and the first to make a contribution of enduring value, his work remains a model of patient, persevering research."

After his army career, Beaumont settled in St. Louis, Missouri, where he continued to practice medicine until his death from pneumonia on April 25, 1853 at the age of 68.




This page's content Our thanks to Alicia Wayland of the Lebanon Historical Society, for obtaining permission for us to publish material from their brochure on the William Beaumont Birthplace.
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E-mail to jette7@james.com.
This page last revised October 2006.