Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Tauy Creek Digest #38: Dr. Martin Van Buren Stevens

Those of you who were able to see my presentation on the Douglas County Poor Farm know I mentioned a Dr. Martin Van Buren Stevens, who was a resident of the Farm in 1909.

Dr. Martin Van Buren Stevens was born in 1836, possibly in Ohio. He received his Bachelor's at Oberlin College and his doctorate from Adelbert College in Cleveland. From what I can tell, his main form of practice was phrenology but he may have also been versed in other practices as he became very well-respected around Lawrence.

Dr. Stevens was a very charitable and religious man. He attended the annual religious Chautauqua in Ottawa and was a massive presence there and whenever he went out. From accounts, Dr. Stevens was a very tall and gaunt man. His name appears in the Annual Report of the State Board of Health from 1899. In it, he condemns examinations and rushing children off to school without breakfast. It should be noted that his title of doctor appears in quotes. Dr. Stevens even attended the KU School of Law in his seventies but never graduated so never practiced.

Dr. Stevens was very active up through 1907 when he attended his last Chautauqua in Ottawa. Shortly after, his physical and mental health deteriorated and he was often found wandering Lawrence and begging for money. After he was arrested and spent several days in the county days in the county jail, he was sent to the county farm. There, his health rapidly declined. He had resisted the county farm for so long but finally consented.

Dr. Martin Van Buren Stevens passed away at the county farm on November 13, 1909. He was at the farm for two and a half months. He actually had enough for his funeral which was surprising to people. Little was ever known about him. During a revival, he testified that he had two wives and three children that had already passed on. He had a brother, Victor, who lived in Oskaloosa. He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

"Someway whenever I have taken anything up it seemed to be at the wrong time to make good."