Alson E. Leavenworth

Alson E. Leavenworth

The following information was extracted from the 1893 Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial to Cattaraugus County, NY.This information was noted to be condensed from a biography written by Hon. John Manley

[Alson Leavenworth was] a physician in many towns in the county, a surgeon of recognized ability, a shrewd businessman as well as a doctor, he became widely known and left to posterity a name that will live for generations to come. He was born in Woodbury, Conn., October12, 1788, and acquired his preliminary education at the common schools and at farm work. Upon attaining his majority he commenced the study of medicine with local practitioners and in May, 1811, having passed the allopathic examination, was licensed to practice medicine and surgery in his native State [Connecticut].  October 17th of that year he married Sally Canfield, of Woodbury. In the autumn of 1812 Dr. Leavenworth went to Philadelphia and entered the University of Pennsylvania as a medical student. That institution was then in charge of that famous surgeon, Benjamin Rush, also a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Graduating in the spring of 1813 Dr. Leavenworth returned to Connecticut, resumed his practice, and soon after was appointed surgeon in the State militia and ordered to the service of the United States in the War of 1812-15.  A dispute arose between the government officers and the officers of the army as to which should have the power of appointment, which resulted in Dr. Leavenworth not seeing active service under his commission. In the spring of 1818 he started with his family for western New York and on September 25th reached the village of Ellicottville, where he took up the practice of his profession as the first physician in that town.  His ride extended from Corydon and Kinzua, Pa., to Collins, Erie county, among the Indians as well as the whites. Dr. Leavenworth rode horseback and carried an axe to cut browse for his horse and to "spot trees" to find his way back. Frequently he was obliged to sleep in the woods on hemlock boughs and remain away from home several days at a time. Being often called upon to perform difficult cases of surgery.  A noteworthy event may be appropriately recorded here.  An Indian had suffered several years with a lame knee that finally became so dangerous as to threaten his life. The Quakers residing at the Quaker Mission on the Allegheny River applied to Dr. Leavenworth for advice and he decided that amputation was necessary.  Accordingly the doctor made (from necessity) his surgical instruments from a carpenter's chest of tools. John Green and another resident of Great Valley were selected as assistants, and as the doctor began his work the latter assistant fainted. Green made a brisk application of sole leather upon his nether person, and he speedily revived and left, and the doctorassisted by Green, successfully accomplished the painful task. The Indian fully regained his health and lived to a good old age. In 1831 Dr. Leavenworth removed to Little Valley, and about 1836 to Cold Spring, where he became largely interested in timber land. He subsequently lived for several years in Randolph, and about 1851 came to Cattaraugus in New Albion, where he erected the first brick house in the town and where he died. January 25, 1823, he was appointed first judge of the |County Court, which office he held until February 15, 1833, and in 1840 was appointed loan commissioner.  He was commissioner to superintendent [during] the erection of the county buildings at Ellicottville, commissioner to lay out public roads on the Indian reservation, and was supervisor from Cold Spring from 1843 to 1846 and from New Albion in 1853 and 1854. He was also instrumental in procuring from the Holland Land Company an entire surrender of the accumulated interest on land contracts held by them against the early settlers, and was, besides, one of the original projectors of and a liberal contributor to the Randolph Academy (now the Chamberlain Institute), and was a member of the old County Medical Society. In all these positions he served with remarkable ability, evincing a well- trained mind and a keen penetration. He was an eminent physician, a skillful surgeon, a shrewd business man, a public spirited citizen, a good politician, a staunch friend, and a liberal benefactor. Alson Leavenworth ended his remarkable career and his life in New Albion.


Adams, William. Historical Gazetteer and Biographical Memorial to Cattaraugus County, NY. Syracuse, NY: Lyman, Harton & Co. 1893.

Submitted by Sue M. Cross


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