Franklin District Medical Society

      Among the names of worthy, prominent, and successful physicians who have been citizens of Franklin County, mentioned by Dr. Stephen W. Williams in his medical biographies, are Dr. Mattoon, of Northfield; Dr. Pomeroy, of Warwick; Dr. Ebenezer Barnard and Dr. Elihu Ashley, of Deerfield; Dr. Ebenezer Childs, of Shelburne; Dr. Stephen Bates, of Charlemont; Dr. Porter, of Wendell; Dr. Moses Hayden and Dr. Samuel Ware, of Conway; Dr. Ross, of Coleraine; Dr. Harwood, of Whately; and Dr. Brooks, of Orange.
      Of a few of these we have been able to procure sufficient information for brief notices, and regret that we cannot speak understandingly of all.

      Dr. Roswell Field.—In connection with the wonderful fossil foot-prints of the Connecticut Valley, the name of Roswell Field deserves honorable mention.
      He comes of the Northfield stock, and was born in that historic town in 1804. For the past forty-five years his residence has been in the vicinity of Turner's Falls; and for thirty-six years he has lived on the place now owned by him, a little over a mile from the Falls, in the town of Gill, and not far from the place where fossil foot-marks were first discovered about 1835, in the shaly strata of the sand-rock formation underlying the valley from near the north line of Massachusetts to Long Island Sound. By common consent Mr. Field has received the honorary title of doctor, though he never studied medicine, and makes no profession of anything beyond what belongs to every respectable citizen. He believes that the first investigations and description of the foot-prints of the valley were by Dr. James Deane, an eminent physician of Greenfield, now deceased, though this honor is accredited to others. Dr. Field's investigations began about 1842, and his practical and continuous connection with this interesting subject has been carried into extreme old age, with an interest that has never diminished, and a zeal and intelligence rarely surpassed. He claims (very modestly, however)—and no doubt justly—to have been the first to advance the theory that the foot-prints were those of quadrupeds or reptiles. Up to the year 1845 it was generally supposed that they were mostly those of various species of bipeds now extinct, and the elder Professor Hitchcock classified and described many varieties.
      The first printed paper taking the ground that they were the tracks of quadrupeds or reptiles was written by Dr. Field, and read at a meeting of the "American Association for the Advancement of Science," held in Springfield, Mass., in August, 1859, and published in the record of its proceedings.
      This theory, though at first received with almost universal unbelief, has at length come to be generally accepted. The late Professor Louis Agassiz was among the first to accept the theory and reasoning of Dr. Field; and it is interesting to watch the quiet twinkle in the eye of the veteran archeologist as he relates his first interview with that eminent scientist.
      Many distinguished men have been visitors at the Field farm, where several quarries have been opened; among whom may be mentioned the names of Professors Hitchcock, father and son, Agassiz, Marsh, Redfield, Dana, Huxley, Warren, and many others, "names known to fame," who have come from near and far to examine one of the most noted localities for geological study to be found in the world.
      Dr. Field relates how Professor Huxley, when first shown the foot-prints, called for a piece of chalk, and rapidly sketched the saurian who might have made them. Dr. Field is an honorary member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and corresponding member of various other scientific bodies.

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06 Aug 2005