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JOSEPH R. DUNCAN (Dr.)


Source: Portrait & Biographical Records of Montgomery, Parke & Fountain Counties, Indiana. Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1893, p168-170 (transcribed by Diane Killion)

Joseph R. Duncan, M.D. Prominent among our city's leading citizens and physicians is Joseph R. Duncan. He is of Scotch-Irish descent, and his grandparents emigrated from Ireland when the father of our subject was but eleven years of age. The name of the father was Alexander, and he was three times married, the second wife, the mother of our subject, being Susan Robb, a native of Kentucky, who became the mother of eleven children, but died when our subject was nineteen years old. He was born in Highland County, Ohio, March 27, 1827, and one of his earliest griefs appears to have been that he could only attend three months of the year at school. Before long he had mastered "Rooter's Spelling Book' and "Murry's English Reader,' "Talbot's Arithmetic' and a smattering of grammar and geography. Anxious to advance in education, while other boys were enjoying a vacation our subject was looking about for means to earn money with which to buy books. Six months after our subject lost his best friend, his mother, he started out into the world to seek his fortune. Tying his effects in a cotton handkerchief he set out for Kentucky and found work upon a tobacco plantation, and there he remained until he had earned enough to take him to Iowa, having heard glowing accounts of the fertility of the soil and the general desirableness of a residence in that State. Reaching Montgomery County, Ind., worn out physically, the attractions of the land farther West became somewhat dimmed, and with but $1.37 ˝ in his pocket, our hero concluded to postpone his travels until a later time. Consequently, when a farmer of old Montgomery offered our subject $8 a month and his "keep,' there was a young man who gladly accepted the place, and at the end of the month his wages were raised one-half dollar, and he remained for ten months. Alas for his hopes! When he had reached this point the change in the climate did what it has often been accu sed of doing before, it prostrated our subject with fever and ague, and when he was able to resume work he found himself $100 in debt. Not wholly discouraged, Mr. Duncan finally secured enough pupils for a school, borrowed money to buy books, and by secret, hard study he managed to keep ahead of the children. At the close of his term he offered to return one-half of the money lent to him, but his patrons refused it and advised him to use it in advancing his own education. This he did, and then continued his teaching, interspersed with farm work, until failing health game him a warning that he must make a change in his mode of living. At this time our subject became interested in the study of medicine, and the hope dawned upon him that by hard work he could prepare himself for that profession. Therefore, he began the fascinating study and taught school to enable him to continue, and finally he removed to Waynetown in order to avail himself of the instruction of Dr. R. M. Earl. Some time after this he set up a water-cure establishment in order to obtain a livelihood, and as he saw the improbability of his ever being able to take a college medical course, he began practicing in a small and careful way from his reading. His first office was at Hillsboro, in Fountain County, and at the end of one year he removed to Jacksonville, although he had never given up his determination to make his home in Iowa. Eight years of disappointment had not killed his ardor, and in the fall of 1854 he set out in an emigrant wagon and reached Knoxville, Iowa, October 16, 1854, with a wife and two small children dependent up on him, he was in no position to hesitate as to intentions. Immediately our subject opened an office, equipped with one volume of a medical character and two nicely-covered patent office reports as an imposing library, intended to impress the public of the Western country as a voluminous display of erudition. That Dr. Duncan had made no mistake was evidenced by his first year's earnings, which were in excess of $3,500, and he paid his debts and then entered the Eclectic Medical Institute at Cincinnati, from which he graduated in 1859, and then resumed practice at Knoxville, Iowa. At the call for thirty-day men at the opening of the late war, Dr. Duncan became a member of the Home Guards and was appointed by the county civil authorities to visit the battlefields after a battle and care for the wounded, and in this capacity he visited Shiloh. Soon after this he was made Assistant Surgeon of the Eleventh Iowa Regiment, but was assigned to detached service. Nearly a year at Vicksburg he occupied the position of Post Surgeon, and later had charge of the Marine Hospital. He was commissioned Surgeon in the Forty-sixth Iowa Regiment and continued with the regiment until it was mustered out, with the exception of a short time in which he was Brigade Surgeon. In 1866 our subject assisted in the formation of the Eclectic Medical Association of the State of Iowa, and for years was its President. In 1870 he was chosen Chairman of the Committee on Credentials in the Chicago convention which organized anew the National Association. The next meeting was held in New York in the Young Men's Christian Association rooms in 1871, when twenty-five States were represented. At this meeting our subject was elected President, receiving all of the votes with the exception of three. This was an honor indeed, and upon his way home he was tendered the Chair of Physiology in Bennett College, in Chicago. At first he declined the position, hesitating to sacrifice his large practice, but after repeated solicitation consented and entered upon his duties in the following spring. Here followed a season of prosperity for Dr. Duncan, but the last fire of 1874 devoured his home and office, with everything they contained, among which was his choice library, then a collection of the best works of the finest writers, grown from the little sham in his first office. With it went his expensive surgical instruments and his household goods, and the Doctor and his family were literally destitute, with the necessity facing him of beginning anew. No doubt at that trying time all the unfortunates thought their own troubles rather harder to bear than were those of others, but it was a time of distress for many. At this time it was particularly gratifying to have the old patrons of our subject beg him to return to Iowa, but he felt that he could not return in such a different way from that in which he had left, and he finally settled upon Crawfordsville as a place where he could again begin the latter at the bottom, and so became established here in August, 1874. Immediately he began to have a fine practice, which grew to huge proportions, and the next year he was made President of the Eclectic Medical Association in Indianapolis. Later this society established a college, and he assisted in its organization and after repeated requests he accepted the Chair of Diseases of Women and Children, and for a short time lectured upon Obstetrics. Failing health forced a resignation, and he was then honored with an appointment as Emeritus Professor of Gynaecology. Retaining the Presidency of the College, our subject finally took the Chair of State Medicine and Sanitary Science, but he was ere long warned that the arduous duties of his position were cutting into his health, and he resigned. Since this time he has given his whole attention to his office practice, and so well has he become known that his calls come from far and near. He has been President of every medical society to which he as belonged, and holds the Addendum Degree of the St. Louis College, and in 1871 he received the highest honors to be conferred upon a physician, being elected, as mentioned, President of the National Eclectic Association. Also he has been elected an honorary member of the associations of Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. The parents of our subject were of a strongly religious mind, and belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their son inherited their tendencies, and upon his fifteenth birthday united with that church, and thus he continued until his forty-second year, when he transferred his relations to the Presbyterian denomination. Dr. Duncan is a Republican, and was elected one term upon the City Council, but he took a strong stand against whisky-selling and was defeated at the next election. In the Masonic order Dr. Duncan has long been an active member and he also belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. In the former order he is considered a standard authority upon Masonic jurisprudence. He carries a large amount of life insurance, mainly in his favorite orders. The marriage of our subject was celebrated June 29, 1818 with a daughter of William A. Krug, of Montgomery County, a native of Pennsylvania but later a resident of Crawfordsville, who died April 26, 1893, in his one hundred and third year. Mr. Krug was a remarkable man, still robust and healthy, and he had his picture taken upon his one hundredth birthday and with five generations. The family of Dr. Duncan consists of but two living children, Alice E. and Ernest A., and Mrs. Duncan gives much attention to charitable work. Dr. Duncan is a large, fine-looking man, with a genial and pleasant manner. He has shown a warm and sympathetic interest in the poverty-stricken classes, willingly extending his financial as well as his medical aid. No longer engaged in active practice, doing only office work, he may in his declining years look back with pride over a life well spent.


Source: H.W. Beckwith History of Montgomery County, Indiana (Chicago: HH Hill, 1881) p 300

Dr. Joseph R. Duncan, Crawfordsville, was born March 21, 1827, in Highland County, Ohio, and is the son of Alexander and Susan (Robb) Duncan. His father came with parents to America, and settled on a farm in Pennsylvania, when he was eleven years of age. Alexander afterward moved to Ohio, where he died July 12, 1861, in Highland County, at the age of eighty-one years. He fought in the War of 1812, voted the democratic ticket till his later years, when he supported the republican party. His wife, Susan, was born in Kentucky, and with him was a member of the Method­ist Church for many years. Joseph R., son of the above, spent his youth on the farm. At the age of twenty-two he began the study of medicine. His health failing he was obliged to abandon his studies, and by the help of friends obtained a subscription school, and with his earnings attended the higher schools, after which he taught, at the same time resuming and following his medical studies with Dr. Earle, of Waynetown. After three years' study he settled at Hillsborough, then at Jacksonville, Indiana, for the prac­tice of his profession, afterward Knoxville, Iowa. In 1858 he at­tended the Cincinnati Eclectic Medical College, where he graduated in 1859, and returned to Knoxville, where lie practiced for seventeen years. In 1863 lie was commissioned assistant surgeon in the 11th Iowa reg. On account of failing health he resigned, but again served as surgeon in the 46th Iowa, for about three months. In Iowa he or­ganized the State Eclectic Medical Society, and was president of that body for five years. In 1871 he was elected president of the National Eclectic Medical Society, which met at New York city. Soon after he was tendered the first chair of Physiology, then the chair of the Diseases of the Heart, Throat and Lungs, in Bennett Medical College, Chicago. After that he was elected to the chair of Dis­eases of Women and Children. He lost his property in Chicago by fire in 1874, resigned his position in the college and removed to Crawfordsville. He has occasionally lectured in this institution since. During the second year at Crawfordsville he was made president of the Indiana State Eclectic Medical Society. In 1877, on ac­count of ill-health, he retired from all practice, except office and city. He attributes the loss if his health to the excessive use of tobacco in 1879, becoming almost blind, at which time, after having been addicted the habit for forty years, he ceased its use alto­gether, and his health has rapidly improved. He was one of a family of nineteen children. He is a Mason and Odd Fellow, and a member of the A.O.U.W., and a republican. He was married June 29, 1848, to Mary King, daughter of William A. and old settler, and now nearly ninety years of age. Mrs. Duncan was born June 11, 1828. They have four children: William A. and Mary C. both deceased; Alice E. and Ernest A. living. Mr. and Mrs. Duncan are members of the Methodist Church.


Source: Atlas of Montgomery County (Chicago: Beers, 1878) p 51 DUNCAN, Joseph R, MD, PO Crawfordsville. Physician and Surgeon, son of Alexander and Susan Robb-Duncan. Was b. in Highland CO, Ohio March 21, 1827 and settled in Pleasant Hill, Coal Creek Twp, in the Fall of 1846, where he marr. Mary KRUG June 29, 1848. Children's names: Alice E and Ernest A. Duncan, Joseph (James) R. Schools attended: Eclectic Medical Institute, Cincinnati, Oh E. M. Inst. Year Medical Grad or Attendance: 1859 County: Montgomery (Crawfordsville) Med. Reg./Exam.: 7.14.97 Sources: P1886 / Physicians Directory of Kentucky and Indiana 1893 / Indiana State Board of Health 1882, 1884, 1890 Record# 10400 in database 19th Indiana Century Physicians Source: 19th Century Database of Indiana Physicians


Citation: The Indiana GenWeb Project, Copyright ©1997-2013, Montgomery County Website http://www.ingenweb.org/inmontgomery/ Return to Index. © 9-9-2007 Karen Zach
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The INGenWeb Project, Copyright ©1997-2013, Montgomery County Website 
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Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the submitter, for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information.

Data contained within this website may only be used with permission of the copyright holder(s), for non-commercial research and educational activities, and for personal genealogical information. © 2014 by Karen Zach, and licensed to the Indiana GenWeb (INGenWeb) Project and the USGenWeb Project. May be used in personal research with a citation.

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2 January 2013