William GOFORTH, physician, pioneer, probably the first ot vaccinate west of the Alleghanies, was the son of Judge William GOFORTH, a distinguished pioneer of Kentrucky and Ohio. His mother was Catharine MEEKS, who is recorded as having been married to a William GOFORTH in New York on May 16, 1760. The younger William was born in New York City, studied medicine with Dr. Joseph YOUNG and Dr. Charles McKNIGHT, the latter a surgeon and at the time a public lecturer, and just after he had reached his majority, accompanied his brother-in-law, Gen. John Stites GANO, down the Onio to Kentucky, landing on June 10, 1788, at Maysville, then called Limestone.
He settled first at Washington, KY, the second largest town in the district and there he married the daughter of Rev. William WOOD, pastor of the Baptist Church. For eleven years GOFORTH practised at Washington. In 1799 he moved to Columbia, Ohio, a small village near Cincinnati where his father had settled, and in 1800 to Cincinnati, then a village of 750 inhabitants. There he took Daniel DRAKE [q.v.] into his house as a student. In 1801, having received cowpock from Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, who had received it from England in 1800, he made what are believed to be the first vaccinations in the Northwest Territory, his pupil being one of the first to be vaccinated.
For a short time after 1802 GOFORTH had as his partner Dr. John STITES, recently come from the East, but in 1804 STITES was replaced by young DRAKE. GOFORTH was then putting on his books from three to six dollars' worth of business a day, although, according to DRAKE, the Doctor's extremely unmethodical habits in money matters rendered only about a fourth of the amount collectible. For Drake's tuition, Goforth received from the young man's father $400, a large sum when the regular fee for a physician's visit was twenty-five cents.
In June 1804, GOFORTH was commissioned surgeon-general of the 1st (Gano's) Division of the Ohio Militia. The following year he signed with his military title the diploma which he gave to Drake, the first medical diploma issued in the Northwest Territory. He also helped Drake financially when the latter set out for further study in Philadelphia.
Like his more famous pupil, GOFORTH had a keen interest in natural science. In 1803, at considerable expense, he dug up at Big Bone Lick, KY, a collection of prehistoric fossil bones, which he turned over to an English adventurer, Capt. Thomas ASHE, who took then to England, claimed all the credit for their discovery, and kept the proceeds of their sale for the Liverpool Museum.
For seven years GOFORTH was the leading physician of Cincinnati. He was tall, of good figure, enthusiastic, sanguine, with an alert mind. An ardent Mason, he usually embellished his signature with some of the emblems of Masonry. His manners were distinguished; he was meticulous in his attire. Every morning he had his hair done and powdered by the barbar, then, dressed in all the elegance possible, with gloved hands and carrying gold-headed cane, he sallied forth on his daily visits. His manners were courteous and polite and, as they sprang in part from great kindness of heart and he was especially courteous to the poor and humble, he was popular with all classes.
In 1807, being a great admirer of the French,
he went to New Orleans by flatboat, becoming there a parish judge
and a member of the convention which drafted the first constitution
of the state of Louisiana. During the British attack upon New
Orleans he served as surgeon of a volunteer regiment. In May 1816,
however, having tired of New Orleans, he embarked with his family
on a keel boat for Cincinnati, where he disembarked eight months
later. He resumed his practise there, but in the following spring
he died from liver disease contracted during his voyage on the
View his family web card.
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