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Alternative Medicine in Lockport New York

While researching early human service agencies in Niagara County New York, I came across a number of commercial ventures that were often based upon an alternative view of health care that differed from the traditional care available during 1830s – 1920s. This resulted in health products ranging from medicinal mineral waters, medicines, and foods that were produced locally and were sold widely. At this time, there were also many doctors with unique treatments who practiced in the Lockport area.

With good marketing and common wisdom, these enterprises used a variety of colorful remedies, often harmless, to help their customers. Mainstream medicine at the time could be far more dangerous. The next series of columns will be focused on Lockport’s alternative medicine.

Dr. BW Dean “The Sweat Doctor” Thompsonian Botanic System Practitioner. Lockport, NY 1841

Benjamin W. Dean was born in 1794 at Philipsburg Manor, Westchester County, NY. For his medical training, Dr. Dean studied under a traditional physician. In 1825 he is listed as the physician for Macedon Center, New York, a canal town just east of Rochester. In 1841, Dr. Dean, his wife Sophia, and son Herman, were living in Lockport, NY where he practiced this “sweat doctor” medicine.

The new method Dr. Dean was using in Lockport was invented by Dr. Thompson of Ohio. It was a system and book that sold for $20.00 and included a stock of available medicines that could be purchased by the practitioner and recipes to make homemade cures, extracts from Native American vegetables were favored. This was a non-traditional medicine that was advertised as an alternative to medicine practiced at the time. Dr. Thompson believed that disease was caused by a clogged system. This would be helped by purging and sweating, doctors that used this method were sometimes called “Sweat Doctors”.


dr dean

                 Museum of disABILITY History

Local flyer from Dr. Dean with a summary of the Thompsonian Botanic Medicine System


Shortly after publishing his flyer, Dr. Dean passed away, September 10, 1841, at the age of 47. Dr. Benjamin W. Dean is buried at Cold Spring Cemetery, town of Lockport in the Price family section. Dr. Dean’s sister married into the Price family.

dean stone

     Jim Boles 2015

Dr. Dean has two headstones. The worn original stone was replaced by a new stone but the original one still remains. Cold Spring Cemetery, Lockport New York

I want to thank the officials at the Cold Springs Cemetery, Lockport New York for their assistance in locating the grave.

Jim Boles, Ed.D. is a senior researcher with the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main Street , Amherst NY. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of people with disabilities. James Boles can be contacted by calling the museum or via email: Jboles@people-inc.org

Our next museum event is a film screening of Capturing Grace by David Iverson, featuring dance studio ‘Danceability’, which focuses on the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The screening is scheduled for Saturday, March 12, 2016 with 3PM and 7PM showings – reception at 5PM. Please RSVP for ticket reservations by calling 716-629-3626. This is a FREE event.