Love Letters, Chapter 5

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Dr. John Van Duyn – third in a line of prominent Syracuse physicians

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, friends, peace and celebration. We had a great Christmas and are looking forward to New Year’s Eve when my husband and I will attempt to prepare our first-ever Crown Roast for a small group of friends. (Seriously, how hard can it be?) More on that next time.

Since I blogged last, I have attempted to contact Ruth Ives’ niece who currently lives in California. So far, no luck, but I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, here’s some more background on the recipient of Ruth’s love letters, Dr. John Van Duyn of Duluth, Minnesota.

Edward Seguin Van Duyn, M.D. (1872-1955) Administrator of the Syracuse State School and the middle of three generations of prominent Syracuse physicians.

As it turns out, our Dr. John Van Duyn seems to have been just “passing through” Duluth in 1949. He is actually a third generation physician from the prominent Van Duyn family of Syracuse, New York. Like his father, and his grandfather before him, he attended Princeton University and went on to serve as a physician and faculty member at Syracuse University. Today in Syracuse, there is a county-owned skilled nursing facility named after the family: Van Duyn Home and Hospital.

The following excerpt details the life of Dr. John Van Duyn’s grandfather, also named John Van Duyn, and is taken from the book Encyclopedia of Biography of New York: A Life Record of Men and Women of the Past, Volume 4 by Charles Elliott Fitch.

VAN DUYN, John, M. D.,
Civil War Veteran, Physician.

One of the foremost members of the medical fraternity of Syracuse, Dr. John Van Duyn, in whom the public has long reposed trust and confidence of his skill, was born in Kingston, New York, July 24, 1843, a son of Abraham and Sarah Van Duyn.

His early education, which was of a literary and classical nature, finally led to his graduation from Princeton in the class of June, 1862, and thus broadly equipped, he undertook the study of his profession, having paved the way to success by first learning the power of expressing himself.

His degree of M. D. was received from the Kentucky School of Medicine. At that time he enlisted his services in defence of his country, was a member of the medical cadet corps, and upon receiving his medical degree he became assistant surgeon in the United States Volunteers, and continued as such until the fall of 1865. After the war, Dr. Van Duyn turned his attention to building up a practice, locating at first in the State of New Jersey, where he remained until the year 1868, when he removed to Syracuse, New York, this move being due to his relations with Dr. Wilbur, the founder of the State Idiot Asylum, who offered him the position of physician to that institution, in which capacity he served for a short period of time. He then engaged in private practice in Syracuse, which in due course of time became both extensive and important. He has also taught in the Medical School of Syracuse University since its establishment, and his ability as an educator has found no fewer encomiums than his ability in the art of healing. Many are the scholars who will pass along the secrets of his vast knowledge, for as a teacher Dr. Van Duyn has given as freely of his gifts as he has received them. He was one of the originators and founders of the Syracuse Free Dispensary and of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd, serving the latter institution in the cacapity of surgeon. He is also surgeon for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. He is a member of the Syracuse Academy of Medicine, of the American Ophthalmological Society, of the American Otological Society and of the New York State Medical Association. He is president of the University Club of Syracuse, president of the Princeton Club of Central New York, a member of the Hospital Association, of the Onondaga Country Club, of the Ka-Noo-No Karnival Company, of the Automobile Club, of the Loyal Legion, and of the Grand Army of the Republic. In Masonry he has taken all the degrees of the York Rite and has attained the thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite. He has, moreover, given of his time as commissioner of education and as health officer, in both of which offices he rendered valuable service. In February, 1915, the Syracuse Academy of Medicine and the Onondaga County Medical Society gave an entertainment in honor of the completion of his fiftieth year in the practice of medicine.

Dr. Van Duyn married, December 1, 1866, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Sarah Faulks, who bore him two sons and one daughter, namely: Edward Seguin, Wilbur, and Gertrude, who became the wife of E. F. Southworth, of Syracuse. Edward Seguin Van Duyn was born in August, 1872; graduated from the Syracuse High School, class of 1889; Princeton University, class of 1894; Syracuse Medical College, class of 1897; Rhode Island Hospital, 1899, and studied in New York and abroad during the years 1900 and 1901. He is professor of clinical surgery at the Syracuse University Medical School, surgeon of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd and of the Syracuse Free Dispensary, consulting surgeon of the Ogdensburg State Institution, president of the board of managers of the Syracuse State Institution for the Feeble Minded, and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Professor Edward S. Van Duyn had conferred on him the degrees of B. S., M. D. and F. A. C. S. Mrs. Van Duyn died December 21, 1915. For many years she was prominent in social circles of Syracuse. She was a member of the Fortnightly Club, of which she was one of the founders, and the Social Arts Club. She was widely known in church circles and took an active interest in causes of religious and charitable natures.

The Rev. Dr. A. H. Fahnestock, pastor of the First Ward Presbyterian Church, a cousin of Mrs. Van Duyn, officiated at the funeral services and interment was in Oakwood Cemetery.

The demands made upon Dr. Van Duyn by his profession have left him little time to lead what might be generally termed a social life. But this man, to whom so many have come in time of need to profit by what he has learned through wide study, research, investigation and experiment, can claim undoubtedly more of a place in the hearts of the people than one who has striven merely to be socially popular.

Next time… more on Dr. John Van Duyn’s first wife, author Janet Dunning Van Duyn

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