My niece was interested in seeing this biography. Priddy Meeks is my 4th great grand uncle, related through my grandmother, Verda Marie Cooke Whitehead, and her line. I found it interesting that he I noted on Wikipedia! I have to say his biography is one of my favorite reads!
Priddy Meeks—Pioneer Doctor
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 2, p.80
Priddy Meeks was born August 29, 1795, in Greenville, South Carolina, the son of Athe and Margaret Snead Meeks. He received the Gospel in 1840, as did most of his family, and it was his paramount desire to gather with the other Saints in Zion. Soon after, accompanied by his wife, Sarah Mahurin, he journeyed across the plains in the Jedediah M. Grant company, reaching Salt Lake City the first of October, 1847. The Meeks family remained in Salt Lake until 1851, when they moved to Parowan to help strengthen that settlement. In 1861, by permission of George A. Smith, they moved to Harrisburg, Washington County where they lived until 1876. From this place they went to Orderville, Kane county, where they became identified with the United Order in that place.
In 1879, Priddy Meeks, then in his eighty-fifth year, compiled the journal from which these excerpts, dealing principally with his [p.81] medical career, were taken. They give an insight into the character of the man who for many years was the best known doctor in any of the communities in which he made his home and, also, the surrounding settlements.
Perhaps the first incident that occurred which might have had a bearing on his determination to become a doctor of medicine was the death of a little daughter while they were living near the Illinois River five or six miles above Meridocia, a little town situated on the banks of the river. Taken from his journal, verbatim:
A sicklier place I never want to see. Here I bought a little farm and established a woodyard. Here I lost Huldah with the whooping cough, or in other words she was killed by the doctors who I was opposed to having anything to do with her, only the folks over-persuaded me and I am convinced that this medicine killed her. Here, when the sickly season of the year come on, I visited many of the sick and was very successful in relieving them with roots and herbs. So much so that the community insisted that I quit work and go to doctoring. Such an idea had never entered my mind. I said to them I knew nothing about doctoring. They said, "You beat all the doctors." That expression brought me to my studies and I saw that it was a fact and I could not deny it. I studied much to know what was my duty to God and to mankind and myself and family. I saw my weakness and want of education, being raised in the back woods without much learning, only what I learned in the backwoods with my gun on my shoulder, having no correspondence with the bulk of the community and knew nothing of the ways of the world. Here was a trial you may be shure, for me to come in contact with the learned doctors, I could not know what to say and would appear as a dunce. About this time I had a letter from my brother-in-law, stating that he had important business and wanted to see me and I must come immediately. He lived about 100 miles off in Macon County. I went and left my wife, sick, who had been so for 2 years; her case was so complicated that I did not know what to do, neither did the doctors that had exhausted their skill without benefit, know what to do next.
When I saw my brother-in-law, whose name was Priddy Mahurin, he said he only wanted to visit with me, that was all, but the Lord was in the whole affair, for I met a man there by the name of James Miller whom I previously knew in Kentucky. He had got to be a Thompsonian doctor. He told me I could cure my wife, myself, if I had a Thompsonian New Guide to Health. I traveled 50 miles with him going home. I learned more from him that day than I ever knew before about doctoring. Arriving at home, I told my wife of the interview I had with Miller and was going to buy the book that he recommended. She replied, "You had better keep your money to raise the children with, for if the skill that has been exhausted by experienced doctors could not cure me, it is not reason[p.82] able to think that you could do any better." But I could not rest satisfied until I got the book, and just two weeks to the day from the day I got the book, I put out into the woods to collect the medicine, and by following the directions in the book I made a sound woman of her. This gave such an impetus to the anxiety of the people about my success, that it seemed like going against wind and tide to withstand their influence for me to go into doctoring, and from that time henceforth my labors began with the sick....
After a trip to Kentucky to her (my wife's) folks we returned to Versailles, in Brown County, Illinois, where our home now was. We found considerable sickness among the people. One a widow woman, who had the dyspepsia was so bad she was given up to die by the doctor who had attended her for near a year and said she could not be cured. She sent for me to come to see her which I did. She told me to try to cure her if possible—to do my best, anyway, and if I killed her it would only be death anyhow for she knew she could not live long if she did not get help. So I went to prepare for doctoring her and Doctor Vandeventer who had given her up, and hearing that I was going to undertake her case, come to see me. "Mr. Meeks," says he, "You had better not undertake that woman's case, that complaint cannot be cured and you will fail and you will lose practice by it; the remedy for the complaint is not known, search has been made for it as far as ships have sailed on the ocean, and human feet have trod the soil and the remedy is not found yet."
I paid the woman five visits and made a sound woman of her, nothing more or less than gave her a thorough course of Thompsonian medicines to take each time. I knew no other way of doctoring at that time but to follow the letter of directions. I had nothing but kayenne pepper and ginger for my composition powder and lobelia, and as I went along, gathered green sumac leaves off the bush which answered well for kanker medicine and to make a tea to put the medicine in for her to drink. I mention this to show that we can get along without so many kinds of medicine as some would suppose. This circumstance being noised abroad, brought me as much business with the sick as I could attend to, there being several young ladies in the vicinity, that the doctor had given up, which was now ready for me, and with the thorough course of Thompsonian medicine they were cured.
One case I will mention for the novelty of it. A Mrs. Perry had a daughter with the green sickness who the doctor had spent nine months on without benefit. Her mother, being very anxious about her daughter's condition, and having heard of Doctor Meeks living at Versailles, who cured everything he tried, she thought he must be one of the greatest men in the world. He was so far ahead of Doctor Vandeventer, she did not know whether she would know how to talk to him or not but resolved to try. So she rode up one day to my gate and inquired if Doctor Meeks lived there, I said, [p.83] "Yes, Ma'am alight and come in." I had been at work in the garden—it being hot weather I was sitting between the two doors where I might be cool, being in my shirt sleeves, bare-headed and bare-footed. She finally came in and took a chair. She says, "Is Doctor Meeks at home ? ... Yes, Ma'am," I replied, and she says, "Where is he, I would like to se him. He is not far off, I presume." I said, "What would you like of Doctor Meeks?" She then gave a history of her daughter's case. By this time I thought I ought to let her know that I was the man she was after. I said to her, "I am Doctor Meeks." It struck her dumb for awhile. She came near jumping out of the chair into the fire. She turned red in the face and it was quite a time before she could speak. I was truly sorry for her, but when she recovered so she could speak she said, "Well, I don't care how a man looks just so he can cure the sick." And with five regular courses in Thompsonian medicine her daughter was made a sound woman to the joy of her friends. This shows what courses of medicine can do without anything else.
From that time on I became conspicuous among the sick, something like half of the sickness fell to my charge and I was so successful to what Doctor Vandeventer was that if I had stopped there the next year, I should have probably had more than I could attend to; but the time had come for me to gather with the Saints in Nauvoo, so I left. In April, 1842, I moved to Nauvoo and lived there till 1846, and then moved across the plains in 1847 in the great exodus of the Saints to the Rocky Mountains ...
Now my little old wooden wagon that I came in from Nauvoo would not stand the trip across the plains. I started off to trade it for a good wagon.... I found a man named Richardson who offered me the very trade I wanted, but a momentary impulse struck me with such force, I could not accept the offer, why I could not tell ... But I went out and wheeled among the people till I found Jesse Harmon, a good Saint, who I believe was counseled to wait until the next season. He let me have a wagon that was fitted up in Nauvoo on purpose for crossing the plains ... When Brother Clark learned that I lacked an ox he says to me, "Brother Meeks, I will give you an ox. "... Now our hearts swelled with glorious expectation of leaving our persecutors behind. We started not knowing where we were going or what was ahead of us, trusting in the living God, and started like Abraham, not knowing wither we went. We did have a good time, notwithstanding the hardships and trials and troubles and sickness many had to endure. The Lord did pour out his blessings upon us abundantly. The plains furnished an abundance of meat and the prairie grass abundance of milk. Now the incidents that took place crossing the plains are so complicated I will only mention a few in this connection. One case of Sister Ewinds—the first I heard of her she was about dying of what they called the Black Kanker in her mouth and throat. She died in a few hours and we [p.84] halted to bury her. Her daughter Rachel was found to have the same complaint and deep-seated. I told them I thought I could cure her. My daughter, Elizabeth, waited on her while I doctored her and she was not long in getting well. The palate of the old lady's mouth was eaten up. All was in mortified state. I am convinced that it was diphtheria they both had. The next case was Gillroid Summe's wife, he being with the pioneers. She was in the company two miles distant from me but they sent for me, and when I got there I found her very low with fever. And with all the faith and courage I could raise, I broke the fever, and she soon got well again. Another case was as I was standing guard one night close to Brother Noble's wagon. I heard some person groan like they were nearly dead. In the morning I enquired of Brother Noble who it was, and he said it was Richard Norwood, the man who drove his team. Upon examination found it to be the Black Kanker, as we called it, but it was undoubtedly diphtheria in its worst form for his whole palate appeared to be in one solid mass of putrefication. I told Brother Noble if he would look among the crowd and get such medicine as I would name, I would try and do something for him, for without help he could not live but a very few days. I will recollect one medicine I used—it was the rough elm bark, taken off a tree that stood close by. It is one of the best anticeptives in the compass of medicine.
In the first settling of Kentucky and Indiana, we used to put our hog-lard and bear-oil in large troughs. We would sometimes have fifty gallons at a time. It would sometimes turn green going into a state of putrefaction. We would take the red or rough Elm bark in long strips and lay it lengthwise in the troughs and it would take up all the smell and color and taste of putrefaction out of it and render it as sweet as any other oil ... Now, for Brother Norwood again, I will just say that he was cured in a much shorter time than I could expect. So we all moved on in order again.
I arrived in the Valley the 1st day of October, 1847. I have already mentioned some incidents that took place on the plains, I may mention some more hereafter. Now, we felt good and happy with the idea of leaving our persecutors a thousand miles behind. The Salt Lake Valley had a beautiful rich soil and was well supplied with good water. We went to work under the wise counsel of President Young and the twelve apostles, although they had returned to the states for their families. I believe we did our best, generally speaking. Finally the crickets came so thick it made the earth black.... Now, this was another trial although my faith did not fail one partical, but felt very solom on the occasion of our provisions beginning to give out. I went sometimes up the Jordan to a patch of wild roses to get the berries to eat, which I would eat as rapid as a hog, stems and all ... We had to exert ourselves to get something to eat. (Priddy Meeks and his companions made several trips to the mountains killing wild animals to supply meat for the people).
When I got home from my fourth trip, John D. Lee had just arrived in the valley and the Twelve and their company had just arrived. He had heard of my success in hunting and wanted me to go hunting with him. He said he would take a wagon and team and haul me and all that I could kill if I would go. I refused, saying I could not leave the sick for I had neglected them too much already. So when I heard that Phineas Richards would arrive in the valley with his family that day, I met him before he stopped and said to him, "Brother Richards, I wish you would stop your wagon in some suitable place for your family and turn right in with me and tend the sick. There is more than I can possibly do justice by." Like a faithful Saint he did so.
We attended the sick both night and day and our success was marvelous, because the Lord blessed the medicine we used; it being such as He had ordained for the benefit of His Saints, using no poison, no bleeding, nor starving of our patients, but everything we used was in harmony with their food. At one time there was so much sickness it was five days and nights that I never entered my own door. We worked hard against the power of death, who fooled me out of two patients through my ignorance. Hyrum Perkiness, and his wife, was very sick when I first visited them. I attended them with a good prospect of their recovery. They got quite smart. I visited them one morning as usual, and they were so smart they thought they were going to get well. The woman says to me, "I ain't going to take any more medicine." "Why ?" said I. "Because I had a vision last night," said she, "and was told that we both will get well now without the medicine." I believed it as well as they did and left off, and they both died in a short time. I told Brother Richards the circumstance and he gave me a very brotherly rebuke, and said, "don't you ever believe in the visions or revelations of a woman to govern her husband. It is contrary to the order of God." I have ever since been cautious on that subject. A woman may counsel her husband but not control him.
Apostle Willard Richards had one of his wives die in childbed with symptoms they did not understand. She seemed to have smothering, suffocating, sinking spells. He requested us to make an examination by dissection and we found it to be dropsy or water around the heart. Dandelion is a good remedy for it, but not so sure as a thorough course of Thompsonian medicine as repeated until a cure is effected. One main object I have in view is to turn the hearts of the Saints to the word of wisdom that the wisdom may be sanctified in the hearts of the Saints to the exclusion of the popular physicians and their poison medicines of the present day. Also to simplify the practice of midwifery down to its natural wants: And what are its natural wants? Nothing but to have the obstructions removed, and you cannot prevent delivery only at the expense of life because it's the law of nature which is the law of life, which is the [p.86] law of God, which is immutable. Then away with your pretended science of midwifery. There is more harm done by it than good. When the pain flats out and stops, just remove the obstructions, and the pain will return, and come as a natural consequence, being a natural call the same as any other call of nature. Precisely there is no difference in the principle, and the Lord has ordained means among those anti-poison herbs adapted to that very purpose. When the foregoing conditions are reached, we then can raise all the medicines needful in our gardens which are well adapted to human culture; but, as yet, cannot furnish them all on account of climatic difference. Then will be the time when there is no danger of poisoning our families and bringing them to a premature grave. We then shall be delivered from the greatest curse that ever visited the human family since Adam first set foot upon this earth. May God help to speed on the time when the Saints may enjoy the blessings of such times, and Israel gathered, and Zion built up and Him on the throne where right is to reign. When the foregoing condition takes place among the community there will be no more schools of midwifery.
Now I will inform the reader that I have promiscuously picked up several chips and recorded them in this book and will continue to do so all through this book as they occur to mind. Having no dates to base my thoughts upon, I shall call them chips although of different kinds—some historical, some religious, and some medical chips.
In the first settling of Salt Lake Valley, Lorenzo D. Young's wife had the phthisic (consumption) for twelve or fifteen years. She could not live in the crowded fort and had a house built some rods outside on higher ground. I gave her nothing but bitter root or Indian hemp root, and it cured her entirely. I think she had it no more. The worst case of inflammatory rheumatism I think I ever saw was cured in one week by taking a little chew of Indian root and half that amount of yellow dock three times a day, swallowing it down every time. Jennette Clark was the woman cured. Mary Smith, a young girl, had a bunch growing on her upper lip close to her nose protruding above her nose, which was entirely stopped. She could not breathe through it. All she took was equal quantities of burdock, yellow dock, and dandelion in powders, and a snuf of yellow dock for her nose, and the tumor gradually vanished away and left her a smooth face. Some said it was a canker sore, while others said it was a cancer sore. Howbeit, it got well under the above treatment.
Now, in 1848, the valley from a human standpoint presented nothing better than extreme suffering if not starvation. The Saints were scattering hither and thither. Some went back to the states, and some to California, while the mass of people were eating anything they could get. Some eating the hides off cattle, some eating wolf, hawk and crow; some eating the flesh of cattle that had been dead for sometime. And while all this was going on it looked like there [p.87] was a splendid chance of going naked. The spirit came on Heber C. Kimball and he prophesied that goods would be had as cheap in the valley in a short time as they were in New York. Now, in the spring of 1848, I bought four potatoes of old Brother Woodbury near the size of hen eggs. I think I gave him a bit apiece for them. He brought seed enough with him to raise about three bushels. He says to me, "Are you the man that cured my son, John, of the toothache and charged him nothing?.... Yes," I said. "Well," said he, "I will make you a present of some about the size of bird eggs, just one hand full" I put one eye in a hill and had forty seven hills with a handful of sprouts left. I put them in one hill. In the fall I measured up fifteen bushels of large potatoes and verry delicious. Also the hill I put the sprouts in, turned out a patent bucket full, verry large, nice potatoes. The next spring I put in an early patch for forward use, and in due time I planted my fall crop ... And just about the time that they was in the best condition for grabling, the gold diggers came in nearly perished for vegetables, they said, and they having plenty of groceries they did not care about the price, but I tried to deal gentlemanly with them ... so I laid in goods, bacon, tea, coffee, and sugar, beside many other articles that I needed. Now my family was not only rich but well to live as regards to groceries. Now sickness was desperate bad among the gold diggers, so they had to stop here and make other arrangements and take a new start. They could take their wagons no further and could pack but little but what they must take with them to get there. Now, there was enough of every necessary of life in the valley that could not be packed away which was a sovern remedy for the blues. So they pitched their tents all along City Creek in a row like so many geese. Now, I had more calls to the sick than I could attend to and when I could not attend them in a case of fever, the Mountain Fever was very prevalent, I would tell them to jump in all over in City Creek and crawl back into their tent and cover up warm; and they seemed to recover under that treatment as fast as any other. By my services among them and interest in their behalf, I picked up considerable money, besides other articles they would let me have for almost no price, as they could not take them away and had to pack the balance ... I kept a clear conscience and had their well wishes when they left.
Among the emigrants I made money enough to buy a stable horse and the best wagon I thought I ever saw, paying sixty dollars for both ... Now I am the leading disciple in the practice of medicine. It seemed they would not make a move without me. Brother Noble's wife, within about one month of her expected sickness, had the dropsy so bad he thought she could not live until the month was out, so that she could be doctored without injury to her offspring. The doctors in the valley held a consultation over her case, and President Young with them, and they could devise no means to save the woman without destroying the infant and she could not live but a few days [p.88] without help; but they would not make a move until they sent for me. When I come they told me they could not see how the woman could be saved without destroying the child. I told them there would be no difficulty in bringing about that object. They wanted to know if I could take the water out of that woman and save them both. I said yes, I certainly can, and lobelia is the thing that will do it. I just gave her the Thompsonian course of medicine and soon had the water all out; and in due time she had a fine boy to the joy of all who was watching to see what the results would be. I do not think the medicine is yet found and probably never will be that will act in accordance with the laws of life and the intentions of nature like lobelia. No difference what the matter is nor where the obstructions are, lobelia will find it and remove the obstructions and create a healthy action. Oh wonderful medicine that will act so much like intelligence, but kayenne pepper and sweating ought always to accompany a course of medicine and also an injection.
Now, in the year 1851, I left Salt Lake to go to Parowan to live; to help strengthen the place against Indians, for they were very doubtful neighbors ... An Indian man, Dick, came to live with me and continued with me about fifteen years, and I never was acquainted with a more honest man in my life. Him and me was digging potatoes one evening and it was not time to quit work yet. An impulse struck me to look towards Cedar City. We could see the road four or five miles distant, and when I looked I saw the dust arising on the road. The impulse struck me again with force as much as to say—that is someone from Cedar wanting you to go there to doctor someone, and now cover up your potatoes with vines to keep the frost off. "Come, Dick," I said, "let us cover up our potatoes." We had just finished and met the messenger at the field gate, some two or three hundred yards from the house, saying there was a woman at Cedar that would die before morning without assistance, so I went. The woman had a rising in her breast which was expected to break inside every minute which would prove fatal; but by making an incision with a lance two inches deep it reached the corruption and she was instantly relieved and was soon well.
While living in Parowan, a man by the name of Bishop was brought to me from Buttermilk Fort, Millard County, Utah, in a bad fix with his back half bent; could not straighten up. His kidneys and urinary organs were all affected, so that he could not walk a step. I gave him nothing but burdock seeds and dandelion tea, and in twelve days he was well enough to go home rejoicing. Another incident took place in Parowan, Iron County, the same winter that Colonel Johnston came against Salt Lake City with the United States Army. There was a teamster from their army by the name of James McCann, a young man who started to go back to the states by way of California. He reached Parowan with both feet frozen above his ankles. He was left with me to have both feet amputated, as it was [p.89] thought there was no possible chance to save his life without amputation. I was at my wits end to know what to do. I saw no possible chance but amputation. An impulse seemed to strike my mind as though by inspiration, that I would give him kayenne pepper inwardly, and see what effect that would have on his frozen feet. I commenced giving him rather small doses at first, about 3 times a day. It increased the warmth and power of action in the blood to such a degree that it give him such pain and misery in his legs he could not bear it. He lay down on his back and elevated his feet up against the wall for 3 or 4 days, and then he could set up in a chair. The frozen flesh would rot and drop down from his foot when it would be on his knee, clear down to the floor, just like buckwheat batter and the new flesh would form just as fast as the dead flesh would get off the way. In fact the new flesh would seem to crowd the dead flesh out of the way to make room for the new flesh. That was all the medical treatment he had and to my astonishment, and everyone that knew of the circumstance, the sixteenth day after I give him the first dose of pepper he walked nine miles, or from Parowan to Red Creek and back, and he said he could have walked as far again. He lost but five toe nails all told. Now the healing power of nature is in the blood and to accelerate the blood is to accelerate the healing power of nature, and I am convinced there is nothing will do this like kayenne pepper, you will find it applecable in all cases of sickness.
I remained in Parowan until 1862, then I moved to Harrisburg, and while there I saw more trouble than I ever saw in all my life before. I went there well off and left there miserably broke up and all through the rascality of some of the people.
In the summer of 1884, in Kane county, in Orderville, U.T., I was called to a young lady with her first child. She had been in labor 2 or 3 days and was give up by the midwives for a surgeon who they wanted to send for right off; saying she was malformed and never could be delivered only by taking a bit at a time. They were much opposed to me and my medicine, but by the influence of friends they said I might try what I could do. I gave her the same course with the same kind of medicines as in other cases and in due time the child came.
Composition powder: Thompson's Bayberry bark 2 lbs.; hemlock bark 1 lb.; ginger root 1 lb.; cayenne pepper 2 ozs.; cloves 2 ozs.; all finely pulverized and well mixed. Dose: One half of a teaspoon and a spoonful of sugar; put them into a tea cup and pour it half full of boiling water; let it stand a few minutes. Fill the cup with milk, and drink freely. If no milk is to be obtained, fill up the cup with hot water.
This, in the first stages and less violent attacks of the disease, is a valuable medicine, and may be safely employed in all cases. It is good to relax pain in the stomach and bowels and to remove all [p.90] obstructions caused by cold. A few doses, the patient being in bed with a steaming stone at the feet, or having soaked the feet fifteen or twenty minutes in hot water, drinking freely of the tea at the same time, will cure a bad cold, and often throw off the disease in its first stages. The following are some of the herbs he used:
Stimulant Astringent Emmenagogue Bitters
lobelia bayberry bark Pennyroyal golden seal
cayenne pepper sumac Tansy mt. grape
black pepper raspberry Queen of meadow balmony
ginger cranesbill silkweed root columbo root
horseradish red dock root asafetida bitter root
cinnamon tan bark catnip bayberry bark
catnip swamp dogwood blue cohosh hops
horehound larb or urva ursa black cohosh gum myrrh
tea cinquefoil Indian root quaking asp
coffee chokecherry tansy
White Oil Ointment: Take equal parts of sweet oil and spirits of turpentine and saltpetre, a tablespoonful each, and one hen's egg. Put it into 1 pint of best vinegar, shake it well together several times. Good for rheumatism, sprains, aches and pains of any kind.
Stone in the Bladder: Take the size of a pea concentrated lye, put it in a teacup of water, when the scum rises, skim it off, pour the balance into a bottle with a glass stopper to it, except the dregs, throw that away. A half teaspoonful is a dose to dissolve the stone in the bladder, taken several times a day (communicated to me.)
Doctor Priddy Meeks also made his famous Female Relief Pills which were widely used during the early days.