The Wesselhoeft Family and Homeopathy

weimarThe Wesselhoefts were a family of famous homeopaths. The first generation to come to America from Weimar, Germany, Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft and William Wesselhoeft, opened the Battleboro Water Cure.

Several sons of this family all became eminent physicians and homeopaths.

conradConrad Wesselhoeft Snr 1834 – 1904

Brother of Robert Wesselhoeft 183? – , Conrad Snr was a graduate of Harvard Medical School in 1911. Conrad Snr was Louisa May Alcott‘s homeopath, and she dedicated her novel Jo’s Boys to Conrad Snr, her friend and physician. Louisa May Alcott relied on Conrad Wesselhoeft for her medical care for the last twenty years of her life.

Conrad Snr assisted Alcott’s companion Rhoda Ashley Lawrence to establish her homeopathic practice, and became a founder member of the Boston University Medical School. In the 1870’s Conrad Snr, then Professor of Materia Medica and therapeutics for over thirty years, became one of the first people to institute the use of control groups and placebos in drug testing.

Conrad Wesselhoeft senior attended (Anon, The Homeopathic World, Volume 43, (1908). Page 236) the 2nd International Homeopathic Congress held in London (Anon, The Medical Counselor, Volume 7, (The Michigan State Homeopathic Society, 1883). Page 347) in on 11th-18th July 1881 (Anon, The Homeopathic World, (August 1,1881)) at Aberdeen House, Argyll Street, Regent Street.

WESSELHOEFT, practicing physician of Boston, Massachusetts, was born in Weimar, Germany, March 23, 1834, the son of Robert Ferdinand and Emilia Hecker Wesselhoeft. His grandfather came to this country from Hamburg, where his father was rector of a literary college. He later settled in Jena.

In 1840 Dr. Wesselhoeft came to this country with his parents. His father settled and established a medical practice in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later removing to Brattleboro, Vermont, where he conducted an extensive hydro-therapeutic establishment.

Dr. Conrad Wesselhoeft (Snr) was educated in New England public and private schools and was a student three and one-half years at the Nicolai College, Leipsic, Germany. The death of his father, in 1852, prevented the completing of his studies abroad ; he returned to this country and entered Harvard Medical School and its adjunct, the Tremont Medical School (conducted as a private school by the faculty of the Harvard Medical School), graduating in 1856.

He has been engaged in general practice continuously in Dorchester and Boston since graduation. He has been associated with the Boston University School of Medicine since its organization in 1873, holding the position of professor of materia medica and later that of professor of pathology and therapeutics. (and Associate in Communicable Diseases at Harvard)

He also has been a member of the medical staff of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital since its organization in 1855. Dr. Wesselhoeft is a member and ex-president of the American Institute of Homeopathy; member of the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society and the Boston Homeopathic Medical Society.

He married Elizabeth Foster Pope, and has one child -Minna Wesselhoeft.

Conrad also did homeopathic provings:

For Carbo vegetabilis, the proving by Conrad Wesselhoeft gave 190 good symptoms (included by Hughes in his Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy) and defined this pathogenesis; that is not the case of Ambra grisea.

Conrad Snr’s therapeutics are still used today by modern homeopaths.

Conrad Snr was the president of the American Institute of Homeopathy and was a professional speaker at homeopathic conferences. Conrad Snr practiced in partnership with Howard Perry Bellows.

Being a German speaker, Conrad Snr was the perfect choice to edit the 5th edition of Samuel Hahnemann’s Organon of Medicine, and he collaborated on the Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy, the report of the Homeopathic Yellow Fever Commission.

Conrad Snr also wrote MUMPS: ITS GLANDULAR AND NEUROLOGIC MANIFESTATIONS, The Method of Our Work, Not Faith, is the Basis of Organization of Medical Societies, How to Study Materia Medica: Three Lectures, A lecture on homoeopathy before the members of the Boylston Medical Society (of Harvard Medical School), The Law of Similars: Its Dosage and the Action of Attenuated Medicines.

Son of William Wesselhoeft 1794 – 1852, nephew of Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft 1795 -1858, brother of Robert 183?-?

Conrad’s wife Elizabeth Foster Pope ‘Lily’ was a renowned author of children’s books.

Conrad WesselhoeftConrad Wesselhoeft Jnr 1884 – 1962

Son of Walter Wesselhoeft, grandson of Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, nephew to Conrad 1834 – 1904, graduate of Harvard Medical School and practicing homeopath?, and considered an international authority on contagious and infectious diseases, and he wrote prolifically on these subjects. Conrad Jnr was Professor Emeritus of Clinical Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.(NB: see comment below 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV – ‘… I’m pretty sure Walter’s son Conrad (my grandfather) was not a homeopath but an allopath… ‘ Sue says – ‘… I tend to agree – this is probably correct as Boston University School of Medicine had stopped practicing homeopathy by WW I – see…’).

Conrad Jnr wrote Studies in Regard to the Action of Quinine on the Malarial Plasmodia, Offprints of Conrad Wesselhoeft, 1912-1925, On the History of Malaria and Its Treatment, Collected Reprints, 1912-1925.: 1912-1925, Orchitis in Mumps, Heredity, Essays on materia medica and therapeutics: attentuations, Digitalis as a Homeopathic Remedy in Disorders of the Heart, A Review of the Question of Belladonna as a Prophylactic in Scarlet Fever, Influences Affecting the Founding of Allentown Academy, The Sixteenth Charles Value Chapin Oration: Chickenpox and Herpes Zoster, Mumps: A Review of Our Knowledge Concerning Its Etiology, The Effects of Trituration with Observations, The Homeopathic Treatment of Whooping Cough, Homeopathy in the Light of Modern Medicine, The Sphere of Homeopathic Treatment in Diphtheria, The Relative Value of Homeopathy in a Series of 485 Hospital Cases. Conrad Jnr contributed journals to the Boston Medical Library

Conrad Jnr served with the 26th Division during WW1:

First Lieutenant (Medical Corps), U.S. Army
102d Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: July 18 – 26, 1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Conrad Wesselhoeft, First Lieutenant (Medical Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action during the Aisne-Marne offensive, France, July 18 – 26, 1918. Lieutenant Wesselhoeft, despite intense machine-gun and artillery fire, courageously established an operated his aid stations close to the front lines. On July 18, 1918, when the infantry retired, he maintained his aid station in advance of our own front lines, refused to leave the wounded unattended, and remained with them until the lines were reestablished.
General Orders No. No. 3, W.D., 1935
Home Town: Boston, MA

Captain (Medical Corps), U.S. Army
102d Infantry (Attached), 26th Division, A.E.F.
Date of Action: November 8, 1918
The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Conrad Wesselhoeft, Captain (Medical Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Verdun, France, November 8, 1918. Captain Wesselhoeft went forward, under heavy machine-gun fire, to the aid of a wounded soldier. The fire was so heavy that they were compelled to remain in the shell hole until nightfall, when he brought the wounded man to our lines.
General Orders No. 23, W.D., 1919
Home Town: Boston, MA

Wife Frances Gordon Kittredge Wesselhoeft, the daughter of George Lyman Kittredge.

conradConrad Wesselhoeft 185?

Son of Walter 1838 – 1920 was also a homeopath.

ww2Conrad Wesselhoeft III ?-?

Also see comment below dated 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV for the obituary of  – Conrad Wesselhoeft, Jr., age 88, of Tuscaloosa, died Sunday morning, July 24, 2011

Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft 1795 – 1852

The Wesselhoeft brothers William and Robert Ferdinand suffered persecution in Germany and Robert Ferdinand was confined in the fortress at Magdeburg for being a member of the Burschenschaften:

Robert Ferdinand, who had been a lawyer in Weimar and an officer of the government, was arrested with other members of the Burschenschaften, and for seven years was kept in mild imprisonment, but on the accession of Frederick William IV of Prussia, he was released, returned to Jena, married, and was given his old government position. But his principles were too liberal, and he was requested by the authorities to leave Europe and take up his abode in America. continue reading:

Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft and his immediate family sailed to the United States in 1840 to meet his brother, Wilhelm Wesselhoeft a homeopathic physician. Robert Ferdinand studied under his brother and at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his medical degree from the University of Basel.

His particular medical interest was hydrotherapeutics. After school he began practicing with his brother in Cambridgeport and Boston. In 1841, Mr. Lovell Farr of Brattleboro, Vermont contacted Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft for his assistance in his wife’s illness, which was believed to be hopeless. Upon visiting Brattleboro he discovered that air and water was free and clear of all mineral substances unlike Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In 1843, he established one of the largest hydropath, water cure experiment in the country and served more than three-hundred-ninety-two patients. Among some of his clients were Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Ward Howe.

Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, brother of Dr. William Wesselhoeft was the first homeopathic physician in Cambridge. He was a graduate of Basle, and came to America in 1840 and settled in Cambridge in the summer of 1841. He practiced there four years. In 1845 he removed to Boston, and a year later went to Brattleboro, Vt., where he founded a hydropathic establishment which employed homeopathic medication.

Robert Ferdinand was viciously attacked by Oliver Wendell Holmes, an allopath who attacked homeopathy, but Holmes’s friend, author and homeopathic supporter Nathaniel Hawthorne lampooned the both of them in his novel Rappaccini’s Daughter. Almost forty years later, Holmes confessed that was pleased with “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” which is a kind of fictional resolution to that unblessed scandal.

Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft never answered these charges publicly, but he did express his resentment in the course of seventeen letters to a personal friend. These letters were later privately printed as “Some Remarks on Dr. O.W. Holmes’ Lectures on Homeopathy and Its Kindred Delusion; Communicated to a Friend by Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, Homeopathic Physician in Cambridge.”

Robert Ferdinand went on to open Battleboro Hydropathic Institution. Shortly after Robert Ferdinand’s death, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote another novel called The Blithedale Romance, based on Robert Ferdinand and his neighbour Margaret Fuller. continue reading:

In the 1840’s, a new enterprise was launched on Elliot Street (west of the historic district) that soon gave Brattleboro a national reputation as an extraordinarily attractive summer resort. Dr. Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft opened his establishment for hydropathic physical therapy in 1845 using the water from numerous pure springs along Whetstone Brook.

The venture proved immediately successful; the following year, some 400 patients overflowed its facilities. The ‘water-cure’ attracted a wealthy and sophisticated clientele from throughout the country, especially Southerners who sought refuge from the heat and humidity of their regional climate. The influx of visitors contributed substantially to the village’s commercial success.

The available means of travel to Brattleboro must have constrained somewhat the success of the Wesselhoeft establishment during its first four seasons. In February, 1849, however, the railroad era arrived in Battleboro with the opening of the Vermont and Massachusetts line to the cities of the southern Connecticut Valley. continue reading:

Hydrotherapy was first used by Hippocrates and was incorporated into the healing practices of the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. It was revived in the 19th century by Vincent Priessnitz, who is often referred to as the father of the hydrotherapy movement (Robert Ferdinand claimed that he was cured of rheumatic fever by Priessnitz). “Hydropathy,” as it was termed at the time, was introduced to the United States in the 1840s by Robert Ferdinand Wesselhoeft, a former patient of Priessnitz.

Dr. Joel Shew, a hydropath and an authority in the movement, authored many books and manuals about hydropathy and published the Water Cure Journal, a monthly magazine boasting a circulation of 50,000. continue reading:

The water cure in America: over three hundred cases of various diseases treated with water, by Drs. Wesselhoeft, Shew, Bedortha, Shieferdecker, Trall, Nichols, and others. With cases of domestic practice ; designed for popular as well as professional reading / edited by a water patient.

and many others, including David Ruggles, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catharine Beecher, Mary S Gove Nichols (a women’s rights campaigner)

The Water Cure in America: Two Hundred and Twenty Cases of Various Diseases

Treatment of malignant scarlet fever at the water cure.

Robert Ferdinand was a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

pillsRobert Wesselhoeft II 183? –

Robert Wesselhoeft was also a homeopath

Brother of Conrad Wesselhoeft 1834 – 1904

Robert had two sons, Conrad and Walter.  (see comment below dated 12.2.12 from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV – Robert had three sons: Conrad, Reinhold, and Walter. Lt. Reinhold Wesselhoeft served with the Massachusetts 20th Regiment during the Civil War. He died at Battle of Balls Bluff, in October, 1861) Conrad and Walter were both professors at the homeopathic medical school at Boston University).

Robert Wesselhoeft ?-? (grandson of Walter) Robert fought in WW2 and was very badly injured fighting in South West China. (nephew of Massachusetts Sen. Leverett Saltonstall) See comment 12.2.12 below from Conrad Wesselhoeft IV ‘… It was Walter’s grandson Robert, not Conrad, who contracted polio in the China-Burma theater during WWII. The story of his jungle rescue was later told on national radio by Chet Huntley and captured by comic strip artist Milton Caniff in a nationally syndicated strip featuring courageous actions in war…’

doctorRobert Wesselhoeft III ? – still alive

Robert Wesselhoeft III was one of a vanishing breed of physicians who give their patients not only quality healthcare but the gift of time, even if it causes a backlog in the waiting room. But his patients rarely minded the wait because they knew they would receive the same attention from the man they all called Toby. For 19 years, Dr. Wesselhoeft was primary care physician at the Boston Evening Medical Center, a community center in the Back Bay. He became its medical director in 1989 and … continue reading:

Watch what you eat and drink. Alcohol, strong spices and MSG are the prime dietary causes of flushing, says Robert Wesselhoeft III, M.D., director of family medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

… and still practicing in Boston today…..

walterWalter Wesselhoeft 1838 – 1920

Son of Robert Wesselhoeft 183? , Brother of Conrad Wesselhoeft 1834 – 1904, nephew to Conrad 1834 – 1904. Walter also had a son called Conrad who was also a homeopath.

Homeopathic physician, Professor of Clinical Medicine, anatomy and Obstetrics at the Boston University School of medicine 1873 – 1909. Original faculty member of Boston University School of Medicine.

Walter was born in Weimar, Saxe-Weimar, Germany, the son of Robert and Ferdinanda Emilia Wesselhoeft, and is of German descent. His paternal grandfather was a publisher, his maternal grandfather a clergyman, and his father a medical practitioner who was graduated in the University of Basle and later emigrated to America.

Walter Wesselhoeft attended the village school of Battleboro, Vermont, William Atkinson’s school in Boston and the classical schools at Apolda and Weimar. He studied for his profession in the University of Halle and Jena, Germany, and Harvard Medical School, from which latter institution he was graduated in 1859.

One year after his graduation Dr. Wesselhoeft located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, remaining there until 1870. At the outbreak of the Franco-German war he returned to his native country to offer his services as surgeon in the German army. Finding no place open, he devoted two years to the study of anatomy, histology and practice under Koelliker and von Recklinghausen …. gynaecology and ophthalmology under Simon and Becker in Heidelberg ; and obstetrics under Seyfarth in Prague and Braun in Vienna.

In 1873 he returned to America and settled in Cambridge, where he engaged in a general practice. Dr. Wesselhoeft has held the positions of visiting physician to the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital and senior physician to the maternity department of that hospital; professor of obstetrics (clinical), Boston University School of Medicine. Prior to holding this professorship he was instructor in anatomy and physiology in the same institution, and he is now professor of clinical medicine there.

He is a member of the American Institute of Homeopathy, the Massachusetts Homeopathic Medical Society, the Boston Homeopathic Medical Society; corresponding member of the British Homeopathic Society and of the Mexican Homeopathic Medical Society, member of the Massachusetts Reform Club, and the Hughes Medical Club.

Dr. Wesselhoeft has been twice married : first to Mary S. Fraser of Halifax, N. S., and second to Mary A. Leavitt of Cambridge. He is the father of seven children.

William Wesselhoeft 1794 – 1858

William’sbiographer Elizabeth Palmer Peabody was the daughter of a homeopath.

As has been stated, the companion of Henry Detwiller in the first investigation in Pennsylvania of the truth of homeopathy was Dr. William Wesselhoeft of Bath in Northampton county.

He was the second son of Karl Wesselhoeft, who, with his brother-in-law, Friedrich Frommann, owned the largest publishing house in the university town of Jena during the palmy days of Saxe-Weimar. William was born in 1794 and when he was four years old his father moved from Chemnitz.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a frequent visitor in the Wesselhoeft home. Wesselhoeft’s son, William, became Johann Wolfgang von Goethe‘s protege.

When he was ten years of age Johann Wolfgang von Goethe took a kindly interest in his education and gave him pencils and paper and friendly advice, in order to foster a love for drawing, for he believed that art was an essential to early education, and he himself excelled in it.

Nor did Karl, the father, stint these educational advantages, though impoverished by the wars with Napoleon. He had residing in his family as private tutor to his children the celebrated De Wette, afterward professor of theology at Berlin and later at Basle; and after De Wette, Grossman, who became superintendent of the Lutheran churches at Leipsic.

This family school consisted of William, his brothers Edward and Robert, his sister Wilhelmina, and a ward of his uncle Frommann, Minna Herzlied, celebrated in the “Memoirs of Goethe” as one of the ladies who for a time held the sentimental poet’s heart.

In 1809 Wesselhoeft became a pupil at the Real Schule of Nuremburg, then under the direction of Gotthilf Henrich von Schubert, the great natural philosopher and psychologist, in whose autobiography may be found frequent mention of young Wesselhoeft. Here, besides studying Latin and Greek, he began his profound studies in the natural sciences, including anatomy, of which he was very fond, becoming very expert in anatomical drawings. His botanical studies also were extensive, and he prepared a valuable hortus siccus.

During his student life, he was in the habit of making extensive tours for the purpose of explorations in botany, mineralogy and geology, and his collections of mineral and geological specimens were given to Dr. Adolph Douai for the benefit of the students in the Perkins Institution for the Blind.

Our young savant also studied transcendental physics with the celebrated Oken. In 1813, being nineteen years old, he entered the University of Jena, graduating there seven years afterward as doctor of medicine, having perfected his general and medical education at the Universities of Berlin and Wurzburg, at each of which he resided for a season, and at which he passed the second and third examinations necessary in Germany to obtain a license to practice medicine.

Wesselhoeft was not only a scholar of parts but also an attractive man of the world. At this time Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was much interested in meteorology, and Wesselhoeft enjoyed making observations of the clouds for him at the observatory at Jena.

Wesselhoeft was in sympathy with the young patriots who had returned from German army service, in which struggle Koerner fell in 1806. When in Berlin in 1819 he became intimate with “Old Jahn,” who invented the modern system of gymnastics and had in Berlin a gymnasium as early as 1811.

It was the time of the Burschenschaften in Germany, or secret political societies to promote nationality; and William and Robert Wesselhoeft, who were students at Jena, were very active in promoting these organizations. These Burschenschaften were betrayed by a traitor and many were arrested, among them William and Robert Wesselhoeft.

William, who was at the time pursuing his studies at Berlin, was thrown into the political prison, and Robert was confined in the fortress at Magdeburg. William escaped after a two months’ imprisonment and was for a long time concealed in his father’s house at Jena.

Then young Dr. William wished to go to the assistance of the Greeks, who were struggling for freedom. He became surgeon to the German Philhellenen and started well equipped with surgical appliances. Indeed so ample was the quantity of lint and of bandages prepared by his sister Wilhelmina, his friend Ferdinanda, and others in the secret, that it is said to have served him all his life.

When he arrived at Marseilles an injunction was laid on the vessel, and no more volunteers could go to Greece. From Marseilles he went to Switzerland, where were his friends Fallen and Beck and De Wette, who had found positions at the University of Basle.

In this university Wesselhoeft also found employment as demonstrator of anatomy and assistant oculist. He remained there two years, and spent his vacations in tours among the lofty mountains not only for love of natural science but for the picturesque.

During the later years of his life he often talked of revisiting Switzerland, and the last picture he purchased was a painting of the Alps reminding him, as he said, of his own youth.

But there was interference by the allied powers with the German refugees, driving Drs. Follen and Beck from Switzerland, and compelling Wesselhoeft to leave for America at the same time. Some letters showing his sympathy with Follen had fallen into the hands of the despots.

He sailed from Antwerp and was four months on the voyage. On his arrival he went to Lehigh county, Pa., where lived a German family he had known at home.

From there he went to Northampton county, seeking a place to practice, and finally settled at Bath, where the population was largely German. Soon after Wesselhoeft had come to America certain of his old classmates had become interested in homeopathy and wrote to him to test the medicines.

His old friend and teacher John Ernst Stapf sent him the Organon provings, together with homeopathic medicines. At first it seemed absurd to him, but a love of fair play to the man who had devoted so much time to this new materia medica induced him to test its virtues. Infinitesimal doses were hardest to accept.

His first experiment was in a case of ozena whose symptoms indicated Hahnemann’s thirtieth dilution of some medicine. He said:

“I was really ashamed to give the thirtieth dilution and substituted the sixth.”

When he went the next day his patient was sitting up in bed, the symptoms much worse and she very angry. The disease was cured, however, without another dose.

Among his first successes was his treatment of croup with spongia and hepar. He communicated these cases to John Eberhard Freitag, Henry Detweiller and to others, and they engaged in personal investigation. So great was the confidence in him that his patients were willing to take the small doses that he soon began to prescribe.

William co-founded the first homeopathic medical schools in Allentown and Pennsylvania, and he treated Emily Dickinson.

The story of the first provers’ union, the first society, the Allentown Academy, with all which Wesselhoeft was identified, will appear in proper sequence. When the success of the academy became doubtful, Constantine Hering went to Philadelphia and Wesselhoeft to Allentown to try to support the institution.

In 1842 Wesselhoeft decided to remove to Boston…. in less than eight years after Henry Detweiller and Wesselhoeft had made their first practical demonstrations of homeopathy the number of converts had so increased that a medical society was formed, and just a little later these same determined pioneers had the courage to go beyond society organization and found a school of homeopathic medical instruction….

The Hahnemannian Society was the pioneer organization of homeopathy in Pennsylvania and indeed in the entire country, and dates its history to April 10, 1833, when Drs. Ihm, Bute, Matlack, Constantine Hering and Wesselhoeft, with a few laymen, associated themselves for the purpose of disseminating among the people some knowledge of the history and doctrines of homeopathy, and its advantages over other methods of medical treatment. continue reading:

William was influential amongst the most influential of American Homeopaths at this time including Henry Detweiller, Constantine Hering, John Eberhard Freitag and many many others.

Williamand his brother Robert founded the Battleboro Water Cure in Vermont.

Wilhelm was a physician who practice and taught the principles of homeopathy. He also founded one of the first homeopathic societies in the country, Northampton County Society of Laymen and Physicians in Pennsylvania.

William worked closely with Mary Florence Taft.

William was vice president of the AMERICAN OBSTETRICAL SOCIETY

williamWilliam Fessenden WESSELHOEFT 1862-1943

Chief Surgeon at the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital and Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Boston University School of medicine.

Commissioned Major September 17, 1917. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel October 18, 1918. Director and Chief Surgical Service, Base Hospital N. 44, Camp Dix, N. J. April 1918 and A.E.F. July 1918. Temporary duty Mobile Hospital N. 4, A.E.F. Overseas France, nine months. Discharged April 29, 1919.

William was the Commanding Officer of the Base Hospital #44 which was organised by the Massachusetts Memorial Hospital.

William was the father of Mrs. L Saltonstall, the wife of Governor Saltonstall of Massacheusetts.

The Wesselhoefts were friends of George Lyman Kittredge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Francis John Higginson, brother of Thomas Wentworth Higginson.

The Swift and Wesselhoeft Family Collection family archive is located at the University of Massachusetts Manuscript Collections.

With thanks to Linda Englemann, the Annals of Brattleboro by Mary R. Cabot are all online. Her great-grandfather, Christian F. Schuster, who came to the States around 1840 and was hired by Robert Wesselhoeft as musical director at the Wesselhoeft Water Cure (Hydropathic Establishment) in 1845. Vol. II, pages 563-575 contains an extensive section on the Wesselhoeft Water Cure, and it mentions the musical evenings there.

18 thoughts on “The Wesselhoeft Family and Homeopathy”

  1. I am going to Brattleboro, VT this weekend (May 2-4, 2008) to research more about my great-grandfather, Christian F. Schuster, who came to the States around 1840 and was hired by Robert W. as musical director at the Wesselhoeft Water Cure (Hydropathic Establishment) in 1845. I don’t know how long he was at the water cure, but he was also organist at the Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro for 19 years.
    I wonder if you have any information about him?
    Thanks so much.


    Carlisle – Dr. Robert “Toby” Wesselhoeft III, 63, of Carlisle, formerly of Concord and Chatham, died Monday April 16, 2007, at his Carlisle home after a long battle with lung cancer. He was the husband of Dianne E. (Groh) Wesselhoeft.

    Born in Boston on April 10, 1944, he was the son of the late Robert Wesselhoeft Jr. and Nancy (Stevens) Wesselhoeft. He grew up in Chatham and attended Chatham public schools. From 1958 to 1962, he attended Mount Hermon School in Gill where he served as social chairman for his high school class, graduating in 1962.

    In 1966, he received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown University. He later graduated from Boston University Medical School, received a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins and a master’s degree from Tufts University Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy. He was fluent in Spanish and conversant in German.

    For many years Dr. Wesselhoeft served as a physician and medical director at the Boston Evening Medical Center-MGH, which began as a working man’s health center in Back Bay. His international health experience led him to clerkships in Scotland and Zululand, South Africa and finally to a family clinic located in the little town of Owaka on New Zealand’s South Island. He was a deep admirer of Albert Schweitzer, particularly of his work in Lambarene, South Africa.

    Dr Wesselhoeft was a dedicated pioneer of family medicine for more than 25 years, in Boston and at Tufts University School of Medicine. Starting in the early 1980s, he sought to develop an academic home for family medicine that would emphasize patient-centered care and humanistic values, and would encourage medical students to choose primary care careers. With determination he successfully expanded the role of family medicine by establishing academic Family Medicine at Tufts University Medical School in 1995, and subsequently becoming the school’s first chief of family medicine.

    A longtime member of First Parish in Concord, he was a devoted religious education teacher, compassionate member of the Pastoral Care Team, and a valued volunteer at the Greeley Foundation.

    He was extremely active in alumni affairs with Mount Hermon School (now Northfield Mount Hermon School) serving on the Alumni Council and for many years as reunion chair for the class of 1962. He was awarded an alumni citation for his continual support and service to the school in 1992. His classmates regarded him as their spiritual leader and the individual most responsible for keeping them in touch with one another.

    An avid Red Sox fan, his enthusiastic love of baseball was contagious and extended to his friends and neighbors, sharing his joy in the hosting of a Sky Box Party at Fenway Park in celebration of his 60th birthday. A volunteer Little League coach for many seasons, Dr. Wesselhoeft was also the originator of the Emerson Field Family Pick-up Baseball Games on summer Sunday afternoons. In addition, he co-initiated the Cooperstown Concord-Carlisle Minutemen team for 10-year-olds who compete at the Cooperstown Dreams Park against young players from all across the United States.

    He was a master cider presser and took great pleasure in running a small family business with his sons selling Wesselhoeft Family Cider at Carlisle’s Farmers Market.

    His keen interest in reconnecting with his German relatives in Hamburg, Germany led him and his wife and children to form strong bonds with his many relatives which has lead to the organizing of the famed Wesselhoeft family reunions held both here and abroad. Traveling off the beaten trail he led his family through many adventures in rural Mexico, Germany and Austria, visiting over the years his multiple children sponsored through Save the Children organization.

    Dr. Wesselhoeft’s unbounded enthusiasm, unflagging energy and generosity of spirit attracted a wide circle of long-term friends and acquaintances. With his warm and caring ways, he was beloved by many and returned their devotion with sincere and unaffected affection. He was a deeply compassionate man for whom spirituality and service to others were focal points of his life.

    In addition to his wife, Dianne, he is survived by three sons, William Johannes Wesselhoeft, Robert Alexander Wesselhoeft IV and Christian Matthias Wesselhoeft, all of Carlisle; a sister, Susan Weinz of Belfast, Maine, and a stepbrother, John C. Whitehurst of San Antonio, Texas. He was also the brother of the late Marjorie Kramer.

  3. Hi Margaret Hoffmann

    Thank you so very much for sending me the biography of Robert “Toby” Wesselhoeft III – another great member of an astonishing family!


  4. He was a well-loved cousin and tremendously missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him.

  5. Walter Wesselhoeft (1838-1920) was married to Mary A. Leavitt, daughter of the famous engenieer Ersamus Darwin Leavitt. His sister-in-law, Annie Leavitt, was married to Paul van Daell, a Wall Street stockbroker. Paul and Annie were divorced before 1918. After the divorce, their two daughters, Irmgart (born in 1902) and Margaret (born in 1904), lived a wile with their uncle and aunt, Walter and Mary Leavitt Wesselhoeft, in Boston-Cambridge. They were well educated in the arts and graduated both from Wellesley College. I wonder if there is some more information about Irmgart and Margaret and their stay within the Leavitt and Wesselhoeft family. Thank you.

  6. Very fascinating about the Wesselhoeft family. I am actually researching the descendants of the William Nyren Silver family of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mary Sarah Fraser (first wife of Walter Wesselhoeft, 1838-1920) is a granddaughter of William Nyren Silver.

  7. Hey,

    I’m William Johannes Wesselhoeft, and Robert III was my dad. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at [email protected] and I will be as helpful as I can be with informing you about my family’s history or present situation. Thanks for saying such nice things about my family :)

  8. Re Silver Family
    I believe I have some old photos of members of the silver family, including Mary Sarah Fraser, not sure who is who, some are labeled. Contact me anytime.
    [email protected]
    Dianne Wesselhoeft (widow of Robert, III)

  9. Hi Sue,

    Thanks for this great compilation of Wesselhoeft family history!

    I’d like to add to the lineup another great Conrad Wesselhoeft–aka “Pete”–of Tuscaloosa, AL. He was a lion in our family–with all of the wisdom, strength, compassion, and wit one could hope for in a patriarch. Here’s the obituary that ran in the Tuscaloosa News last summer (2011):

    TUSCALOOSA Conrad Wesselhoeft, Jr., age 88, of Tuscaloosa, died Sunday morning, July 24, 2011, at North River Village in Tuscaloosa. He had been in frail health since suffering a stroke in February. Graveside services will be 11 a.m. Friday at Tuscaloosa Memorial Park with Dr. Charles Durham and Dr. Ken Dunivant officiating and Tuscaloosa Memorial Chapel Funeral Home & Cremation Service directing.

    The son of Dr. Conrad Wesselhoeft and Frances Gordon Wesselhoeft, “Wess” was raised in Boston, Mass., in a medical and literary family. His ancestors served as homeopathic physicians to a glittering array of 19th century writers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, and Louisa May Alcott. The last dedicated her novel, “Jo‘s Boys,” a sequel to “Little Women,” to his great-uncle, Dr. Conrad Wesselhoeft.

    Wess attended Dexter School and Milton Academy in Boston and graduated from Harvard University, specializing in metallurgy. In 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with the Field Artillery in Alaska and the Philippines. Discharged in 1946, he traveled extensively through Central America. On his return to the United States, Wess took a job with the U.S. Steel Corporation in Birmingham, working as a metallurgist, salesman, and product manager. One night at a party, he met the beautiful Sara Jackson, who would become his wife of 40 years.

    In 1954, Wess partnered with Charles A. Snyder to found Dixie Steel & Supply in Tuscaloosa. The company specialized in the manufacture of steel tanks. Between 1958 and 1976, Wess and various business partners launched nine companies: Gulf Tank and Fabricating, Panama City, Fla. (1958); Sylacauga Tank Corp. (1961); Atmore Tank Corp. (1961); Southern Heat Exchanger Corp., Tuscaloosa (1963); Tuscaloosa Warehouse Corp. (1965); Southern Resins, Moundville (1968); Dexol Plastics, Tuscaloosa (1969); Coral Industries, Tuscaloosa (1971); and Southern Tank Lining, Lake City, Fla. (1976).

    Industry downturns in the early 1980s forced him to sell or reorganize his holdings in these companies. However, these setbacks brought out the best in him—a mix of courage, resilience, and tenacity. He abided by Rudyard Kipling’s maxim: “Start again at your beginnings, and never breathe a word about your loss.”

    In 1985, he established Wesselhoeft, Inc. in Moundville. This includes the divisions B&W Heads, which manufactures tank heads, and Anne’s Anchors, which makes all-steel mushroom boat anchors.

    In the mid-1960s, Wess joined a group of citizens seeking to build an independent school in Tuscaloosa with a robust college preparatory curriculum. In 1967, Tuscaloosa Academy opened with 113 students in rented space in old Northington Army Hospital. Today, the school occupies an expansive campus and serves nearly 400 students.

    Wess had a special place in his heart for Cape Cod, Mass., where he spent boyhood summers sailing beetle cats and playing baseball. He returned every summer to his beloved 19th Century Cape home, “The Yellow House,” and to his wide circle of lifelong friends.

    An avid writer with a Mark Twain-ish glint, he maintained a wide correspondence with friends and family, to whom he sent a steady stream of “joint communiqués” on a host of subjects—from how to build a daiquiri, to Civil War battles, to thoughts on the common cold.

    On his eighty-fifth birthday, the Barnstable Patriot of Massachusetts published this tribute: “The great Shakespearean scholar George Lyman Kittredge (your grandfather) once confronted a student asserting the right to his opinion. ‘No man, sir,’ Kittredge replied, ‘has the right to his opinion until he makes himself acquainted with the facts.’ You, sir, know the facts, and we value your opinion. With love from your many family members and friends across this great land.”

    On the Cape, he manufactured shell necklaces, which he presented to every female in the room. He kept a huge box of drumsticks in the trunk of his Lincoln Continental, which he distributed to drummers and non-drummers alike. His greatest joy was watching his grandsons play baseball.

    Wess was the perfect blend of Yankee ingenuity and Southern charm. He loved the wisdom of Shakespeare, the wit of Oscar Wilde, and the romance of Rudyard Kipling. To family members across the country, he was the patriarch—gentle, wise and compassionate.

    Until his February stroke, he lived life to the hilt, working hard and savoring every day. “I consider myself mammothly lucky,” he wrote.

    He was preceded in death by his wife, Sara, and his son, Robert.

    Survivors include daughter Anne Smalley (Jack) and grandsons Robert and Conrad Smalley of Tuscaloosa.

    In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Tuscaloosa Academy, the First Presbyterian Church of Tuscaloosa, or the First Methodist Church of Tuscaloosa. Published in Tuscaloosa News on July 28, 2011


    Also Sue, just a few changes needed in the biographical info: 1). Conrad Jr. was the son of Walter, and grandson of Robert (not the son of Robert). 2). Robert had three sons: Conrad, Reinhold, and Walter. Lt. Reinhold Wesselhoeft served with the Massachusetts 20th Regiment during the Civil War. He died at Battle of Balls Bluff, in October, 1861. 3). It’s Frances Gordon Kittredge Wesselhoeft (not Kittrich.) She was the daughter of George Lyman Kittredge. 4). I’m pretty sure Walter’s son Conrad (my grandfather) was not a homeopath but an allopath. 5). It was Walter’s grandson Robert, not Conrad, who contracted polio in the China-Burma theater during WWII. The story of his jungle rescue was later told on national radio by Chet Huntley and captured by comic strip artist Milton Caniff in a nationally syndicated strip featuring courageous actions in war.

    This is all minor compared to the major research you’ve done–thanks! There are so many Roberts and Conrads in our family that I, too, struggle to keep them straight. I’m Conrad IV (I think).

    Very best,

    Conrad Wesselhoeft IV
    Seattle, WA

  10. Hi Conrad

    Thanks so much for the obit and for the corrections – all duly made (correctly – I hope!!)

    I am delighted that the family of the Wesselhoefts are all doing so well and are all so interested in their family history – which is so very fascinating and – of interest to so many people. How wonderful to be a member of such an illustrious family. I very much enjoyed doing this research as the Wesselhoeft brothers really started something here… and historians and researchers will mine these riches for many years to come!!

    All the best

  11. Regarding Walter’s son Conrad’s approach to medicine, a 1973 article from Centerscope (a Boston University School of Medicine publication) says that he “would break family tradition and convert from homeopathy to “regular medicine.””

    It further notes that he wrote a paper in 1920 in which he stated that antitoxin, rather than homeopathy, was the proper treatment for diphtheria, and that this “caused him to resign from the American Institute of Homeopathy and join the Massachusetts Medical Society.”

    This suggests that he initially practiced as a homeopath, but moved into “regular medicine” a few years into his career.


  12. Conrad Wesselhoeft definitely practiced homeopathy for several years and some of his papers can be found in the New England Medical Gazette (a homeopathic journal of which he was an associate editor) and the J. American Institute of Homeopathy between 1910 and 1921. He published some interesting clinical trials of homeopathy which were placebo-controlled and showed no difference between homeopathy and placebo in preventing or treating scarlet fever or in treating constipation. He also wrote a praiseworthy account of Hahnemann as late as 1921. The tone of his papers is one of even balance – not at all partisan and just out to find the facts as best he can. Eventually as A’Llyn pointed out, he renounced his membership of AIH but I would doubt if he entirely abandoned the principles of homeopathy, just as he may never have bought into it wholeheartedly in the first place. He was trained at Harvard and all along subscribed to “allopathy” as much as “homeopathy”.

    According to Paul Dudley White, a friend of Conrad Wesselhoeft, Conrad’s father had wanted his son to bring together homeopathy and allopathy and a dual training put him in an excellent position to comment first hand on both. Like most practicing doctors with good common sense, he was driven more by what worked rather than what the theory said and seems to have found homeopathy wanting after taking a long and close look.

    During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s and even 1950s, he published regularly in the leading journals like JAMA and NEJM – on a wide array of subjects – and his articles are still cited today. The New England Journal of Medicine, which is sparing in its obituaries, carried an extensive and fulsome obituary upon his death – a clear sign of how distinguished he was.

  13. Dear Sue: I find your blog most interesting. I am a great granddaughter of Dr. Walter Wesselhoeft (1839-1920). I am currently writing a biography of his female descendants (who favored the arts rather than the sciences). I was intrigued by the post by Kristiana Silver. My question to her is: Does she know anything about cousin Uma Silver, who lived in Paris in the mid 1920’s, when she had an art studio and gave lessons to her cousin Eleanor Hoffmann. I would appreciate your passing this question on to her. Thank you.

  14. Hello Sue,
    as I am preparing a study about Dr. Charles Munde (1805-1887) and David Ruggles (1810-1849) and the water-cure establishment in Florence/ Northampton, I am very much interested in some more details about the treatment of the black abolishionist David Ruggles by Dr. Robert Wesselhöft in Cambridge in the early 1840th. Do you have got any further information about Robert Wesselhoeft(1796-1852) and his correspondence or anything else as far as D. Ruggles and the the water-cure in Florence are concerned.
    I´d appreciate your reply and with best regards,

    Hubertus Averbeck

  15. See Jonathan Davidson, A Century of Homeopaths: Their Influence on Medicine and Health, (Springer 2014). Note his excellent essay The Wesselhoefts: A medical dynasty from the age of Goethe to the era of nuclear medicine.
    ‘… Abstract: For six generations, members of the Wesselhoeft family have practiced medicine in Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Canada and/or the USA. In the early decades of the 19th century, two Wesselhoeft brothers left Europe to eventually settle in New England, where they and their progeny gave rise to a regional medical dynasty. The Wesselhoeft doctors became well-known practitioners of homeopathy, hydropathy, conventional medicine and surgery, in academic and general clinical settings. An additional connection was established to the literary worlds of Germany and the USA, either through friendships or as personal physicians…’

  16. I live in a home built for Mrs. L. F. Wesselhoeft in Dighton, Mass.
    (by architect H.W. Gardner of 15 Beacon St. Boston, Mass.) Any info on this lady is appreciated. The house was built about a 1900s on the George Hathaway farm.

  17. Dr. Toby was an incredible physician and he helped me and my family for years navigating complex health issues. BEMC was a god send for families in the neighborhood we grew up in mainly because you could get appointments there after 4pm. No need to take a day off from work to check in with Dr. Toby! I still go to that location though its been taken over by MGH (and has lost a lot of the warmth). Still, I’ve never forgotten him and have become a patient care advocate in part due to his great care. He gave me a great foundation as a teen to speak up, ask questions, and don’t be afraid of the doctor. Thanks for this wonderful info on his family!

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