14 responses to “The Wesselhoeft Family and Homeopathy”

  1. Linda Engelmann

    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.

  2. Margaret Hoffmann


    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. Margaret Hoffmann

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

  4. Eric van Daal

    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.

  5. Kristiana Silver

    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.

  6. William


    I’m William Johannes Wesselhoeft, and Robert III was my dad. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at yellowcoat@gmail.com 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 :)

  7. Dianne Wesselhoeft

    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.
    Dianne Wesselhoeft (widow of Robert, III)

  8. Conrad Wesselhoeft

    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

  9. A'Llyn Ettien

    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.


  10. Jonathan Davidson

    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.

  11. Caroline Williams

    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.

  12. Dr. Hubertus Averbeck

    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

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