Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Zerubbabel Endecott, 17th-century physician and pharmacist

Remedies guaranteed to cure hypochondria and malingering! 
Short life sketch of Zerubbabel Endecott

© 2013 Christy K Robinson

Print by Jan van der Bruggen, 1665-1690.
Interior of a surgery with a surgeon seated
on a barrel and operating on a peasant man,
an old woman standing with her arm in a sling,
several shelves on walls in background,
a stuffed animal hanging from ceiling. Mezzotint.
 Be very glad for modern scientific research, sterility, and effective and measured anesthesia, none of which were known in 17th-century Europe or North America. You wouldn't want your childbirth pain treated with cat's blood and human milk, curing your nosebleed with hog's dung, or your seizures treated with Salt of Man's Skull (exactly as it sounds).

Gov. John Endecott was the man I call the “Hammer of the Quakers.” He sentenced Quaker missionaries to severe whippings, starvation and exposure, imprisonment, and death. He sentenced Mary Dyer to death by hanging for her civil disobedience, and countenanced the brutal torture and incarceration of Quakers throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Baptists were also treated in an extremely harsh manner from at least 1650 on.

Gov. John Endecott had fathered an illegitimate son in England in the 1610s or 1620s, but wrote at least one letter saying that although he was providing some money for his upkeep, the boy was not to be sent to New England under any circumstances. John been married in England in the mid-1620s to an Anna Gover, but they had no children, and she died soon after her arrival in Massachusetts Bay. In August 1630, he married the widow Mrs. Elizabeth Gibson. She bore him two sons, John Jr., and Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was born about 1635 in Salem.
The Maypole of Merry Mount: Thomas Morton & the Puritan Patriarchs, By Richard Drinnon  The Massachusetts Review Vol. 21, No. 2
(Summer, 1980), pp. 382-410 (29 pages)

When he was about 18 years of age, Zerubbabel was accused of raping his mother’s indentured lace-maker, Elizabeth Due/Dew. Testimony of other female servants told of Zerubbabel's serial sexual harassment and that they didn't want to be left alone with him. The servant girl Elizabeth, who gave birth in 1653-54, continued to accuse Zerubbabel even after her trial for slander, two serious public whippings totaling about 30 lashes, being released from her indenture early as a hush-reward, being hurriedly married off to another servant, Cornelius Hulett, who endured a whipping he didn't deserve, and told to leave.

As part of my research, I found some Hulett/Hewlett young adults in Rhode Island about 20-30 years later, but could not connect them with Elizabeth and Cornelius, so there's no proof they were related. Elizabeth and Cornelius disappeared from records, and I wonder if they changed their surname, died of a disease, lived off the grid (to use an anachronism), or moved back to England. 

Gov. John Endecott was not having his first grandchild born illegitimately, and of rape, to a mere servant girl, and he was not chaining his son to her for life, as the courts usually did after publicly whipping both fornicating parties.
Gov. John Endecott in the 1650s.
He may be wearing the lace made
by his wife's abused servant.

After his shameful conduct for which he was never tried, Zerub—as I shall abbreviate his name—was immediately wedded, about eight years earlier than most young men would marry, to a woman named Mary Smith, and then he was not heard of for a few years. Zerub probably sailed away to England for medical education as a chirugeon (surgeon). The custom was to read medicine in the home of a physician and go with him on patient rounds. In any case, he was back in Massachusetts by 1659, for he and his brother John were fined for drunkenness, another blow to the pride of his father, the governor. 

Zerub and Mary had ten children during their 23 years of marriage. He was made a freeman in 1665 (the  year his father died). He was a winning defendant in a trespass suit by a Mr. Nurse (of the Mrs. Rebecca Nurse witchcraft name) in June 1683, Zerub having logged valuable timber for firewood off the land in question; several Salemites testified that he had logged within his own boundaries. Five months later, he made his will, which indicates a life-threatening injury or illness, and two months after that he died.

Zerub’s will, made before his death at age 49 in the winter of 1684, specified cash bequests of £50 each to his daughters Mary, Sarah, Elisabeth, Hanna, and Mehetabel; farm properties to his sons; to his son John, also a physician, he left “all my Instruments and books of phisicke and chirurgery.” The inventory of medical instruments showed “a case of lances, 2 Rasors, a box of Instruments, a saw with six Instruments for a Chirurgion, a curb bit.” 

During Zerub’s medical practice, he took notes and in 1677 wrote a short book, entitled Synopsis Medicinae or a Compendium of Galenical and Chymical Physick Showing  the Art of Healing according to the Precepts of Galen & Paracelsus Fitted universally to the whole Art of Healing. It contains directions for mixing and applying medicines for the cure of disease or healing from surgery. The manuscript bears the byline “Zorubbabel Endecott.” You can find the booklet in several formats, HERE. 

The following recipes are a few of the concoctions Dr. Zerubbabel Endecott preferred for his treatment of Salem patients between 1659 and 1684. Interesting ingredients, considering the witchcraft craze less than 10 years later.

For ye Colic or Flux in ye Belly
the powder of Wolves guts
the powder of Boars Stones [testicles?]
oil of Wormwood a drop or 2 into the Navel
3 drops of oil of Fennel & 2 drops of oil of mints in Conserve of Roses or Conserve of single mallows, if ye Pain be extreme Use it again, & if need Require apply something hot to the belly

For Vomiting & Looseness in Men Women & Children
Take an Egg break a Little hole in one end of it & put out ye white then put in about 1/2 spoonful of bay salt then fill up the egg with strong Rum or spirits of wine & set it in hot ashes & Let it boil till ye egg be dry then take it & eat it fasting & fast an hour after it or drink a Little distilled wafers of mint & fennel which waters mixed together & drank will help most ordinary Cases

For a Person that is Distracted If it be a Woman
No cat's blood! 
"Take a he-Cat & Cut off one of his Ears
or a piece of it & Let it bleed..."
 Take milk of a Nurse that gives suck to a male Child & also take a he-Cat & Cut off one of his Ears or a piece of it & Let it bleed into the milk & then Let the sick woman Drink it, do this three Times

For the Shingles
Take house leek, Cats blood, and Cream mixed together & oint the place warm or take the moss that groweth in a well & Cats blood mixed & so apply it warm to the place where shingles be.

For a Cancer in a Womans Breast
A woman at Casko bay had a Cancer in her breast which after much means used in Vain they applied strong beer to it with Double Cloths which it drank in Very Greedily & was something eased afterwards beer failing they Used Rum in Like manner which seem to Lull it asleep afterwards they put Arsenic into it and dressing it twice a day it was Perfectly whole in the mean time her Kind husband by Sucking drew her breast with ye Loss of his Fore teeth without any farther hurt. Re New Englands Experiences

For Sharp & Difficult Travail in Women with Child
Take a Lock of Virgins hair on any Part of ye head, of half the Age of ye woman in travail. Cut it very small to fine Powder then take 12 Ants Eggs dried in an oven after ye bread is drawn or otherwise make them dry & make them to powder with the hair, give this with a quarter of a pint of Red Cows milk or for want of it give it in strong ale wort.

For ye Tooth Ache
Take a Little Piece of opium as big as a great pins head & put it into the hollow place of the Aching Tooth & it will give present Ease, often tried by me upon many People & never failed. Zerobabel Endecott. 

Falling Sickness (epilepsy or seizure)
In Children. has of the dung of a black Cow 3i. given to a newborn Infant, doth not only preserve from the Epilepsia, but also cure it. In those of ripe Age. The livers of 40 water-Frogs brought into a powder, and given at five times (in Spirit of Rosemary or Lavender) morning and evening, will cure, the sick not eating nor drinking two hours before nor after it. Compendium of Physick (Salmon), London, 1671.
Salt of Mans Skull. The skull of a dead man, calcine it, and extract the Salts as that of Tartar. It is a real cure for the Falling-sickness. Vertigo, Lethargy, Numbness, and all capital diseases, in which it is a wonderful prevalent.Compendium of Physick (Salmon), London, 1671.

To stop bleeding of the nose
If the flux be violent, open a vein on the same side, and cause the sick to smell to a dried Toad, or Spiders tied up in a rag; the fumes of Horns and Hair is very good, and the powder of Toads to be blowed up the Nose; in extremity, put teats made of Swines-dung up the nostrils. Compendium of Physick (Salmon), London, 1671.
Hog’s Dung is also used by the Country People to stop Bleeding at the Nose; by being externally applied cold to the Nostrils. English Dispensatory (Quincy), London, 1742.


  1. Medical school professor JMK wrote:
    Rum and opium might not cure, but they should make the patient feel better! But hog's dung up the nose?!#@ That would certainly distract you from a nosebleed. I wonder if today's medicine will sound equally bizarre in 300 years?

  2. MSF, herbalist and botanist, wrote:
    Sounds frightening- but then again, so can modern day snake oil! Considering, I can't stand his father- I'll write him off as well!

  3. Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris ‏@ChirurgeonsAppr tweeted:

    Great little piece about a 17th-century physician and 'pharmacist' - … via @Editornado

  4. Here's an interesting piece of scandal--the Hammer of the Quakers had (at least) two grandchildren who were Quakers (Hannah and Joseph). There could've been more, but those were the only ones I could identify :-)


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