Diseases in the District of Maine 1772 to 1820; Epidemics Then and Now

Dr. Richard Kahn to be guest speaker at Historical Society meeting, July 11

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    SOUTH THOMASTON — On Thursday, July 11, the Wessaweskeag Historical Society will hold its monthly evening gathering featuring good food and great speakers, featuring Richard Kahn, MD, MACP as the guest speaker.

    Following the Potluck supper at 6 p.m., Kahn will begin his program at 7 p.m., in the Society’s meeting room, which is located behind the Village Schoolhouse Museum at the corner of Rt. 73 and Dublin Road in South Thomaston. The public is invited to join us for both the program and for the potluck.

    Richard Kahn, MD, MACP is an Internal Medicine physician who practiced at PenBay Medical Center until his retirement. He has delighted and enthralled many audiences with his extensive knowledge and understanding of Maine’s medical history, according to WHS, in a news release. He will discuss History of Diseases in the District of Maine 1772-1820, as well as epidemic disease 1772 to Covid 2024.

    “In 1806 Dr. Jeremiah Barker (1752-1835) of Portland, Maine wrote: “Thus I had opportunities of observing the habits, customs and manner of living among the first settlers . . . The first white inhabitants of Maine, being chiefly poor and illiterate, lived . . . in a very similar manner as the Indians. Their exercise was great, their food simple and wholesome, consisting chiefly of Indian corn and salted pork, sometimes Bear . . . Of late years . . . Rum too is conveyed into the country towns, as it were, through aqueducts; but none is lost for want of throats.”

    This unpublished manuscript records Barker’s practice from his preceptorship in Massachusetts to his 1818 retirement in Maine. Volume One is about mental illness and related dangers of spirituous liquors, diseases such as malignant fevers, pneumonia, childbed fever, apoplexy, dropsy, hydrophobia, cancer, and various epidemics. Volume Two is devoted to the causes, nature, and treatment of consumption. This fifty-year record of diagnoses, treatments, and outcomes includes Barker’s unusual effort to consult the available literature and correspond with other physicians in a changing medical landscape.

    “It offers a surprising flow and penetration of advanced ideas to rural New England,” said the news release.


    The Wessaweskeag Historical Society was founded three decades ago and is a nonprofit charitable organization anchored in South Thomaston. It maintains both archives and a museum. It also hosts monthly potluck suppers and programming that is available to the public. The Society also hosts the annual Heritage Day, sponsors local historic preservation and cooperates with kindred community organizations. Higher education for local youth is supported through the Society’s scholarship program.

    Event Date: 

    Thu, 07/11/2024 - 7:00pm

    Event Location: 

    Village Schoolhouse Museum