Monadnock Moments No. 58: Dr. Obidiah Blake
Dr. Obadiah Blake, born in Wrentham, Massachusetts in 1719, was one of the first settlers of Keene in the late 1730s. He was also one of the first physicians in the town, serving the region as a doctor for many years.
Dr. Blake’s account book from the late 18th century gives us a view of a medical profession much different than what we are familiar with today. Most of his work involved house calls. He traveled far and wide with regular customers in Croydon, New Hampshire, Athens, Vermont, and Royalston, Massachusetts. He traveled on horseback with his medicines and instruments in his saddlebags.
Dr. Blake’s fees were small and usually paid in vegetables, grain or other produce. Joshua Osgood paid two bushels of beans for several visits and medicines in 1785. Asahel Blake paid his 1 pound, 2 shilling bill with “one house clock” in 1786. Francis Drake paid his medical bill by chopping wood for Dr. Blake. It was common for Dr. Blake not to be paid at all. For example, one account was settled “by running away,” and another was “cancelled in full by poverty.” The 1 pound, 10 shilling account of Robert McNeal was “settled by death.”
Despite the long hours, small or nonexistent pay, and long journeys in all types of weather, Dr. Blake lived a long and full life. He passed away in 1810 at the age of ninety-two. Dr. Blake bequeathed his saddlebags, vials and lancet to his son Obidiah, Jr., who had followed his father into the field of medicine.