Local history: How a doctor with ties to Utica keeps a Revolutionary War hero alive
1777, 244 years ago
Where goes Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War, so goes Dr. John Cochran. He cares for the general (and Martha, too) and is an excellent surgeon (called today by some historians the best surgeon during the war – American or British).
Cochran (who is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica) also is physician and surgeon general of the middle department of the Continental Army, which includes New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and southern New York.
This week, the doctor follows Washington to Whitemarsh, Pennsylvania – near Philadelphia – where the general will decide whether to attempt to recapture Philadelphia from the British or, instead, to find a safe place for him and his 11,000 troops to spend the winter. Cochran, meanwhile, sets up his medical headquarters and temporary hospital in Hope Lodge, a house offered to him by patriot Williams Wells.
With Washington and Cochran is the Marquis de Lafayette, the 20-year-old Frenchman who has volunteered to join Americans in their fight for independence from Great Britain. He is recuperating from a wound he received last September during the Battle of Brandywine in southern Pennsylvania. And it was Dr. Cochran who saved his life. Lafayette was shot in the leg and was bleeding profusely. Medics could not stop the bleeding. Washington asked Cochran to go to Lafayette and “take care of him as if he were my son, for I love him the same.”
Cochran dragged Lafayette away from the battleground and then stopped the bleeding. The next day, Lafayette wrote to his wife in France that an English rifleman had “…wounded me slightly in the leg, but it was nothing … for the ball did not touch bone or nerve.”
Lafayette would later join Washington in forcing the surrender of British forces in Yorktown and winning the United States its independence.
(Many years after the war, Cochran and his sons, Walter and James, moved to the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York – between St. Johnsville and Palatine Bridge. In 1807, the doctor died and was buried near his home. In 1817, James – an attorney – moved to Utica and took his father with him. His remains were disinterred and reburied in the Potter Cemetery, just west of Bagg’s Square. When the cemetery was abandoned in 1875, the doctor’s remains – and those of his wife, Gertrude – were moved to Forest Hill Cemetery, off Oneida Street. By the way, James also added the letter “e” to the Cochran name, making it Cochrane.)
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1921, 100 years ago
Helene Chadwick, leading lady of silent movies, is voted by newspapers as “the most photographed actress in America.” She was born in Chadwicks, New York, which was named for an ancestor. Her two hit movies this year are “The Old West” and “Godless Men.”
1946, 75 years ago
The St. Elizabeth Hospital Alumnae dinner-dance is held in Hotel Hamilton, on Bleecker Street in Utica. Chairwomen are Eve Bannigan, Sally Quinn and Margaret Merna.
1971, 50 years ago
Victor Norman, of Ilion, is selected as chairman of the Herkimer County Board of Legislators. He represents the 6th Legislative District on the board.
Three area high school football running backs ran for more than 1,000 yards this season – Kevin Curtis of New York Mills, 1,054 yards and 10 touchdowns; Harold Barnes of Utica Free Academy, 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns; and Tommy Briggs of John F. Kennedy, 1,001 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Dr. Theodore C. Max, Utica surgeon from Holland Patent, is elected president of the Central Academy of Medicine. Other officers include: Dr. Ronald C. Smith of Utica, vice president; Dr. Robert D. Stone of Norwich, secretary; and Dr. Fel G. Davies of New Hartford, treasurer.
Chadwicks High School is presenting “Abie’s Irish Rose” as its senior play and its cast includes Cindy O’Connor, Steve Hughes, Paul Toukatly, Terry Roberts and William Thomas.
1996, 25 years ago
The Oneida County Historical Society (today the Oneida County History Center) elects Kenneth Kazanjian, of New Hartford, as president of its board of trustees. Other officers include: James Raymonda, of Whitesboro, and Douglas Ambrose, of Utica, vice presidents; Sitta Schafer, of New Hartford, treasurer; and Joe Caruso, of Utica, secretary. Trustees are: Stephen Coupe, of Ilion; Ann Heintz, of Vernon; Donald White, of Barneveld; Richard Couper and Muriel D’Agostino, of Clinton; Bruce McLean, of Brantingham; and William Boyle, Betsi Dugan, Mary Louise Miller and Bea White, of Utica.
Eileen M. Pronobis is named director of development for the St. Luke’s-Memorial Hospital Center Foundation. She is on the board of the Rome Chamber of Commerce.
The Utica chapter of the American Red Cross awards a 20-gallon blood donor pin to William Rudge III, of Clinton. Other awards include: Irene Sutkawiki of New York Mills, 16 gallons; Ben Siedsma of Oriskany, 14 gallons; Isabel Chiquoine of Clinton, 12 gallons; John V. Nivaggi of Whitesboro, 11 gallons.
2011, 10 years ago
The Kiwanis Club of Clinton elects William Rudge as its president. Other officers include: Steven Bellona, vice president; Paul Frye, treasurer; and Karen Ostinett, secretary.
U.S. President Harry Truman once said about this former president: “He was a great president. He said what he would if elected and when he was elected he did it.” Truman was talking about: (a) John Quincy Adams, (b) Andrew Jackson, (c) James Knox Polk or (d) William McKinley. (Answer will appear here next week.)
Answer to last week’s question: Chester A. Arthur was the 21st president of the United States from 1881 to 1885. He was a widower, his wife, Ellen, having died in 1880. Each morning, he placed fresh flowers in front of her portrait in the White House. He graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York, and became a school teacher of penmanship in Pownal, Vermont. His father, William, was a Baptist clergyman, On May 22, 1882, Arthur signed a treaty of peace and commerce with Korea.
This Week in History is researched and written by Frank Tomaino. Email him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Dr. John Cochran, buried in Utica, cared for George Washington