Thursday, August 19, 2010

Silas Emlyn Stone

Years Served: 1863 to 1865

Silas Stone was born in Walpole Massachusetts on August 10, 1838, graduated Harvard Medical School in 1860. Soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, he offered his services to the Union, and on September 16, 1861 was commissioned assistant surgeon, with the rank of first lieutenant of the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment. He served in General Burnside’s successful expedition against North Carolina, and was present at the battles of Roanoke Island and Newbern where he contracted fever and was sent home. He was honorably discharged for physical disabilities contracted in the service, from which he never entirely recovered.

For the next two years he held the posts of Port Physician of Boston and physician of the City Institution on Deer Island. At the age of 25 he became the youngest man serve as port physician, a post he assumed on June 23, 1863 after the retirement of John Moriarty, Stone stayed on the island until July 15, 1865, several months after the Civil War ended. He then settled in his native town of Walpole in association with his father, Dr. Ebenezer Stone; and on the latter’s death in 1869 succeeded to his father’s practice in Walpole and vicinity which he successfully continued nearly a score of years until his own death on January 29, 1887. His work and that of his father resulted in a continuous medical practice in Walpole of Drs. Ebenezer and Silas E. Stone extended over a period of sixty years.

Historians of his day described Dr. Stone as a man of superior judgment and intelligence, polished and genial manner, and cultured refinement. He was held in high regard by the community in which he lived. He was active in the Norfolk Medical Society during his later years even though, after the war his health was precarious. For his own pleasure he occasionally traveled extensively both in Europe and America. His strong sense of duty and public spirit were shown in his bold stand on behalf of the employees of the large hair factory in Walpole, which compelled the owners to adopt disinfection of their materials to prevent charbon or anthrax, a distressing and then obscure disease which his monograph was considered an authority at the time. His seminal work on anthrax in Massachusetts is one of the earliest epidemiological studies of the occupational hazards of this disease in America.

It was worthy to note that Silas Stone married Sarah Elizabeth Hawes on October 6, 1861, less than two years before he became port physician for the Boston quarantine establishment. It is quite likely that Dr. Stone chose to return to work in Walpole in part by the desire to live a more normal life closer to his family and new wife. Life on Deer Island during the Civil War years must have been a lonely existence with limited opportunities to mingle with his family or his professional colleagues on the mainland.


1. Bowen, James Lorenzo, Massachusetts in the War, 1861-1865, Springfield, MA, 1889, Clark W. Bryan & Co; p. 359.

2. Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 88, No. 21, May 22, 1873, p. 536.

3. Bartlett, J. Gardner, Gregory Stone Genealogy: Ancestry and Descendants of Deacon Gregory Stone of Cambridge, Mass, 1320-1917, Boston, 1918; The Stone Family Association, pp. 583-584.

4. Human Anthrax, Second Annual Report of the State Department of Health of Massachusetts, Boston, 1917, Public Document No. 34; p. 490.

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