The Story of a 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Surgeon
We all know the warmth and love of family. We carry it with us daily and many times read of its abundance in a friend’s obituary at their passing. It’s not as common to find a father and son so loved by their community that words don’t truly represent the admiration and respect felt for them by their peers. This is the case of the Curtiss family.
Charles L. Curtiss was born on June 21, 1840 in Akron, Summit County Ohio. He was the son of Dr. Elijah and Flora F. Hanchett Curtiss. Charles had one sibling, a sister Mary Elizabeth, known as Libby, that was eight years his junior.
Charles grew up in eastern Ohio living there until his family moved across the state to Lima in Allen County. Lima was still a very small village when the family settled there about 1854. Dr. Elijah Curtiss was one of the first physicians in the area and considered one of the town’s early pioneers. Curtiss the elder, became a well respected and prominent man in the community.
No doubt the high esteem awarded Dr. Elijah Curtiss impacted the young Charles. The younger Curtiss chose to follow his father’s footsteps and studied medicine at Oxford. He also took a course of lectures at Cincinnati and mentored under his father. Charles first set up practice in Decatur, Indiana but eventually partnered with his father in Lima in 1875. Yet before Charles practiced medicine with his father, while still in his early years as a physician, his medical skills would be put to use in an entirely different area than family practice.
With the country thrown into civil war, Curtiss enlisted with the 4th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry (OVC) on August 19, 1862. He is listed as a member of both Co. F and Co U (unassigned). He was only 22 years old.
As a member of the 4th OVC and one who served nearly the duration of the war, Charles saw much blood shed. From Stones River to the Tullahoma campaign, Chickamauga to the fall of Selma his medical experience was needed. Charles skills were pressed into service aiding his regiment as a surgeon. His medical knowledge invaluable to comrades who had fallen. Witnessing the carnage, repairing the injuries he could, Charles undoubtably was affected by all the misery he witnessed. With a lifetime of hands-on experience during those war years, Curtiss mustered out June 24, 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee with the rest of the 4th OVC at the end of the war.
Once back home in Ohio and settled into postwar life, Charles married Mary Luella Lipsett in 1880 and had four children. William, Dwight, Edgar (Who followed in his father and grandfather’s foot steps. He was a physician in Lima for 31 years.) and Charles Curtiss.
Living in Lima the remainder of his life Dr. Curtiss was known throughout the city as a kind and genuine man. He was a highly regarded physician and surgeon. A member of the GAR and so active in his community that many newspaper accounts extolled the virtues, abilities and achievements of Dr. Charles L. Curtiss over the ensuing years.
A few months shy of 55 years old, Charles passed away at his home on March 3 1895, following a brief illness. His obituary mourned the loss of such a prominent and well loved citizen.
As a member of the Allen County Medical Society, Dr. Curtiss was so well thought of that at his death the medical society appointed a three person committee to draw up a resolution of respect for the late Dr. Curtiss. In fact the entire Allen County Medical Society attended his funeral service.
Also a member of the Lima I.O.O.F. Lodge 581, Charles was remembered at his death. They drew up a resolution as well commemorating their dearly departed brother. A newspaper article in The Lima News dated March 14, 1895 read:
Where as, it has seemed wise for the supreme ruler of the universe to remove by death from Lima Lodge, No. 581, I.O.O.F. brother Charles L. Curtiss, one of its truest and best members, the lodge as a mark of the friendship and love it bears him, passed, at a regular meeting, the following resolutions:
Resolved, that in this dispensation of an all-wise Providence, which so saddens our hearts, we bow in humble submission, believing that “He doeth all things well.”
Resolved, that in his lost we recognize that a true and faithful Oddfellow has ceased his labors, an able expounder of the principles of our order has passed away, and that it-may well be said of him, his deeds of kindness and charity will long be treasured in the hearts and minds of those who knew him best; and that his family has lost a kind and loving husband and an indulgent father, the lodge a true and devoted brother, a loving and dear friend and an enjoyable companion who spent his life in ministering to the wants of others that he has for the last time met us in fraternal counsel no more will his kind words comfort and cheer us in our labors and the cause of Friendship, Love and Truth.
Resolved, that to his family this lodge extends its profound and heartfelt sympathy in this hour of their great bereavement.
Resolved, that these resolutions be made a part of the records of the lodge; that a copy duly signed to be sent to the family of the deceased brother; that the chapter of the lodge be draped for a period of 30 days, and that these resolutions be published in the daily papers of the city.
Leonard Walthers, J. N. Hutchinson, Wilbur Fisk, Committee.
Dr. Charles L. Curtiss was laid to rest in Woodlawn cemetery in Lima.
Curtiss was the middle of three generations of physicians in Allen County, Ohio. Not only did he follow his father’s foot steps professionally, his integrity and compassion were a legacy too. They are well documented in the area’s newspaper archives and serve as a wonderful tribute to his life to this day.