James Family Archives


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By Henry D. Paine, M.D., Necrologist.

     The sad news of the death of David James, M.D., was announced at the meeting of the Institute which was held at Cleveland last year, and was received with mournful interest by those who had been for so many years associated with him in the Institute; he being one of the veeran members, and held in high esteem for his professional and Christian life.

     He was born March 14th, 1805, at Radnor, Delaware County, Pa., in the old mansion-house which had been the home of four generations of his ancestors.  He was of Welsh descent, and it is probable that the force of character which he possessed was inherited from these hardy progenitors.

     His father, Isaac James, M.D., was anxious that his son should adopt his profession, and he commenced a course of medical reading under his father's instruction.  In November, 1826, he entered the Jefferson Medical College, then in the second year of its existence, having previously entered the office of Dr. George McClellan, the distinguished professor of surgery.

     He graduated March 18th, 1828, and a few days afterwards his father removed from Philadelphia, leaving his practice to his son.

     A year later Dr. James removed to Byberry, and became a partner of Dr. John Worthington.  Upon the death of Dr. Worthington, a few years later, he succeeded to his entire practice, and by his devotion to his profession he soon attained a very high position.

     In 1833 he married Miss Amanda Worthington, who still survives him.

     About the time that Dr. James entered the medical profession as a practitioner, homoeopathy as a system of medical practice was beginning to attract attetnion in this country.  So late as 1840 but few physicians had adopted it, the hostility to it being so biter, that not only the requirements of professional courtesy, but thos of common pliteness, were ignored by its opponents in their relations to its professed practitioners.

     A number of Dr. James's patients, whom the old system had failed to cure, were treated successfully in Philadelphia under the new system, and he determined to look into a subject which showed such superiority.

     In 1841 and 1842 he began to use the new method of prescribing, and did not at once abandon the od method; but he pursued a thorough course of study, and applied his knowledge gradually as he acquired it.

     It could not be expected that his patients should have the same confidence that he professed, yet such was their trust in his integrity of pupose, that we have the best authrity for the statement that not a single faily withdrew from him and his practice increased commensurately with his success.

     In 1855 he removed to Philadelphia.  His fame had preceeded him, and in a short time he had a valuable practice as a visiting and consulting physician.

     In 1841, he was licensed as a preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and through all his professional career he devoted a portion of his time to religious work.

     He was naturally of a cheerful disposition.  His piety brightened his whole life , and his household reflected the spirit of it.

     As an obstetrician he stood pre-eminent, and as a surgeon he had acknowledged skill.

     His connection with the Institute dates from almost its beginning, and as all members who became such within two years of its organization are considered "founders," he was fairly and honorably entitled to that distinction.

     The resolutions adopted by this body at its last session, on hearing of this bereavement, express the sentiments not of his surviving fellow-members only, but of all who were privileged to know him.  See Transactions, 1873, p. 148.

     Similar testimony to the high character of our departed colleague has since been given by teh various societies with which he was connected.

     At the ninth annual session of teh Homoeopathic Medical Society of Pennsylvania, held at Harrisburg, October 1st and 2d, 1873, the followig resolutions on the death of Dr. David James were presented by Dr. R.J. McClatchey, of Philadelphia, and adopted unanimously by a rising vote:

Resolved, That in the death of Dr. David James, of Philadelphia, this Society recognizes the loss of one of its oldest and most highly esteemed members.

Resolved, That as an able exponent of Homoeopathy, Dr. James has been deservedly held in high esteem, and that his many excellent qualities of head and heart had endeared him to all who shared the pleasure of his acquaintance.

Resolved, That the sympathies of this Society ae hereby tendered the bereaved family of the deceased, and that a copy of these resolutions be properly engrossed and forwarded to them.

     His family is still represented in the Instiute and in the profession by his sons, Dr. Bushrod W. James and Dr. John E. James.


     The father of the preceding, the most venerable member of the Institute, and probably the oldest physician of our school in this country, has departed this life since the last meeting of the Institute.

     It is rare that our necrological record of a single year includes the names of two such venerable and venerated members of one family, both remarkable alike for their high moral and religious character and their well-founded professiona reputation.

     The subject of this notice was, like the son after him, a native of Radnor Township, Delaware Couty, Pa., where a large estate has remained in possession of the family for four or five successive generations.  He was born in 1777, about six months after the declaration of our independence, and died January 22d, 1874, within a few days of the completion of his 97th year.

     He received a good plain education in his youth, which he afterwards greatly improved by diligent application of a quick and retentive mind, and a habit of close observation.  While still a lad he became deeply impressed on the subject of religion, and at an early age resolved to devote himself to the preaching of the gospel as a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  To this end he was ordained as deacon by the Rev. Mr. Asbury, in 1805, in which office he remained till, forty-three years later, he was advanced by Bishop Morris to the eldership.  During all this interval he labored assiduously in the cause to which he was deovted, removing from place to place as opportunities for work and usefulness appeared to present themselves.

     As a means of greater benefit to his fellow-men, he commenced the study of medicine, after he had attained to more than forty years of age, and graduated from the medical college in New York in the spring of 1825 - the celebrated Dr. Hosack being then dean.  The following year he commenced the practice of his newly acquired profession in Philadelphia, where his son David, the subject of the preceding sketch, was at that time pusuing his studies preparatory to the same calling.  Having laid a good foundation for his son's success, soon after David's graduation he returned to Radnor with the rest of his family, leaving the city field to his son.

     He remained in Radnor many years, actively engaged in practice, but continuing also to exercise his clarical office so far, at least, as to preach two or three times a week.

     His son, Dr. David James, had been practicing according to the system of homoeopathy several years before it seriously engaged his own attention.  Though the principles and methods of the new school were often the subject of playful raillery on his party, he could not bu acknowledge that, in the long run, the results were altogether much mor favorable than the practice then in vogue could show.  The recognition of that fact could only be, to the mind and conscience like his, a step and an incentive to further investigation.  The conclusion of his inquiry and his personal trials of different remedies in his practice was, of course, his thorough conversion to homoeopathy, at the age of 67 years.

     Both he and his son joined the Institute in the same year, 1846, soon after its organization, and both continued firm and consistent advocates and practitioners from that time onward.

     Notwithstanding his advanced years, Dr. James continued in excellent health and in full possession of his faculties till within two or three years of his death.  At the age of 94 his health and strength began to fail, but it was only very near the close of his long and useful life that he was confiened to his bed or room.

     He was a man of strictest integrity and uprightness.  Honest and plain-spoken himself, he had an uncompromising hatred of pretence and every kind of sham.  While firm and fearless in expressing and defending his own views, he was tolerant of the sincere opinions of those who differed from him.

     His religion was of the cheerful kind, which not only brihtened and enlivened his own character, but shed its gladdening influence on all around.  No man knew better haow to give advice without offence or reproof without acerbity.

     Of his large family of children, Dr. David James, the subject of the previous notice, and John F. James, late actuary of the Girard Life, Annuity and Trust Company, are dead.  Another son, Thomas P. James, of Boston, is one of the most distinguished of living botanists.


This biographical sketch of David James, M.D. (1805-1873) was originally published in the "Transactions of the Twenty-Seventh Settion of the the American Institute of Homoeopathy, Held at Niagra Falls, M.Y., June 9, 10, 11, and 12, 1874." Pages 73-77. New Series. Philadelphia: Printed by Sherman & Co. 1875. Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1875, By R. J. McClatchey, In the Office of the Librarian of Cogress, at Washington, D.C.

A reprint of the original text can be accessed at Google Books, Ebook-Free:Transactions of the Twenty-Seventh Settion of the the American Institute of Homoeopathy, Held at Niagra Falls, M.Y., June 9, 10, 11, and 12, 1874.