Edward Gaggs Castle was born in Carlisle, England, in 1814. Carlisle is just 10 miles south of the border of Scotland.
He earned his chemist (pharmacy) degree from King's College in 1841. Castle, his second wife, Jane Carrick Castle, and their two children, Sarah Jane and George, sailed from Liverpool, England, and arrived in New York in May 1849. The family came to Quincy that same year after a brief stay in St. Louis, where Dr. Castle received his medical training. They arrived during a cholera epidemic that ultimately killed 400 people in Quincy.
In 1857, his office was located at 89 Hampshire Street. During the 1850s and early 1860s, he was called to testify at several coroner's inquests and at jury trials held because of a suspicious death. These deaths included arsenic poisoning and fatal beatings between spouses. The newspapers also reported his disagreements with the Board of Supervisors and its Pauper Claim Committee, which thought his bills were too high in his care of the indigent.
In 1860, he was named president of the Adams County Medical Society, which had organized in 1850 from the need to cooperate during the cholera epidemic of the previous year. In 1861, Dr. Castle supervised the first military hospital in Quincy, Army Hospital Branch No. 1, on the west side of South Fifth Street during the Civil War. The hospital was open from July 1861 to July 1865. Gov. Richard Yates wanted Illinois soldiers treated in Illinois hospitals. The riverboats would regularly deliver the wounded and sick to Quincy. In the first four months, the hospital treated 605 cases, with only 18 deaths. Unfortunately, 17 of those deaths were from diseases such as typhoid fever, measles, heart disease, bronchitis, bilious fever (malaria) and consumption (tuberculosis). Only one death was from a war wound.
The Quincy Whig reported in 1861, "Dr. Castle and his assistants, with the nurses give the kindest care and watchfulness to the patients, and are hoping for better times soon; though as yet the government has not advanced the first dimes of compensation." The newspaper also suggested that citizens bring in reading materials for those recovering soldiers as "reading and writing constitute the chief ‘pastime' of these able to sit up." By 1865, there were five hospitals in Quincy to care for soldiers.
Even though he was in charge of an Army hospital, Dr. Castle continued to see civilian patients and work with the city on health issues. In 1863, Mayor Thomas Redmond relied on his help with a smallpox outbreak. Reports were circulating that it was an epidemic, but Dr. Castle assured the mayor that "there were not more than six cases of smallpox in the city."
The Quincy Daily Whig reported on Jan. 16, 1863, "The reports are unfounded, and our neighbors may visit us without danger."
Two years after the Civil War ended, Orville H. Browning, while serving as U.S. secretary of the Interior, appointed Dr. Castle as the U.S. consular agent at Carlisle, England. He served in that position from 1867 to 1873, and returned to England briefly in 1874.
The newly constituted Quincy Board of Health appointed Dr. Castle to the Fourth District, which was east of Sixth Street to Eighteenth Street and north of Maine Street in 1873.
The city was divided into five districts, and those appointed were to report nuisances that might turn into public health issues, and contagious disease cases. Nuisances could be excessive trash, standing water in a lot and slaughterhouses. Picking up dead animals and other items was done by the city "scavenger." According to the Daily Herald of Aug. 19, 1874, "Dr. Castle presented the following: In view of the exceptional mortality occurring amongst children during last month in the Fourth ward, the Secretary and Sanitary Police officers are requested to make special inquiry and see if there is not some probably local cause to account for it."
Dr. Castle was involved in other businesses, one of which was owning and selling real estate. He sold lots in his subdivision of Nevins Addition to Quincy. Nevins Addition was originally 120 acres of Robert Tillson's farm between 12th and 18th streets north of Broadway.
He later invested in the Vandiver corn planter. According to The Daily Herald in 1872, "The organization is a strong one, well offered. The President, Dr. Castle, being well fitted for the position, is entitled to the confidence of the public everywhere."
The planter was patented in 1863 by John W. Vandiver and began to be manufactured in 1865. In 1870 a stock company was formed. The first president was Lorenzo Bull. Dr. Castle succeeded him.
Dr. Castle's son George became a businessman and worked with the various Quincy companies manufacturing plows, including the Vandiver and the Barlow Rotary plow. The Castle family was living on a farm in Ellington Township in the late 1870s. In 1879, The Quincy Whig reported, "For five weeks past a Barlow has been at work constantly on the farm of Dr. Castle ... and has planted during this time over 300 acres of corn. ..."
With all of Dr. Castle's business interests and civic responsibilities, he was elected as a delegate for Ellington Township to the Republican County Convention, and he was still practicing medicine. He continued his membership in the Adams County Medical Society and became president again in 1878. At the same time, he was also president of the Medical Board of Blessing Hospital, serving from 1878 to 1880.
Dr. Castle died Sept. 22, 1880, in his home after a brief illness. The funeral took place at his North 24th Street home. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery.
The Adams County Medical Society said in its memorial, "Honored in his profession, honoring it by a dignified, faithful and fearless discharge of his duties, wise in council, upright in character, ruling with a firm yet gentle hand, carrying all the generosity and freshness of youth into the autumn of life, he has passed away in the maturity of years."
Arlis Dittmer is a retired medical librarian. During her years with Blessing Health System, she became interested in medical and nursing history--both topics frequently overlooked in history.
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