EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.
By R.L. HEMINGER
In the very early days of the community, for a physician who endured the hardships of the pioneer times, with all the hard travel problems involved, to live into his 80s or 90s could be viewed as very unusual. But Findlay and Hancock County possessed some who did live exceedingly long lives. One was Dr. Bass Rawson, the community’s first physician who died at the age of 92 on Dec. 28, 1891. Another was Dr. Lorenzo Firmin, who was some 10 years younger than Dr. Rawson, but who also lived to be 92 years old, passing away Oct. 12, 1901.
Dr. Firmin had an interesting life. In today’s historical account and in several that follow we will review some of its absorbing aspects. The county’s histories and articles of Miss Florence Blackford, a Findlay newspaper woman of some years ago, provide most of the information.
Dr. Firmin was born March 31, 1808, in South Wilbraham, Mass. He learned the trade of shoe-making when a lad, working with his father, John Firmin. At the age of 26, he came west to Richfield, in Summit County, near Akron, and entered into a partnership there with Dr. Secretary Rawson until 1841. Dr. Rawson was a brother of Dr. Bass Rawson, who had come to Findlay in 1820, and of Dr. Laquineo Rawson, who also had come to western Ohio to practice, settling later in Fremont after a short time in Findlay. The Rawsons also had come from Massachusetts and the Rawsons and Firmins evidently had been acquainted in the east to begin with.
Dr. Firmin left Richfield to come to Findlay, selling out his interests in the tannery to Dr. Secretary Rawson. But before he came to Findlay, he had married Clara Harriet Rawson, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Secretary Rawson, in Richfield in 1838. For a wedding trip the couple drove to Findlay.
After reading medicine with Dr. Bass Rawson in Findlay for a couple of years, Dr. Firmin then opened an office in 1846 in Benton Ridge, or Benton, as it was known then. He practiced there until July, 1847, when he returned to Findlay to engage in the practice of medicine here.
Miss Blackford in one of her historical articles in 1899, when Dr. Firmin was celebrating his 91st birthday, wrote of the coming of Dr. Firmin and his wife from Richfield in 1841, as follows:
“It was on the first day of November, that Dr. Firmin arrived in Findlay as a young man to start reading medicine with his wife’s uncle, Dr. Bass Rawson,” the Blackford article says. “He came here with his wife in two open wagons which carried his household goods and spent the night before going into Findlay in the home of a family named Vickers beyond Van Buren. The weather was splendid until he crossed the ford at the Blanchard River, when it began to rain.
“A house had already been engaged for him in the village, but before coming he was greatly concerned about his food supply. When he arrived, however, he found that his wife’s father, Dr. Secretary Rawson, had already provided a supply for him. Grist mills were not too plentiful and many of the settlers were compelled to go to Green Springs or Toledo for their milling. A large number of teams would leave right after harvest on a two or three days’ trip to the mills.
“Dr. Firmin says he saw as many as 50 teams very often at the little mill owned by James Teastsorth where the farmers would hitch their horses and in turn grind their wheat. During the first two years in Findlay Dr. Firmin said he paid one and a quarter cents per pound for pork, 75 cents for a cord of wood, three cents a piece for eggs and six cents for a pound of butter, while wheat sold for 31 cents a bushel.”
Miss Blackford wrote extensively about Dr. Firmin’s early experiences in serving the community as a physician.
“The physicians of today can scarcely realize the discomforts and dangers to which the pioneer doctors of half a century ago were at all times exposed,” she said.
“The roads were in terrible condition at almost all times, the village was surrounded on all sides by dense woods and there were very few bridges across the streams.
“Dr. Firmin attributes his present good health in a great measure to his activity. He rode night and day. When fever and ague were prevalent, he was so much in the saddle that at times fatigue would cause him to fall asleep in spite of himself.”
Next week: More about Dr. Firmin.