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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Harry William Vickers, M. D.

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 628-633 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Portrait of Harry William Vickers, M. D.

Portrait: Harry William Vickers, M. D.

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Dr. Harry W. Vickers, one of the leading members of the medical profession in Little Falls and a veteran of the World war, was born in the town of Middlefield, New York, on the 14th of January, 1877, and comes from one of the pioneer families of that region. His father, Dan A. Vickers, was born there January 28, 1838, the son of Joseph and Elizabeth A. (Jackson) Vickers, English people who emigrated to this country in search of better conditions in which to rear their large and growing family. Joseph Vickers, grandfather of the physician, was a stubborn, stern, obdurate Englishman, honest and hardworking, with enough courage and vision to attempt the tedious voyage across the storm-swept Atlantic with his wife and five small children. In the old country he lived at Marston-Montgomery, Derbyshire, the county in which he was born, and was a farmer by occupation. Like many of that occupation in thosq days, his lot was far from enviable and toil and oppression were his daily comrades. Joseph Vickers was born on the 23d of February, 1788, and thus was thirty-nine years old when he came to this country in 1827. Of his family little is known and he seems to be the only one who ever came to America.

Elizabeth A. (Jackson) Vickers, Joseph's wife and companion on his great adventure, was apparently a very superior type of woman. She was born in Derbyshire, July 20, 1796, and before her marriage was a school teacher, teaching in one room for eleven years, fifty-two weeks in the year and six days in the week, with the exception of two holidays — Christmas and Easter. She was the only child of a second marriage, but had a number of half-brothers, one of whom attained considerable distinction as a clergyman and a scholar. He, Robert Jackson, was an Oxford graduate, and chaplain to the Royal Family under King William, the predecessor of Queen Victoria. Two other brothers came to America. One went to Michigan, where he settled, presumably, but he never kept in touch with the rest of the family. The other, "Old Thomas" Jackson, settled in the town of Butternuts, Otsego county, New York, where he became a very prosperous farmer. He had several sons who kept in communication with the Vickers family.

In 1827 the Vickers with their five small children, the eldest of whom was seven, set sail for New York and after a rough voyage of six weeks on an old-fashioned sailing vessel landed safely but weakly in that port. Mrs. Vickers had been so sea sick during the entire voyage that she had not been able to leave her berth. Continuing their journey up the Hudson by water, they came by canal boat to Fort Plain, New York, their destination for the time being. It was a bewildered little family that was set down in Fort Plain with its bundles of clothing and bedding and boxes. So totally unfamiliar was the father with the new land into which he was venturing that he had brought some two hundred pounds of old iron with him from England, fearing that in the New World this useful mineral might not be obtainable. It happened that the day the Vickers family landed in Fort Plain a farmer from some fifteen miles out in the country was in town, and while driving down the street his attention was attracted to the newly arrived group of immigrants. Guessing that they were English, he stopped to speak to them, and during the course of the conversation learned that they were from his old home town. With true western hospitality he bundled them all into his great lumber wagon, bag and baggage, and took them home with him to the section north of Fort Plain known as Springfield. Thence they journeyed on, later, to the town of Middlefield, where they bought the tract land that has since been known as the Vickers farm. Then the farm was not regarded as a particularly good one, for the land was rough, stony, wet in places and wooded, but diligent work carried on over a period of years overcame these obstacles, and today the land is one of the choice sections in the community.

Here in the little log cabin that was the first home of these English strangers, Dan A. Vickers, father of Dr. Vickers, was born on the 28th of January, 1838. His youth was spent amid the primitive circumstances of the frontier. The frame house that soon supplanted the original log cabin on the farm was the first of its kind in that vicinity and one of the "sights" that attracted the neighbors for miles around. The nearest market place was Albany, many miles away, to which an annual pilgrimage was made, usually in the winter, when the snows and storms often brought great sufferings and hardships to the travelers. The trip, made with a "long sleigh and a team, took more than a week at the best and often a storm or deep snow made it necessary to put up at some wayside tavern until the weather moderated. The provisions for the journey were always taken along, for buying meals at inns was an unthinkable extravagance. Enough farm produce was taken to market to buy the necessaries that could not be produced at home; a keg of molasses filled on the annual marketing expedition furnished the sweets for the family for the entire year. Like most pioneer households, the Vickers home was largely self-sustaining and in its simple mode of living there were few things that had to be purchased from the city merchant. The farm supplied practically all of the food, clothing was homespun and woven, and luxuries were unknown. Theirs was a life of hard toil, enlivened by few and simple amusements. Books and papers were rare, and only during the short winter months did the children have an opportunity to attend the local school. But from this simple life in the open, with much wholesome toil, and a happy home life, these children gained a priceless endowment of bodily strength and mental vigor that they in turn have passed down to their descendants.

Of a rather large family, Dan A. Vickers was the only child to remain at home with the old people. When he came of age he was offered a hundred dollars a year if he would remain on the farm and work it, an offer that he accepted. Later as his parents became too feeble to take any active part in its maintenance he bought the farm, which was still somewhat encumbered with a mortgage. During these early days when life was something of a financial struggle, Dan Vickers was assisted by his wife, who was teaching school for the princely salary of one and a half dollars a week. Mrs. Vickers was formerly Miss Adelia A. Bowers, who was born in Middlefield and died there in 1912, on the 20th of October, at the age of seventy-three, after a long and useful life. Her parents, Conrad and Margaret (Net) Bowers, were born in Württemberg, Germany, and came to America in 1831, settling in Middlefield. They had intended landing in New York city, as the Vickers had done, but their plans miscarried and they found themselves in Philadelphia entirely without funds to continue their journey to their destination. Borrowing fifty dollars from a more fortunate fellow passenger, they drove to New York in a one-horse lumber wagon and by taking the canal boat finally reached Mendenville, Herkimer county, whence they moved to Middlefield, where they lived and died. Conrad Bowers was an able and industrious man who managed by his work and thrift to attain a degree of prosperity amid the same primitive conditions that the Vickers family encountered. He never mastered the English language, but his wife, by studying the lessons her children were learning at school, kept pace with them and learned to speak English well.

Harry William Vickers, the son of Dan A. and Adelia (Bowers) Vickers, obtained his early education in the district schools near his home and graduated from the Cooperstown high school in 1896. After teaching in the district school for three years to gain the money for his further education, he entered Cornell University to take the medical course, which he completed in 1903, obtaining the Doctor of Medicine degree. He was associated with his brother, Dr. F. D. Vickers, in practice at Canajoharie, New York, for three years after leaving medical college, then came to Little Falls, where he has risen to a prominent position in professional circles.

Before the United States joined the Allies in the World war Dr. Vickers volunteered for service in the British Medical Corps and for three months in 1916 and 1917 had charge of the surgical ward in the Graylinworth War Hospital in Sussex, England, where he had oversight of the care of the wounded soldiers. After the United States declared war on Germany, Dr. Vickers joined the Volunteer Medical Corps in our army, where he held the rank of captain. In 1918 he went to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, where he was in charge of surgical ward for instruction preparatory to embarking for overseas duty. He was denied the opportunity of service abroad in our army, for the armistice brought an end to hostilities before he received his orders to embark. The Doctor is now a member of the American Legion, Post No. 31, of Little Falls.

In the public life of Little Falls Dr. Vickers has long been an active figure in matters pertaining to the public health. He served on the local board of health for six years and for the past half dozen years has been in charge of one of the free clinics which are doing so much to improve the physical condition of people who cannot afford to employ the services of a private physician. He is also a surgeon for the New York Central Lines, a fellow of the American Medical Association, a member of the New York State and New York and New England Medical Associations, and a former president of the Herkimer County Medical Society. Politically the Doctor is affiliated with the republican party, but he reserves the right to vote independent of party lines and restrictions when he thinks it to the best interests of the country and the people to do so. His religious faith is indicated by his membership in the Methodist Episcopal church of Little Falls, of which he is a trustee, while in fraternal circles he is well known as a York and Scottish Rite Mason and a Noble of the Mystic Shrine. Dr. Vickers is likewise associated with the New York Central Lines Association.

At Saratoga, New York, on the 16th of May, 1908, occurred the marriage of Dr. Vickers to Miss Susan J. Sullender, a trained nurse and graduate of the Albany City Hospital, class of 1905. They are the parents of four children: Harry Dan Vickers, Jr., born March 27, 1909; Florence Fredericka Vickers, born December 3, 1912; and twins, Robert E. Lee and Mary Adelia Vickers. The daughter of Lee and Kate (James) Sullender, Mrs. Vickers was born at Eagle Rock, Virginia, June 7, 1876. Through her father, who combined the occupations of teacher and farmer, she comes of a family of English descent. Mrs. Vickers is active in the church and social life of Little Falls as a member of the Methodist Episcopal church, the Young Women's Christian Association and the Order of the Eastern Star.

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