Letters and other papers in the Whitridge family papers, 1784, 1791, and 1814-1919, document activities of physician Joshua Barker Whitridge in Charleston (South Carolina), and those of his family in Rhode Island and Maryland.
The parents of the Whitridge family children who feature prominently in this collection were Dr. William Whitridge (1748-1831) and Mary Cushing Whitridge ( -1846). The Whitridges lived in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Two of the sons, Joshua Barker Whitridge (1789-1865) and John Whitridge (1793-1878), followed their father in the practice of medicine. Another son, Thomas Whitridge (1802-1883), was a commission merchant who eventually settled in Baltimore. John Whitidge earned the AM degree from Union College and his medical degree from Harvard in 1819. Like his brother Thomas, he lived in Baltimore, where he practiced medicine for fifty-three years.
A number of letters suggest the financial success enjoyed by Joshua Whitridge in his Charleston practice, including a letter, 11 January 1820, to his brother John in Baltimore, that mentions the purchase of an enslaved man named Jim. Reporting the arrival of Dr. Judson from New York, he noted that he delivered "a carriage and fine pair of horses to my order... [also] a fine coachman." He anticipated in a few days "to get a Bill of Sale of Jim, who makes an excellent footman. Cuffee we keep for other purposes." In this letter, Whitridge also mentions a duel scheduled on that date "between Cols. Taylor and Levy." The doctor declined an invitation to attend as surgeon.
Letter, 18 February 1821, from Mary Whitridge (Tiverton, R.I.), expressed the concerns she and her husband shared for their sons in faraway places: "Joshua has many things which the rest of us cannot have... but he has his troubles too should he obtain his dear little girl I suppose he thinks his happiness would be compleat but he will find there is no perfect happiness on earth." In June 1821, Whitridge married Sarah Bailey McLeod, daughter of Dr. Donald McLeod. After their marriage, Whitridge and his bride visited New York, a tour for which Joshua Whitridge brought his carriage on ship but left the horses behind (24 July 1821). Brother Thomas visited the newlyweds in New York, and described his visit for other family members (letter, 28 October 1821).
Topics discussed include a common difficulty among these physicians in different locations to secure payment from patients for medical care provided. John Whitridge informed his sister of options for collecting accounts: "We take accounts less than $50 before a Magistrate & swear they are correct... the Debtor must pay the money, go to Jail: or supersede it for 6 mo[nths] with good security" (20 March 1822). Concerning his practice "among the poor people.... I often find them very ungrateful & some times insolent after I have done every thing for them" (19 September 1822). With regard to making collections, Joshua advised his brother "to be circumspect in your mode of making collections. Be careful whom you sue. Do not be easily provoked to this expedient. I have suffered much in reputation and in business by enforcing payments, and have got but little money. The Lawyer generally takes the whole." He cited the example of Dr. Philip Prioleau, a successful Charleston physician, who had never sued a patient in twenty-six years of practice (15 January 1827).
Joshua Whitridge married Sarah McLeod in 1821. She died 1 November 1845, and he married Caroline Hammond of Boston in 1850. Joshua inquired about his brother John's matrimonial pursuits in a letter, 15 January 1827, and reminded him, "If you are disposed to look about you a little I will call your attention to a Miss Julia Porcher of our city whose old grandfather Mr. Weston died two days ago and left her that large house... at the corner of Queen and Meeting Street, and 40,000 in Bank Stock. If you think you could be contented with a little pug nosed, pot bellied square bottomed, well behaved girl, with that sum, you had better make a visit to Charleston." John Whitridge married Catherine Cox Morris of New York in December 1830.
Later in his life, J.B. Whitridge compiled an autobiographical sketch for Union College in 1856. Noting his retirement from active practice in March 1846, he recalled that "he retired, from the arduous duties of his profession, to his plantation called Rose-Bank. Upon the Island of Wadmalaw... where he has ever since been engaged in the less laborious occupation of Cotton planting - much to the improvement of his health and to the prolongation of life."..
Residents of South Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland. Physician Joshua Barker Whitridge, a native of Rhode Island, graduated, 1811, from Union College and earned his medical degree from Harvard in 1815. During the War of 1812, he served in the regular army. Dr. Whiteridge settled in Charleston (South Carolina) by December 1815 and practiced medicine there until March 1846. In one of his later letters he identified the house in which he lived in 1816 as located on the corner of Queen and Meeting streets. In 1856, Whitridge compiled an autobiographical sketch for his alma mater, Union College, in which he notes his retirement from active practice in March 1846, and lived as a planter on his cotton plantation called Rose-Bank on Wadmalaw Island.
University South Caroliniana Society Program, 2013 ( pages 56-59 in printed version).
Whitridge Family Papers, South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina.