Historic Harmar - Seth Hart House
At 115 Gilman Avenue there sits a magnificent Federal style home built in the late 1830’s. Though currently surrounded by the embrace of the persistent flora, this two-story stucco building has persevered through the many floods, and the trying test of time. It was built for the reputable Dr. Seth Hart, whom served the endless medical needs of the community with house calls and homemade medicines. He raised his family in this home and later built himself an office next door.
Though born in Connecticut, he received his liberal education in New York. After graduation, he chose to stay to teach, study medicine, and clerk in a drugstore until 1824 when he decided it was time to move to New Philadelphia, Ohio. There he continued teaching and studying. However in 1825, he received his diploma to practice medicine and moved to Watertown; only to finally settle in Harmar in 1836, where he opened his practice.
Noted in the “History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens” by Martin R. Andrews, “Hart had a practice of keeping and preparing his own medicines…and had an intimate acquaintance with drugs and their use.” Dr. Hart had “the highest reputation as a doctor and integrity as a man,” Andrews wrote. “His visits were an inspiration to thousands of families in the hour of pain and distress…”
Along with being a renowned man and doctor, Mr. Hart kept expansive documentation about his patients and their treatments. Of course, medicine has changed vastly over the last few centuries, but he has provided us with a glimpse of what it was like to work as a medical professional before all practices were regulated.
Some examples of his documents include:
‘The daughter of Anna O’Brien had eaten poke greens with neighbors. She found herself trembling, dizzy, and nauseated as well as passing two large worms. Spirit Nitrate was given for daughter lying comatose for twenty-four hours.’
‘“Mrs. Albert Arnold who gave birth a few days before had not slept for 48 hours and became wild. Mania. Gave Hoffmann’s Anodyne every two hours. And right off used the chloroform until sleep was produced.” Hoffmann’s Anodyne was a compound of ether and three parts alcohol used as a hypnotic.’
‘“Went to Harmar House (hotel). A debtor had to have ankle dressed. Paid with gold pen.”’
‘“Used “nitting” needle for surgery.” Used wahoo (medicinal herbs, Native American diuretic that has digitalic-like effect).‘
‘“Put a letter in the Harmar Post Office for L. Temple, Chicago, containing powder of opium and morphine.”’
Over time, Dr. Seth grew as a physician, but so did his son, Samuel. By 1849, Samuel completed his studies at the Marietta Academy, and received his degree in 1852 from the Medical College of Ohio. Following his graduation, he practiced with his father for a few months, before he left for four years to work as an active surgeon for the army, and then for two more years of service in the Bellevue Hospital in New York. He returned around 1856 to continue to help his father.
The Harts’, though willing to serve the multitudes, were only two men working out of their home. Thus in 1857, Seth and Samuel decided to move from the office they had built next to their house, and open an office on Front Street. Along with moving their offices, they made an arrangement with the Muskingum Ferry to provide a 24/7 service to the citizens of Harmar and Marietta, where they could call upon the doctors and visit as desired. This location carried products such as first aid amenities, Dr. Hart’s cough syrup, and even the Napoleon Cure for Kidney Disease.
By 1861, the Marietta Military Hospital opened for soldiers in Camp Putnam, then listing the doctors as: Frank Hart, Samuel Hart, and George O. Hildreth. Samuel was later transferred to Cincinnati, and then to Tennessee in 1865. Dr. Seth was also commissioned to travel out to Tennessee to serve as a surgeon of the Fifth Tennessee Calvary.
Towards the close of the Civil War, Samuel received a complimentary commission as the Brevet Lieutenant Colonel and Surgeon of the United States Volunteers. Dr. Samuel, being proud of his service, hung four of his army commissions with the signatures of President Lincoln and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton on the walls in his office when they finally returned home.
Sadly, Dr. Seth Hart, passed in 1891, and was buried at Mound Cemetery; his son to follow in 1908. The house, however, continued to stay in his family for over a century, only to be sold in 1936. His heirs continued to live in the area until around the 1980’s. The Hart House finally received historic recognition in the 1980’s, but stands today as a shadow of its former glory.