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Medicine Man Helped Eliza Hutchens

What does it take to find a cure...

After Joe was born in 1867, Eliza Hutchens had a hard time getting well, and soon William was very much worried. The local doctor came, but her remedies were of no help. The Indian women came and talked to Eliza and brought her choice bits of food, such as dried venison and serviceberries.

Then one day the medicine man came bringing a beaver he had killed. He told William that he could cure the sick squaw if his directions were followed. From the dead beaver, he took the castor glands. He put the castoreum, a brown molasses-like substance, in a bottle of whiskey and instructed William to give his wife a teaspoon at intervals; the castoreum had a distinct taste and smell and Eliza was reluctant to take it. She finally consented, and it worked! It wasn’t long before Eliza had fully recovered. [1]

NOTE: Castoreum is still used in 2021 for medicinal purposes. It can be purchased in some pharmacies for use as a sleep aid. Salicin-rich castoreum is converted by human bodies into salicylic acid, which behaves much in the same way that aspirin does, to provide relief from pain. [2]

Eliza Helps the Widower Indian Chief

A widower Indian Chief had three children, and he brought the baby to Eliza to the doctor because the baby had sore eyes. He never brought the baby up to the door; he just came into their yard and sat on a log or a chopping block with his children until Eliza came out and spoke to him.

One day after Eliza had washed the baby and cared for his eyes, the Widower Chief asked if his baby could be given a little milk as he was too young to eat what the Chief provided for his other children. After that Eliza always gave the baby a cup of milk to drink after she had taken care of his eyes. The Chief never asked for food for himself or for the other children.

When the weather got cold, the baby had nothing to wear. Eliza told the Chief that the baby should be dressed in such cold weather, so after she had doctored his eyes, she put a little shirt on him. The baby fought like a wild animal and pulled the shirt and finally tore it off. All the while the Indian Chief laughed and laughed, and when he took the baby away, he had nothing on again; he was just wrapped in his blanket. [3]


[1] - Autobiography of Mary Elizabeth Hutchens Sherner, Mary Elizabeth – Her Stories, dictated to her daughter Dorothy A. Sherner, manuscript, 1933, p. 55.

[2] -, Feb. 2021.

[3] - Sherner, Mary Elizabeth- Her Stories, p. 88.

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