Murray L. Johnson, "Early Medical Men in the Northwest who were naturalists," Western Journal of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology. LI (May, 1943).

George Suckley was born in New York City in 1830, died there in 1869. He was graduated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York in 1851, served as resident physician 1852, and was assistant surgeon in the U. S. Army in 1853-56. Dr. Suckley contributed to the transactions of the American Medical Association and the Philadelphia Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Cooper's summary of the Medical problems of the expedition in the Western part of the Washington Territory is interesting reading; included as his Medical Report, Fort Vancouver, December 26, 1853: "Sir: In this report I shall consider, in detail, all the facts noticed in regard to the health of the party, the hygiene of the country, and the diseases prevailing among the Indians, with their remedies. 

The general health of the party was very good throughout the journey. No epidemic or endemic diseases prevailed; boils being the only disease that occurred very generally, probably in consequence of the warm weather and meat diet. Two men were discharged at Yakima with diseases contracted before starting, and which the nature of their duties as packers and daily riding, prevented a recovery during a march. 

Disorders of the digestive organs were common, but readily yielded to treatment. Although almost every person in the command applied to me at different times for medicine or advice, the above were the only cases especially worthy of notice. Many of the medicines furnished to the party were found unnecessary while others were very useful; and a few were not supplied which would often have been serviceable. 

Considerable loss occurred from breakage in consequence of the difficulty of conveying medicines in panniers on the backs of mules.

"The country traversed from June to November appears to be very healthy in that season. The great dryness of the climate, and the perfect drainage of the country prevent the prevalence of malarial disease in the summer. No instance of endemic diseases of any kind was met with, not attributable to the mode of life and habits of the inhabitants. 

Of the diseases prevalent among the Indians, the smallpox was the most common and fatal in its effect. Whole tribes have been exterminated by it on the Columbia River and we met with it among all those inhabitants the west and north sides of its upper branches. Nearly all the survivors were marked with it, and it was decreasing at the time of our visit. Vaccination had been tried by some white residents in the Okinakane River, but without effect. 

East of the Columbia, however, it had not yet appeared, and the principal tribes there had been vaccinated by the Catholic priests. No indubitable cases of syphilis were seen east of the mountains. I saw cases of intermittent fever on the west side of the mountains, but none on the East. 

The Indians there, however, say that it formerly prevailed extensively but suppose it was brought from lower down the river. I met with no diseases of the digestive organs among them, and their unvaried diet of dry fish and berries does not seem to affect them. 

Chronic inflammation of the external eye with opacity of the cornea, is very common, apparently caused by the irritation of smoke in their badly ventilated huts. Blindness following small pox was met with but rarely.

"I saw an instance of curvature of spine in a boy of about 15 years, then past remedy. Deformity of the hip joints was not rare, probably in consequence of morbus coxarius. Fracture and dislocation of the limbs appear to be rare. The Indians are not much exposed to accident of that kind, on account of their indolent habits and little taste for adventure. 

"Atrophy of the muscles constituting the calf of the leg is almost a disease among them, in consequence of their infrequent use in walking; all journeys being performed on horseback or in canoes even for half a mile distance. Consumption is common among them, in consequence of poor clothing and shelter, combined with the weakness of constitution generally caused by a scanty and innutritious quality of food. 

"Decay of the teeth seems to be rare, but they wear down from the surface as in horses, etc., forming smooth flat tops.

"I could learn of very few remedies among the Indian tribes; they are unwilling to tell of such as they have, which must be very few and of little value, as they place great confidence in the treatment and medicine of the whites. Many tribes on the Upper Columbia and its branches use the hot vapor bath, followed by a plunge into cold water. 

"This severe hydropathic practice does not seem to benefit them, and is fast giving way to other remedies. The huts used for its administration have been often described, and are used also east of the Rocky Mountains. Like all savage nations, charms and incantations are much relied on by them. 

"An unbelligerous plant (pencedanum) is used by them as an emitic, as well as the root of the Sicvoo Oregonus, or wild melon, which has properties similar to those of colocynth.

"There are, undoubtedly, many plants indigenous to the country of great medical -value. Some of these are well known, but a long time will be required to ascertain fully the uses of the greater part of them. Some are noticed in the accompanying list of plants observed."

Excerpts from Dr. Suckley's report of the eastern division show that even in the wild country of the Northwest in 1853, the curses of civilization were taking their toll between The Dalles and Puget Sound, via Fort Vancouver. 

Three cases came on the sick report as follows: The first was that of a mule packer, who had contracted syphilis. The second was a case of severe articular rheumatism in a person of a dragoon private. This was produced by his lying out in the wet all night during a fit of intoxication.

Murray L. Johnson, "Early Medical Men in the Northwest who were naturalists," Western Journal of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology. LI (May, 1943).