October 20, 1823: Birth of John Rose Leal. John Rose Leal was born on October 20, 1823 (or possibly 1825 or 1827) in Meredith, Delaware County, New York. His parents were John Leal and Martha McLaury who were descended from early settlers of Delaware County, New York. There are records that John Rose Leal’s great-grandfather Alexander Leal was born in Scotland in 1740 and immigrated to the British colonies in North America, landing in New York City on April 13, 1774. On John R. Leal’s mother’s side, his ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland.
There is little information on John R. Leal’s early years. According to one source, he received his preliminary education at the Literary Institute, in Franklyn, Delaware County, New York and at the Delaware Academy in Delhi, New York.
John Rose Leal received his medical training under Dr. Almiran Fitch of Delhi, New York and completed his medical degree at Berkshire Medical College. Located in the westernmost regions of Massachusetts, Berkshire County, the medical college was in a remote part of the young country separated from the rest of the state by the Berkshire Mountains. The mission of Berkshire Medical College was to train doctors to serve the sparsely populated rural areas that were dominated by agriculture. Founded in 1822 as the Berkshire Medical Institution, the school had to overcome resistance from Harvard Medical School that objected to the establishment of another medical training facility in Massachusetts. With a student population of about 30 in the 1840s, a medical education was offered to students for the magnificent sum of $140 per year.
John Rose Leal received his medical degree in 1848 and shortly thereafter opened up a medical practice in Andes. Dr. Leal continued his education with a post-graduate course at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City—an institution that would figure prominently in one son’s education.
There is a limited amount information about his wife, Mary Elizabeth Laing, from historical records. Born in 1837, the fourth child of eight children, she was the daughter of Rev. James Laing of Andes, NY. She was born in Andes, NY, after the family moved there from Argyle, NY. Her father was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Andes.
John Rose Leal and Mary E. Laing were married in Andes on August 29, 1855. Mary E. Laing was only 18 when she married the successful country doctor. John L. Leal was born to the couple on May 5, 1868. Census records from 1860 show that another child was born to the couple about 1859 in Andes, William G. Leal. Another brother was born much later in Paterson, New Jersey, about 1870, Charles E. Leal. There are no records showing that William G. Leal survived into adulthood. Charles E. Leal lived to the age of 24 and died in 1894 in Paterson.
The simple rural life in Andes, New York was shattered by the Civil War in 1862 when the 144th Regiment, New York Volunteers was formed in Delaware County and the surrounding area. John R. Leal’s first appointment was as regimental surgeon and over the next three years he was promoted to surgeon at the brigade, division and corps levels. Toward the end of the war he held the title of Medical Director in the Department of the South. According to an obituary, Dr. Leal was wounded twice and was with his regiment at the battle of John’s Island.
The 144th Regiment was stationed on Folly Island in 1863 as part of the siege of Charleston, South Carolina. According to the history of the regiment, “very nearly every man in the Regiment got sick…with bad and unhealthy water to drink.” The only treatment at the time for the debilitating dysentery that overwhelmed the Regiment was the administration of “opium pills” by Dr. Leal. The pills did not cure anything but they made the recipients feel somewhat better. Dr. Leal became so ill that he received medical leave for a time, but it is clear from the records that he never fully recovered.
Dr. Leal was mustered out of the 144th Regiment on June 25, 1865 after which time he returned to his simpler life in Andes, New York. However, he brought a dreadful souvenir of the war home with him and he suffered with it for the next 17 years.
In one obituary, it was stated: “…his death, which resulted from an attack of peritonitis of an asthenic character, sequel to an attack of dysentery, which at the outset did not indicate an unusual degree of severity, but was undoubtedly aggravated by the chronic diarrhea from which he had been a sufferer more or less constantly since his retirement from the army.”
Another obituary was equally clear as to the cause of his death: “He never recovered from the effects of disease contracted on Folly Island, and this induced other complications, resulting in his death.”
Reference: McGuire, Michael J. 2013. The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives. Denver, CO:American Water Works Association.
Commentary: Dr. John Rose Leal was the father of Dr. John L. Leal who was responsible for the first chlorination of a U.S. public water supply—see The Chlorine Revolution.
October 20, 1803: Louisiana Purchase is ratified. “On October 20, 1803, the Senate ratified the Louisiana Purchase Treaty by a vote of twenty-four to seven. The agreement, which provided for the purchase of the western half of the Mississippi River basin from France at a price of $15 million, or approximately four cents per acre, doubled the size of the country and paved the way for westward expansion beyond the Mississippi.
Spain had controlled Louisiana and the strategic port of New Orleans with a relatively free hand since 1762. However, Spain signed the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800 under pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte, a secret agreement retroceding [To cede or give back (a territory for example)] the territory of Louisiana to France.
News of the agreement eventually reached the U.S. government. President Thomas Jefferson feared that if Louisiana came under French control, American settlers living in the Mississippi River Valley would lose free access to the port of New Orleans. On April 18, 1802, Jefferson wrote a letter to Robert Livingston, the U.S. minister to France, warning that, “There is on the globe one single spot, the possessor of which is our natural and habitual enemy. It is New Orleans…”
Napoleon, faced with a shortage of cash, a recent military defeat in Santo Domingo, and the threat of a war with Great Britain, decided to cut his losses and abandon his plans for an empire in the New World. In 1803, he offered to sell the entire territory of Louisiana to the United States for $15 million.
Robert Livingston and James Monroe, whom Jefferson had sent to Paris earlier that year, had only been authorized to spend up to $10 million to purchase New Orleans and West Florida. Although the proposal for the entire territory exceeded their official instructions, they agreed to the deal. The Louisiana Purchase Treaty was dated April 30 and formally signed on May 2, 1803.
The bounds of the territory, which were not clearly delineated in the treaty, were assumed to include all the land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, at that time known as the Stony Mountains. Just twelve days after the signing of the treaty, frontiersmen Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out on an expedition to explore the newly acquired territory.
The purchase of the Louisiana Territory and the Lewis and Clark expedition marked the beginning of a century of conquest. As explorers, speculators, adventurers, and settlers pushed the territorial boundaries of the United States westward toward the Pacific coast, the notion of America as a nation always pushing toward new frontiers took hold in art, literature, folklore, and the national psyche.”
Commentary: It is interesting that the boundaries of the land purchase were defined by river basins and not by latitude lines or surveyed limits. The addition of this vast swath of land to the young country brought with it some of the most important water resources that we currently possess. We can thank the vision of Thomas Jefferson for this amazing milestone in the history of water.
October 20, 1818: Treaty signed with Great Britain that ultimately resulted in U.S. acquisition of the Oregon Territory. “After the Revolutionary War, the U.S. inherited Spanish claims to the Oregon Territory that resulted in a number of boundary disputes with Great Britain. America and Great Britain agreed to form a joint commission to resolve boundary disputes. One of the results was the Treaty of Occupation of Oregon, signed on October 20,1818. As a result, British citizens and Americans in Oregon lived together peacefully. The joint occupancy treaty was renewed in 1827. Both British and American Commissioners had fixed the border between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel from the Lake of the Woods (Minnesota Territory) west to the Rocky Mountains. The United States had proposed to extend the border along the same parallel to the Pacific Ocean, but Great Britain insisted that the northern border be drawn west to the Columbia River and then follow that river to the ocean.” (edited by MJM)
Commentary: Through a coincidence of dates, today, we can celebrate the astonishing amalgamation of water resources that stretch across the western U.S. and made the 19th century dream of Manifest Destiny a reality. Many thanks to Evan E. Filby who brought this interesting happenstance of dates to my attention. You may be interested in his blog about Idaho history.