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Dr. Rose Had Just the Right Cure

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on July 11, 1992


By Roz Young

             In a dingy, low frame house on the west side of Jefferson Street just below Fifth, Dr. J.S. Rose conducted his questionable practice of medicine a century ago. When he opened his office, he erected a gaudy sign in the front yard that read:

Discoverer of a cure for
consumption, bronchitis, catarrh,
big neck, etc.
I cure all
who follow out my directions.
If all the doctors would do so,
there would be less funerals
for awhile.

            In addition to the sign he had a second one attached by hinges that he kept fastened to the back of the sign by a rope. Whenever a funeral passed his house on the way to the cemetery, he released the rope, allowing the sign to swing down and say to all the procession "Not My Patient."
            Charlotte Reeve Conover described Dr. Rose and his sign in her Dayton history but did not give details about the eccentric doctor.
            He was born in North Marlboro, Mass., in 1817. After finishing school there, he worked in a dry goods store for a time and then, saying goodbye to his family, he left for the South.
            He worked his way through medical college in Macon, Ga. He became engaged to Augusta Lannon, who gave him a ring that had instead of a jewel, a small locket in which she placed a bit of her hair. He kept that ring the rest of his life.
            The romance ended in a quarrel, and Augusta married someone else. Rose finished medical school and became a tramp, wandering the roads for years and learning firsthand the curative powers of herbs he found growing in the woods.
            For a time he became a lumber salesman in Cincinnati. Then in 1857 he came to Dayton, rented a room on Second Street between Main and Ludlow and hung out his shingle announcing he had a cure for consumption. Other physicians in town called him a quack, but in spite of them he built a lucrative practice.
            He married a young woman in the neighborhood and they moved to South Jefferson Street. Here he continued his practice and for recreation he raised fancy chickens. After eight years his wife died and he became a recluse, dispensing his homemade medicines, raising chickens, and appearing infrequently in public, always wearing his tall beaver hat. He hired a young boy to help him in his laboratory and to run errands.
            He granted one interview to a newspaper reporter. "Anyone can be cured of consumption if they want to," he told the reporter. "I think if people would leave tobacco and whiskey alone, they wouldn't be so susceptible to this disease and a lot of other diseases. The food we get nowadays is adulterated, and there isn't much that's fit to eat any more. For my part, I eat about one meal a day. I rise at sunup and go to bed when I see my chickens going to roost. I've always made it a practice to eat when I was hungry. This thing of having regular meal times is foolish. We eat too often when we don't need to or enjoy it."
            Stung when his fellow physicians termed him a quack, he withdrew from the world. In his last illness, he refused to consult any other physician but treated himself. He died in 1874.
            When news of his death became known, crowds gathered outside the old, rundown house with the strange signs. He was buried in Greencastle Cemetery. His sister arrived from Massachusetts too late for the services.
            Searchers found in the house thousands of bottles and 12 wine casks filled with the medicine he called "Strong Wine of Life" and in the attic six trunks filled with herbs. Rumor spread that Dr. Rose's formula was worth millions, but investigators found no papers. He had evidently memorized his formula. They did find $6,750 in gold coins.
            After his funeral crowds gathered around the house every night to see his ghost, which was rumored to have returned. W.R. Young, executor of the estate, Harry Breidenbach, appraiser, and Detective O.B. Corbett formed an investigating committee. From the sidewalk they could see a light flickering in the attic, but when they climbed the rickety stairs, they found only darkness.
            Crowds milled around the house for several nights until someone discovered that the mysterious light was caused by a boy across the street projecting the light with a lantern and a mirror.
            The estate was settled, the chickens sold, the signs came down and went to the dump along with the rubbish in the house. The gallons of "Strong Wine of Life" went into the sewer. And another page in Dayton's history turned.