On a brighter note this week, I want to share an idea with you whose time, I believe, has come.
Most people know that Rush County and its county seat were named for Dr. Benjamin Rush by one of his students, Dr. William B. Laughlin. There’s a large stone on the northeast side of the county courthouse that explains how Dr. Laughlin decided to name the county and its county seat for Dr. Rush. But beyond that, how much do people really know about Dr. Rush, and what, over the years, have we done to commemorate his life and achievements?
Dr. Rush was more than just a country doctor. Born Jan. 4, 1746, he was perhaps best known as a signer of the Declaration of Independence when he was only 30 years old. Dr. Rush was also a civic leader in Philadelphia. In addition, he was a politician, social reformer, humanitarian, educator and founder of Dickinson College. During the American Revolution, Rush served as Surgeon General of the Continental Army. He later became a professor of chemistry, medical theory, and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
According to Wikipedia, “Rush was a leader of the American Enlightenment and an enthusiastic supporter of the American Revolution. He was a leader in Pennsylvania’s ratification of the Constitution in 1788. He was prominent in many reforms, especially in the areas of medicine and education. He opposed slavery, advocated free public schools, and sought improved education for women and a more enlightened penal system. As a leading physician, Rush had a major impact on the emerging medical profession.”
In addition, Dr. Rush was a proponent of public health, advocated maintaining a clean environment, and stressed the importance of personal and military hygiene. Furthermore, his study of mental illness gave him the distinction of becoming one of the founders of American psychiatry. As recently as 1965, Dr. Rush was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as the “father of American Psychiatry.” Not a bad list of achievements for one lifetime.
As a lifelong advocate of post-high school education, check out Dr. Rush’s academic credentials. Wikipedia says, “Rush studied at what would become Princeton University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree at the age of 14! From 1761 to 1766, Rush apprenticed under Dr. John Redman in Philadelphia. Redman encouraged him to further his studies at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where Rush studied from 1766 to 1768 and earned an M.D. Rush became fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish as a result of his studies and European tour.
After returning to the colonies in 1769, Dr. Rush opened his medical practice in Philadelphia and later published the first American textbook on chemistry. He also published several volumes on medical student education and wrote a number of influential patriotic essays.
In 1783, he was appointed to the staff of Pennsylvania Hospital, and he remained a member until his death. He was elected to the Pennsylvania convention which adopted the Federal constitution and was appointed treasurer of the United States Mint, serving from 1797–1813 He was [also] elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1788.
Finally, during his remarkable career, he educated over 3,000 medical students, and several of them established Rush Medical College in Chicago in his honor after his death. It exists today and is known as Rush University Medical Center. Dr. Rush died at the early age of 68 of typhus. It is almost impossible to imagine accomplishing as much as he did in such a relatively short lifetime.
Now, what have we, as a community, done to honor the memory of the man for whom our county and county seat are named? Precious little, I’m afraid. It’s high time that we, at least, erect a monument to Dr. Rush on the courthouse lawn or front the lawn of the high school with a statue of Rush himself on top – not unlike the Civil War monument in East Hill Cemetery, although perhaps not quite that large.
So, my suggestion is that the city and county appointment a select committee charged with the responsibility of coming up with a design for a monument to Dr. Rush to be placed on the southeast quadrant of the courthouse lawn or in front of the high school. In addition, the committee chosen should also be charged with finding a sculptor capable of doing the job and coming up with a plan to raise the funds for the project (thank heaven we have a Community Foundation that may be able to assist).
No one living today had anything to do with naming this county or community in memory of Dr. Rush. It was one of his students, Dr. William B. Laughlin, who chose the name for the place. It’s high time we paid appropriate tribute to the man for whom some many things are named in this county. Frankly, I would imagine that if everyone living in this county gave $1, the project could be done – although I doubt that will happen.
Given Dr. Rush’s life of accomplishments, it’s high time that we recognized his legacy and honored his memory in a tangible way.
That’s – 30 – for this week.