On average, Ephrata’s celibate members seemed healthy. Many lived into their late 60s and early 70s, a few years longer than the average age of their neighbors. How did they do that on so little sleep and sparse diets? What do you do to maintain your health? What will give you a long life?
I’ve been spending several days this summer in the Physician’s House, sharing information on health care in early Ephrata. When young people come in, I usually start by asking “how are you feeling today?” and no matter what the answer, I usually follow with “we can fix that!”
|The Physician's House|
Records about medicine at the Cloister are scarce. Certainly Ephrata’s Sisters knew how to use the herbs from their gardens to make medicines.
Several books were available to help with medical recipes. Doctor John Tennent wrote a book called Every Man His Own Doctor in the 1730s. The book was reprinted several times including by Benjamin Franklin.
|It is presumed Peter Miller printed a German translation of Every Man is own Doctor in 1749.|
Always thinking of his fellow man, Franklin advertised that a discount would be give on the price if the book was given away for charity.
Franklin was also a business man who knew Pennsylvania had large German population. With the help of someone he identifies as “P. M.” he did a German edition of the book in 1749. It’s believed that P. M. is Peter Miller of the Ephrata Cloister. Later this year, the book will again be available in The Museum Store-- but I wouldn’t recommend any of the treatments.
Here’s a sample cure prescribed by the book: for a fever make 2 gallons of chicken broth and drink all of it in the space of 2 to 3 hours. Wow! The book says, “some of this will come up, some go down, and cleanse your stomach and bowels and make you well before you least expect it.”
Doctor Philip Jacob Meder came at Ephrata in late in 1751. When he arrived Brother Gideon (Christian Eckstein) became his apprentice to learn medicine. That is the way most American doctors were trained in the colonial period.
By December 1752, Dr. Meder left the Cloister. From that point onward, Brother Gideon considered himself the community’s doctor. Would you let Brother Gideon treat you?
-Michael Showalter, Museum Educator