First Neighborhood Doctor?

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    • #2921

        The first physician to live in our area, as far as I can tell, was John Cregier.  I first saw his name on the South Yonkers militia roll from 1775 alongside other local militiamen and I tried to figure out who he was.  As I dug around, I noticed that he was a witness to a number of wills of local people and I saw he was listed as a doctor.  This is the abridged will of Joshua Vermillie as an example (see the bottom):

        I also saw his name in a number of other Revolutionary-era documents such as an August 20, 1776 resolution of New York’s Provincial Congress stating:

        When Washington’s army prepared New York’s defenses against a British attack in 1776, Many troops came to be stationed at Kingsbridge.  Among them was Colonel Levy Pawlings regiment of Ulster County Militia.  That explains how a local doctor became the surgeon of an upstate unit.

        I found the idea of a local country doctor living in our area interesting so I tried for a while to figure out where he lived but I couldn’t find any deeds in his name.  But I did find a helpful memoir in the “McDonald Papers,” which is a collection of memoirs about the American Revolution that were taken from local people in the 1840s.  The memoir was given by someone named Augustus Cregier, who stated that his father took “surgical care” of a local militia captain when he was severely wounded in the arm during an ambush.  So, I knew that Augustus Cregier was probably the son of Dr. John Cregier.  Later in his memoir, Augustus Cregier states:

        “Tarleton’s Headquarters were at my fathers for about three weeks after which he went to Crawford’s at Mile Square.  [Tarleton] was a handsome military looking man.  He took up all our house, but two rooms.  Our house belonged to Van Courtland and was situated between Courtland’s house and the mills, and east of the house.”

        Leaving aside the interesting fact that the infamous Banastre Tarleton was headquartered at a Van Cortlandt property, the quote gives us a good idea of where Dr. John Cregier and his son Augustus were living–East of the Van Cortlandt House between the house and the mills.  That would put it here:

        You can see an unlabeled box representing a building “between Courtland’s house and the mills” on this 1781 British Intelligence map from the Clements Library at the University of Michigan.  Looking at the map, you can see that the house was just to the east of a road.  That road still exists in the park as a rocky path lined with a stone wall.  The Cregier residence was in the field just to the east of it.

        Since Dr. John Cregier lived in a house owned by the Van Cortlandts, I would assume that his son Augustus Cregier was named “Augustus” in honor of Augustus Van Cortlandt.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Van Cortlandts had brought the doctor up to live in this area to take care of some of the sick and elderly members of the Van Cortlandt family.  And here’s something curious on an undated British map from the Revolution of our area:

        Note “Dr. Kilger,” which sounds suspiciously like how a Hessian soldier might interpret “Dr. Cregier.”  The Hessian soldiers occupied this area during much of the war on behalf of the British and Kilger is a well-known German surname.  Although this map places “Dr. Kilger” on the Albany Post Road–not exactly where Augustus Cregier said they lived–but pretty close.


      • #2922
        Peter Ostrander

          Nick nice find and good research making all the connections.  Regarding the house location for the doctor.  I’ve always thought of the stone path mentioned as part of the old Albany Post Road that turned left at the top past the VC house over Bway to the Post Road. At the bottom of this road is the split off that went under the old RR bridge that was the Road to Miles Square. Both ancient roads in this area. So I think you are correct in identifying the location of the Doctors house east of this road towards the mill and both maps are ‘correct’.

        • #2923

            Great sleuthing, Nick!  You can add this tidbit to your next tour of the park.

          • #2924

              Thanks Peter and Julie.

              Another interesting thing about Dr. John Cregier is that while he joined the local militia in 1775 and served as the surgeon to the Ulster County regiment in 1776, he spent much of the rest of the war living in today’s Van Cortlandt Park. And that put him in British occupied territory for most of the war in a neighborhood teeming with British and Hessian soldiers. Dr. Cregier’s son, Augustus, mentioned in his memoir that his father provided medical treatment to Captain Benjamin Ogden, who commanded the cavalry troop of a rather notorious British unit–Emmerich’s Chasseurs. So he went from treating the patriots to treating the British and their allies.

              I wonder if some local people, like Dr. John Cregier, signed up with the militia early on in the war due to the great social pressure to show loyalty to the patriot cause. Because many of them were not so committed to the cause that they were willing to fight as soldiers for very long.

              This clipping from the 1790 census shows that Dr. John Cregier continued to live in the area after the war. His household is listed between the Hadleys and the Van Cortlandts.

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