Wilson T. Bassett M. D.

Contributed by Rene' Treffeisen

Wilson T. Bassett, M. D., a prominent physician of Cooperstown, N.Y., was born at 
New Lisbon, Otsego Co., N.Y., February 2 1821. His father, Benjamin Bassett, was
born in Yorkshire, England, and resided there until 1815, when, with his wife and
two infant sons, he sailed for the United States. The voyage was made in a
sailing-vessel, steamships not having then begun to cross the sea. The voyage was
a very stormy one and occupied three months and two days. When within a few days'
sail of New York a terrible storm came upon them and nearly wrecked their vessel,
and for six weeks afteward they were tossed about upon the ruthless ocean, during
which time they were put upon a short allowance of food, and lost what property
they had on board, before it was possible for them to land. They at length landed
in New York. They were of an honest, industrious and intelligent class of English
people, and were unaccustomed to such rough ways as they found in this new country
and to the hardships that awaited them here; they were disappointed, too in not
receiving the assistance which they thought they had a right to expect from friends
already here, and for these reasons their struggle for existence was a very hard one.
Mr. Bassett was compelled to rely entirely upon his own resources. He was a
veterinary surgeion, and would doubtless have succeeded well, but a few years after
landing in this country, he became blind from sickness brought on by exposure, and
died in 1824, leaving the burden of the care and support of the family solely in
the hands of his widow. She was a woman of superior intelligence and executive
ability, and managed her affairs so successfully that she became in time well
situated in life, and lived to the advanced age of seventy-eight years, dying in
Otsego County. Her maiden name was Elizabeth Heughit. She reared one son, Samuel
F. Jones, by a foremer marriage. By her second husband, Benjamin Bassett, she had
three sons, viz.: John, a farmer residing at Garrattsville, Otsego County; William,
a retired physician, who practiced many years at Binghamton, N.Y.; and Wilson T.,
the subject of this sketch, the only one born in the United States. Wilson T. Bassett inherited a sound constitution, and was naturally of a studious
disposition. His early habits were carefully watched and formed by his mother, who
had a very comprehensive and accurate understanding o fhte meaning of the word
discipline. his early educational advantages were somewhat limited, consisting of
only four months' school in the year from the time he was eight until he was sixteen
years old, but he made the most of the opportunities he did have, as is evident from
the fact that when he was a little past sixteen years old he taught a term of school,
continuing to teach four successive winters. The intervening summers he spent in
study, part of the time under the private instruction of Rev. John Hughes, a fine
scholar, and a portion of the time in the Clinton Classical Institute, then one of the
best academies in the State. In his youthful days books and newspapers were
comparatively scarce, and having a strong desire to acquire knowledge, he read
everything that came to his hand. One of these books was "Combe's Constituion of
Man," which he studied with great care, and which may have been the means of turning
his attention to the study of medicine. He also acquired a good English education
and a fair knowledge of mathematics and Latin, at the same time mixing in a good deal
of anantomy and physiology on his own accounty. When nineteen years old he began the
study of medicine regularly in the office of Dr. G. W. P. Wheeler, of Garrattsville,
and at the ate of twenty-one took his course of lectures at the Albany Medical college,
paying his expenses with money he had saved from his earnings. he continued in
attendance at this college for the two succeeding winters, and graduated from the
instituition in 1844. Almost immediately after graduating he began practice in Mount
Vision, Otsego County, but as for the first three or four years he had but little
practice, he had ample time for further study, which he faithyfully improved. When Thierty years of age Dr. Bassett had acquired a large practice, but as there
was no practitioner in that locality who could be relied upon in sever and complicated
cases, he realized the necessity of a more thorought knowledge of his profession.
Accordingly, in the fall of 1858 he left his practice and his family and spent five
months in New York City, attending lectures, hospitals, and clinics of such
physicians and surgeions as Carnochan, Wood, Peaslee and Barker, and worked from four
to six hours daily in the dissecting room during the entire five months. Upon
returning to the field of his labors he entered upon a much larger practice than
before, and performed some surgery and held much consultation. He thus continued
hard at work until the fall of 1863, when he returned to New York City, and during
the fall of that year and the succeeding winter he attended the hospitals and
lectures, and tood a special course in surgery with Dr. Frank H Hamilton, working
in the dissecting room as before. Returning home in the spring, he continued his
practice through the summer, and in the fall of 1864 went in the office of Dr. March,
assisting him in his operations, and being under his private instruction altogether
for six months, attending lectures on anatomy and also working in the dissecting
room. He subsequently had a very large increase in his surgical and consultation
work. In the fall of 1868 and the following winter he attended lectures at Harvard
Medical College, and took a special course on the eye, with Professor Williams,
and also attended the surgical lectures of Professors Bigelow and Cheever. From this brief outline of Dr. Bassett's history it will appear that his opportunities
for becoming a thoroughly learned and skillful physician and surgeon were of the best,
and that his determination to be well qualified was of the strongest. These facts
being generally recognized, it is not remarkable that his practice should be brought
in contact with more critical cases than usually fall to the lot of the physician
outside of the largest cities. He has been called in consultation at times to distances
of fifty mmiles from home, and frequently to lesser distances. he has performed
numerous difficult surgical operations, as in hernia, in amputation at the shoulder
and hip joint, and in lithotomy. dur the Civil War Dr. Bassett manifested his patriotism by treating all returning
soldiers, and the families of these soldiers while they were absent in the field,
free of charge, and these services were very widely and very gratefully accepted.
In the spring of 1869 he removed to Cooperstown, that place being more central and
affording him a wider field for practice. Since living there his practice has been
very large, and has embraced many difficult cases of surgery. He has had the medical
charge of the Orphan Shylum at Cooperstown, for which he has made no charge. Dr.
Bassett is a member of the Otsego County Medical Society, and is also a prominent
member of the State Medical Society. He has been on the witness stand a great many
ties as expert in murder trials when insanity has been set up as a defense. In such
cases he has invariably been the despair of the lawyers in cross examinations. He
is one of the most affable of men, and this fact has frequently led lawyers into the
mistake of thinking they could browbeat or confuse him, but the result has always
been that the lawyers themselves have been confused. Teh Doctor is the most
accomplished witness that has ever been placed on the stand in Otsego County. He
has no political aspirations, but he has served as County Coroner and has represented
the town on the County Board of Supervisiors, with much credit to himself and to the
entire satisfaction of all concerned. April 12, 1845, Dr. Bassett married Mary Augusta Ostrander, a daughter of William
and Harriet Ostrander, of whom a sketch apears elsewhere in this volume. Dr. Bassett
has four children living, viz: liston B., engaged in business in Norwich, NY; Emma,
wife of Melville Keyes, an attorney at Oneonta; Hortense, who is an invalid, and M.
Imogene, a graduate of the Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia,
which she attended four years. She then took a post graduate course at the
Polyclinic college of Philadelphia, and was for a time instructor in nervous diseases
in that institution. She was also assistant to Dr. Charles K. Mills. Since the death
of her mother she has returned to her home and now has quite an extensive practice,
quickly taking up the practice her mother had acquired. It gives great pleasure to the publishers of this work to be able to present in this
volume a portrait of Dr. Bassett, who for so many years has been one of the most
prominent and successful of the physicians of Otsego County.
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