Past Forward

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A visit from Dr. Howard’s descendants

July 1, 2013

It’s always a thrill when we get to meet descendants of people connected with our Greenfield Village buildings. A few weeks ago, we hosted five descendants of Dr. Howard, whose Tekonsha, Mich., office is located out in the Village next to the Logan County Court House.

Numerous Dr. Howard descendants attended the formal dedication of this building in Greenfield Village back on Oct.15, 1963. (1963 – P.B.34298 – THF109613)

These five knowledgeable and enthusiastic members of the family came from North Dakota, California, and as far away as Australia! The group drove here together from North Dakota, visiting other family sites along the way—including, of course, the original site of Dr. Howard’s office in Tekonsha (near Marshall).

From left to right: Corey Washburn (North Dakota); Susan Gillies (Australia); Dawn Gunther (California); Fiona Lynton (Australia); and Angela Karaca (Australia). Corey and Dawn are great great great grandchildren of Dr. Howard; Sue, Fiona, and Angela are great great grandchildren. (Photo by Donna Braden)

All five descendants who came to visit trace their lineage back to Dr. Howard’s second of four children from his second marriage, Letitia Elizabeth (right, born 1864). In 1884, Letitia married Edwin DeMott Washburn and the couple headed out west to North Dakota. Many Washburn descendants still reside there. Letitia and Edwin’s grandson, Howard DeMott Washburn, donated the doctor’s office to Greenfield Village. (86.18.337.1 – THF109605)

Dr. Howard’s office was brought to Greenfield Village to represent the office of a country doctor. It is particularly unique because virtually everything in the building is original and dates to the time of his practice.

Dr. Howard's Office

Dr. Howard Office in Greenfield Village

Interior shots of Dr. Howard’s office in 1956, just before the building was moved to Greenfield Village.

Dr. Alonson Bingley Howard (1823-1883) was known to have a keen mind, an earthy sense of humor, and a colorful personality.

Dr. Alonson B. Howard, about 1858 (P.B.34260 – THF109611)

From the time he started his practice in the early 1850s until his death in 1883, Dr. Howard used a combination of methods to cure sick patients. These included herbal remedies that he concocted himself and more conventional medicines he had learned about while attending Cleveland Medical College and the University of Michigan for a few years. When he wasn’t in his office in Tekonsha, he was “out tending to patients” in the local area.

Inside the office today. The rows of medicine bottles and the wooden kegs that had once been filled with botanical extracts reflect the combination of herbal and conventional methods that Dr. Howard practiced. (THF11271; THF 11280)

When Dr. Howard’s descendants came here a few weeks ago, they were hoping to unearth clues to this long-ago history that would build upon their previous research into family stories and genealogy. They spent a lot of time out in the building, talking to staff and visitors and taking loads of pictures. Then they combed through our archival collections that contained materials about their family and about the office.

In the Benson Ford Research Center. Foreground, left to right: Fiona, Sue, Corey and Dawn. Angela is at the table in the back. (Photo by Donna Braden)

We were delighted that they were also willing to let us interview them so they could tell us more about their family history—filling in gaps in our own knowledge, revealing new insights, and truly putting new life back into the Dr. Howard story.

Thanks, Corey, Dawn, Sue, Angela, and Fiona, for reminding us that people all over the world continue to have deep personal connections to our buildings in Greenfield Village. It was a pleasure meeting you and we hope you come back to visit again soon.

Donna Braden is Curator of Public Life at The Henry Ford.

artifacts, Doc Howard, Dr. Howard, family, Greenfield Village buildings

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