Middlebury physicians – Part II

#Middlebury #Doctors

It Happened in Middlebury


Medicine was just opening up to women in the 19th century, and Middlebury provided the gifted Isabella “Isabel” Cowan, M.D. to that profession. She was born in Irvington, Westchester County, New York, just after the close of the Civil War, on Nov. 17, 1865, shortly after her family immigrated from Ireland.

Of Scottish-Irish ancestry, the Cowan family remained in New York until the early 1870s, when they moved to Middlebury, where Isabel grew up. She graduated from Waterbury High School in 1883, and she and her seven sisters all became teachers, most of them school principals. They were active members of the Methodist-Episcopal Church in Middlebury and then in Waterbury.

Their father, William, a milkman in Middlebury, was tragically killed by a locomotive in Naugatuck in 1888 at the age of 57, and the family moved to Waterbury in 1892, the year Isabel abandoned teaching and struck out for medical school. She graduated from the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary in 1895, the school founded by Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. (1821-1910), America’s first woman M.D.

For a year she interned at the Women’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and in 1896 entered the practice of medicine and surgery with an office in the Castle block on North Main Street in Waterbury. She was a member of the New Haven County Medical Association and attended patients in Middlebury and the greater Waterbury area for many years; she died in New Rochelle, New York, on Jan. 2, 1951, and is buried with most of the Cowan family in Middlebury Cemetery.

Andrew Clay Swenson, M.D., was born in Sweden Aug. 29, 1870, to a father who later became a naturalized American and lived in Thomaston and Waterbury. He came to the United States with his family in the 1880s and graduated from Yale School of Medicine in 1902.

As a student, he secretly married, but that marriage ended in divorce. In 1925 he married Mary Wheeler (1900-1991), daughter of Myron and Martha (Wellman) Wheeler of Watertown. They had one daughter, Mary, born about 1927. He practiced medicine in Waterbury and then in Middlebury, and in 1956 was honored for 50 years of membership by the Connecticut Medical Society. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury.

Dr. William Parsons Arnold Jr., shown here with two unidentified people at a Middlebury Memorial Day Parade about 2007, wears the U.S. Army Medical Corps uniform. He served with the Corps from 1947 to 1949, and his uniform fit him all his life. (Middlebury Historical Society image)

William Parsons Arnold Jr., M.D., was born in Waterbury May 10, 1922, to William Parsons and Dorothy (Granniss) Arnold, and married Mildred Beleu (1923-2012), daughter of Dan Lewis and Esta Lee (Emerson) Beleu. He graduated from Yale University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and served in the United States Army Medical Corps from 1947 to 1949.

Dr. Arnold served as the director of health for the Town of Middlebury from 1954 to 2005. He served as school physician for Region 15 elementary schools; assistant medical examiner for the Connecticut State M.E. office, Middlebury; surgeon for the Middlebury Volunteer Fire Department and the Middlebury Police Department; medical director for the Middlebury Convalescent Home, and was a devoted horseman.

Charles Lewis Larkin Jr., M.D. (1922-2007) was born in Middlebury to Charles Lewis Larkin Sr., M.D. (1889-1967), and Ruby Seymour Tuttle (1894-1992), and was married to Anne Russel Meigs, daughter of Lt. Comm. Austin Graham and Mary (Russel) Meigs. His grandfather, William J. Larkin Jr. (c 1859-1929) was the superintendent of the Waterbury Clock Company and a senator from Waterbury.

Charles’ father, Charles Lewis Larkin Sr., was a pioneer in medicine; in 1937, for example, he proposed that Yale Medical School become a “mecca” for cancer study (Hartford Courant). The younger Charles graduated from Yale University and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and served as a United States Army captain. He joined his father’s practice in the Waterbury Medical and Surgical Group (later the Larkin Clinic) in Waterbury and was a pioneer in cardiovascular surgery, pioneering the acceptance of open heart surgery in Connecticut.

Bob Rafford is the Middlebury Historical Society president and Middlebury’s municipal historian. To join or contact the society, visit MiddleburyHistoricalSociety.org or call Bob at 203-206-4717.


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