‘Old doc’ not to be forgotten

Published 11:13 am Saturday, June 16, 2007

By By Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery
NILES – He came to Niles on horseback in 1836.
The bride he married a year earlier and infant son followed later the same year. He became known as "old Dr. Richardson."
Dr. Stillman Richardson was born in Cheshire County, N. H. Part of his youth was spent in Boston, Mass. before moving to Cortland County, N.Y., where he first studied and practiced medicine.
However once he and his family moved to Niles, it was home for the remainder of their lives. His wife was a leading spirit in church, temperance and charitable work according to the book, History of Berrien County.
It is interesting to note that the memoriam does not mention his wife or son other than that they followed the doctor to Niles. He was remembered as a community icon, revered and yet personally a bit of an enigma.
Within the lengthy newspaper piece, the doctor was compared to someone referred to as "Abernethy." The memoriam said, "like his illustrious prototype beneath a rough exterior lay hidden beneath the inner and better portions of his nature."
Richardson, it seems, was not an easy man to get to know. Those who did reported that his usually brusque exterior covered a heart of gold.
"None but those who were intimate with him – and they were not many – ever knew of the continued and protracted toilsome service in which he was constantly engaged … at all times of the day and night, in all kinds of weather, he promptly marched to the front at the call of suffering humanity. No time was allotted him for regular rest. No storm was sufficient to deter him from visiting his patients," his memoriam said.
It was said that "the old settlers will miss him most for he was with many of them in times of severe domestic difficulties." He cared for their dying and it was stated that "it was scarcely thought to be a regular legitimate addition to a family if the "old doctor" was not there to preside at the ceremony."
The doctor was not as rigorously attentive to his own health. His lengthy memoriam suggested "during his last illness, he bore his afflictions in silence."
Quiet about his own business, the doctor appears to have been less than shy in dispensing his advice. "Many sharp sayings which the "old doctor" has bequeathed to the surviving members of the fraternity, will be long remembered,' the memoriam stated.
Remember him they did.
Weeks after his death on March 29, 1875, a mass convention was called to consider how to raise the funds necessary for the erection of "a suitable monument to the memory of the late Dr. S. Richardson."
The announcement went on to suggest a committee be appointed to draft resolutions "expressive of the people's respect for the deceased as a man, a physician, a neighbor and a public benefactor."
History of Berrien County, states: "he made no attempts to collect from his patients and the result was that he died poor." This seems to validate what the memoriam said so eloquently.
"His good deeds will obliterate all the heartaches caused by his hasty sayings. By his acts he will be known as a true philanthropist."
The monument was purchased by those who learned of the doctor's many sacrifices. As the group arranged a second meeting April 10, 1875 their intent was clear: "The chair appointed a committee of five, with authority to increase their number if practicable to solicit subscriptions of $1 each for the said object."
On the face of the monument, below the facts of his birth and death, a single line is inscribed: "The Beloved Physician."
For more information on Friends of Silverbrook with regards to memberships and work days to help restore and catalog the monuments contact: Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery c/o 508 E. Main St. Niles MI 49120, Tim and Candace Skalla at 684-2455, wskalla@sbcglobal.net or contact Ginny Tyler at 684-3687, SPHINX1974@aol.com.