Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dr. Homsher

Dr. Homsher
Among the more fascinating characters to have called Fairfield home was Dr. George Homsher, who practiced medicine in the town in the 1880s. He was born in Preble County, Ohio, and spent a lot of years in Fairfield before returning to the Ohio town of Camden, in Preble County.

One can assume that Homsher was a qualified doctor but it seems his claim to fame is in another arena -- natural history.

In fact, much of what we know about the ancient burial mounds of the Whitewater Valley can be attributed to Homsher's research.

The hiking trails along Brookville Lake are marked and preserved because of Homsher's research more than 130 years ago.

In a 2012 Whitewater Valley Guide, Gary Schluter describes the hiking process, which piggybacks onto the Homsher story here:

"As long as there have been humans and for millions of years before any form of upstanding creature upstood, there have been trails. Where there is life, there are trails and vice versa. That’s why it’s kind of odd that we have trail advocacy groups like Whitewater Canal Trail, Inc. and the Hoosier Hikers Council struggling to create and maintain them."

Schlueter describes what's known as the Adena Loop.

"The Adena Loop is a linking of separately named trails each negotiable in their own right forming a 21-mile loop around the lower part of Brookville Lake. The loop is named out of respect for the people whose 2,000-year-old mounds highlighted the area before man, the destroyer, arrived. Dr. George W. Homsher whose home in 1882 was located nearby, reported on 24 mounds in the area we now call Brookville Lake. By 1929, 20 of those had been destroyed by cultivation and erosion after being ‘archeologized’ by our present culture."

Thanks to "Laura," who posted this on the web.
Only four of those original mounds have been located -- the Weber Mound, the Klipple Mound, the Johnston Mound and the Glidewell Mound. It's all lumped into the Mounds State Recreation Area.

Homsher's work was known nationwide, and in addition to practicing medicine, he was also an acknowledged expert for his time in the use of herbal cures, which were more common than practical, probably. In any event, his name pops up in some searches for such elixirs. His advertised practice said he specialized in women's and children's health issues.

Homsher was also a driving force in the formation of the state's premier science association, founded in Brookville in 1881.

In a 1946 historical essay in the Indiana Magazine of History, author Nadine Fichter explores the founding of the Brookville Society of Natural History.

"Following the decline of Robert Owen’s experimental society at New Harmony, the state of Indiana was void of organizations devoted to scientific study and research. Several associations were attempted throughout the state, but their influence was entirely local. None of them attained reputation,, prominence, or accomplishment comparable to that of the Brookville Society of Natural History, organized in 1881 by Amos W. Butler.

"The Brookville Society performed (an) important function of being the direct causative agent for the founding of the Indiana Academy of Science, which has become the largest organization of its sort in the country."

Dr. Homsher was a charter member and key contributor to the society's agenda and aims.

Fichter, in her analysis of the society, says the chief cause of its eventual demise was that its constitution allowed anyone who lived in Franklin County to join. So lots of people joined who had no interest in science. Science and other ideas. Not a always good fit.

Homsher, meanwhile, had important work published in major scientific journals, including the Smithsonian, where he described his findings about the Mounds tribes, who roamed the Whitewater Valley in prehistoric times. (In fact, the definition of these people is clearly NOT "Indian" but rather simply "prehistoric people.")

His 1882 paper to the Smithsonian was called "Ancient Remains on Whitewater River" and described what he termed "open-air workshops" in the valleys. He studied their tools, weapons and trinkets.

"These workshops, as a general rule, are located on the second terrace formation along the river or the larger streams flowing into the river, and in close proximity with each shop is an excellent spring of water."

Homsher wrote that one of the most elaborate mounds "workshops" was located just northwest of Quakertown, covering just over 2 acres. The site yielded an immense trove of ancient implements and other treasures.

As well, there were ancient "signal mounds" that served a variety of purposes, including as burial sites. In such places, fossilized remains were often discovered.

Truly fascinating work.

More about the good doctor is in Fairfield: Town Under the Lake. 

MOUNDBUILDER LINK

RAPPITE SOCIETY, NEW HARMONY






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