Central PA Medicine Summer2020 - 38

.
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Dr. Wiellrford
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By F. WILSON JACKSON, MD

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he deeply rooted foundation of societal events as they impact the lives of their
the Dauphin County Medical patients. Geopolitical events invariably impact
Society (DCMS) dates to Feb 20, disease and health. Physicians are uniquely
1866 when a band of physicians positioned to see into the lives of our patients
came together to form what would become and how historical events and social issues apply
and remains the DCMS. It was an auspicious to the health of the people under their care.
beginning. The article of incorporation read:
The historical record implies Dr. Rutherford
Whereas, We the undersigned physicians of the was keenly aware that his responsibilities were
city of Harrisburg and the county of Dauphin, not only the well-being of his patients but also
have agreed to associate themselves for the purpose the society within which those patients lived
of promoting the honor, character and interest of their lives.
the medical profession, so far as they are consistent
with morality and the general good of mankind.

Now, therefore, we do hereby associate ourselves
under the following constitution for the purpose
therein expressed.
The first DCMS president was Dr. William
W. Rutherford.
It is worth putting DCMS's inception into a
brief historical context. It was a year after Lee's
surrender at Appomattox. The country was
reeling in the aftermath of the Civil war and the
assassination of President Lincoln ten months
earlier. The economic, racial, and cultural drivers
of the Civil War were hardly laid to rest despite
the Civil Rights Act that passed in April of that
year and the Fourteenth Amendment that
followed two years later. DCMS was forged in
the midst of this turmoil for the stated purpose
of bringing physicians together to better their
communities. A proud heritage has followed.
The practice of medicine is both a science and
an art and physicians have always been at the
interface of this dichotomy. Part of that art is
contextualizing a symptom or diagnosis into the
38 Summer 2020 Central PA Medicine

William Rutherford was born in Swatara
Township November 23, 1805. He died in
Harrisburg on March 13, 1873 at the age of 67.
He was a Pennsylvanian through and through.
After formative years in the Harrisburg area, he
attended Jefferson Medical College from 1830
to 1832. He initially resided in Mechanicsburg
but moved to the other side of the Susquehanna
and lived most of his years in Harrisburg. He
practiced Medicine for forty years.

Dr. Rutherford was also vice president of the
Harrisburg Antislavery Society and his home at
11 Front Street in Harrisburg served as a station
for the underground railroad where escaped
slaves were housed before conveying to his
brother's dairy farmhouse in Paxtang where they
awaited coordination of further passage north.
As a north-south and east-west transportation
nexus for rails and roads, a navigable river
and its proximity to the Mason Dixon Line,
Harrisburg was a logical and strategic location
for slaves seeking their own emancipation. His
family farmhouse where the freedom seeking
slaves were temporally housed before moving
to more northern states or Canada is now The

Rutherford House at 330 Parkview Lane. It is
part of Paxtang Park. One can only assume Dr.
Rutherford would have also provided medical
care to those former slaves passing through on
their way north.
His heritage still resonates through our
community. He and his wife, Eleanor Reed
Crain, had a daughter, Elizabeth Crain. She
married John C. Kunkel (1898-1970) who
went on to be a Republican Representative to
the US House of Representatives. He was also
County Commissioner of Dauphin County
and a long-term director of Harrisburg Hospital,
stewarding that hospital into the flagship care
center it has become. His and his wife's legacies
continue to this day with their direct descendants
continuing to deliver medical and surgical care
in our community.
Medicine is evolutionary as is the DCMS.
Medicine builds on innovation and scientific
discovery fueled by curiosity while aspiring
towards the common good. Currently we
are tested as physicians and members of our
society by the COVID-19 pandemic and the
racial tensions that have come forward in our
society. Physicians are healers and at times
our moral imperative should compel us to
move beyond our training confines, towards
a greater good and as set forth in the DCMS
founding articles. It is right and just to honor
the principals at the heart of the foundation
of the Dauphin County Medical Society and
recognize the historical example of Dr. William
Rutherford by personally and professionally
rising to these challenges.



Central PA Medicine Summer2020

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https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/CPAMed/CentralPAMedicine_Spring17
https://www.nxtbook.com/hoffmann/CPAMed/CentralPAMedicine_Feb2017
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