Transcript:Indiana, United States. Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties/B/Berry, George


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George Berry, M.D. (p 144)

No State in the Union can boast of a more heroic band of pioneers than Indiana can. In their intelligence, capability and genius they were far above the pioneers of the east, and in their daring and heroism they were equal to the Missouri and California argonauts. Their privations, hardships and earnest labors have resulted in establishing one of the foremost commonwealths in America, and one which has still great possibilities before it. The material advancement of the central Mississippi Valley states is the wonder of the world, and it has been largely secured through the sturdy and intelligent manhood of descendants of the cavilers of Virginia, and their moral, intellectual and physical stamina; but their work is nearly complete, and every year sees more new graves filled by those who helped to build an empire, and soon, too soon, will the last of these sturdy pioneers be laid away; but their memory will forever remain green among those who lived among them and appreciated their efforts.

The name of the late Dr. George Berry was perhaps more closely associated with the earlier history of Brookville and Franklin County than any other, and his valuable counsel and the activities of his useful manhood were of great moment to the advancement of his city and county. He was a representative of an old Virginian family. His father, Henry Berry, was a native of Rockingham County, in the Old Dominion, and emigrated westward locating on Section 26, Brookville Township, Franklin County, Indiana, November 7, 1816. There he spent his remaining days, his death occurring in September 1864, in the eighty-second year of his age, his remains being interred on the old homestead. He was a blacksmith by trade, and coming to Indiana established a smithy on his farm, doing business for the settlers for miles around. His shop was a favorite resort with the frontiersman of that time, and the proprietor was an artisan of the true American type. He could shoe a horse, repair a rifle, "jump an ox," renew the springs of a steel trap, discuss the political and religious topics of the day, assist the itinerant minister or do whatever else appeared to be necessary to build up a prosperous neighborhood. He took the papers, which but few of his fellow pioneers cold afford to do, and therefor his shop was headquarters for the news of the outside world. He was a very popular man and was chosen Justice of the Peace and later Probate Judge of Franklin County, which position he filled for twenty consecutive years.

Dr. George Berry, his eldest child and the immediate subject of this review, was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, February 17, 1811, and died in Brookville March 19, 1892, at the age of eighty-one years. In an account of his life a friend said: "Before the forests were cleared away or the meadows appeared upon the uplands, when our valleys and hills were timber clad, with no openings through the woodlands, save the little clearing of the early pioneer, the Indiana trail or the emigrant's trace, he appeared upon the scene of his activities of Franklin County. Almost with the dawn of civilization in southeastern Indiana he came, and the history of his life is to a great extent the history of our valley." Thus from its earliest development Dr. Berry and a part in the public life and progress of this locality. As soon as old enough he began to learn the blacksmith's trade under the father's supervision, but ill health caused him to abandon that pursuit. From the newspapers for which his father was a subscriber, and from a collection of books, quite large for a frontiersman's cabin, he obtained most of his education. He, however, attended school to a limited extent, pursuing his studies for a time in the schools of Brookville. In 1827 he engaged in teaching near the site of Roseburg, Union County, Indiana, and in 1828 was employed as a teacher in Brookville. Subsequently he went to Butler County, Ohio, and engaged in teaching near New London, also taking up the study of medicine under the direction of Dr. Thomas, who was at that time considered one of the most able surgeons of the state. When he went to Ohio he called upon School Examiner Bebb, afterward Governor of that state, and desired to be examined as an applicant for a license to teach school. The examiner looked up at the stripling, and, calling attention to some figures with which he had been busy, said: "I can't get this sum; if you can, I'll give you a license without examination." Dr. Berry undertook the solution of the problem and secured both the correct result and the license.

In the spring of 1832 Dr. Berry located in Brookville and began the practice of medicine and surgery. From that time until his death he practiced the healing art, and he became the loved family physician in many a household, his kindly and skillful ministrations winning him the heartfelt gratitude of hundreds. Probably no man in the county was more widely or favorably known, his professional duties bringing him into contact with almost all of the settlers of the county. On the 6th of Mary 1834 he was united in marriage to Miss Ann Wright, daughter of William and Elizabeth (Bardsley) Wright. They began their domestic life in the house which was their home until the death of the Doctor, and there four children were born to them, two sons and two daughters, the elder daughter dying in infancy. The younger daughter, Elizabeth, still resides in the old home, on Main Street, one room of which was used as a land office in the early days. William H. is a practicing physician of Brookville, and George is now deceased.

In all the public affairs concerning the welfare of the state Dr. Berry took a deep interest, and gave his support to every measure that he believed would contribute to the public good. In 1835 he was appointed Postmaster of Brookville by President Jackson, and was re-appointed by President Van Buren. In March 1839, he was elected the first Town Clerk of Brookville, and for many years he was a member of the Board of School Trustees. In 1843 he was elected a member of the State Senate, for a term of three years, and in 1846 was reelected, leaving the impress of his individuality upon the early legislation of Indiana. He studied closely the issues of the day and gave an earnest support to all measures which he believed would prove of public benefit. At the breaking out of the Mexican War he was appointed Surgeon of the Sixteenth Regular Infantry, U.S.A., and started for the scene of hostilities April 7, 1847. He served under General Taylor in northern Mexico during the campaign ending in the brilliant victory of Buena Vista, and receiving an honorable discharge he returned home August 8, 1848.

Immediately thereafter he resumed the practice of medicine, but his fellow townsmen were not content that he should remain long in private life, and in 1849 he was again elected to the State Senate, and in 1850 was appointed a member of the State Constitutional Convention, becoming one of its most valued and efficient representatives. He left the imprint of his strong intellectuality upon the organic law of Indiana, and in connection with his colleagues framed a constitution that has stood the test of almost half a century. In 1864 he was the nominee of the Democratic Party for Congress, and in 1870 was elected auditor of Franklin County and was reelected in 1874.

Dr. Berry affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His petition for membership in Penn Lodge, No. 30, was one among the first presented to that organization. ON account of absence from home he was not initiated when the lodge was organized, February 18,k 1846, but was received on the following Wednesday. He was a charter member of Brookville Encampment, No. 32, which was organized December 2, 1852, and served in almost every official capacity in both lodge and encampment. He was true to his fraternal obligations, was deeply interested in the success of the order, and upon his death Penn Lodge passed resolutions of respect, in which he was spoken of "as a man endowed with many of the choicest gifts of nature. In intellect he possessed talents of a high order. He loved right and justice; he hated wrong and injustice. He was an honest man, a true brother and friend, and love with all the ardor of his warm heart the principles of Oddfellowship."

His practice as a physician was very extensive. For many years he was the principal surgeon of this region, and made professional visits into a part of the territory now embraced within the counties of Franklin, Union, Fayette, Decatur, Dearborn and Ripley, in Indiana, and Butler, in Ohio. His practice began before the epoch of public highways and bridges. The newly cleared roads, or more frequently the bridle paths, were the only thoroughfares. He traveled on horseback and carried his supplies in his saddlebags. He practiced medicine sixty years and at the time of his death was, with one exception, the oldest practitioner in the Whitewater Valley.

Throughout his life he was a very active man. His memory was phenomenal. His acquaintance with most of the historic characters, and his familiarity with the scenes of many of the occurrences of historic interest in the valley, together with his love of anecdote, for which he was noted, made him an instructive and entertaining companion. In this connection a friend wrote of him: "Certainly no other man in Franklin County was so well or so widely known as he. He was familiar with the history of all the older families of the county and with the personal history of a large part of the community. His life has entered into the home life of us all. His outspoken ways, open-handed charity, well known regard for truth, his hatred of sham and great love for humanity were known to all. He had sympathy for us in our sorrows, rejoiced with us in our joys. Never did he utter an angry word in his home, and his family ties were to him a most sacred trust." He had passed the eighty-first milestone on life's journey when he fell asleep. The veil was lifted to gain the new glory of a true and beautiful life when death set the seal upon his mortal lips. Any monument erected to his memory and to commemorate his virtues will have become dim and tarnished by time ere the remembrance of his noble example shall cease to exercise an influence upon the community in which he lived and labored to such goodly ends.

His wife survived him only a short time, passing away at the old home in Brookville, May 18, 1894, at the age of eighty years. One who had known her long and well wrote the following lines, which were read at the funeral" "Today our lines have met at the end of the pathway of the life of one of our friends. To bear testimony to the fidelity of this pilgrim's life; to express our appreciation of faithfulness to duty; to sympathize with those whom these life chords have been so closely woven, is our present sad privilege. A long life, full of duties well performed, is as the course of the sun. Its happy childhood as the brightness of its rising; its middle-life activities as the energizing influences of its mid-day power; its close as the beauty of the evening, -- a quiet, peaceful end.

"Ann, daughter of William and Elizabeth (Bardsley) Wright, was born near Ashton-Under-Lyne, Lancashire, England, October 12, 1813, came with her parents to the United States, and settled in Montgomery County, Ohio, and located on the old home farm, three miles southeast of Brookville. Mrs. Berry was the second of eight children, five daughters and three sons. She was married, May 6, 1834, to Dr. George Berry, and within three weeks they began housekeeping in the house where she died and where she had ever since resided. Some who sit here today can wander back in memory's valleys to the wedding day of the one about whose body we are gathered, and from that time to this they can trace the course of her life. Together she and her husband began their new life's journey. What bright prospects, what joyful hopes were theirs. Along the morning of their married life toward its midday they walked together. Family cares and family blessings alike came to them. Joys and sorrows, the smooth places and the rough, were a part of their experience, but all helped in the development that made them the man and woman that they were. He became the friend of man, the man of mercy to the suffering, and his wife his helper in all, -- in everything. They passed the noontide of their married life, and the sun started on its journey to the west. How sweet it was to see them come down the hill together. For nearly fifty-eight years, side by side, they trod life's pathway. Then their hands unclasped. One dropped by the wayside; the other continued on the journey. Tired and weak, she lay down and fell asleep. She looked forward to the coming of this day when her spirit should pass from this short life into the fuller, the perfect life beyond. The rest of the righteous is now hers."