In the life of this eminent physician and honored citizen of Greenfield are to be found many points of signal interest to one engaged in the compilation of a biographical work of the nature of this volume. His ancestral history is one of long and conspicuous identification with the development and progress along normal and material lines, as well as those designating some of the higher phases of civilization; his own memory has within its ken many interesting facts and circumstances connected with the annals of Hancock county, while his personal record tells of earnest effort and distinctive accomplishment in the line of professional excellence. He has attained marked prestige in his chosen calling and has long been looked upon as one of the leading physicians of Greenfield. As such he is eminently worthy of biographic honors and in the following brief outline of his own and his ancestral history it is hoped the reader may find some facts both interesting and profitable.

The Comstock family is of German origin, but has long been represented in America, the early ancestors coming to the new world about 1635. According to the most reliable information obtainable, it appears that three brothers left Germany n the above year and on reaching America one settled in Connecticut, and the other two found homes in the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam. From the former is descended the branch of the family to which the subject of this sketch belongs. For several generations the family resided in Connecticut and it was in that state that Noah Comstock, the Doctor’s great-grandfather, was born and reared. When a young man he enlisted in the American army and bore an honorable part in the war for independence, participating in many of the campaigns and noted battles of that historic period and sharing without murmur the hardship and vicissitudes experienced by the gallant patriots in their heroic struggle for what was to them dearer than life — liberty. About the beginning of the nineteenth century, his son James joined the tide of emigration westward and with the warrant which Noah had received from the government for military service, purchased a tract of wild land in Madison county, Ohio. His journey to his new place in the wilderness was made under peculiarly discouraging circumstances and attended with many hardships. After leaving the older settlement in the east, the emigrants encountered an unbroken wilderness which but few white men had previously penetrated, and for many miles roads had to be cut for the little ox cart containing the few household effects and farming utensils with which to begin life in what was then called the far west. After spending three months on the way, Mr. Comstock finally reached his destination and at once proceeded to erect a small log cabin of the most primitive pattern, which proved a comparatively comfortable shelter until replaced by a more commodious dwelling some years later. After housing his family and procuring for them a sufficiency of the necessities of life to last for several months, he returned to Connecticut and as soon thereafter as possible removed his aged parents to the new home. The trip to and from his native state occupied the greater part of a year, during which time he heard nothing of the wife and children whom he had left alone in the little cabin home in the wilderness. Imagine his surprise and grief upon reaching the house to find the cabin unoccupied and to be informed by the few settlers in the vicinity that the devoted wife had died in his absence ad that the five children were scattered among as many different families. Grief stricken and heart sore, but not entirely discouraged, the strong man bore up under his weight of sorrow and in due time took to himself a second companion and again gathered his children into one household. James Comstock was a physician and it was with the object of finding a more remunerative field for the practice of his profession that he was induced to located in the new and rapidly growing western country. He built up a large and lucrative practice where he originally settled and remained there a number of years, subsequently removing to Hamilton county and fifteen years later to the county of Montgomery, where he spent the remainder of his days, dying there in the year 1860 at an advanced age.

Hiram Comstock, father of the subject, was a son by the second marriage, his mother being Chloe Bull, a native of Vermont. He was born in Madison county, Ohio, read medicine under the direction of his father and for many years was a successful and prominent physician in his own and other counties of Ohio. In 1843 he married Miss Rebecca J. Mills and the same year came to Indiana, locating at Greenfield, where he practiced with encouraging results until about 1846. The development of the country not being sufficiently rapid to suit him, he disposed of his interests in Hancock county and removed to Freeport, Indiana, which place at the time was being rapidly settled by an intelligent and progressive class of eastern people, among whom he succeeded in building up a large practice and soon achieved the reputation of one of the leading medical men of that section of the country. Subsequently, about 1855, he located in the town of Marietta, several miles from Freeport, where he continued to reside the rest of his life, practicing his profession until within a short time of his death, which occurred in the year 1888.

Dr. Hiram Comstock was a splendid specimen of symmetrically developed manhood, six feet three inches in height, weighing two hundred and sixty-four pounds, and correspondingly large mentally and professionally. He was a born leader of men, his strong and vigorous personality commanding respect while his influence was always exerted in behalf of every great moral question and issue. For many years he was a leading member of the Methodist church and he had the honor of being a charter member of the first Odd Fellows lodge ever organized n Shelby county, Indiana, Thomas A. Hendricks being his associate. He was three times married, his first wife, to whom reference has been made, dying in 1851. Of her three children, the subject of this review was the first born; the others are Frances S., wife of William F. Garrison, of Greenfield, and John T., a machinist of Dayton, Ohio. By his last wife, whose maiden name was Lucy A. McCray, Mr. Comstock had five children, whose names are as follows: Harry died in childhood; Chloe E. married Sylvan Canada and departed this life in 1885; Ella F. became the wife of George Frederick and at the present time lives in Shelby county, Indiana; William D. is a farmer and stock raiser of the same county, and Edward D., the youngest of the family, is a business man of Shelbyville.

James Alico Comstock, whose name introduces this article, is a native of Hancock county, Indiana, born January 8, 1844, in the town of Greenfield. The first eighteen years of his life were spent on a farm and his early educational advantages were only such as the district schools of his neighborhood could afford. Descended from strong and vigorous ancestry, he early became noted for a fine physique which plenty of healthy out-door exercise on the farm tended to develop. When the county was startled by the alarming news that Fort Sumter had been fired upon Mr. Comstock, although but a youth of seventeen, was one of the first patriotic young men of Shelby county to tender his services to the government. With others imbued with like patriotism, he enlisted in August, 1861, in Company D., Thirty-third Indiana Infantry, and on the 28th of that month went into camp at Indianapolis. On the 21st of October following he met with his first actual war experience in an engagement at Wild Cat, Kentucky, and from that time to June, 1862, was with his command throughout eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, as far south as Cumberland Gap. In the battle at Thompson Station, Tennessee, he was shot in the knee, the ball still remaining where the enemy put it, and with others of his company he fell into the hands of the Confederates. Five days later he was recaptured by Sheridan’s men and for some time thereafter received treatment in a hospital, remaining under the surgeon’s care until able to perform garrison duty. By the spring of 1864 he was pronounced sufficiently recovered to rejoin his regiment, which he did in time to take part in the bloody campaign in and around Atlanta. He participated in a number of noted battles of that campaign, but just before the engagement at Kenesaw Mountain was taken sick- so serious indeed as to necessitate his removal to Chattanooga, at which place he remained under treatment until the expiration of his period of enlistment. Receiving an honorable discharge on the 1st day of October, 1864, Mr. Comstock bade farewell to scenes of hostilities and returning home, at once decided upon what thereafter should be his life work. Having made up his mind to become a physician, entered Rush Medical College three weeks after quitting the service, and by close application completed the full course of that institution in a little less than two years, graduating with the class of 1866. With a laudable ambition still further to add to his professional knowledge, he at once became a student of the Ohio Medical College at Cincinnati, from which he was graduated with an honorable record one year later.

On the 12th of March, 1867, Dr. Comstock opened an office at Marietta, Shelby county, where he soon forged to the front as a successful practitioner, within a short time thereafter winning for himself a conspicuous place among his professional brethren of that part of the state. After remaining at that place a little more than twenty-two years, he decided to remove to a larger and what has since proved to be a much more remunerative field, accordingly in January, 1889, he changed his place of residence to Greenfield, where he has since prosecuted his chosen calling with the most gratifying success, professionally and financially. During President Harrison’s administration he served as a member of the board of Untied States pension examiners, the greater part of the time as secretary, but with the advent of President Cleveland he was removed for political reasons. He was reappointed by William McKinley in June, 1897, and at this time is president of the board, a position for which his qualifications eminently fit him.

Dr. Comstock has long been a leading factor in the Hancock County Medical Society, having filled all offices within the gift of the organization, and for a number of years has taken an active part in the deliberations of the Indiana Medical Society.

Dr. Comstock is distinctively a man of the times and keeps in close touch with every new discovery in medical science. He has never suffered himself to be what the world is pleased to call a "back number," but with an ambition most admirably aspires, as does every true physician, to be a healer of men; consequently he leaves nothing undone to enlarge the scope of his knowledge or add to his professional experience. He manifests the tenderest sympathy with suffering patients and, with healing in his very touch, his presence in the sick room not only arouses hope but is looked upon almost as a loving benediction. In a large sense the Doctor is a scholar. He is not only a great student of medicine, but a careful student of many questions. He is a voluminous and thoughtful reader of the best books, journals and papers, keeping himself familiar with the stirring scenes and rapid progress of his own country and equally well informed concerning the current events and restless spirit of the old world.

Honored and respected as a physician, he is also esteemed as a man and citizen, manifesting as he does an active interest in all that concerns the public and lending his influence and material support to whatever tends to conserve the moral good of the community Clean, courteous and upright in every walk of life, he has won to a marked degree the respect and confidence of his fellow men, and during a lifetime spent in this part of the state it is a compliment worthily bestowed to say that his career has been singularly free from faults and that no taint of anything dishonorable has ever been connected with his name. By close attention to his profession he has met with material success commensurate with his devotion to duty, being the possessor of much valuable property, including a beautiful and comfortable home in Greenfield and a fine farm in Shelby county, besides other real estate. In politics he exerts a potent influence for the Republican party, and his religious faith is in accord with the Methodist church, of which, for a number of years, he has been a faithful and devoted member. As a veteran in one of the greatest wars of history, it is natural that he should take more than ordinary interest in all matters concerning the old soldiers, consequently he is an earnest worker in the Grand Army of the Republic. In the local post to which he belongs he delights to meet his comrades and with them recall the stirring scenes when, upon the march, on tented field or in the midst of battle and carnage, they bravely faced the hosts of treason and counted their lives as of little value so that the Union might be preserved and the blessings of liberty be handed down as a priceless heritage to future generations of freemen.

Dr. Comstock was married September 19, 1872, to Miss Mary E. Anderson, daughter of Peyton W. and Sarah J. (Sturgis) Anderson, and a native of Bartholomew county, Indiana. Mrs. Comstock was born April 9, 1855, and of her nine children the following are living at this time, Frankie, Lucy E., Mary J., William D., John C., and J. Russell.

Transcribed from Biographical Memoirs of Hancock County B. F. Bowen, Publisher, Logansport, Indiana, 1902 Pages 320-325.

Submitted by Sylvia (Rose) Duda, Laingsburg, MI July 25, 2002.

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