Hulse, Isaac, Pensacola, 1797-1856
Dr. Hulse, probably the most eminent physician to practice in West Florida during the Territorial Period, was the subject of a biography written by Charles T. Werner which was published in a limited edition in New York in 1922. It is a well-documented work which includes numerous letters from Dr. Hulse addressed to his close friend, Benjamin F. Thomson. Thomson, like, Dr. Hulse, a Long Island native, is known chiefly for his History of Long Island, first edition published by E. French in New York in 1833. Data for the present sketch is drawn chiefly from the Werner biography unless otherwise indicated.
Dr. Hulse, a highly esteemed physician who spent the greater part of his professional life in the vicinity of Pensacola, was born near Coram, Suffolk County, Long Island New York, on August 31, 1797. He was the youngest of the five sons of Major Caleb M. Hulse and Jerusha Petty Hulse. At an early age he exhibited an aversion to the farm labor to which his brothers were assigned and, encouraged by his mother to apply himself diligently to his school work, he soon developed a propensity for scholarship. He completed his basic education at Union Hall Academy in near by Jamaica, Long Island, where he is said to have become proficient in foreign languages.
About 1840 Hulse made his way to Baltimore where he taught for a brief period in a classical school. In 1821 he enrolled in the Medical Department of the University of Maryland in Baltimore from which he received his medical degree in the Spring of 1823. His splendid record placed him at the top of his class and earned for him the gold medal for scholastic excellence.
Meanwhile, while still a medical student, he met and married a Baltimore girl, Amelia Roberts. Notwithstanding his marriage and the birth of his first two children, Dr. Hulse, doubtless in quest of financial security, joined the United States Navy on May 12, 1823. His first assignment was that of Surgeon’s Mate aboard the U.S.S. Congress based in Norfolk, Virginia. His voyages aboard the Congress in the following year, took him to Gibraltar, Cadiz, Rio de Janeiro, the West Indies and the west coast of Africa.
Back in the United States for land duty in 1821 Dr. Hulse was assigned to the Naval Hospital at Norfolk, Virginia, where he remained for two years where he remained for two years during which he was promoted to Surgeon. In 1826 he began his Florida service at the Naval Hospital in Pensacola. For the years 1826-35 his letters to his friend Thomson, if indeed they were written, have been lost. When the correspondence was resumed on January 13, 1835, the letter of that date recounted an altercation which had developed between the doctor and his commanding officer, Captain Walcott Chauncey, an affair relating to a horse. The gist of the matter was that without authorization of Chauncey the doctor had hired a horse for the purpose of transporting himself from his quarters at the Navy yard to the Naval Hospital, a distance of perhaps a couple of miles. He justified his action on the grounds that the hospital required some transportation in case of emergency. As he stated it, his sole object was “to prevent the Hospital ever being in want of a horse.”
When Dr. Hulse submitted his quarterly expense account, which included the hire of the horse, to Chauncey, it was forwarded to the Navy Department with the recommendation that the expense for the horse be disallowed. Other fuels were in time added to the fire with the result that Dr. Hulse’s tour of duty was for a time, an unpleasant one. Dr. Hulse’s action was later vindicated, however, when Secretary of the Navy, Mahlon Dickerson, sided with him in the affair.
There is evidence to show that Dr. Hulse was more than a mere practitioner of medicine. The various fevers endemic to the area interested him immensely. He is known to have made careful observations on the numerous cases which came under his scrutiny taking pains to describe the symptoms and note the results of his various efforts at treatment.
On December 11, 1837, Dr. Hulse’s service was rewarded by his appointment as Fleet Surgeon, attached to the West India Squadron. He served in this capacity until September 1840 when he returned to Pensacola as the chief surgeon of the Naval Hospital. This brought him under the direct command of Commander Alexander J. Dallas, who had interceded for him with Secretary Dickerson in the “affair of the horse.”
Dr. Hulse’s interests appear to have extended well beyond the bounds of the Pensacola Navy Yard. His leadership brought about organization of the Board of Medical Officers, which included those from both Army and Navy in the Pensacola area. It was designed to meet periodically for discussion of health problems common to the two services. He occasionally took time to record his observations on unusual cases which he treated. One of these reports was published in the St. Augustine Florida Herald on November 14, 1833. His monograph on “Yellow Fever” was published in the Maryland Medical and Surgical Journal, April 1842. There were doubtless many others. As for his religious persuasion, Dr. Hulse was a Methodist. Records of his contributions to the Methodist Church have survived.
Dr. Hulse was twice married. His first wife Amelia Roberts of Baltimore. To this marriage were born a son who died in early childhood; another son, Isaac, born January 15, 1824, and a daughter, Georgiana, who was married to Alexander W. McLeon, a clergyman. She became a writer of minor importance, under the nom de plume, Mary A. Holmes. She died in Baltimore on July 2, 1890. Mrs. Hulse died on August 2, 1827, while on a voyage from Pensacola to New York. She was buried at sea.
On January 10, 1833, Dr. Hulse married Melania, daughter of John Innerarity, Scottish-born, who had served as British consul in Pensacola. To this marriage were born John, who became a physician; Albert, about whom nothing is presently known, and Emma, who became the wife of Lewis Boyer Taylor. Her death occurred on
April 5, 1924. Mrs. Hulse (Melania) died in Pensacola on January 13, 1875, at the age of 64.
Dr. Hulse’s life ended at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Warrington on August 29, 1856, after a painful and protracted illness. His close friend and editor of the Pensacola Gazette wrote:
(Dr. Hulse was at his death fifty-nine years of age, having seen thirty-three years of honorable, faithful and efficient service as surgeon of the U.S. Navy. He has spent many years on the station and by his courteous and gentlemanly deportment he had drawn around him a large circle of devoted friends by whom his loss will be long and deeply felt. By his disinterested benevolence and constant readiness to minister to the wants of suffering humanity for which an acknowledged eminence in his profession so well qualified him, he has endeared himself to the hearts of the poor and afflicted by ties which death itself cannot sever.)