By Dave Ewards
There appear to be no descendants of the Vickers family —carrying that name— still residing above ground in The Town of Middlefield, but the booklet in the Town of Middlefield Historical Association collection “A Biography of the Vickers Family” by Squire Vickers begged for a casual read.
To this writer, it began as simply a question of “Who is this Squire guy?” It became much more personal. The local elders seemed to remember him as an architect of some sort. As it turned out, Squire Vickers was a grandson of Joseph Vickers, who came to Middlefield in 1828 from Derbyshire, England. His wife, Elizabeth Jackson, had two step-brothers— Robert, a scholar who went on to be Chaplain to the Throne of William IV, and the “other one,” who was shot.
Several descendants of this family went on to lead interesting lives. One was a dentist in Canajoharie who drowned under suspicious circumstances in 1846. Another opened a feed and grocery store in Canajoharie. When Beech-Nut bought the property, the stone building was razed, and the stone was used to construct the Canajoharie Library across the street.
Three boys became “49’ers,” where they also became California bankers before losing a mine to claim jumpers. Some remained in farming and related fields, others became pharmacists, a physiotherapist, nurses, a minister, jeweler, land developer, military officers, clinical researcher, advertising executive, and telegraph operator. As in most families, there was the occasional skeleton in the closet and black sheep in the flock as well as social misadventures. However, we will focus here on the family line that eventually made Little Falls home.
In any case, Joseph (b. circa 1788) settled his young and growing family—eventually ten children—on a hilltop farm between Roseboom and Middlefield Center. One of his sons, Dan Andtisdel Vickers, remained in Middlefield, married Adelia Bowers, and sired six children, including the above-mentioned author Squire Joseph (b. 1872), Dr. Fred (b. 1868)and Dr. Harry William Vickers (b.1876).
After graduating from Albany Medical College in 1893, Dr. Fred Vickers opened his practice in Canajoharie. After two years at the Albany Medical College and an additional two years at Cornell Medical College in New York City, his younger brother Dr. Harry William Vickers joined him there in 1903 but shortly after that moved his practice to Little Falls.
The other children included the only girl, Addie, who died in childhood; twins Hayes B. (b. 1874), who graduated from MIT as a mechanical engineer, and Wheeler C. (b. 1874), who remained at home to run the farm.
All the boys attended the District school (“the little red schoolhouse on the hill”). All but Dr. Fred, the eldest, graduated from Cooperstown High School, making the nine miles one-way trek to school on foot all winter. After graduating, they each taught for 2 or 3 years at the District school before pursuing their careers.
Dr. Harry William Vickers and his second wife, Susan Sullender, had four children, Fredrika, Robert, Mary, and Dr. Harry Dan Vickers (b. 1908), who joined his father in practice in Little Falls in 1935. The family summered at Caroga Lake, where young (not yet a Doctor) Dan built a boat with an engine powerful enough to pull adults on aquaplanes.
Young Dan eventually took that boat up the Erie Canal to Lake Ontario, down the St. Lawrence, along the Atlantic coast to New York City, up the Hudson to Troy, then back home via the canal. He eventually entered Colgate University, where he was a band member. Graduation from Colgate was followed by four years at Cornell Medical School and a 2-year internship at Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.
Continuing his adventures (now Dr). Dan then hopped a freighter for an around-the-world trip, acting as the unofficial ship surgeon before joining his father, Dr. Harry, in their surgical practice in Little Falls.
On April 19, 1940, Dr. Dan was in New York City with plans to return home that evening. Two-midnight trains were leaving New York, and the Doctor chose to take the second one. The first train, the Lake Shore Limited, came around the Gulf Curve at Little Falls and crashed. The talented surgeon, whose expertise was now sorely needed, was somewhere down the line on the second train that had been stopped. His sister Mary took the family car and drove east, where she found the train, then found her brother, and they rushed back to Little Falls Hospital, where the Doctor found that his colleagues had saved all the fracture cases for him.
Dr. Harry died in 1938 (the day after his brother Hayes died in Gary, Indiana). Dr. Dan, as he had become known, continued the practice until he volunteered for the Navy in World War II. He spent nearly three years in the South Pacific, was promoted to Chief Surgeon at the 4000-bed Naval Hospital in Seattle, Washington, and was discharged as a Lieutenant Commander in 1946.
Dr. Dan returned to Little Falls and resumed his surgical practice where, in June of 1961, on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday evening, he removed this writer’s appendix.
And Squire? The elders were correct. He was an architect. After graduating from Cornell, he went on to a respectable architectural career in New York City. He was the Architect for the New York City Board of Transportation, where he designed nearly all the subway stations, elevated stations, many of the powerhouses, and underground rectifier stations, as well as a new office building for the Board that was never built due to its anticipated 3 million dollar cost (in 1930’s dollars!!).
Not too shabby for a few country boys from Middlefield.
VICKERS, Squire J., A Biography of the Vickers Family, circa 1945, Lithographed by Exhibit Reproductions, New York City.
Findagrave.com, accessed May 30, 2022
Dave Edwards is a Little Falls native and, as a teenager, lived across Salisbury Street from Dr. Dan Vickers. He is a retired hospital pharmacist who lived in the Town of Middlefield just outside of Cooperstown until his recent move to Vermont. He is a very amateur genealogist and the long-time Treasurer of the Town of Middlefield Historical Association. A version of this article appeared in a recent issue of the TMHA newsletter.
Dave – That was an awesome, enjoyable article. Congratulations on a job well done!