Wesselhoeft Water Cure


Christian Schuster's Water Cure Polka

Correspondence of the New Haven Courier.

Water Cure -- Hydropathic House.

Brattleboro, Vt., 1847

Your correspondent has just arrived, and hardly become used to the ways of the Establishment, or acquainted with its merits or demerits. The responsibility of the task will prevent him from giving any statements upon which invalids might act, except upon well ascertained grounds. In the course of the summer you may expect several letters, and in them will be found, for the benefit of the afflicted, reliable information of the efficacy of the Water Cure, and also the true character and actual advantages of this particular dispensary.

The village of Brattleboro is one of the most beautiful localities in the whole country. Within its bounds, and within the compass of the ordinary walks of the invalids, are every variety of scenery that the face of the globe can present, only excepting an ocean, a desert, and a volcano. There are rivers, little rivers, creeks, rivulets and brooks, ravines, plains, terraces, rocks, hillocks, hills, high hills and mountains. In short, there is every thing, from the full swelling waters of the Connecticut, and the reverend summit of Chesterfield Mountain, fourteen hundred feet above the sea, down to nothing at all. There are so many delightful walks and drives that it would seem the eye could never tire in beholding.

The bathing arrangements of the house are excellent. A feeble young man leaves his home and the nursing cares of a doting mother or fond wife, and comes here away north, among the hills and woods to seek the will-o'-wisp angel of health -- in other words, to get his stomach washed out, and his liver put in order. After a night's balmy repose, or rather in the midst of a night's slumbers, in which he dreams of fireside and home, and the maternal coffee and toast that await his awakening, the door of his chamber opens, and in walks a figure with shaggy hair and bare and brawny arms, who shakes the slumberer, and rouses him with the hollow spoken words, "Your bod is ready." Your bath is ready, he means, without the politeness of asking, "Are you ready for your bod?" As inexorable as fate he stands until the miserable victim rises and denudes, till no covering but the skin shields his shrinking nerves from the chill air through the open window. The tormentor then strips the bed and spreads first a blanket, and then over it a thick sheet just wet in water of 46 deg. Fahrenheit. Upon this the shivering, shrinking patient, whose whole surface is in a state of goose-flesh-ishness, extends his length, and feels himself enveloped in its heart chilling folds. Then blanket after blanket is laid over and tucked in, till he takes the form and has somewhat the feeling of an Egyptian mummy; just dead and cold, bound hand and foot, and wrapped up for the tomb. He is then left to his own reflections and the reactive powers of nature. He reflects that if the building should take fire, he would probably, in his helpless condition, be roasted alive, and makes up his mind that he would not mind a roasting much, provided it were in a warm fire. Soon, however, nature rallies her forces, and the blood vessels are in excited action. First, the surface of the body becomes warm, then the sheet, then everything is heated to the steaming point, and there ensues a most soothing, sweet, and heart-softening sensation, in which he again falls asleep, and dreams of Paradise, and a bed of rose leaves.

"Ah, whence is that spectre that pulls off his clothes,

Ah, whence is that splash that now 'larums his ear?"

It's the same hard hearted villain as before, who without deigning a single word throws off blanket after blanket, and comfortable after comfortable, till only one envelope is left, when he seizes him by the shoulders, lifts him upright in the bed, uncovers his feet, puts on a pair of slippers, throws a blanket over the head and says, "follow me." With one eye open, as docile as a lamb led to sacrifice, feeling like a fool and looking just like Lazarus coming out of the grave, he goes slip shod down stairs, seats himself in a tub of water at 72 where a bucket full is pounced over him, and two rough hands rub him well. "But that is nothing -- that ain't." Before him is the terrible plunge bath, fourteen feet by twenty, and four or four and a half deep. Its surface is just waved by one or two ducks from the spring, and so clear is it that it seems only a tank of air with a slight emerald tinge. Vain imagination! That liquid is as real as rock and cold as the double extract of icebergs, and into that, wretched mortal, must you plunge -- so here goes -- one splash, and he rises to the top feeling an icicle thrust through his heart. Out he scrambles and back again to the half bath, which he now feels like hot water, to be again rubbed. Then a dry rubbing with a sheet and he is clothed quickly for a walk, and he struts forth to meet the sun, with nerves braced up to a pitch that he cares not what he meets.

Over hill and through dell, he stumps it with vigor, till presently the reaction is complete, then he feels as if he had swapped himself away for another man. If he has even the humblest knowledge of whistling, he puts it in practice, or speeds along meditating, the first half of the walk, upon the beauties of nature, and the latter half on the probable quantity of breakfast required to satisfy an appetite that has become more shark-like than human. Here leave him, presently you shall have the other baths seriatim.

Sitz Bathing.

About the middle of the forenoon and afternoon, the sitz bathers one by one drop into the upper bath room, and call for water of all the various temperatures from seventy-two downward and then go to their respective rooms to dress for the operation. -- Presently they return, each attired in a blanket, breeches, and slippers, and holding in his hand a towel and a watch. They all gravely seat themselves in their respective round tubs, a row of which lines each side of the chamber; and there they sit, with their blankets gracefully arranged over the shoulders, as dignified as Indian chiefs in council. Here they discuss the great and little questions of the day, and conduct their deliberations with all the coolness and lucidity of the element in which they base themselves. Here they have their speeches, the repartees and jokes; whilst a chairman, in a central tub, presides over the proceedings to see that nothing is done against the propriety, and that not more than three speak at once.

"Mr Chairman," says a member, "I call that gentleman to order; he has his coat on." The case is considered, and the offender excused on the ground of haste to fulfil an engagement to walk with the ladies; but another who has come in his slippers and blanket only, and has no such excuse, is sentenced to a reprimand, and a fine of two extra tumblers of water to be drank on the premises.

"What is this on my arm?" says a new comer.

"That's a boil, and a splendid one too. Jones, see what a beautiful double-headed crisis Mr Lamkyman has coming, and only two weeks under treatment.

Mr Lamkyman is reconciled to his boil by the happy congratulations from all quarters, and hazards the opinion that the mercury he took fifteen years ago is now coming out in this form.

"What is this on my nose?" says another; "it's very red and sore just on the tip."

"Oh, that's the brandy that you drank a month ago. The water has driven it out."

"Where's B.?" says one.

"Sick in bed with a rash crisis -- red as a lobster from head to foot. I was in hopes myself, yesterday; there were several spiteful pimples shewed their heads, but they've all gone in again; it was only a nibble."

A hypochondriac old gentleman, who is now for the first time experiencing the pleasures of the treatment, is heard to soliloquize something after the following fashion:

"Oh dear! This is too bad -- too bad to abuse my wife's husband in this way. Of all the tight spots I ever got into this is the tightest. It's of no use -- there's no hope for me in this world, and as for this water cure, I never can stand it. I don't think so, I know it. Every heart knows its own sorrows, and every stomach its own trouble. I'd give all I'm worth if I was at home this minute -- not that I care particularly to go home, but I do want to get out of this place. I left only last Friday, and I've been here a month already. My farm is going to rack and ruin. You don't think so? I don't think so, I know it. Who's to hoe them potatoes, and who's to take care of the cattle? I went into one of the rooms, and it wasn't a room; only a big square pond, and they call it a plunge. I'll keep out of that. Why, I wouldn't set foot in it for a thousand dollars, and where's the money to come from, I want to know? I took a look at what they call the wave bath, and saw a man take it, and certainly if ever a mortal man ever did catch it, he did. I wouldn't go into the confounded thing for ten thousand dollars -- and where's that money to come from? One gentleman told me I'd feel like another man after, and said I shouldn't know myself when I came out. Well, I shouldn' want to know myself.

"When I was coming here I rode in the stage with a lady who told me her brother had the hypo' as bad as I, and what advice do you think she gave him? She told him he had better hang himself! I don't know but she was right. I don't know but I would commit suicide myself if it wasn't wicked, and if I wasn't afraid. This I am sure of, however, I shan't drown myself; but if I get out of this establishment alive and dry, I shall look on it as a positive proof that I'm destined for the gallows. -- There's this prescription the Doctor gave me. -- What mortal man can stand it? (Takes up a paper and reads.) Wet sheet packing at four -- half bath and plunge at six -- douche at ten -- sitz at eleven. Hard enough to sit in too. They call this water soft, but I never had a harder seat. My opinion is that when a man's sick a soft easy chair is the best place to get well in -- I think. And so on through the whole forenoon and afternoon, with long walks all the time, and the spare moments to be spent in drinking cold water. How is my system going to bear so many tumblers full? It'll certainly drown me from the inside, if I escape the external application. Then as to diet, I must eat just those things I don't like, and those things I like must be let alone. Well, I don't know as it's best for much good food to be consumed by a man that's just going to leave the world. John! my time's up; but I never can get out; I know I can't, and it's no use trying. John! come and help me out or I shall die on the spot."

But notwithstanding all his groans, the fine old gentleman comes on bravely; takes all the prescriptions with promptness, walks eight or nine miles a day, and although only four days here is picking up his crumbs and spirit in a way that promises a speedy cure.

Vermont Phoenix, August 5, 1847.

Reprinted from the New Haven Courier.



We have seen nothing of the kind, more spirited and graphic than the letters on "Water Cure," taken from the New Haven Courier, and written by one of the patients. They are so life-like that one almost feels the cold stream running down his back as he reads them. The writer, who is understood to be a young gentleman from New Haven, shows a fine talent for description, as well as a vivid imagination. The letters will be continued next week.

Vermont Phoenix, August 5, 1847.

Reprinted from the New Haven Courier.



Correspondence of the New Haven Courier.

Hydropathic House

Brattleboro, Vt., June 9th, 1847.

It is impossible to grow weary of the diversified scenery of this delightful place. The course of the Connecticut, the valley of the West river, and the ravine of Whetstone brook have channelled and sculptured the face of nature with such varied shapes and lines that the visitor may every day see something new to help him forget the dusty and tumultuous pleasures of the city he calls home.

This establishment is thoroughly German from cellar to attic. The Doctor, the Superintendent, the bath attendants and servants, the upholsterer, the baker, and the cook, and even the architect of the new buildings, are of the same good humored and intelligent race. It is as if Graedenberg were transplanted to Vermont. The Doctor is beyond question a man of science and intelligence. His perceptive powers at once seize hold of the malady, and his experienced judgment is ready to meet all its changes and crises; while his obliging disposition and kind manners win the hearts of all who remain long enough to become acquainted with him. The oldest patients, in date of arrival, are most full in their confidence, but for a new comer, some little time is required to break through his reserve and silence. The bath attendants and servants are, without exception, willing and attentive; for many and obvious reasons they are better for us than native Yankees could be.

The pleasant and healthy locality which Dr Wesselhoeft has chosen, his greater experience, and the excellent bath arrangements (not excelled, we are told by a gentleman lately from Germany, by any he saw there,) have placed Brattleboro in the first position of all the water cure houses in the country, and the numerous invalids of the very first respectability who yearly go from it, whole and clean, to spread its just praises among their friends, will maintain that posiion and ensure a fortune to the worthy Principal. Mrs McMullen, the clean washing washerwoman, says she "would not give the length of her little finger joint of the Doctor's learning for all that's in the noodles of all the physicians she ever saw." But Mrs McMullen is a partial witness, for the Doctor has raised her from a bed-ridden condition of six years' standing, which numerous other physicians with lancets and leeches, cups, caustic and blisters, had failed to cure, into her present state of active usefulness and lively talkativeness.

It is worthy of remark that more than three-fourths of the inmates are young persons. And thus should it be. Hope and new faith for youth -- distrust and conservatism, pills and bolusses, calomel and the lancet for age!

This is no idler's home; all have to work for the great result before them, and herculean nature only lifts one wheel for those whose shoulders are at the other. Brattleboro will never become a Saratoga for lounging and pleasure seeking. From rising to retiring it is wash and walk, -- walk and wash -- for this the ready reward is gleeful spirits, easy slumbers, and magnificent appetites; and all are happy, for all are busy -- all except the new comers, whose coffee and brandy have suddenly been stopped -- the man with too strong a crisis of Job's comforters, and the man who can't get up a re-action.

Three weeks ago there were few here except those with complaints whose exigency did not admit of delay for milder weather, and those remaining from last fall to complete and confirm their cures; common dyspepsias &c., could afford to wait. But now that summer has come and the warm air makes the idea of cold water endurable -- now that the meadows are adorned in the green and gold of grass and dandelions -- now that the hills have put off the fleecy coat of winter and assumed their lighter garments of summer-wear -- now that the forest which slumbered on the mountain has awakened to life, and its branches echo again with sky-born melody -- now the swelled livers and torpid livers, the weak stomachs and shattered nerves, begin to come along, and the house is fast filling with every ill that flesh is heir to -- all driven here by the many thonged scourge of disease. -- From every part they come, from Arkansas to Nova Scotia; and whatever their respective conditions at home, whether millionaire or nothing heir, here all are equal; the plunge is filled on the same level for all, and the tremendous douche descends alike on the just and unjust.

And why should we not be equal? Nothing sooner than a scene like this can set in its true light the littleness of riches in comparison with the one gift which is the inheritance of poverty, ruddy health. The hardy, poor Green Mountain boy, who left his home twenty years ago with a light heart, sound liver, and energetic will to barter these for the wealth that may be reaped in burning miasmic regions, and succeeds with time and with toil in making the exchange, (a fair bargain and firmly bound) now returns from whence he went -- with limbs lagging under the fetters of disease, he comes, bringing his gold and asks of his native hills, of brooks that were companions of his boyhood, of the air that kissed his cheeks when they were chubby and red, to give him for it that health and health-born heart-ease which like a prodigal he wasted, and whose value he knew not till it was gone.

Here are congregated the victims of idleness and the victims of labor, the dissipated and the busy, the ball room belle and the pale thin martyr to the seclusion and close air, the monotony and want of recreation of a false domestic life, more prolific of disease than all the excesses of pleasure seeking. And here if they will live true to nature, if they will lave in her spring waters and tread upon her mountains, leave off smoking and drink fresh milk from sweet-tempered cows, here will they find a medicine, such as no purple bottles and gilt labeled drawers or ornamental gallipots, however plausible they seem, can ever promise.

Vermont Phoenix, August 12, 1847.

Reprinted from the New Haven Courier.

Jane McMullen, Irish washerwoman, lived in the "Little Limerick" district, located beyond the Wesselhoeft Water Cure out Elliot Street, along the south side.


Correspondence of the New Haven Herald.

Water Cure---Hydropathic House,

Brattleboro, June 28, 1847.

It would be an injurious error to suppose that any of the more powerful modes of treatment, as the plunge, douche, and running sitz, are ever applied in the first instance or abruptly. On the contrary, every one of these is preluded by a careful preparation, consisting of a graduated system of baths, beginning at seventy-five or eighty degrees, descending by one degree, every one, two, or three days, to the natural temperature, most unnaturally cold; just as an apothecary would slowly increase doses of laudanum, drop by drop; and even when for any reason the treatment is for a while suspended, it is often recommended in the same manner as at first, and finally is as gradually terminated. -- There is no haste in letting us down into the pool of health, for here the waters are always angel-stirred.

Acordingly it must not be thought that the douche about to be described is suddenly applied to a weak invalid, just out of his flannel, bed-gown, and slippers. Yet though never administered so roughly as to endanger the health, it may, in analogy to cups and calomel, often hurt the feelings.

After from two weeks to two months of preparation, the patient whose case needs it is promoted to the douche, and is seen stepping off, with a proud look on his face and a sheet on his arm, bound for the douche houses, half a mile distant, on the other side of the ravine. He here begins with the very mild river douche; but without following him through the transitions to the hose douche, to the middle douche, and from that to the grand, extra potent, heavy wet, socdolager douche, we will sketch his first interview with the latter.

On his way there he meets a fellow sufferer, who asks, Where away so fast, my friend?" "Congratulate me, my good fellow, I am going to the big one, to take it five minutes at the first start. Is it really very hard to take?" "Oh, no, I have just come from it -- a mere bagatelle -- but here, as you are going in for the first time, I may as well bid you good bye, for if any thing should happen it is a satisfaction, you know." "Good bye."

He goes to a different house from any he has yet entered, and, opening a door, perceives he has made a mistake, and closes it quickly, but not before having a full view of truly a strange spectacle. A gentleman, whose only clothing in actual wear is a pair of pantaloons, down at the calves, dusty boots, and a nicely brushed hat, is seated navel deep in a small tub, full of water, and with folded arms looks pensively at his watch. He is enduring the running sitz -- so called because the water is kept at the lowest temperature by means of a constant stream from a spring near by, conducted in at the bottom, and by another stream carried off from near the top of the tub. It is usually taken from ten to twenty minutes, and is esteemed by many the most comforting of all the baths. The water never being warmed by the body, it is the same thing as making your seat in a spring, and fully comes up to the idea of "cold comfort." Verily this same running sitz is something worth mentioning in July. Thomas Carlyle would like it; no doubt he would, for he loves everything that is not a sham, and this is no sham, by no means, but a stern reality.

Our "live subject" enters the right door and commences to prepare his body and compose his mind for the operation. As he undresses he screws up his resolution by calling to mind the bold deeds of ancient heroes, and particularly those of our Revolutionary ancestors -- how Stony Point was stormed, how old Put entered the wolf's den, and how Sam Patch jumped off the falls; but his mind continually reverts to a calculation in hydrostatics, to wit, if a column of water "so big" and fifteen feet high comes down with such force, what must be the power of one twice as large and twenty feet high?

Meanwhile Mrs Bemis, a dame of forty-five, who does up the part of nymph of the fountains, has let on the water, and it roars and splashes in the inner dungeon like a demon roaring for his victim. Our subject, thinking his time has come, takes his bandages in hand, casts a glance at the watch to time himself, presses his wife's daguerreotype to his lips, and opens the door, but it is not yet his turn -- another man is "taking it," and our live subject is aghast at the sight of a bony Apollo sprawling on his hands and knees on the floor, who, with teeth firmly set, is receiving the spout on the small of the back.

The effect of the stream pouring into the room is to make the air as cold as winter; and though it was July outside, by the time you are undressed and stand in expectant dread on the threshold it has become January. The room is high and dark; the steps by which you descend into it are hacked with the axe, telling of ice chopped away in mid winter. The stream has come fresh from the cold bowels of mother earth and sees no daylight till it lights on the subject's shoulders. The sight before him takes away all our friend's resolution, and nothing but the thought that he has come a thousand miles expressly to be subjected to the mercies of this water Moloch, and the thought that if any thing short of the ultimate trumpet can arouse his torpid liver to healthy action this thing must do it, the fear of ridicule and the hope of a crisis, keeps up his nerves. Now the bony Apollo dashes out and our friend is left alone in that dismal den, alone with that douche and his own conscience. He flings down his bandages, clasps his hands, and raising them, as in supplication, over his head, steps beneath the spout, which he receives first on his hands thus clasped; this is to break the stream into a kind of shower bath, which wets him all over at the outset. He then received it successively on all parts of the body, but the head, chest, stomach, abdomen and calves of the legs; all other parts now feel the full force of this "heavy wet" to a way that calls for some little effort to keep the breath of life in the lungs.

Whatever calculations in hydrostatics he may have made, he now realizes for the first time the full force of the theory. Talk of a thousand of brick! It is no sort of a simile for the way in which this water comes down upon him. Most relentless douche! Persevering torrent! Magnificent water-power to set the wheels of life in motion! Who can feel it and doubt the potency of water to cure or kill, and not look with contempt on the impotence of phials and pill boxes! Down, right down it comes, bearing its victim to the floor, cudgelling the shoulders, thundering down the back, knocking down against the short ribs, grinding along the spine as if a big rasp was filing away the points of the back bone, bastinadoing the feet, feruling the hands, and making all parts tingle as if a pudding-stick of extra power were renewing the corporal punishment of his school-boy days. The whole surface is soon excited to vigorous action, every organ is aroused, and all the fluids of the system are set coursing like mad through the capillaries into even the uttermost corner of the little toe. The morbid humors, beaten up in all their lurking places, rush hither and yon to escape through the pores, or burst forth like lava in volcanic boils.

After dressing, there is a walk to be taken, usually the longest of the day, to expend the surplus strength derived from this tonic of all tonics. In cold weather you are impelled to put your legs to the very best speed. In summer, and especially in such weather as we have now, the sensation as you go out into the oven-like atmosphere is really droll. The sun bakes down upon you as if it mistook you for a loaf of dough, and the hot steam from the earth rises up on every side. As you pass by the fields the mower lazily whets his scythe to excuse his conscience from mowing; the cows lazily chew their cuds in the shade, and the wild flowers drowsily droop their heads and close their eyes; all things tell of heat and extreme lassitude, yet you yourself are fresh, cool, without perspiration, and vigorous. The glistening atmosphere is only a luxurious hot air bath, and you stride along on the "four mile circuit," snuffing the clover-breath, as briskly as one who of a cool autumn morning,

"Brushes with hasty steps the dew away,

To meet the sun upon the upland lawn."

Vermont Phoenix, August 19, 1847.

Reprinted from the New Haven Herald.



Christian Schuster composed the "Water Cure Polka", formed the Brattleboro Cornet Band, and served as organist for Centre Congregational Church for forty years.


Brattleboro Cornet Band And Christian Schuster

"Carriage Painting" And "Carriage Trading Harness Repairing"

Carriage Shop Asa Dutton Or David W. Miller On Elliot Street





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