Dr. Edward Dorsch- Liberty, Literature, Lotus, and Libraries

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“Nature is not governed by love, as we see everywhere, but by hate, in so far as one eats up the other; and if we try by antipathy to meddle with this rule, if we destroy some of the destroyers, we do ourselves the greatest injury. By the loss of our harvests we were compelled to learn wisdom, and if we have become wise at last we conquer our antipathy to certain creatures and teach our youth the great diplomatic axiom Laissez Faire!” Dr. Edward Dorsch

His contemporaries described Dr. Edward Dorsch as a retiring scholar with flaxen locks and a beard who preferred his books to people, yet he touched the lives of many people as he practiced his medical profession. He equally appreciated and contributed to science and literature, planting lotus seeds and writing poetry. He loved freedom enough to leave Revolutionary Germany and follow its siren song across the Atlantic Ocean to America.

Dr. Edward Dorsch left a legacy  of liberal ideas and scholarship in his native Germany and in his second country, the United States.  He left his medical library and papers to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and his home and a substantial amount of his personal library to his adopted city of Monroe, Michigan.  He planted trees and lotus seeds in his yard and in Plum Creek near the River Raisin for everyone to enjoy. He practiced medicine in Monroe for 37 years, healing the bodies of his fellow citizens while nurturing their minds with books and quietly challenging their spirits with ideas of freedom and equality that he couldn’t experience in his native country.

Germany seethed with conflicting ideas and revolutionary turmoil in Eduard Dorsch’s formative years, and he lived his idealism, which ultimately led to his exile from his homeland. Born on January 10, 1822, in Wuerzburg, Bavaria, Germany, he was the son of Francis L. and Elizabeth Hartung Dorsch. Francis L. Dorsch was a prominent attache of the Bavarian Court who died in 1825, when his son Edward was just three years old.

Although his parents were both Protestant, seven years after his father’s death Eduard’s  mother sent him to the Catholic Institute in 1832, to begin his education. For many years Eduard was the only Protestant pupil at the Institute, but he completed his studies and at age 18, he left to attend Munich University. In addition to his medical course at Munich, Eduard studied philosophy, botany, natural history and related sciences. A deep thinker and accomplished writer,  he crafted and published  poetry and articles, including “Idle Hours of a Munich Student”, which revealed him to be an independent thinker with liberal ideas.

In 1845, Eduard Dorsch graduated from the medical course at Munich University when he was 23, and then the Bavarian government sent him to Vienna to perfect his theoretical knowledge of medicine by practicing in hospitals. When he returned to Bavaria,  along with his medical practice, Dr. Dorsch continued to write articles expressing his ideals that continuously clashed with the conservatism and fundamentalism of the Bavarian government . While he served as surgeon in the South German Revolutionary movement, government officials read his articles expressing his belief in individual freedoms, opposition to slavery, and love of representative government with increasingly narrowed ideological eyes. He resisted government prosecution and escaped to America with his mother and sister.[1]

In the spring of 1849, Eduard Dorsch became a Forty-Eighter,”  one of the thousands of exiled Germans who left their country to build new lives in America. Some sources say he left  voluntarily and others say he was expelled, but in 1849 he came to America with a group of immigrants including his mother and sister. He landed in New York, and shortly afterward married Sophia Hartung, a fellow immigrant, born on June 15, 1827 in Bavaria. The 1850 United States Census shows Edward, 28, his wife, Sophia, 22, and their seven-month-old son Ulrech, who was born in Michigan,  living in Monroe. Ulrech died a few months later, when he was just eight months old.

The 1860 United States Federal Census shows Edward 38, Sophia, 32, and his mother Eliza 61, living in Monroe. The 1870 Census records Edward, 48, living with his wife, Sophia, 43, and his mother, Eliza, 73, and Margarett Hasler, 20, while the 1880 Census has Edward, 58, living with just his wife, Sophia, 52. Sophia died in September 1884 and she is buried by her mother-in-law in Woodland Cemetery, Monroe.  A little over a  year after her death, Edward married Augusta Uhl, the daughter of Frederich and Friedieke Uhl, on November 4, 1885.

In an autobiographical sketch, Dr. Dorsch tells a slightly different version of the other documented stories of his early professional career and immigration to America.  He writes that the Revolution of 1848 raged while he was a young medical practitioner in Vienna, and that he had to see and treat patients in the midst of bloody scenes. Often he awoke to musket volleys that ended the lives of people suspected of opposing the Reactionary Government. By nature and education a liberal, the young doctor abhorred the government and after an outbreak of cholera, he decided his time to escape had come.  He joined a group of immigrants bound for America who needed a surgeon.[2]

Eduard- Edward Dorsch, American Physician

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Initially, Dr. Dorsch had planned to settle in Detroit, and he and his wife Sophia traveled from New York City to Detroit to join the substantial community of Forty-Eighters already established there.  Possibly he met Christopher Bruckner of Monroe in Detroit, or he could have corresponded with Christopher Bruckner while still in Germany or New York.[3]

Christopher Bruckner had also been born in Bavaria on August 1805. In 1829, at age 24, he immigrated to New York, making his living as a successful merchant. In 1837, he and his family moved to Raisinville in Monroe County where he bought a farm. After living on the farm for several years, Christopher Bruckner moved his family to Monroe so that his children could attend school. Like Eduard Dorsch, Christopher Bruckner was cultivated gentleman, with a proficiency in languages including German, English, French, and Italian. His love of music attracted musicians and artists, and he had a well-earned reputation for honesty, integrity, and compassion for the poor and unfortunate. Using his influence, he persuaded the Reverend Mr. Halstead and a large colony of Bavarians to move to Monroe and they proved themselves desirable and substantial citizens.[4]

In a significant contribution to Monroe history, Christopher Bruckner persuaded his friend Dr. Eduard Dorsch to settled in Monroe, arguing that there was an important opening for a German doctor in Monroe that he was uniquely qualified to fill. Dr. Dorsch came to Monroe in the fall of 1849, practicing medicine there until his death in 1887.

According to a Monroe Commercial newspaper story, in the early 1850s, Dr. Dorsch built an eight room, two story brick house located at 18 East First Street between Washington and Monroe Streets. He installed several parrots in the large bay window in the front and he kept other birds and animals as pets in a large cage in his backyard.  In 1865, the Chinese ambassador gave Dr. Dorsch a ginkgo tree seedling which he planted in his front yard. It survives into the Twenty-First Century with a brass plague attesting to its age and ownership at its base and a living testimony to the purposeful life of the doctor who planted it.[5]

As he settled into life in his new Monroe home, Dr. Eduard Dorsch soon expanded his network of professional and personal colleagues and friends, ultimately practicing medicine in Monroe and Monroe County for 37 years. His listings in the Michigan State Gazetteer revealed some of his career movements.  In the 1856-1857 Gazetteer, he was listed as Dr. Edward Dorsch, Physician & Surgeon, Front Street. The 1860 Gazetteer showed a listing as Dorsch, Edward, physician, First Street.  Dorsch, Schaefer & Co., drugs, groceries, & c. Front, cor. Monroe. In 1863, he was listed as joining Dr. Charles Shaefer and Lina Uhlendorff to form Dorsch, Schaefer & Com, druggists, located on Front and Monroe Streets, and in 1867-1868, Dr. Dorsch and J. Weiss were operating as a druggist company.[6]

In the decades of the 1870s and 1880s, Dr. Dorsch continued to be listed as a doctor and druggist.  In 1877 and 1879, he was listed as Dorsch & Wiess, druggists and he was listed in the same business in 1881. In many of the entries, Augusta Uhl, the future second wife of Dr. Dorsch, was listed as milliner operating a nearby shop on Front Street. [7]

From German Revolution to American Civil War

The Forty-Eighters who had immigrated to the United States before Eduard Dorsch, brought their political and cultural beliefs with them, including the liberal ideas that had forced them out of Europe. Most of them opposed nativism and slavery and they backed up their beliefs with action. In May 1861, shortly after the beginning of the Civil War, a large group of German volunteers joined other Union forces to prevent Confederates from seizing the government arsenal at St. Louis, Missouri. During the entire Civil War, about 200,000 immigrant Germans enlisted in the Union Army, or ten percent of President Lincoln’s total armed forces.

Dr. Dorsch arrived in America with the same anti-nativism, anti-slavery ideals, and although he had previously voted Democratic, just a few years after he arrived in Monroe he became a staunch Republican. On July 6, 1854, disillusioned Whigs, former Democrats, Free Soil Democrats, and people passionately committed to Anti-Slavery, gathered “under the oaks,” at Jackson, Michigan. A force of 1,500 strong, but with no official standing, the group appointed its own officials and devised strategies to combat the spread of slavery in newly admitted states to the Union under the Kansas-Nebraska Act and to abolish slavery in the states where it already existed. The convention attendees in Jackson contended that despite the claims of Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and Ripon, Wisconsin, their Jackson, Michigan group was the first to formally adopt the name Republican. Dr. Dorsch’s fellow Monroe citizen Isaac Peckham Christiancy attended the convention and Dr. Dorsch did as well. In 1856 and 1860, he edited a Republican campaign paper at Monroe.[8]

In 1860, Dr. Dorsch served as a presidential elector from the then Second Michigan District, supporting Abraham Lincoln at the first Republican Party Convention. In 1862, he accepted the position of examining surgeon for the Pension Office and during his time in office he wrote a research paper demonstrating the course and effects of a bullet on the human body. The Pension Department endorsed his findings and used them for decades. Dr. Dorsch remained Pension Office surgeon until his death in 1887.[9]

Although he didn’t fight in the Civil War, Dr. Dorsch registered for the draft. Dated July 1, 1863, his draft registration listed him as a “very nearsighted” age 41.

Riding the Underground Railroad- The Rebirth of An Idealist

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American life held some rude awakenings for Dr. Dorsch beyond language and daily living differences. The often-harsh realities of frontier farm and forest life that surrounded him challenged his philosophical beliefs about experiencing utopian life in the midst of nature. His belief   in the equality and freedom of all people that led him to earn exile from his beloved Germany collided with the American reality of slavery.

Dr. Dorsch stepped into a network of Underground Railroad activity when he chose to rebuild his life in Michigan. Operating primarily between 1810 and 1850, with some parts extending to the outbreak of the Civil War, some historians estimate that the Underground Railroad was the road to freedom for over 100,000 former slaves. In its different sections, the Underground Railroad proved to be as varied as its operators, conductors, safe houses and passengers.  In the Census in 1837, the year that it became a state, Michigan had a total colored population of 379 people, with Monroe contributing 35 souls to that total. The 1860 Census showed that out of a population of 749,104, there were no slaves or slave holding families in Michigan, which highlighted the impact of the Underground Railroad in Michigan.[10]

The attitudes of Michigan people toward slavery and slave owners tended to split along several sidetracks, ranging from indifference to hostility to ardent cooperation in helping slaves along to the main Underground Railroad track to safety. Many slaves escaping from the South who followed the Ohio River escape route into Michigan tended to live free in Michigan or escape into nearby Canada, and very few returned to their owners.

Underground Railroad stations in southern Michigan generally followed Quaker settlements, with Erastus Hussey of Battle Creek, one of the most effective operators.  Lenawee County had 12 stations, Washtenaw and Wayne countries had eight each, St, Joseph, 7, Calhoun, 4, Cass, three and Oakland County, two and one each in Kalamazoo and Genesee County. Its geographical location on the shore of Lake Erie made Monroe a viable station on the Underground Railroad, with freedom enticingly near across a stretch of Lake Erie and the Detroit River to Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada.[11]

In his autobiography, William Wells Brown tells the story of how he helped many runaway slaves escape to Canada while a servant on a Lake Erie steamer, and he continued his activities from  his temporary home in Monroe, Michigan, where he worked as a barber. Other documents mention Monroe as a transition point to Canada, with fugitive slaves escaping along Detroit Avenue from Toledo to Monroe, and taken to Canada in sailboats or transported in sleighs over the ice in winter.[12]

Circumstantial and oral tradition evidence indicates that Dr. Dorsch actively aided the Underground Railroad. Independent, liberal thinker Dr. Eduard Dorsch, believing in individual freedom passionately enough to forfeit his native country, arrived in America in 1849. He continued to live his convictions in his new city of Monroe, Michigan, with a population of 2, 813 people in 1850.  Within five years of his arrival, Dr.  Dorsch became active in the fledgling Anti-Slavery Republican Party. Dr. Dorsch built his home in the 1850s.  and the 1850s were a crucial period in Underground Railroad history. A tunnel connecting the Dorsch home with the nearby Presbyterian Church in Monroe still exists, and historians have noted that Dr. Dorsch offered his home to be used as a station on the Underground Railroad, the tunnel easing the journey of the runaways to the River Raisin, Lake Erie, and Canada.

In his history of Monroe County Michigan, Talcott Wing underscores Dr. Dorsch’s “determined opposition to slavery and love for freedom” which inspired and permeated his writing and most likely motivated the action of a tunnel and other Underground Railroad activities.[13]

Notes from the Practice of a Monroe Physician -1870s, 1880s

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A Nineteenth Century Physician’s Office

Dr. Edward Dorsch of Monroe, Michigan, valued education so much that he accepted an appointment on the State Board of Education, serving from July 5, 1872 to November 1878.  He appreciated his own excellent education, and pursued scholarly interests all of his life, using his analytical skills to explore and contribute to solutions to medical problems he encountered in his practice. The scholarly Dr. Dorsch undoubtedly knew a little about the germ theory of disease that Girotamo Fracastoro proposed in 1546, and Marcus von Plenciz expanded upon in 1762. Doctors and scientists had rejected their germ theory in favor of the classic Galen’s miasma theory of disease, but by the late 1850s the work of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch provided convincing evidence that the germ theorists had been correct when they said that bacteria and other organisms and not mists or fetid vapors caused diseases.

Dr. Dorsch revealed his scientific opinion in one of his communications to the Michigan State Board of Health, Dr. Dorsch wrote that he could not find any connection near Monroe between erysipelas (acute infection, often with a skin rash) and puerperal fever (a bacterial infection of the reproductive tract after childbirth.) He said that the Monroe cases were too far apart to affect each other, but he stated that he encountered the same situation in Germany thirty years ago, and that the causes could be the same as they both occurred at the same time.[14]

In another communication published in the Michigan State Medical Society Journal in 1880 citing case histories of difficult labors, Dr.  Dorsch noted that four times he performed perforation on the head of the child- a forceps delivery. All the mothers were primipara (first time mothers), three times on account of a too narrow pelvis, once on account of great rigidity of soft parts. All except the last mentioned recovered immediately, she more slowly. Dimensions of the pelvis not known in any until labor began.[15]

Dr.Dorsch handled over 5,000 obstetrics cases during his 37-year career in Monroe.

Another aspect of Dr. Dorsch’s practice involved lead poisoning, and again, his conclusions stretched ahead of his time.  He addressed this letter, dated August 26, 1877, to Henry B. Baker, M.D. Secretary, State Board of Health.

Dear Sir,

Once in awhile I have seen in my practice cases of paralysis agitans, which had been taken for cholera although other symptoms of poisoning by lead were present. In all these cases investigation showed that the cooking and eating with tin spoons or in earthen or iron vessels with a coat of lead were the cause. Particularly among the poor, I saw iron spoons with a trace of the former glazing of tin which was only lead. Many of these spoons have an English stamp.

The same is the case with milk vessels. They are of iron and having a coating inside of tin (lead), and being in use for years, the children are poisoned systematically, because the acid which cannot be avoided, dissolves the lead salts and the children die by tubercules of the brain, meningitis, fits, and paralytic affections.

Grown persons although resisting longer, must become sick if the glazing of the cooking implements contains two-thirds of lead. A similar danger arises from coffeepots of earthenware or of “composition metal,” from the tin sieves and funnels, etc., and from almost all cooking utensils used by the poor.

I know it will be hard to do anything after the vessels have left the factory and are to be found in trade; but I direct your attention only to these adulterations of tin by the too parsimonious manufacturers, and add that they are almost worse and more dangerous than the adulterations of food and spices so common all over our country.

Yours truly,

Ed. Dorsch, M.D. [16]

His letter prompted further investigation and action in the medical communities in the United States and Canada and inspired doctors to warn the Board of Health and their patients about using worn out tin vessels. He sent the same letter to other publications including the Canada Lancet and the Cincinnati Mechanical News.

Edward Dorsch, Journalist, Poet, Writer, Artist

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Besides being a well respected physician, Dr. Dorsch was a talented journalist, poet, writer, and artist. A life-long scholar and student, writing in German, Dr. Dorsch began writing and publishing articles and poems in his student days in Bavaria and Austria which accelerated his immigration to the United States. In 1851, Dr. Dorsch wrote “Short Letters to the German People on Two Sides of the Ocean,” addressing his feelings about the culturally different Germans in his homeland and those in his new country of America.

In 1858, just nine years after he came to Monroe, Dr. Dorsch started a German language paper that he called Unabhangige, meaning non-partisan or independent. The Independent lasted only a few months, but in 1859, Dr. Dorsch built another paper on its ruins called Staats Zeitung, or State Newspaper, which lasted for more than three years and achieved substantial readership. Then bad financial management caused the State Newspaper to discontinue publication.

Dr, Dorsch continued to write, adding plays and satirical works to his literary resume.  He served as a regular correspondent for at least three German papers and he published several volumes of poems. His first book of poems, entitled, “Shepherd’s Songs,” explored the German revolution. In 1875, he published a volume of poems called “Parabasen,” and in 1883 another book called “From the Old to the New World,” political poems dealing with the highpoints of American history since his arrival in his new country.

Critics evaluated his book of poems “Pastoral Letters to My People,” by stressing his skill in handling words, but contending that the thinker in him overwhelmed the poet. He wrote in German, but he also translated English poets into German to critical acclaim. His botanical drawings were technically and skillfully rendered and used to illustrate scientific works, and some of his paintings are displayed in the Dorsch Library in Monroe, Michigan.

 Edward Dorsch- Botanist and Naturalist

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John McClelland Bulkley states in his History of Monroe County, Michigan, that Dr. Edward Dorsch planted pink Egyptian lotus trees along the shores of Plum Creek Bay in Monroe. Talcott Wing in his History of Monroe County, Michigan stated that Dr. Dorsch planted pink Egyptian and yellow American lotus trees in Monroe.

The Ironwood Daily Globe of September 1, 1920, tells one version of the lotus story and how they came to be an important part of Monroe history.

Ironwood Daily Globe- September 1, 1920

Sight Seers Gather at Lotus Blossoming

Thousands Attend Annual Event Each Year

Monroe, Michigan. September 1. Sightseers from all parts of Michigan and Ohio are visiting Monroe to see this city’s annual attraction, the blossoming of the sacred Lotus of the River Nile in the marshes of the River Raisin here. The blooming of the flowers is an annual spectacle in Monroe. The blossoms are a golden yellow set among large leaves for dark green. Acres of the marshes along the river are completely filled with these blossoming plants and a scene of beauty is presented that attracts thousands of visitors each year.  The flowers were introduced 50 years ago by Dr. Edward Dorsch, then local correspondent of the Smithsonian Institute.  He obtained the seed and under his care the lotus beds developed quickly and extensively.  The flowers of the lotus measure from four to ten inches across and are similar in shape to those of the water lily. The leaves are shaped like bowls, smooth above and hairy beneath and are raised high above the water.

Several years ago Monroe feared destruction of its lotus beds, would result as carp in the river were eating the roots of the lotus plants.  Suddenly, however, the plants took on new life.   Either the carp had found other feeding grounds or the lotus roots had become distasteful to them.

Monroe citizen’s declare that this year’s lotus display is the finest in the city’s history.[17]

Another version of the lotus story and a local legend has it that Thomas Whelpley, long-time Monroe citizen and War of 1812 Veteran, planted the lotus seeds in the Monroe marshes after Dr. Dorsch brought them back from Europe. Thomas had a varied career, beginning as a lawyer and then at different times working as a civil engineer, government and city surveyor, and a grower of small fruits and vegetables. He died on September 15, 1881, and his funeral with Masonic rites took place in the Presbyterian Church. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Monroe.

Dr. Dorsch turned his keen scientific eye on the natural world of animals as well.  An article in the Detroit Free Press on May 27, 1883 mentioned that Dr. Eduard Dorsch of Monroe donated two bald eagles to the Detroit Zoo and he kept a large bird cages in his front bay window and a cage of small animals in his backyard.

One of Dr. Dorsch’s significant publications is recorded in the Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Horticultural Society, a paper called “Our Friends the Mole, the Toad, The Spider and the Owl.” The paper revealed both the literary and scientific talents of Dr. Dorsch. He introduced his paper by naming some so -called villains of the animal world.

“Gentlemen of the State Pomological Society:  If Mr. Berg at New York has the mission to protect our quadruped friends, the horse and the dog, allow me today to speak to you a few words for the protection of some of our friends in the animal kingdom which prejudice and superstition have considered a long time our enemies, viz., the mole, the shrew, and the hedgehog, the owl and the chicken hawk, the toad and the spider.”

In the remainder of the paper, Dr. Dorsch systematically and with charm and wit pointed out the benefits that the so called enemies of man – the mole, shrew, hedgehog, owl, chicken hawk, toad, and spider – bring to nature and people. In his concluding paragraph he bequeathed a relevant  message to the modern world when he wrote :

“Nature is not governed by love, as we see everywhere, but by hate, in so far as one eats up the other; and if we try by antipathy to meddle with this rule, if we destroy some of the destroyers, we do ourselves the greatest injury. By the loss of our harvests we were compelled to learn wisdom, and if we have become wise at last we conquer our antipathy to certain creatures and teach our youth the great diplomatic axiom Laissez Faire!”[18]

Death Visits the Doctor at His Desk

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Death had visited Dr. Edward Dorsch many times in his life, spiriting away his parents, his first wife Sophia, their son Ulrich, and many of his patients. According to his obituary in the Milford Times, death made a morning office visit to Dr. Dorsch on his 65th birthday on January 10, 1887.

The Times obituary said that he owned one of the largest and most complete libraries in the state and that he “was possessed of more than ordinary literary ability, a naturalist of more than ordinary ability, and had a very interesting museum.”[19]

The numerous obituaries in his professional journals stressed the scientific and literary talent of Dr. Dorsch, In the Medical Age, his friend Dr. P.S. Root introduced a resolution that summarized how his colleagues and friends felt about his death.

At a meeting of the medical profession held at the office of Dr. Root, Wednesday evening, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted: Whereas, It has pleased Almighty God, in His inscrutable wisdom, to remove from our midst our associate and brother in the profession, Dr. Edward Dorsch : therefore Resolved, That we learn of his death with sincere sorrow and regret, and embrace this opportunity to express our appreciation of his ability as a physician, and also of his literary and scientific attainments, which were well worthy of emulation . Resolved, that we tender to the family of the deceased our deepest sympathy in their hour of affliction, and that a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to them and furnished the city papers and the Detroit Medical Journals for publication. W.C. West, M D A. I. Sawyer, M. D. G. B. McOallum, M D P. S. Root.M. D. Committee[20]

In a more personal tribute, Dr. P.S. Root wrote of his friend Edward Dorsch:

“His life was the embodiment of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ In his professional intercourse, he was mild, considerate, truthful, as a literary and scientific scholar he had probably few equals in the state. His library containing over 4,000 volumes among which are many rare and beautiful works. He was a man of most exemplary habits and deportment. He was beloved by all who knew him well. His record of practice in obstetrics shows that he attended more than 5,000 cases.[21]

A Legacy of Libraries and Love of Learning

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Although many of his contemporaries noted that Dr. Edward Dorsch had a retiring nature and reveled in the company of his books that he read in several languages, he cared about people and they returned his affection.

Monroe citizens liked and respected the doctor, including Miss Augusta Uhl. Both of her parents, Frederich Uhl and Fredericka Kortie Uhl, were from Germany and their daughter Augusta was born in the village of Volmarstein in the Province of Westphalia, Germany. Originally wealthy, Frederich Uhl lost much of his fortune when he came to America, so when the family settled in Monroe, Augusta opened a shop in one of the wooden buildings in the main business section of the city. In her shop, Augusta Uhl practiced millinery and sold imported items, real laces and embroideries that the local citizens had never seen before. Soon shoppers seeking more high quality items congregated at her shop, and recognized her as a person of superior taste.

Augusta Uhl was an intelligent and accomplished businesswoman and she soon accumulated a fortune in her own right as well as helping her parents. From 1860 to the 1880s, the Michigan State Gazetteer listed Miss Augusta Uhl as operating a shop featuring fancy goods and worsted embroidery. Years of acquaintance and conversation and proximity of their places of business fostered the friendship of Miss Augusta Uhl and Dr. Edward Dorsch.

A little over a year after Dr. Dorsch’s first wife Sophia died in 1884, Augusta Uhl married him on November 4, 1885. The newly married couple lived in the doctor’s home on First Street for the rest of their lives, filling their home with valuable books, souvenirs from abroad, and specimens reflecting the naturalist tastes of Dr. Dorsch. Iridescent birds from tropical countries flew around their conservatory, including Polly, the South American parrot. The couple had their love of their German heritage in common, often charming visitors with vivid descriptions of the land of their birth. They sought to preserve German thought and German ways as much as possible, while appreciating and practicing American customs.

Augusta Uhl Dorsch had already traveled to Germany several times since becoming an American, and she and her husband planned to tour Europe and visit Egypt. His death ended their plans.

University of Michigan Library

A little over a year after the death of her husband, Dr. Edward Dorsch, Augusta Uhl Dorsch wrote a letter to the Regents of the University of Michigan about the contents of his medical library.

Monroe, Mich., May, 1888

To the Regents of the University of Michigan:

Gentlemen:

It was the wish of my late husband, Dr. Edward Dorsch, that at his decease, his valuable private library should not be separated, but be given, as a whole, to some educational institution.

Although in his last will and testament Dr. Dorsch has made no request regarding this library, in a conversation we had a few months before his sudden death, he indicated the wish to me that the University of Michigan should be the heir to his books. Therefore, I am convinced that I carry out the spirit of his intentions by giving this library to the State in which the Doctor passed a greater portion of his life, and in whose educational welfare he was always deeply interested.

I ask you, therefore, gentlemen, to accept the Collection upon the understanding that the books composing it shall be kept together and known for all time as the “Dorsch Library.”

Respectfully yours,

Mrs. Doctor E. Dorsch

The Proceedings of the June 1888 meeting of the University Board of Reagents reported that Regent Willett, Chairman of the Library Committee accepted the Dorsch Collection of books into the General Library. The collection contained 1,676 volumes and 136 pamphlets, “many of them immensely valuable.” [22]

The Dorsch Library, Monroe

As they had previously agreed upon, Mrs. Doctor E. Dorsch gave the books in the doctor’s personal library to the struggling Monroe Library to be set aside as the “Dorsch Memorial Library of Books.” Many of the books were deeply philosophical, matching the character of Dr. Dorsch.

For the next two decades and more, Augusta Dorsch herself struggled to find solace in daily life without her beloved companion. She exercised her German housekeeping skills, keeping her house and its contents spotless, especially the cuckoo cuckoo clock who had chimed in so many happier hours. She read books with the same fervor of her deceased husband, and tended her flower garden. She revisited her youthful memories and the cherished daily events of her marriage. She turned to her religion for comfort. Polly, the parrot who lived to be nearly sixty years old was her sole companion and local tradition has it that she would walk him daily in front of her house. Polly’s hoarse croak echoed through the central part of Monroe, a familiar sound to the neighbors of Augusta Dorsch.

Above anything else, Augusta Dorsch vowed to honor her shared vision with her husband to improve their community by donating books and a library building. Focused on these widowhood goals, Augusta Dorsch managed to keep a steadfast heart until her death on May 3, 1914 in her 78th year. Another local story said that Augusta passionately desired to be buried with her husband, so she arranged to be buried on top of him, and then cement was poured over the grave to hold the casket in place. Edward, Augusta, Sophia, Ulrech, and Edward’s mother are buried in Woodland Cemetery in Monroe.

When the administrators of Augusta Dorsch’s estate, Carl Kiburtz and Jesse Root opened her will, they discovered that she had bequeathed the old Dorsch home to the city of Monroe for a library, with the stipulation that the old portraits of herself and Dr. Dorsch would remain on the living room wall where they had been placed after their wedding. Augusta Dorsch also bequeathed Polly the Parrot to the Toledo Zoological gardens where he lived to a venerable age.

In 1916, after two years of extensive remodeling, the converted Dorsch home was opened as a library. The Monroe Courier of March 7, 1916, reported the dedication ceremonies of the library. In his opening address, Boyez Dansard pointed out that the large central room where the books were arranged was also the library where Dr. Dorsch worked in 48 years earlier.

It is easy to imagine Edward and Augusta Dorsch, reunited in a booklover’s paradise, surveying the gathering and the long room lined with bookshelves holding the tools to improve Monroe minds and lives and smiling at each other.

Notes

[1] In 1815, the Congress of Vienna created the German Confederation, an association of 39 Central European states, with the goal of coordinating the economies of separate German-speaking countries and replacing the Holy Roman Empire.  The German Confederation collapsed because of the rivalry between Prussia and Austria, the 1848 Revolution, and the inability of its members to compromise. The Revolutions of 1848 that erupted in the German Confederation and the Austrian Empire expressed popular discontent with the mostly autocratic political structure of the 39 independent states of the German Confederation. For the most part the middle class was committed to liberal ideas, the working class wanted radical improvements to their working and living conditions, and the conservative aristocracy who ultimately prevailed, wanted to preserve the status quo.

[2] University of Michigan Board of Regents, June, 1888 Meeting. p.233

[3] John Andrew. The Germanic influence in the making of Michigan. Detroit, Mich.: University of Detroit, 1927. Chapter 29, The Profession of Medicine, p.265.

[4] History of Monroe County, Michigan.  John McClelland Bulkley. p. 316, Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1913. Christopher Bruckner died in 1871 and he is buried in Woodland Cemetery.

[5] Monroe Commercial, Wednesday, January 26, 1916.

[6] Michigan State Gazetteer, 1856-1857;   Michigan State Gazetteer, 1860;   Michigan State Gazetteer, 1863;  Michigan State Gazetteer, 1867-1868;

[7] Michigan State Gazetteer, 1877;   Michigan State Gazetteer, 1879;   Michigan State Gazetteer, 1881;

[8] Michigan, a centennial history of the state and its people. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1939. Chapter 19, Political Parties, 1835-1860, p. 309.

[9] Proceedings of the First Three Republican National Conventions, 1856, 1860, and 1864.

[10]        The Civil War Homepage, 1861-1865

[11] Michigan, a Centennial History of the State and its People, Volume 1, Chapter 26, The Underground Railroad in Michigan, p. 352-360.

[12] Ohio Archeological and Historical Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 3, S.S. Knabenshue, 1887. p. 400.

[13] Talcott Wing, History of Monroe County, Michigan, p. 432.

[14] Annual Report, Michigan State Board of Health, Volume 5, p. 349.

[15] Transactions, the State Medical Society, for the Year 1880

[16] Detroit Lancet, Volume 1 1878 . Dr. Kedzie made a brief report, giving an account of experiments and tests for detection of lead in tin utensils in common use, having examined quite a number of specimens. He found about three-fourths of all the specimens examined contained lead in considerable amount. These examinations were brought about by a communication from Dr. Edward Dorsch, of Monroe, Mich., which had been referred to Dr. Kedzie as Committee on Poisons, etc. Dr. Dorsch detailed some cases of lead poisoning from the use of tin utensils. The test which Dr. Kedzie gave for this adulteration is quite simple. Place a drop of nitric acid on the tin to be tested, and evaporate to dryness; then add a drop of iodide of potassium. If lead is present, there will be a yellow coloration. If it is not present, the spot will remain white. Dr. Kedzie will examine the subject further and report at a future meeting.

[17] Ironwood Daily Globe, September 1, 1920, p. 1

[18] Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Pomological Society, Vol. 4, 1875.  Dr. Dorsch, “Our Friends the Mole, the Toad, the Spider and the Owl.

[19] Milford Times, January 22, 1887, p. 6

[20] Medical Age, Volume 5, 1887 

[21] The American Lancet, Volume Eleven, 1887, p. 59.

[22] University of Michigan Board of Regents, June Meeting, 1888. p. 233.

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