Warren County Historical Society Presents …

The Digital Version “REWIND”

September 1, 2017

Sorry You Missed Her:

The Story of Dr. Anne Hull

1877 – 1948

by Alice H. Newcomb


Transcribed from a Manuscipt on File at the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.  The piece was written by Alice H. Newcomb for the Glens Falls College Club.  We thank Glens Falls City Historian Wayne Wright for providing us with the article.


As we celebrate the anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement (1917-2020) we pause here to look at the life of one women who was a fascinating individual who went above and beyond the call of duty to assist her fellow human beings.  Born and raised in Queensbury and eventually returning to the area after her  medical training, Anne Hull was one of those remarkable human beings.


Dr. Anne Hull

    You and I have to go back in time about 65 years to meet the lady I am sorry you missed. We need to go back before World War I so I can introduce to my paradoxical subject. We should be back to 1887 and ready for tea in about 20 minutes.

     Maybe you have never had a need to use the plural of paradox. As a fringe benefit of this April 9 meeting allow me to tell you there is no plural. A pair of dictionaries agree that a paradox is “something which seems to be absurd or unbelievable, but which may be true”. No plurals. This would indicate only one is possible or recorded. It is easy to see that the editors never met Annie Melissa Hull, M.D. 1877-1948.

     Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Make way, my friends for here I come. Dr. Annie is about to be presented to a group with at least 10 members having a matrimonial obligation to detect any lack of reverence for the medical profession. A goodly number never had a home visit from a doctor. Some of you cannot imagine when the streets were not plowed and car owners routinely put their cars up on blocks in November and just waited for May. We are going back to a time when the home was the center of all activity. Mrs. Susie Dean came Mondays to wage sudsy war on the washing with the pungent smell of Fels-Naptha and the steam from the whites being literally boiled on the range. Miss Fuller came once a month to shampoo and curl all adult heads. Miss Abbie Slocum spent about 10 days every spring and fall to make dresses for all.  Few ready made then.

     The milk man left glass bottles of milk and cream. This was not homogenized and sported about 3 inches of cream at the top of the bottle. Every kitchen had a glass siphon to remove that 3 inches as it was heavy enough to whip. Fruit and vegetables arrived in a horse drawn wagon piloted by Mr. Ackary. Rayme Wiswall came to the back door with water cress. Seasonal tramps were back door visitors for a plate of leftovers and a possible odd job.

     Front door visitors were different. It was a time when the minister called frequently, and, of course, our physician, a short bundle of dark eyed energy, Dr Annie Hull. The minister had custody of only spiritual afflictions, but physical and social problems were all Dr. Annie’s.

     My subject was equipped with a proud family still living in Oak Forest and the Osborn property on West Mountain Road. Annie’s brother, Eber, had three sons, Arthur, Edgar, and Fred who still live here. The opportunities of upsetting quite a few people are more than adequate.

     You can see I’d do better to chronicle the activities of other local ladies whose lives attracted this dedicated people watcher. The intellectual Miss Demarest comes to mind, striding down Glen Street with long dark skirts and boxer’s shoes which gave her a strangely gliding gate as if she were on casters. Mrs. Addison Beecher Colvin might prove rewarding. She made a very regal presence as she was aired off in her chauffer driven car bowing to lesser mortals.

     On a wholly different plane I could have explored Cigar Butt Annie who frequented the lobbies of the Rialto and the Paramount theaters ready to pounce on a discarded cigar butt. With great speed and skill she tucked these into her rolled down stockings. Fortunately, I never knew what happened next. But to change my subject would be cowardly and a disservice to a very able lady.

     Now the snow is gone take a trip to Mount Hermon Cemetery on West Mountain Road. In the middle of the friendly peaceful place is a large red granite monument, and surrounding it, small polished headstones for the Hull family.

     As you enter the cemetery gate you will see two table grave markers. Here lies David Burnham and his wife Margaret, who were great grandparents of Annie and her two brothers. Around the old granite monument lies the grandparents, Polly Burnham and Joseph Hull, Annie’s parents, Leonard Hull and Melissa Sweet and their older son Eber, Annie and the younger brother Orville. The sons of Eber and their families are the generation now in charge of Hull destiny.

     Dr. Annie was basically an All American Girl. The first American Hulls came from England in 1629. Daniel Hull, first Queensbury resident came with Abraham Wing to what family records speak of as a 1000 acre farm. Holden’s History of Queensbury says 150. It must have seemed 1000 to any one clearing the land. Daniel’s son, Joseph, moved to West Mountain Road and married Polly Burnham. They became parents of Leonard, Annie’s father. Leonard married Melissa Sweet and sired Eber, Annie, and Orville.

      Drive south on West Mountain Road and you will see the house Annie grew up in. It is called Oak Forest and sits way back from the road in its grove of oak trees. It was built in 1830 and has been occupied by Hulls continuously.

     Farther south is the small Hull house built in 1790, owned by Fred and Dorothy Hull and restored with loving appreciation. It was from Oak Forest’s living room that Annie first dispensed pills on her return from medical school. It was to be the site of her funeral service by Dr. Montgomery in 1947.

     Growing up at Oak Forest meant elementary school in the district  one room school house and then on to secondary work at the old Glens Falls Academy at 56 – 58 Warren Street. Because daily commuting was too difficult Annie boarded at 4 Union Street. The directory for 1899 lists only David Hull who was a “conductor on the electric express”. Annie graduated in June of 1899 – mature, decided, and 22.

     In September 1899, Annie entered the New York Medical College for Women on West 101 Street in New York City. Here, both students and faculty were women. For special lectures and demonstrations, the women students visited the Men’s College of Medicine on East 63 Street. It was not actually co-educational.

     Annie boarded with the parents of a fellow student in Newark, New Jersey at $5 per week. That is what I said, $5 per week.

     You all know Glens Falls is a hard place to go from or return to. A family member described the business of getting from home to college. It tested one’s desire for a medical future. One started with five miles with horse and buggy from West mountain to Glens Falls. A trolley car took one to Sandy Hill fairgrounds to switch cars for the ride to Fort Edward and a train to Troy to take a boat to New York. Next we need a ferry to Hoboken and then a train to Newark and a bicycle to the Newark boarding house. The total elapsed time was said to be 24 hours. Let’s hope it was a night boat from Troy. It should have been easier to convince her parents of her ambitious plans. She had to struggle to get there. No impulsive trips home for the weekend in those days.

     For her internship, Annie served at the Middletown State Hospital according to the Post Star obituary. Family records suggest she served as an intern at the hospital associated with her medical school. Not being an investigative reporter I leave this a to later writer. I lean to Middleton as she was later a member of the New York State Mental Examiners.

     Annie stayed down state until 1909. She was ready and waiting when my family returned from Pennsylvania in 1912.

     The house Annie bought at the corner of Pine and Elm Streets still exists bereft of its front porch and sporting a generous addition in the rear. The Pine Street door has the number 13 on it. Turn the corner and another door on the same property says 51 Elm Street. The house had a white picket fence all around the corner and a substantial barn on the north end on Elm Street. It sheltered a horse and buggy and cutter at first and later became the garage for Annie’s roadster.

     Annie wrote to her brother Orville about one of her home visits in Jenkinsville about six miles from the city and a right turn from Ridge to Sunnyside. Probably a two hour jaunt.

     “I went up to Jenkinsville to a pneumonia patient. It was an awful day – snowed, rained and blew straight in my face. I never suffered any more. Blankets were wet thru and I was awfully cold. They gave me warm dry mitten and blankets to come back with but the wind was in the back so it was not as hard.”

     This is the life Annie Hull strove to live. A paradox

     Practicing medicine prior to antibiotics was dependent a lot on the personality of the physician. Unless the patient were sufficiently farsighted to contract a malady for which there was a specific drug like quini ne for malaria, digitalis and nitroglycerine for the heart, ether and chloroform to subdue pain, there wasn’t too much the doctor could do except supervise excellent nursing care. The doctor’s fee was modest. I believe Dr. Annie got $2 for an office call and $3 for a home visit.

     In 1806 doctors in Portsmouth, New Hampshire listed their fees as follows:

     Home visit in ordinary cases with advice, recipe, and one dose of                                                    medicine…$0.75

     Home visit and bleeding at patient’s home…$1.00

     Home visit and amputating toes or fingers…$2.00

     Home visit and amputation, trepanning skull, or amputating                                                            cancerous breast…$30.00

     It should be noted that a man worked a 12 hour day for a dollar at this time.

     When Annie started practice, she was a whole social security system in herself. If you were sick, you were Annie’s prize. Sometimes she not only visited but brought produce from her garden to feed the family. When no one could take care of the household tasks because the mother was sick, Annie would lug home the dirty clothes and with tub and scrub board she would wash the items and take them back clean.

     The new baby without a layette got one from our philanthropist. Many children had Christmas dolls because Annie sat up nights sewing doll clothes.

     Up until the time single parenthood became so chic and fashionable, mothers of out-of-wedlock children had a very hard time. Most public reaction was to blame only the girl and make life as difficult as possible. Not Dr. Annie. Babies were “darling babies” as she said of her first delivery and she set about helping. For some she found adoptive homes and for others less permanent solutions.

     Most of Annie’s patients were poor and seldom paid money but might offer goods in kind. Annie never sent bills saying that if people had money they would pay, and if they didn’t have it, sending a bill would not help. That was not the road to riches but it was Annie’s road.

     Annie’s treatment for blood pressure in the 20’s and 30’s was not much different from my present treatment except for drugs. My father battled the suggestion that he eat chicken or fish foregoing the rare steaks and roasts which comprised adult fare in his eyes. A prohibition against eggs used as a garnish for ham and bacon upset him drastically. I don’t remember any restrictions on salt which was used on everything including celery, melon, apple slices, radishes, and anything needing improvement. In 1914, Dr. Annie’s horse was replaced by a Buick roadster. It was the sound of that roadster stopping at 284 Glen Street that I associate with Annie’s visits. Households with resident grandmothers were not apt to call the doctor until all home remedies had been tried and failed. I remember castor oil, sal hepatica, mustard plasters, and Vicks Vapor rub’s predecessor, turpentine and lard rubbed generously on the victim’s chest. If one were lucky, a sugar cube with several drops of turpentine was not offered to ease a cough and nasal congestion. If the patient still stubbornly refused to get well of course – call the doctor.

     It is generally contended that home visits are wasteful of the doctor’s time, useless because the doctor cannot do anything at home for the patient and wholly unnecessary. Don’t you believe it. A decision to call the doctor led the whole household into an eruption of activity.

     Mother sorted out the patient’s bed and person. Aunt Fan seized the dry mop and pursued dust kittens over hardwood floors and down the stairs. Grandmother tidied up the living room to look as if no one lived there. The whole family participated in the drama. When Dr. Annie appeared at the patient’s door, there was a ritual recital of symptoms, a laying on of hands, a sticking out of tongues, a saying of the A-A-A-HS and then the bag was opened. On either side of the opening several glass vials of mysterious powders and liquids were revealed. Mother was dispatched to the bathroom to produce a specified amount of water in a tumbler. To this, Dr. Annie added whatever she had decided was good for whatever ailed you and a spoonful was administered. The glass was topped with a butter pad and the spoon was carefully balanced on top and you were almost well. The teaspoon was operated on an hourly basis and you were a Big Girl when you were allowed to administer your own doses when mother called the time from downstairs. Saved her running up and down and was only permissible when all hands were convinced that a cure was taking place.

     In addition to her patient care, Dr. Annie was a member of the Warren County Medical Association, the New York State Board of Mental Examiners. For many years she acted as Health Officer of Queensbury. There is also indication that she served as truant officer rounding up school skippers and restoring them to the educational mill.

     Add to this her gardening, the care of her elderly parents. Dr. Hull had little time for the music she loved or the reading of anything but medical journals. She was a busy woman with her personal appearance way down the list of important considerations. The female of the species is said to be more deadly than the male. Her peers with very critical and uncharitable interpretation of Annie’s actions usually won. Dr. Annie’s male colleagues weren’t too welcoming either. Her aging and battered car set her apart in contrast to the sleek new Buicks favored by most of the prosperously attired males. Some of this was Annie’s fault. “Dress for Success” had not been written and she wouldn’t have paid any attention. Too busy! No P.R. firm formed her “image” or published her accomplishments. Annie’s conscience was already raised and she was truly liberated long before anyone agreed liberation was necessary and that women, by and large, could be regarded as people.

     My early memory of her is Annie in a starched cotton house dress topped with a veteran pork pie hat and clutching the inevitable black bag. Winter saw the same had with the addition of a balding fur coat whose hairless spots testified to a long life of service. And, of course, there was the black bag. That was the only concession I could see made to professional status.

     Dr. Annie was an extremely intelligent woman and must have weighed very carefully the life choices she made. Resolute is a word I associate with her. If Annie regretted her choice of selfless commitment only she knew it.

     Dr. Annie worked as usual two days before Thanksgiving but came home very tired. She died in her sleep that night.

     In 1899, education for women was not widely supported. Why bother with the time and expense when the probable outcome was marriage and motherhood? Definitely an unnecessary waste. Choosing to become a female physician would have required real conviction to secure parental permission and support. You will remember it would be another 27 years before women were allowed – and I chose that verb deliberately – to vote. That Annie went to medical school at all is a surprise. That she went with the financial and moral support of Leonard and Melissa tells you a great deal about the Hull family.

     In the Mount Hermon Cemetery, Leonard’s headstone has a scripture quotation on the back. Annie’s doesn’t. If it were my choice, I would have chiseled in the granite, “In as much as you do it unto the least of these, my brethren, you do it unto me.” The stone is small; the quotation long. Those who knew her will sum up her life with just “Annie M. Hull, M.D.”



Please Note:  This document was transcribed from a document on file in the subject files at the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library by Casey Cosey of the Glens Falls City Historians Office.



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