September 17, 1861
Theodore Hill is a Methodist minister living in West Waterville with his wife, Susan, in 1861. At 55, Hill is too old to volunteer to serve in the army, but he wants to do something to help. With time on his hands and a little curiosity, he mixes some ingredients together using to concoct a potion that he believes could have some medicinal qualities.
Rather than keep it to himself, the Reverend Hill provides bottles of his elixir to soldiers in Company G of the 3rd Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Hill does not know whether the men are sick or well, but he is willing to promote his magic liquid as "just the thing" for them.
Acting on a recommendation from former Maine governor and Congressman Anson Morrill, Hill writes to Governor Israel Washburn in September, 1861, to inform him of his potion.
Hill claims that the liquid has "a greater medicinal power to arrest pain and inflammation without capsicum (chile pepper) or ammonia or any heating properties that can be found in the market." Hill asks Gov. Washburn whether he could become a supplier of the elixir to help soldiers who were susceptible to "wounds and diarrhea and many ills," and "to meet that distressing complaint ‘the Diptheria’."
Better, Hill asserts, "for a fresh wound I never saw its equal."
Thinking that the Governor might be skeptical, the minister acknowledges that the potion is "not a patent medicine but an old English Remedy."
Despite the sales pitch from Rev. Hill, the Governor declines to purchase the potion.
Undeterred, Hill maintains his interest in medicines and remedies after the war. The 1867 West Waterville/Oakland business directory lists him as owning a patent medicine business, with his unique "vegetable remedy" available on the market, sold in small, aqua-colored, glass bottles.
Hill’s interest in soldiers’ health was warranted. During the war more than 4,500 Maine soldiers died of disease. Another 2,800 died of wounds suffered in battle.
- Did the government have a way to approve medicines?
- How was the Rev. Hill supposed to demonstrate that his potion worked?