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DR. IRA B. CURTIS. 



Contributed by Wm. E. Nelson. 

Doctor Ira B. Curtis, the subject of this brief sketch, was a man 
endowed by nature with no ordinary mind, of sterling integrity and 
indomitable energy, as was illustrated by his whole Ufe. 

His ancestry emigrated from the old world and settled in the state 
of Connecticut prior to the Revolutionary war. His father, Carlos 
Curtis, was born in that state, and removed from there to the state of 
Ohio, where he resided for a time, and then in 1835 removed with his 
family to the State of Illinois. He located upon this move at Round 
Prairie near Springfield, IlUnois. In 1836 he entered land in Coles 
county, Illinois, south of the village of Oakland, in the last named 
county, and died there upon his farm in 1844, aged 58 years. 

Doctor Curtis, the subject of this memoir, was born on the 18th day 
of October in the year 1823 and was twelve years old when he came with 
his father to IlUnois. 

The Doctor's early education was received in the imperfect county 
schools, first in Ohio and later in the counties of Sangamon and Coles 
in this State. 

At the age of seventeen years, with his father's consent, he left home 
to carry out for himself his own destiny among his fellow men. 

With twenty-five cents in pocket he came to Decatur, Illinois 
and made his home with his sister, the wife of Kirby Benedict, a prom- 
inent lawyer of that city, at that time. 

The winter of his arrival in Decatur he attended school in a frame 
building that stood on East WiUiam street, in that city. Ex-Governor 
R. J. Oglesby, Henry Elliott and ''Dock'' Martin were classmates of 
his at that school. 

350 



351 

In the spring of 1842 he returned to Coles county to study Latin, 
under a teacher near his father's home. 

His teacher was called away by illness in his family and Doctor Curtis 
had advanced so rapidly in his studies, that the teacher left the boy 
in charge of the school and he taught to the end of the term of nine 
months. 

In 1843 he returned to Decatur and began the study of medicine under 
the instruction of Doctor Joseph King. He made such rapid progress 
in his studies that after one and one-half years Doctor King started him 
out to treat cases of malarial fever, which were quite common at that 
time, and his practice was quite successful. 

In 1846 he entered the University of Missouri at St. Louis and grad- 
uated therefrom in 1849. In that year he severed his partnership with 
Doctor King and located in Taylorville, Illinois. On the 10th of June, 
1849, he married Jane Butler, daughter of Mr. William Butler of Decatur, 
lUinois. 

Mrs. Curtis proved to be a most estimable wife and mother and was 
devoted to the comfort and well-being of her hilsband and children. 

In April, 1856, after seven years of successful practice of his profession 
in Taylorville, he returned to Decatur and entered into partnership 
with Doctor Wm. J. Chenoweth, a leading doctor of Decatur, and was 
engaged in a lucrative practice until the breaking out of the war of the 
Rebellion. 

In February 1862 at the request of Governor Yates, Doctor Curtis 
went to the front to assist in caring for soldiers who had been wounded 
at the storming of Fort Donelson. He rendered hke service at Cairo, 
again after the battle atyShilohinl862 he was stationed at Mound City, 
where for a time he was in charge of the hospital. Here assistance in 
the hospital was insufficient and great labor devolved upon the doctor, 
and he was seized by an attack of paralysis paraplegia. 

This attack rendered it impossible for the doctor further to pursue 
his labors in the hospital and he returned to his home in Decatur, wholly 
deprived of the use of his lower Umbs and so a cripple for the balance 
of his days. Here he came near losing his life by the mistake of a drug- 
gist in filUng a prescription. The doctor recovered from the effects of 
this mistake after a time but never from the paralysis of his lower limbs. 



352 

For twenty-nine years he never left his chair without assistance. In 
the fall of 1863 Doctor Curtis became the Republican candidate for 
treasurer of Macon county. At that time coimty treasurers in lUinois 
were permitted to succeed themselves and Doctor Curtis was re-elected 
time after time, and performed the duties of that office for six years. 
He then made a special study of the diseases of the eye and ear and for 
some time successfully practiced in that branch of his profession. 

From 1877 to his death on the 16th day of December 1891, Doctor 
Curtis was time after time elected a justice of the peace, in Decatur 
and filled that office during that period with credit to himself and to the 
entire satisfaction of his constituency, until his death. 

There were born to Doctor Curtis five children, Lamar, Otto E., 
Ida, WiUie and Frank. Lamar and Otto attained manhood but are 
both dead now. They were both active business men. Ida and Willie 
died in infancy. Frank Curtis is the only surviving child. He lives in 
Decatur, lUinois, and is president of one of the largest jewelry stores in 
Central lUinois, an incorporated institution known as Frank Curtis 
& Co. To him the writer is indebted for the dates and details of this 
article. 

Doctor Curtis knew more men and was known by more people perhaps 
than any man of his time in Macon county, and was deservingly one of 
the most popular men of the county. 

To perpetuate the memory of such a man is a grateful task. 

The pages of the pubUcations of the lUinois State Historical Society 
are a fitting place for that purpose. His habits of industry and economy 
secured to him more than a mere subsistence and he left to his widow 
an ample living.