Skip to main content
Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World
This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in
the world by JSTOR.
Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries.
We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial
Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.istor.org/participate-istor/individuals/early-
JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please
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.
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
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,
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
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.
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
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.