Can you imagine having a 22-pound tumor removed without anesthetics, antibiotics, or pain medication? Because that’s exactly what happened on Christmas Day in 1809 at the Ephraim McDowell House.
Yes, that’s right: Dr. Ephraim McDowell successfully removed a 22-pound ovarian tumor in about 25 minutes over 200 years ago, making him world-famous for his first-of-its-kind operation. If you’re in the Danville area and want to get a taste of the life of this pioneering surgeon, you’ll want to tour the following:
The Surgery Room
While the entire McDowell house is open for tours and gives a fascinating glimpse into everyday life in early Danville, the must-see room is the surgery room. With its authentic period furniture and decorations, it’s easy to transport yourself back to that winter day when Dr. McDowell wrote a short prayer on a slip of paper, put it in his pocket, and embarked into the largely unknown territory of abdominal surgery. Bonus: you can see a display of surgical tools from the period—they will make your skin crawl!
The McDowell house is home to both an ornamental garden and an herb garden, both of which put on a beautiful display throughout the year. The ornamental garden has a monument to Jane Todd Crawford, the woman who survived the world-famous operation; the herb garden contains some of the plants McDowell might have grown for his own use as a physician.
The Apothecary is a direct window into 19th century medicine and daily life, containing authentic tools of the physician’s trade as well as some early plant medicines. Imagine if doctors still had to make all their own ointments, pills and drugs!
These are just three parts of the rich experience you’ll get on a guided tour of McDowell House. Get more info on the house here.