Portrait courtesy of www.greeneconnections.com.
Indiana has produced a number of oddly named men who've served in some political capacity and today's "honoree", Judge Baltzer Kramer Higinbotham of Tippecanoe County, is yet another in a long line of curiously named Hoosiers too receive a write-up here. A former Judge of the Criminal Court of Tippecanoe County and delegate to the Republican National Convention of 1880, Higinbotham died under unusual circumstances in 1891 after undergoing the bi-chloride of gold treatment in an effort to cure his alcoholism.
A native of Pennsylvania, Baltzer Kramer Higinbotham was born in Masontown on October 19, 1841, the son of Samuel (1789-1861) and Hester Kramer Higinbotham. Both his first and last names have a few variations in spelling, with the first being given as "Baltser", "Baltzell" , "Baltzar" and "Balser" and the last spelled with both a single and double "g". His early education occurred in the state of his birth and after a period of study at the Greene Academy at Carmichaels, Pennsylvania enrolled at Waynesburg College in 1857.
Remarked as having graduated first in his class in 1859, Higinbotham met his wife Emily Wells (1840-1883) during his time here and they married in 1864. The couple would become parents to one son, John Wells, born in 1866. Prior to his marriage Higinbotham served with the First Regiment, Pennsylvania Calvary, enlisting in 1861. He was discharged due to disability after two years of service and following his marriage removed to Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Indiana.
Shortly after his resettlement, Higinbotham took work as a clerk in a bookstore and also read law during his spare time. He was admitted to the Indiana bar in the late 1860s and is recorded as having "rapidly rose in his profession." Just a few years after being admitted to the bar Higinbotham was appointed as Judge of the Criminal Court of Tippecanoe County, taking office in October 1871. He would serve one four year term and afterward returned to his law practice.
An orator of some repute during his brief life, Higinbotham gained a wide reputation as an "eloquent speaker and rarely gifted poet" and in 1880 was invited by U.S. Senator from New York Roscoe Conkling to join him in stumping the state for James Garfield, then the Republican nominee for President. In addition to that speaking tour, Higinbotham also served as part of the Indiana delegation to the 1880 Republican National Convention held in Chicago where Garfield officially received the nomination.
Widowed in 1883, Baltzer Higinbotham remarried in 1887 to Mildred Binyon, to whom he was wed until his death four years later. Higinbotham's death in October 1891 can be traced to the "bi-chloride of gold" or Keeley Treatment that he'd been receiving for two days prior to his death. The Keeley Treatment (also known as the Keeley Cure) was popularized in the late 19th century as a supposed cure for alcoholism. Named after its developer, Dr. Leslie Keeley (1836-1900), Keeley's treatments proved quite popular (with over 200 locations located throughout the world between 1879 and 1965) but was viewed with skepticism by many in mainstream medicine.
Using injections of bi-chloride of gold that were to be administered four times a day, the treatments were reported to last for a four week period. Baltzer Higinbotham's connection to this curious form of medical treatment began when his law partner, Judge Marcellus Bristow, underwent the treatment himself and returned to the pair's home city of Frankfort a changed man, free of drink. Having promised Judge Bristow to take the treatment himself in the event Bristow was cured of his urge to drink, Higinbotham accompanied Bristow to Plainfield, Indiana to try the treatment himself. A write-up on the incident appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune a few days following Higinbotham's death and is provided below.
Remarked as having been a victim of a "terrible drink habit", Judge Higinbotham arrived in Plainfield with Judge Bristow in mid-October 1891 and shortly before undergoing his first treatment stopped for drinks and later complained of not feeling well. Higinbotham underwent his first injection of bi-chloride of gold at the institute in Plainfield on the Sunday after his arrival and later underwent three more injections, accompanied by "two vials of whiskey and the preparations to take between injections."
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Higinbotham "couldn't retain the whiskey" and later borrowed Judge Bristow's lamp due to his wanting to read before sleeping. A few hours later Bristow found Higinbotham dead, with a post-mortem reporting that "blood was found on the heart." Higinbotham's death occurred on October 19, 1891, his fiftieth birthday. He was survived by his second wife and son John and was interred at the Creston Cemetery in Lowell, Indiana.
Death notice from the Bismarck Weekly Tribune, October 30, 1891.
From the Salt Lake Herald, October 22, 1891.