Lebanon New Hampshire’s "Man Who Survived With A Hole in His Head": Phineas P. Gage (1823-1860)

A great deal has been written about New Hampshire native, Phineas P. Gage.

Graphic of skull from “The history of the development of medical science in American by Henry R. M. Landis, 1901. Internet Archive.

He was the victim of a freak accident, and lived for to tell the tale (actually for 19 more years). Perhaps the most succinct story comes from “The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire,” by Lyman S. Hayes:  historical sketches, by Lyman S. Hayes as follows: “During the building of the Rutland road, September 15, 1847, a peculiar accident occurred which in all the intervening years has been considered the most remarkable in its results of any recorded in the medical world.  A workman named Phineas Gage had a long iron bar blown entirely through his head and brain, by a premature discharge of a blast while making the rock cut a mile east of Cavendish station. The strange thing was that the man recovered and was able to work about 19 years thereafter. It was such a marvelous thing to relate that it was doubted by physicians everywhere and close investigation was made by surgeons from other states. 

The “tamping bar” was three feet and a half long and tapered at the upper end a distance of eight inches to half an inch in diameter at the lower end. It was very smooth like a spindle and passed through the left cheek. The bar entered the head on the lower part of the brain and through the skull at the top of the head. In later years, the man expressed a desire that after his death his skull, as well as the bar that passed through it, should be preserved, and the two are now in the museum of the Massachusetts Medical College at Boston.”

Graphic of Phineas Gage’s skull from “The history of the development of medical science in American by Henry R. M. Landis, 1901. Internet Archive.

Although Phineas survived, he was a changed man, by numerous accounts of his former co-workers, his mother, and other close relatives.  His medical case is being studied to this day. Following the accident he was no longer able to work on the railroad, and by other accounts he was part of P.T. Barnum’s exhibit for a brief time.

His “life mask,” actual skull, and the iron bar that caused the damage, all exist today in various locations.  Poor Phineas’ bones do not all rest even to this day.  His skull continues to be on exhibit at the Warren Anatomical Museum in Boston, MA.



The Phineas Gage Information Page

Book: An Odd Kind of Fame

-The Warren Anatomical Museum

Roadside America: It Happened Here

Neurophilosophy: Phineas Gage

Wikipedia: Phineas Gage (very detailed, with photographs of Phineas Gage)

The “Crowbar Skull” and Mementoes of “Phrenological Hours,” by Paul I. Yakoslev, M.D., Curator, Warren Museum, as found in Harvard medical alumni bulletin 1958. Internet Archive


John-1 Gage, whose name first appears on the signers to the covenant roll of the First Church in Boston MA 27 Aug 1630, and from his position on the list which was headed by Gov. Winthrop, it may be inferred that he was one of the number who came over from England in Winthrop’s fleet [per NEHGS Register 62:254]. He remained in Boston until March 1633 when he went with John Winthrop Jr. to begin a plantation at Agawam later called Ipswich MA. On 4 March 1633 he was admitted a freeman. His first wife and the mother of his children was Amee — who died about the middle of June 1658. His second wife was Sarah the widow of Robert Keyes of Watertown MA who he married 7 Nov 1658. She d. in Newbury MA 7 July 1681. John Gage d. 24 March 1672-73 leaving a will that was proved 25 March 1673 in which he mentions his wife Sarah, sons Samuel, Daniel, Nathaniel, Jonathan and Josiah and a grandson (John, son of deceased son Benajmin).
Children of John & Amee (–) Gage:
1. Samuel Gage, b. 1638
2. Daniel Gage, b. 1639
4. +Benjamin Gage,
5. Nathaniel Gage, b. 1645
6. Jonathan Gage
7. Josiah Gage, b. 1648

Benjamin-2 Gage (John-1),  m1) 16 Feb 1663 Mary Keys. She b. 16 June 1645, d. 20 Dec 1668, dau of the second wife of John-1 Gage; he m2) 11 Oct 1671 Prudence Leaver, dau of Thomas & Damaris (Bayley) Leaver. She b. 11 June 1644. She m2nd) 6 Apr 1674 Samuel Stickney and died 26 Oct 1716. He was admitted freeman 19 May 1699 at Andover MA but did not take the oath at that time, and was admitted again 31 May 1671 at Haverhill MA. He died 10 Oct 1672 five months prior to the decease of his father.
Child of Benjamin & Mary (Keys) Gage:
1. John Gage, b. 27 Sep 1666; d. 25 Feb 1671
Child of Benjamin & Prudence (Leaver) Gage:
2. +John Gage, b. 15 July 1672

John-3 Gage (Benjamin-2), born July 15, 1672; married 13 June 1694, Sarah Haselton, born 11 March 1673-4, died 27 May 1753, aged 80 (gravestone) daughter of Capt. David and Mary (Jewett) Haselton. In a deed dated 10 Oct 1704 he was called “Sr., of Bradford.”
Children of John & Sarah (Haselton) Gage:
1. Sarah Gage, b. 11 Jan 1695 Bradford MA
2. Elizabeth Gage, b. 21 Oct 1696 Bradford MA
3. Benjamin Gage, b. 24 June 1699 Bradford MA
4. Jonathan Gage, b. 1 June 1701 Bradford MA
5. Ebenezer Gage, b. 17 Sep 1703 Bradford MA
6. Thomas Gage, b. 10 March 1706 Bradford MA
7. +John Gage, b. 13 Sep 1708 Bradford MA
8. William Gage, bapt. 23 Sep 1711 Bradford MA
9. Prudence Gage, b. 24 May 1715 Bradford MA

John-4 Gage (John-3, Benjamin-2, John-1),  b. 9 Sep 1708 in Bradford, Essex Co MA; m. 25 May 1738 in Haverhill, Essex Co MA to Elizabeth Haynes, dau of Thomas & Hannah (Harriman) Haynes. She b. 4 Feb 1717/1718 in Haverhill MA. In 1733 he petitioned for liberty to set up a blacksmith shop near the river in Haverhill MA.
Children of John & Elizabeth (Haynes) Gage:
1. +Solomon Gage, b. 8 Feb 1738/39 Haverhill MA
2. Abigail Gage, b. 24 Dec 1740 Haverhill MA
3. David Gage, b. 13 Jan 1741/42 Haverhill MA; settled in Concord NH
4. Joanna Gage, b. bef 12 March 1748/49 Haverhill MA
5. Molly Gage, b. 20 Jan 1744/45
6. Hannah Gage, b. 22 Oct 1749 in Pelham, Hillsborough Co NH

Solomon-5 Gage, son of John & Elizabeth (Haynes/Haines) Gage, b. 8 Feb 1738/39 in Haverhill, Essex Co MA [Haverhill MA recs]; he m1 1767) —; he m2nd) 7 June 1782 to Sarah Stevens. [One source states he only married once to Sarah Stevens]. In 1761 Solomon Gage is shown in Haverhill MA, entering Captain David White’s Company May 9, discharged November 24. He then settled in Concord NH; he is possibly the Solomon Gage who removed to Richmond, Cheshire Co NH in 1810, “but his name disappears in 1818. Lived on the Levi Mowry Place.” He is listed as signing the Association Test in Concord NH in March of 1776. He served in Gen. Stark’s bridge at Bennington under Col. Thomas Stickney, 1777. [both per “History of Concord NH”].
Children of Solomon & —-:
1. Stephen Gage, b. 26 July 1768 in Enfield NH
2. Benjamin Gage, b. 5 March 1769 in Enfield, Grafton Co NH, and d. 2 July 1850 in Enfield NH; he m 4 March 1792 in Enfield NH to Susannah Johnson. She b. 30 Oct 1773 in Enfield NH. Had 12 ch.
3. +Phineas Gage, b. 1772 in Concord NH
4. Solomon Gage, b. abt 1774 in Concord NH; m. 10 Jan 1813 to Miriam Garnsey. Had 2 ch: John (b 23 Jan 1814) and Comfort
5. Simon Gage, b. abt 1776 in Concord NH
6. Samuel Gage, b. abt 1781

Phineas-6 Gage, son of Solomon Gage, b. 1772 in Concord, Merrimack Co NH, d. 17 Sep 1849 in Enfield, Grafton Co NH, age 77. He m. 19 Feb 1797 in Enfield, Grafton Co NH to Phebe Eaton. She b. 4 July 1776 in Chester,Rockingham Co NH and d. 3 Aug 1860 in Enfield, Grafton Co NH, at the age of 83. He appears in the Enfield NH census from 1800-1840 inclusive, and the Enfield tax lists 1798-1842 inclusive. The Gazetter of Grafton Co NH, page 258 states: “Phineas Gage, a native of Massachusetts, came to Enfield about 1796, and settled in the eastern part of the town, where John Dresser now lives. He was the father of twelve children, three of whom are living, but not in this town. His son Calvin located as a farmer on the old place, but finally removed to a farm a mile and a half from the homestead. He died here June 17, 1876. He had born to him three children: Hiram, Lucy (Mrs. John H. Morse) and Julius, two of whom are living. They are Hiram, who resides on road 10, and Lucy (Mrs. Morse) who resides at Enfield Center.” A second listing in the same book under the town of Grafton states: “Phineas Gage moved to Enfield from Concord NH at the age of twenty-five years, and was one of the early settlers. He married Phebe Eaton of Candia NH, and reared twelve children. His son Jesse E. married Hannah T. Sweatland of East Lebanon NH, and reared five children, three of whom are living, namely, Lura Milton of East Canaan, Phebe Shaddock of San Francisco Cal., and Roswell. The latter married Sarah F., daughter of Elbridge G. and Nancy (McKinney) Little, and has four children, viz: Ella R. McElwain of Enfield Center, Eva M.Kilton of Grafton Center, Emma J. Town of Boston, and Fred. Mr. Gage resides on road 38, corner 32.”  [Note: several biographies state they had 12 children, however I find 13, unless the Amelia listed is the same as daughter Mary.]
Children of Phineas & Phebe (Eaton) Gage:
1. +Jesse Eaton Gage, b. 1 Apr 1796 in Enfield NH
2. Mary Gage, b. 21 Sep 1798, and d. 24 March 1866 in Sutton NH. She m. 16 June 1821 to Asa Fisher, son of David & Mehitable (Hewins) Fisher. He was b. in Francestown NH 1 Oct 1798 and d. 28 Feb 1846 in Sutton NH age 46. Children [Fisher]: Phineas Gage, David M., George W., Thomas J., Joel H., Freeman A., and Franklin W.  [See “The Fisher Genealogy,” by Philip A. Fisher, 1898, page 205]
3. William Gage, m. Eliza Sanborn
4. Samuel Gage, m1) Rosamond Allen; m2) Nancy Little
5. George Gage, m. Mary Whitford; resided Waterford NY
6. Calvin Gage; died 17 June 1876 in Enfield NH; m. Abigail Prescott and had 3 children: Hiram, Lucy (who m. John H. Morse) and Julius.
7. Hiram Gage, m. Elizabeth Greendell of Maine.
8. Harry Gage, m1) Mary Goss; m2) Susan Alden Fuller; res. Royalton VT. 3 children: Lucy F., Mary and Henry Fuller.
9. Converse Gage, b. 17 June 1817 in Enfield NH; d. 20 Apr 1882 in Sutton NH. He m. 17 Nov 1844 Cerlania Carroll, dau of John P. and Rachel (Powers) Carroll of Croyden NH. Children: Susan E. b Dec 13, 1847 (m. Charles W. Purmort of Enfield NH and have 4 ch, Frank M., Herbert C., George C. and Mabel M.), George (who d. in infancy), George W. b. Dec 12, 1853. About 1854 Converse Gage and family moved to Sutton NH. He was a Republican and Unitarian.
10. Eliza Gage, m1) Benjamin Collins; m2) Benjamin Perley
11. Amelia Gage
12. Abigail Gage, b. 10 Dec 1814 in Enfield NH; m. 2 June 1839 to Francis R. Robbins; resided Warner NH
13. Nancy Gage; m. Aaron Wells

Jesse Eaton-7 Gage, son of Phineas & Phebe (Eaton) Gage, was b. 1 Apr 1796 [1798 in one source] in Enfield, Grafton Co. NH. He m. 27 Apr 1823 in Lebanon, Grafton Co NH to Hannah Trussell Swetland/Sweatland of E. Lebanon NH. She b. 27 Dec 1798 in NH and d. 9 March 1887 in San Francisco California.  Jesse probably died before 1850 when Hannah (listed as H.T. Gage) is living in Lebanon NH with her brother Roswell.
U.S. Census > 1860 United States Federal Census > California > Alameda > Brooklyn
Wm. J. Longworth 43 M Physician 1500/500 Maine
Cordelia B. Longworth 35 F Maine
Angus Boyd 46 M Ireland
Hannah T. Gage 63 F NH
Phebe J. Shattuck 28 F NH
Frank B. Shattuck 3 M Cal
James A. Boyd 9 M NY
U.S. Census > 1870 United States Federal Census > California > San Francisco > San Francisco
Shattuck, David C. 39 M W commission merchant 40,000, 25,000 NH
Shattuck, Phebe J. 37 F W Keeping House 10,000 NH
Shattuck, Frank B. 13 M W at home California [deaf & dumb]
Shattuck, Anna J. 9 F W at home California
Shattuck, Delia P. 7 F W at home California
Shattuck, Mary E. 3 F W at home California
Shattuck, Alice, 8/12 F W at home California (Oct)
Gage, Anna T. 74 F W no occupation NH
O’Brien Ann 25 F W dom. servant Ireland
Cavan Kate 35 F W dom. servant Ireland
Children of Jesse E. & Hannah T. (Swetland) Gage:
1. Phineas P.-8 Gage, son of Jesse Eaton & Hannah Trussell (Sweetland/Sweatland/Swetland) Gage, b. 9 July 1823 probably in “East” Lebanon NH; died 21 May 1860 in San Franciso, California (at the house of his sister), following an epileptic seizure. [see more above].  He was buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery, San Francisco, California. In 1940 his body along with others was moved to Cypress Abbey’s vault in Lawndale, then in 1946 his remains were placed with that of his mother and brother-in-law in vault #962 of Laurel Hill Mound at Pioneer Monument (the final resting place for approximately 35,000 San Francisco pioneers).
2. Lura/Laura Gage, b. abt 1827-1830 in Enfield NH, d. 26 Feb 1902 in Canaan NH; She m. John J. Milton. He b. Canaan NH. They resided East Canaan NH. Children: Frank Milton (b abt 1851 NH, died 27 May 1894 in Canaan NH) and Belle Milton (b abt 1853 NH).
3. Roswell Gage, b. Nov 1829 in NH; m. 12 May 1850 in Springfield NH to Sarah F. Little, dau of Elbridge G. and Nancy (McKinney/McKinnis) Little. She b. abt 1833 and d. 3 Dec 1892 in Grafton NH Had ch: Ella R. (who m. — McElwain and res. Enfield Center NH), Eva M. (who m. 29 Sep 1875  St. Albans VT to Marcus M. Kilton, son of James & M. & Sally Kilton, res. Grafton Center NH), Emma J. (who m. — Town, res. Boston MA), and Fred. Roswell m2nd)16 March 1894 in Wilmot NH to Mrs. Addie Josephine (Fisk) Cole, widow of Cyrus Cole, and daughter of Benjamin & Charlotte (Flint) Fisk. She b. 12 Oct 1849/1850 in NH. In 1900 living in Grafton, Grafton Co NH with wife Addie J., and step-children Anna B. Cole (b Apr 1884 NH) and Warren Cole (b Feb 1880 NH). He was a farmer.
4. Dexter P. Gage, b. 17 April 1831.
5. Phebe Jane Gage, b. 20 Nov 1832 in New Ipswich NH; she m. 10 Nov 1853 in San Francisco CA to David Dustin Shattuck, son of William & Delia (Presby) Shattuck. He b. 28 May 1830 in NH, and d. 20 may 1904 in San Francisco CA. Resided in San Francisco California; ch: [Shattuck]: Frank Baxter, Anna/Hannah Jane, Delia P., Mary Emma, and Alice C.

[Article updated August 2012]

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4 Responses to Lebanon New Hampshire’s "Man Who Survived With A Hole in His Head": Phineas P. Gage (1823-1860)

  1. Malcolm Macmillan says:

    Dear Cowblog,

    I’m the author of the Phineas Gage site and wonder if you have any information about the following:

    What the ‘P’ of Phineas’ second name stood for? There seem to be no male or female ancestors after whom he could have been named. However, I have just found that a Dr. Phineas Parkhurst was a prominent physician in Lebanon who may have helped bring Phineas into the world. My Phineas may have been named after him, i.e., Parkhurst.

    The place of death of Jesse Eaton Gage, Phineas’ father.

    Where Jesse Eaton Gage/ Hanna Trussell Sweatland farm was located?

    Many thanks,

    Malcolm Macmillan

    • Janice Brown says:

      Phineas’ death record in California lists his middle initial as B., however correspondence I’ve seen states his middle name as P. I have no idea what the P. refers to, except that Phineas’ younger brother, Dexter also had P. as a middle initial.

      I don’t know the death place of Jesse Gage, one source simply mentioning NY. It would have occurred possibly by 1850 when his wife is shown living with her brother in Lebanon NH. I also do not know where in Lebanon they lived. A call to the Lebanon Historical Society might be in order.


      My best to you with your research
      Janice Webster Brown, Blog: Cow Hampshire


  2. jgn says:

    possibly “parker as is with other relitives

  3. Pingback: 10 Ways Marketers are Making you Addicted to Genealogy | Cow Hampshire

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