Concord New Hampshire’s First Female Physician: Dr. Lucinda S. (Capen) Hall (1815-1890)

I searched for over two years for a likeness of Dr. Lucinda Capen. Not finding one I settled for this sketch from The story of American heroism, by Lew Wallace, 1897 Medal Winners and Roll of Honor Men (Civil War)

I searched for over two years for a likeness of Dr. Lucinda Capen. Not finding one, I settled for this representation, a sketch from The story of American heroism, by Lew Wallace, 1897.

Mrs. Lucinda S. (Capen) Hall, M.D. was not only Concord, New Hampshire’s first woman physician, but she also was the first woman to receive a medical degree from a New England institution, graduating from the Boston Female Medical College in 1848 and the Worcester Medical College in 1852. She practiced both midwifery and medicine in Worcester and Lowell, Massachusetts,  and Concord, New Hampshire.

[Editor’s note: The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States was Dr. Elisabeth Blackwell who was born in England, and graduated from the Medical Institution of Geneva College in NY in 1849, see other Women’s Firsts in Medicine].

Dr Halls Bitters watermark

Scan of an original advertisement for Dr. R. Hall’s Jaundice Bitters, prepared in Concord, NH. Property of Janice W. Brown.

Lucinda Susannah Capen was born in 1815 on a farm near Stewartstown, Coos County NH, the fifth child and third daughter of Ebenezer and Abigail (Carter) Capen. [She is my 4th cousin 5x removed through her Carter line] Her parents had left Concord to live in that small distant town but returned to Concord when Lucinda was about ten years old. She attended the local schools, and at the age of eighteen married her neighbor, Robert Hall, son of Captain James & Ruth (Abbott) Hall [my 3rd cousin, 4x removed through his Abbott line]. After their marriage Lucinda and Robert Hall lived for 2 years at Loudon NH, then in Concord NH for 7 years.

The Amsden History of Concord, XVII 16 & 17 states the following: “Robert Hall had developed an interest in medicine and, for a time, he acted as lay assistant for Dr. Lemuel Paige of Weare.” Dr. Paige manufactured herbal prescriptions, and Robert Hall followed his lead. In 1847 Robert Hall returned again to Concord as an apothecary.

An advertisement of the time shows that Dr. R. Hall’s vegetable purifying Jaundice Bitters were being prepared and sold in Concord NH. [SEE scan above]. Mrs. Hall also became interested in medicine and while living in Weare she studied in Dr. Paige’s office. [Dr. Lemuel W. Paige/Page was the son of Reuben & Sarah (Forsaith) Paige. He was b. in 1807 in Antrim NH, and lived in East Weare NH. He m1) Harriet Little of New London NH; m2d) Hannah J. Abbott of Concord NH. He moved to Chicopee Falls MA in 1853 where he died in 1857].

The house of Doctors Robert and Lucinda Hall in Concord NH.

The house of Doctors Robert and Lucinda Hall at Birch-dale in Concord NH. The Amsden history of Concord states that this building was destroyed in 1932 as the result of a lightning strike.

[Continuing from the Amsden History] “Anxious to become a physician, Lucinda faced difficulty for no medical school of that day would admit a female, so she turned to the next best thing–a course of training for midwives in the newly opened Boston Female Medical College. She graduated in the first class of twelve women and for the next few years practice midwifery, the only woman so engaged in the state, who held such a certificate. In 1846 an eclectic school under the name of Worcester Medical College was opened in that city and after security a Massachusetts charter, it opened a women’s department in 1852. Mrs. Hall was one of the three first women to enroll and, after taking a course which lasted from March until June, she received her degree of M.D.”

A report called “Origin and Early History of the Building Now known as Davis Hall, then recognized as the New England Botanico-Medical College, Worcester, Massachusetts, by Ellery Bicknell Crane, as found in Proceedings of the Worcester Society of Antiquity, Vol 23, 1908 states: “But the seventh anniversary exercises were held on June 23, 1852, in Esculapian Hall in the institute building. The President, Dr. Calvin Newton, presided; Prof. Parrit delivered the address, and the Worcester Cornet Band furnished music for the occasion. Ten students received the degree of M. D., one of them Lucinda S. Hall of Concord, N. H.”

The Lowell Corporation Hospital opened in 1867.

The Lowell Corporation Hospital opened in 1847. Sketch of the building from the Lowell Historical Society, at the University of Massachusetts Library website.

The Amsden history continues that Lucinda (Capen) Halls’ husband “also took a course and received his degree two years later. Then began a busy career for these two physicians. Dr. Lucinda began practice in Lowell, Mass. at a time when, in all New England, there were only four women holding the degree of M.D. she being the first New England born woman to win the degree.

We don’t know a great deal about Lucinda’s Lowell MA practice, other than she was invited there by Dr. Walter Burnham, the professor of surgery at the Worcester medical school where she graduated. They lived at 120 Merrimac Street, Lowell. At that time the only hospital was Lowell Corporation Hospital that had opened in 1847 due to a high incidence of illness and injury,to the workers, many of whom were “mill girls.”

Photograph of Birch-dale Springs hotel from the Amsden History of Concord NH

Photograph of Birch-dale Springs hotel from the Amsden History of Concord NH. It was destroyed by fire in 1885.

In 1857, after experiencing a dual tragedy, the death of both of their children, the Halls, now both physicians, “came back to Concord to stay and made their home on Birchdale Springs Road in the pretty little house [shown in picture above.] ….They took into this home their motherless grandson.” [Amsden history]

The Doctors Hall now build a sanitarium on adjoining land to their home. Though there were springs on the land, this was “not a water-cure…but rather a sanitarium for convalescents and chronic cases, and had a capacity for fifty patients.” They named it Birchdale Hotel, opening the facility in 1867.

According to the book, “The Mineral Waters of the United States and Their Therapeutic Uses,” by James King Crook, 1899, Birchdale Springs in Concord are actually “four in number, known as the ‘Concord,’ ‘Merrimac,’ ‘Granite,’ and ‘Penacook.” In 1873 Prof. Charles F. Chandler of New York made an analysis of the ‘Concord,” spring, calling it Calcic-chalybeate.

1876 advertisement for the Birch-dale Spring House.

1876 advertisement for the Birch-dale Spring House. [See transcription on left]

An advertisement for Birch-Dale Springs House, Concord, N.H., dated April 19, 1870. “This new and commodious House is open to guests. Pleasantly located on an eminence, near a beautiful grove, surrounding scenery delightful, within a few rods of the Birch-Dale Springs which have and will cure more chronic diseases than any springs in the United States. Board reasonable. Families or anyone desiring a summer resort for health or pleasure cannot find a better or more healthy location. Lung difficulties cured or greatly benefited in a few weeks. For further particulars address this proprietor. DR. R. Hall, Birch-Dale, Concord NH.”

Stereo-graph view of Birch-dale Springs in Concord NH. The nearby grove was a popular spot for picnickers.

Stereograph view of Birch-dale Springs in Concord NH (by Alden P. Sherburne, Concord, NH). The nearby grove was a popular spot for local picnickers.

Birch-dale Hotel was a popular health resort until it burned on 26 July 1885. The Halls had sold the building in 1876 but continued to live in their house until 1892.

On Thursday, July 30, 1885 the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette reported: A DISASTROUS FIRE–The Birchdale Springs Hotel Destroyed Yesterday. The Birchdale Springs Hotel, situated about four miles southwest of the city, was totally destroyed by fire, Sunday afternoon, together with the stable, and all the outbuildings.

The fire caught, about 12:45 from a spark form a burning chimney blowing into the hay loft. When it was discovered, it had made such headway that there was barely time to remove the horses to a place of safety, and save a few carriages. The boarders, of whom there were between 30 and 40 at the time were mostly in the grove connected with the premises awaiting the call to dinner, when the alarm was given. They immediately rushed to the house, but so quickly did the flames envelop the whole structure that very little was saved, some of the boarders losing everything except the clothing they had on.

Close up of Birchdale Springs in Concord NH. Taken by Kimball photographs, courtesy of a Concord history fan.

Close up of Birchdale Springs in Concord NH. Taken by Kimball photographs, courtesy of a Concord history fan.

The furnishings of the hotel are a total loss. Mr. Adams, the proprietor, only succeeding in removing some of his and his wife’s clothing, and a few valuable papers. He estimates his loss at about $25,000 on which there is an insurance of $10,000. The loss is a serious one to him as the season promised to be the best known in the history of the house. In addition to the number given above, there were 20 more that had engaged rooms and were coming, this week. The losses of the boarders are as follows …. the house was built by Dr. Hall, some seventeen or eighteen years ago, and was run in connection with the medical springs which are located near the house. Mr. Adams purchased the house eight years ago., and has made many improvements….

Mr. Adams, proprietor of the Birch-dale hotel has taken up his residence at the house of Benjamin Hall, about half a mile from the scene of the disaster. The hotel was built in 1868, at a cost of $17,000, the furniture costing $2,000. In May 1878 Stanton and Adams purchased the place for $15,000 bringing with them about $1,000 worth of furniture, which with hay, carriages, tools,etc., brings the loss up to fully $20,000. The insurance is $9,000 on buildings and $1,000 on furniture.

In 1876 Dr. Lucinda Hall had retired from sanitarium work due to ill health. She continued to practice medicine, but in a limited way and only with former patients and old friends, until her death on 27 August 1890 at Birchdale in Concord NH.

Dr. Robert Hall, in addition to practicing medicine and apothecary, served in the NH legislature in 1867 and 1868. He died on 10 January 1902 of cancer, aged 91 years. Lucinda (Capen) Hall, M.D. and her husband, Robert Hall, M.D. are buried in Millville Cemetery, Concord NH.

An extensive biography of Dr. Lucinda Hall was published on 22 March 1934 in the New England Journal of Medicine, March 1934, Vol 210, No. 12: “Dr. Lucinda Susannah (Capen) Hall. The First Woman to Receive a Medical Degree from a New England Institution, by Frederick C. Waite, Ph.D., page 644-647

Those researching the history of Concord will appreciate the wonderful offerings by the City of Concord in their History section.  Much of my story would not be told without the amazing book, A Capital for New Hampshire, by Grace P. Amsden.  My references to the “Amsden History,” are to this 3-volume manuscript. The original manuscript, with photographs, is available at the Tuck Library of the New Hampshire Historical Society.


James-6, James-5, James-4, James-3, John2- Bernard-1 CAPEN.
[SEE: The Capen Family]

Thomas-7 & Mary (Abbot) Capen

Ebenezer Capen, son of Thomas & Mary (Abbot) Capen, b. 30 Dec 1780 New Penacook Maine; d after 1860 probably NH; m. 31 July 1805 in Concord NH to Abigail Carter, daughter of Joseph & Hannah (Carr) Carter. In 1800 living in Orford, Grafton Co. NH. In 1810-1820 in Stewartstown NH; in 1830-1850 in Concord NH. In 1860 living in Boscawen NH. In 1806 Ebenezer Capen shows up on tax list of Stewartstown NH. [Amsden History of Concord on Capen and Hall families]
1850 US Census > NH > Merrimack Co. > Concord
Ira Abbott M 45 NH
Hannah A. Abbott F 38 NH {? his dau]
Laura F. Abbott F 18 NH
Hannah I. Abbott F 7 NH
Ebenezer Capen M 67 NH
Daniel C. White M 38 NH
Rufus Morgan M 14 NH
1860 US Census > NH > Merrimack Co. > Boscawen
Albert Danforth M 40 NH
Rosannah E. Danforth F 40 NH
Fitz Albert Danforth M 10 NH
Lucius M. Danforth M 6 NH
Mary E. Danforth F 2 NH
Ebenezer Capen M 78 Maine
Children of Ebenezer & Abigail (Carter) Capen:
1. Albert Galletin Capen, b. 30 Jan 1806 Stewartstown, Coos Co NH; m. 5 June 1838 in Concord NH to Mary Hall.
2. Thomas Carter Capen, b. 25 Aug 1808 Stewartstown, Coos Co NH; d. 8 June 1899 in Manchester NH, aged 90; he m. 25 Dec 1832 in Concord NH to Mary Sargent Corliss, daughter of John and Deborah (Sargent) Corliss. She d. 26 Nov 1885 in Groton NH. They had several children (Deborah C. who m. 1 Jan 1865 Seth C. Austin of Bow NH). They are buried in Millville Cemetery, Concord NH.
3. Eliza Jane Capen, b. 27 July 1810 Stewartstown NH; m. 14 Sep 1828 in Stewartstown NH to John Kent.
4. Hannah Alice Capen, b. 14 Oct 1812 in Stewartstown NH; m. 20 Feb 1831 to Ira Abbott, son of Levi & Mary (Carter) Abbott. He b. 14 Feb 1805; farmer in Concord NH.
5. +Lucinda Susannah Capen, b. 13 July 1815 Stewartstown NH   [?twin]
6. Maria Louisa [aka Alana Laura] Capen, b. 13 July 1815 Stewartstown NH. m. Levi P. Brooks?
7. Valeria “Victoria” Ann Capen, b. 7 Oct 1817 Stewartstown, Coos Co. NH, d. 30 April 1835 in Concord, NH, aged 17
8. Rosanna E. Capen, b. 28 March 1820; m (as 3d wife) Albert Danforth, son of William & Betsey (Putney) Danforth. He was b. 2 Dec 1819 in Boscawen NH. Children: Emma Lucinda Danforth who m. 8 July 1893 Henry B. Dunbar, son of Elmer B. & Ann T. (Webbster) Dunbar.
9. Nathaniel Henry E. Capen, b. 13 May 1829 Stewartstown NH, d 26 Nov 1910 Concord NH; mechanic, married; buried Old North Cemetery, Concord NH; m. 24 Dec 1853 to Charlotte Garland, dau of Amos & Betsey (Parker) Garland. She was b. 28 Sep 1833 in Topsdam VT and d. 19 May 1911 in Concord NH.

—–Next Generation—–

Lucinda Susannah Capen [this story is about her, see above], daughter of Ebenezer & Abigail (Carter) Capen, was b. 13 July 1815 in Stewartstown NH, and d. 27 August 1890 at Birch-dale in Concord NH. She married 4 June 1833 to Robert Hall, son of James and Ruth Morrill (Abbott) Hall. He was b. 7 Nov 1810 in NH and d. 10 January 1902 [1903 Concord City directory shows this date]. They are buried in Millville Cemetery, Concord NH.  Lucinda was Concord New Hampshire’s first woman physician, and the first woman to graduate from a New England medical school.  [See Amsden History of Concord NH for more detail on her life].
Children of Robert & Lucinda S. (Capen) Hall:
1. +Ann Louesa Hall, b. 21 June 1834 Concord NH
2. Tilton Clark Hall, b abt 1839 Concord NH, died 1856 during a hunting trip, accidentally by his own gun.
3. Isabella Hall, b abt 1847 Maine. Listed in two censuses. No more info.

—–Next Generation—–

Ann Louesa Hall, daughter of Robert & Lucinda S. (Capen) Hall, b. 21 June 1834, d. 2 Jan 1857 in Chicago, Cook Co. IL; She m1) 9 Dec 1852 in Charlestown, Suffolk Co. MA to Thomas Conviss, son of James & Elizabeth Conviss. She m2d) 19 March 1856 in Lowell MA to Samuel Fletcher Bouton, son of Rev. Nathaniel & Mary Ann Persis (Bell) Bouton. He was b. 23 June 1837 in Concord NH, and d. 5 Jan 1902. She is buried in Millville Cemetery, Concord NH. He m2d) Mary Ann Hoyt.
Child of Samuel F. & Ann L. (Hall) Bouton:
1. +Tilton Clark Hall Bouton, b. 2 Nov 1856 Chicago IL, d. 1948 Pinellas Co. FL.
Child[ren] of Samuel F. & Mary Ann (Hoyt) Bouton:
2. William C. Bouton, b. 4 Feb 1865 in Chicago IL; d. 1 March 1916 in Waukegan, Lake Co. IL, aged 51, physician

—–Next Generation—–

Rev. Tilton Clark Hall Bouton, son of Samuel F. & Ann L. (Hall) Bouton, b. 2 Nov 1856 Chicago IL, d. 1948 Pinellas Co. FL; m. 30 June 1881 in Boston MA to Annie Sydney Whitehouse, daughter of Sidney F. & Elizabeth Ann (Dodge) Whitehouse, b. Nov 1854 MA; d. 1923 Pinellas Co. FL. They are buried in Royal Palm South Cemetery, St. Petersburg, Pinellas Co. FL
Child(ren) of Tilton C.H. & Annie S. (Whitehouse) Bouton:
1. +Fletcher Park Bouton, b. 13 June 1888 in Dunbarton, Merrimack Co. NH
2. Ruth Elizabeth Bouton, b. 27 June 1889 in Concord NH, d. 15 Sep 1889 Concord NH

—–Next Generation—–

Fletcher Park Bouton, son of Tilton C.H. & Annie S. (Whitehouse) Bouton, was b. 13 June 1888 in Dunbarton NH and d. 21 April 1979 in Petersburg, Pinellas Co. FL. He m. Elizabeth Mary McKeon. She was b. 1890 and d. —
Genealogical and family history of the state of New Hampshire : a record of the achievements of her people in the making of a commonwealth and the founding of a nation [Volume 2] Stearns, Ezra S.; New York : Lewis Publishing Co. (publisher), 1908; page 843-844 [see]
Children of Fletcher P. & Elizabeth M. (McKeon) Bouton:
1. Annie Jean Bouton, b. 9 June 1912, Boston MA, d. 1973; m. 30 March 1936 at St. Petersburg FL to Samuel Melvin Shannon, son of Samuel Melvin & Alice (?) Shannon. He was b. 1908 and d. 1997. Had issue (son Samuel Fletcher Shannon). They are buried in Royal Palm South Cemetery, St. Petersburg FL.


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4 Responses to Concord New Hampshire’s First Female Physician: Dr. Lucinda S. (Capen) Hall (1815-1890)

  1. pen4hire says:

    What a comprehensive look at a very interesting woman! My great-grandfather was an eclectic medicine physician. Perhaps they ran into each other at one of the many conferences and meetings. I’ve read about the schools at Philadelphia( where my great-grandfather went) and at Cincinnati (where my great-grand uncle went). Eclectic colleges were not only eclectic in their approach to medicine, but were also the first to accept what traditional medical schools thought of as students who did not fit–like women.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments Vera. The Doctors Hall were well known in their area, however, one official History of Concord mentions Dr. Robert Hall, but not his wife who was actually a practicing physician before he was. A second history, written much later mentions both of them and goes into great detail (Amsden history written by a woman). It has been important to me, these past 10 years of blogging, to try to put women back into New Hampshire’s history books and into our awareness. It is very possible that the Halls knew your great-grandfather, for yes eclectic medical conventions were often well attended for networking purposes.

  2. Amy says:

    Fascinating! My daughter went to the successor to Geneva College—Hobart and William Smith Colleges—so the story of the first US woman doctor was familiar to me, but not this one. We’ve come a long way! I think there are now more women in med schools than men.

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