American Medical Biographies/Bancroft, Jesse Parker

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Bancroft, Jesse Parker (1815–1891)

Jesse Parker Bancroft, New Hampshire alienist, was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, April 17, 1815, the son of Jonathan and Betsey Parker Bancroft. Like many New England farmers' sons of that day, he felt a strong desire for a higher education, and not possessing the requisite means, was obliged to earn by teaching and other methods the necessary funds for a collegiate and professional education. The earnestness of purpose and character thus developed by his early struggle was reflected through his later life. He fitted for college at Andover. Mass., entered Dartmouth College in 1837, and graduated in 1841. He studied medicine with the late Professor E. R. Peaslee of New York, and graduated from the Dartmouth Medical School in 1844. Prior to his medical graduation he was demonstrator of anatomy in Brunswick Medical School. In 1845 he began the practice of medicine in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. He soon developed a large general and consultation practice, and during the twelve years he remained there acquired an extensive reputation as a practitioner and a high character in the community.

On July 15, 1857, after much reflection and against the importunities of his numerous friends and patients in St. Johnsbury, he gave up general practice and accepted the position offered him as superintendent and treasurer of the New Hampshire Asylum, at Concord.

Dr. Bancroft's subsequent life is identified with the history of the New Hampshire Asylum, with its early struggle and final success, and with better methods in the care and treatment of insanity in which he acquired not only local but national reputation, developing the individualized treatment in contradistinction to the mechanical method. During the last few years of his life Dr. Bancroft took great interest in state supervision of the insane. He labored strenuously to establish state supervision in his own state, and he lived long enough to see a state board of lunacy in successful operation, rendering infinite good to many unfortunate people who had the misfortune to have insanity added to poverty. He was constantly consulted in medico-legal cases.

Personally, Dr. Bancroft was universally admired. In his own city his opinion was frequently solicited, and he held at various times positions of trust in the banking, charitable, and educational institutions of the place. He was a religious man, posititve in his own convictions, but always charitable towards the views of others who might differ from him. The same simple, just and sympathetic qualities that made Dr. Bancroft a valued counsellor in public and private affairs throughout the state greatly endeared him to his intimate acquaintances and his own family.

For several years Dr. Bancroft was lecturer on mental diseases in the Dartmouth Medical School, and at the time of his last illness was a member of the New Hampshire Medical Society, of the Association of Medical Superintendents of Institutions for the Insane, and president of the New England Psychological Society.

His death took place on April 30, 1891, as a result of uremic poisoning, after an invalidism of a year and a half.

Trans. New Hamp. Med. Soc. Centen. Annivers., 1891, 243–246, "O.P.B."