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Abner H. Shaffer, M.D.

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Abner H. Shaffer, M.D.

Mark Mann (View posts)
Posted: 927806400000
Classification: Biography
Edited: 993311417000
From the "History of Huntington County, Indiana 1914"


Though now retired, Dr. Shaffer is the oldest physician in Huntington, where he has had his home for fifty-seven years. He began practice in this city in 1856, and few pioneers in the county have bad more active or more useful careers.

Abner H. Shaffer was born in Starke county, Ohio, January 15, 1829, and at this writing is past eighty-four years of age. In a family of seven children, four sons and three daughters, he was the sixth. His parents, George and Elizabeth (Maurice) Shaffer, were born and reared near Gettysburg in Adams county, Pennsylvania. The family has much military service to its credit. The father was a captain during the war of 1812. In 1824 he moved to Starke county, Ohio, where he entered a tract of land from the government, and converted the forest into a good farm. There the parents lived until October 12, 1866, and both died on the same day, the father at the age of seventy-eight and the mother at the age of seventy-six. Their deaths occurred eight hours apart.

It was on his father's farm in his native county that Dr. Shaffer was reared. During the winters he attended the district schools, and laid the foundation of a sound education. When he was nineteen years old he entered the Western Reserve University at Hudson, Ohio, and continued college studies two and a half years. At Paris in Bourbon county, Kentucky, be taught for two years, and in the meantime his ambition for a career had crystallized into a definite object. Returning to Ohio, he studied under Professor A. Metz, then a noted surgeon of Massillon, Ohio. During the winter of 1855-56, he took a course of medical lectures at the University of Michigan. Returning to Massillon, he practiced medicine a short time with his preceptor, and in August, 1856, arrived at Huntington, and started his professional career in this county. In October, 1861, Dr. Shaffer entered the Western Reserve Medical College at Cleveland, where he remained until graduating M.D., with honors, in the spring of 1862.

Not long after his return to Huntington, Governor Morton in June, 1863, commissioned him assistant surgeon of the Seventy-Fifth Indiana Volunteer Infantry. He at once joined his regiment at Murfreesboro, Tennessee. After the battle of Chickamauga, he was on hospital duty and was captured by the Confederates. Dr. Shaffer has the not enviable distinction of having been confined in the notorious Libby Prison, and his exchange was finally effected at City Point, Virginia, December 28, 1863. On reaching Washington he received a sixty days' leave of absence from the Secretary of War, and on its expiration rejoined his regiment at Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was with the regiment at the capture of Atlanta, and had charge of the Post Hospital in that place. On September 16,1864, he was promoted to the rank of surgeon, and was with his regiment under General Sherman on their march to the sea. June 8, 1865, his service ended, and he then returned to Huntington and resumed practice. While a general practitioner, Dr. Shaffer for many years had a high reputation in the county as a skillful surgeon.

In Huntington on March 20, 1867, Dr. Shaffer married Lizzie J. Collins. Her father, John B. Collins, served as a lieutenant in both the Mexican War and the Civil War. The two children of their marriage were: Clyde, and Von C., the former of whom died in infancy. Mrs. Shaffer died November 9th, 1891. On April 19,1894, Dr. Shaffer married Lizzie M. Snyder.

Dr. Shaffer has long been an active member and also an elder in the Presbyterian church. His politics is republican, and in his earlier years he took a prominent part in public affairs. In 1875 he was elected to represent the counties of Huntington and Wabash in the Indiana legislature, and in 1878 represented the same counties in the state senate. In public affairs he possessed the qualities most needed for effective service, both knowledge and action, and was always vigorous in his championship of causes designed to promote the welfare of state and district. A service which he performed in behalf of his home city was his part in 1879 in the passage of the bill legalizing the act of the common council of Huntington, so that all litigation's then existing was annulled or voided. He has often been honored with various smaller offices in his community. Dr. Shaffer is the oldest charter member of Amity lodge A.F. & A.M. and one of the oldest surviving members of the Presbyterian Church organization at Huntington. He is a charter member of the James R. Slack Post, Grand Army of the Republic, has served as president of the Pension Examining Board, as president of the Huntington County Medical Society, was for thirty-five years local surgeon of the Wabash Railroad, and his name has been associated as a supporter and interested party in probably every important movement undertaken for the advancement of the prosperity and welfare of his home city and county within the past half century. Dr. Shaffer in 1871 was elected a school trustee, and is now the only surviving member of that board. At that time began a new era in the development of the public school system, when suitable buildings for the use of the schools were first advocated and eventually established. Much prejudice was encountered in the efforts in that direction, and it is an interesting illustration of the remarkable changes in public opinion in the course of thirty or forty years that the improvements suggested and advocated by the school board of that time would now encounter opposition from another source, namely, that the improvements were not adequate for the high and important uses of education. Governor Isaac P. Gray appointed Dr. Shaffer a trustee of the schools for Feeble-Minded Youths at Fort Wayne, and he served in that office for ten years, during the administrations of Governors Gray, Hovey and Matthews. Dr. Shaffer in 1875 received from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Indianapolis, the ad eunden degree. Dr. Shaffer is probably the oldest member of the Grand Old Party in Huntington county. His first vote for president was for Fremont, when that general ran as the first nominee of the republicans in 1856. Through fourteen successive presidential campaigns, Dr. Shaffer has voted for every republican candidate.

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