Following the death of his father Abram during the Mormon Exodus, Perry's mother remarried Dr. Ben White, a gold rush pioneer who briefly owned property in early Steamboat Springs. He was not only the brother-in-law of Lewis and Dr. Levi Cheney, but was also their neighbor across multiple states. Ben joined both men during the California gold rush, and as pioneer doctors, Ben and Levi practiced Indian and patent medicine. They spent years living as neighbors in California, Illinois and Missouri.
One of Perry's first stops in 1866 as he began his "Journey to the Land of Gold" was that of his Uncle Levi's home. We know from Perry's Bozeman Trail diary that during his brief visit, Perry played his fiddle, and the children enjoyed dancing. Perhaps they also discussed various trail tips and pioneer medicine before Perry and his Cheney uncles joined the frenzy considered The Montana Gold Rush.
Dr. Levi Cheney. Mormon Pioneer and California 49er. Uncle of Perry A. Burgess.
Traveled with the 1848 Brigham Young Company.
I am including a few pages from Levi' s 1860 pioneer medicine book, which provides examples of family medicine practiced during Perry's early years in Illinois. Additional pioneer remedies are included in the book Beyond the Land of Gold. Many of these images may be difficult to read and require a degree of concentration and perhaps even a google search to identify all of the given contents. The 1860 book contains remedies to treat everything from skin cancer to the clapp. Dr. Levi Cheney's medicine was published globally by Joseph Smith III in the Saint's Herald Magazine, the official publication of the RLDS Church. Readers as far away as Austrailia reported positive results using his skin cancer cure. My great-grandmother Semanatha Cheney Thompson recieved additional requests for Levi's medicine long after his death.
In 1970, my grandfather describes the life of his grandfather Dr. Levi Cheney in a family letter.
"My Grandfather, Your Great Great Grandfather was a pioneer Doctor who practiced in the latter part of the eighteen hundreds and up until 1901. In those days there were no drugstores or Pharmaceutical companies who mixed and prepared medicines, so the Doctors had to make their own medicine. They went in the woods and dug herbs and gathered different tree and bush bark which was used in their medicines. In those days most of the medicines and cures were learned from the Indians. He would make his calls in a wagon with a team of horses. If he had to make a long call, sometimes maybe 15 or 20 miles he would just saddle a horse and cut through fields to go the shortest way. If the person was real sick, he would just stay at their house, maybe two or three days or a week if necessary until the person was better and on the way to recovery. When he went on horseback he had a special saddle bag which fit over the horse to keep all his medicine and instruments in. Sometimes he would have to hide in the woods from quarrelsom Indians or Marauders, but most of the time the worst trouble he would have was bad weather-with rivers and streams out of their banks."
-George Wallace Thompson I, 1970
Samples of Dr. Levi Cheney's medicine. WARNING DO NOT TRY THESE AT HOME!
Read more about Dr. Levi Cheney
who's photo collection is found througout my book "Beyond the Land of Gold"
"Itch ointment" and "Cancer plaster" [skin cancer]
"Clapp and Sitron ointment"
"strengthning syrup for female weakness"
"Diabatus or pissing blood"
"plaster" [casting material] and "Cure for the scarlot fever"
"to cure pain of asthma"
"Ampetating salve" and "Silver wash"
"Sement" and "Sitron ouitment"
"Caughf" and for "salt rhume"
"to remove filmes"
"Asthma" and "for ague"
"All healing salve"