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The Political Doctor

Some people have a difficult enough time handling one profession, let alone multiple. One person who managed to balance many varied occupations and activities was Adam Schoener.

He was born on 23 November 1798 in Womelsdorf, Berks County, PA, the eldest son of John Jacob and Maria Magdalena (nee Foesig) Schoener, my 4th Great Grandparents. Later his family moved to Meyerstown, Lebanon County where John Jacob was a saddler and Justice of the Peace. My 3rd Great Grandfather, John Schoener, was his brother, born on 3 September 1804.

As a young man, Adam studied medicine in Myerstown with Dr. Bower, a famous physician in those days. In 1819 and 1820 he attended lectures at the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently graduated from that institution. He moved to Rehrersburg and set up his practice there, as well as maintaining an office in Reading. He was a specialist in throat and lung diseases. His regular practice extended through Berks, Lebanon, and Schuylkill counties and he frequently made long journeys during a twenty year period, riding over the Blue Mountain on horseback, carrying his medicines in leather saddle bags. Some days he would ride as much as 50 miles a day.

On 18 June 1822, he married Eliza Good at Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in Stouchsburg, PA.

A number of physicians read medicine with him, including his four sons. He was frequently consulted by his neighbors on all important subjects. They would seek his legal as well as medical advice. He held the office of Justice of the Peace for twenty years and dispensed justice with the experience of an seasoned lawyer.

Thaddeus Stevens

This led to a political career when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in 1837. He was elected as a Democrat and served several terms. While in the Legislature, he became one of Thaddeus Steven’s adherents because of the school question. Stevens advanced the cause of universal education. At the time, only states in New England offered free public education; Philadelphia alone had free education in Pennsylvania.

Adam always regarded voting in favor of “common schools” as one of the proudest moments of his life. However, this was in direct opposition to the instructions of his constituents. He was the only member from Berks County who voted for it. As a result, he was not reelected to his congressional seat. He was later recognized for his support of public education and an elementary school in Reading was co-named in his honor (Tyson-Schoener Elementary).

After the election of James Buchanan as President, he became a Republican and remained a firm and consistent member of the party until his death. While in the Legislature, he numbered Simon Cameron as one of his intimate friends. Cameron later became Abraham Lincoln’s first Secretary of War.

Adam took an active interest in the county militia. He drilled a number of local companies and served as brigade inspector of militia and volunteer soldiers for 14 years.

On 24 January 1875, he met with a serious accident while returning home after being summoned to the bedside of this son, Davilla Schoener, who was dying of consumption (tuberculosis). As he was getting out of the sleigh his foot caught in the blanket and he was thrown violently to the ground. He suffered multiple sprains and bruises. Despite being 77 years old, he would recover and continue his medical practice for several more years.

Before his death, his family moved him back to Rehrersburg where he died on 11 January 1882 at the age of 84.


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