Dr. Henry F. Waterhouse M. D. 
By Jerry Wilkinson
       (Dr. Waterhouse was postmaster of Key West from February 18, 1829 until replaced by Alexander Patterson on April 11, 1833. He was appointed postmaster of Indian Key as of April 19, 1834.  J.W.)
       The following article by Herbert L. Tindall, M.D. is excerpted from the Florida Keys Sea Heritage Journal, Spring 1995:
     "Arriving in August 1828, Henry F. Waterhouse was another of Key West's earliest physicians, being forced to leave his native Vermont because of poor health, probably tuberculosis. He was town treasurer in 1828, and was Key West's first postmaster, serving from 1829 to 1833. In April 1829, Dr. Waterhouse reminded the city council of its responsibility for the health of the community, including the appointment of a health officer and further draining of the noxious pond. But his pleas fell on deaf ears. In 1829, having heard rumors of smallpox in Havana, he advertised in the newspaper that he "intends devoting Saturday the 21st of March to the inoculation of all those who might choose to call on him for that purpose. William Whitehead described Dr. Waterhouse as an avid reader and a learned man, who owned the largest collection of books on the island. He was described as an Ichabod Crane type of individual, with a sallow complexion and cadaverous expression, with the contours of his mouth altered by an ill - fitting set of false teeth which he assured his friends were manufactured from the tusk of a hippopotamus. His erudition and flawless diction earned him the nickname of 'Dr. Syntax.'

     "He had a bulletin board on his porch upon which people used to post a variety of statements and messages, all of which Dr. Waterhouse regarded as fact. One spring day he received a note purporting to come from judge Webb, who had rooms in the old Court House, telling him to bring his 'pullekin' along, which was a colloquial name for dental forceps. It was a warm pleasant walk up Whitehead Street, and the judge received him in his apartment with all courtesy, and commenced talking about matters and things in general. Finally the doctor inquired how the judge's tooth was troubling him, and was astonished to learn that he wasn't having any trouble with his teeth. 'What is the meaning of this note then, judge?' he asked, exhibiting the one he received. The judge replied, 'It means, doctor, that this is the first of April.' The doctor wended his way back to town, pondering upon his future response to sudden calls, no matter who the party was that might be requesting his services.

    "Though quiet and shy socially, he could exhibit ironic repartee when the occasion demanded. He occasionally attended suppers at which it was the custom for guests to entertain by singing a song, playing an instrument, or telling a story. It was a custom in which Dr. Waterhouse politely but steadfastly declined to participate. On one occasion, young district attorney Chandler demanded a story from the doctor. After many refusals, the doctor finally succumbed, and told the story of the thief who embarked on robbing a church, but got trapped and discovered that his only way out was a high window in the belfry. In order to reach the window he had to climb the bell rope, and in doing so he rang the bell, alerting the townspeople, who descended on the church and caught him. The doctor had a habit of holding his forefinger on his nose as he spoke, and the guests were wondering where this seemingly pointless story was going. The doctor continued, 'As they were leading him away,' taking his finger from his nose and pointing it at the district attorney, 'the thief turned around and addressed the bell, as I do you now, Mr. Chandler, saying 'If it had not been for your long tongue and empty head I would have escaped.'

       "Dr. Waterhouse relocated to Indian Key late in 1833, where he and his young son died in a tragic boating accident while fishing in January 1835".

- - - - - - - - - - -

      From the Key West Enquirer, January 24, 1835: "On Saturday last about 9 o'clock P.M. a rumbling noise was heard in a direction from this place, and in a short time a violent rush of wind followed which continued near ten minutes with great force than has been felt here for many years. The schooner FAIR AMERICAN was blown upon the beach, near Browne's wharf, and several boats much injured. To windward the blow was sensibly felt, and some damage done, and several lives lost, among which we lament to mention the drowning of Dr. H. S. Waterhouse and his little son near Indian Key. 

        Further in the same edition: "Dr. Henry  Waterhouse and his son, residents of Indian Key, left the island on Saturday evening the 17th instant in a boat on an excursion of fishing, The following morning it was discovered that they had not returned - boats were immediately dispatched in search of them, the boat in which they went was very soon discovered bottom upwards, and on further examination during the day, the body of the doctor was found and brought to this island, and this day interred. No discovery has yet been made of his son. 
       "It is the general opinion that the boat capsized in a very severe squall which occurred during the evening they left the Key. Indian Key, Jan. 18, 1835."

- - - - - - - - - -

     From the Key West Enquirer, April 11, 1835: "Administrator's Sale - Will be sold on Monday the 20th day of April, at Indian Key for cash, the entire property of the late Dr. H. S. Waterhouse consisting of a splendid library of choice books together with a lot of medicines and well kept furniture. W. H. Fletcher, Auctioneer (Jacob Housman was administrator of the estate)."

- - - - - - - - - -
    From the Key West Enquirer, Sat. April 18, 1835: "We understand Charles Howe, Esq. has been appointed postmaster at Indian Key in place of Dr. H. S. [sic] Waterhouse, deceased. A better appointment could not have been made."
Use Back Arrow to return to reading Indian Key General History
E-Mail to editor

Return to Historeum