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Saturday, November 26, 2016


Stephen Purnell Dennis, M.D.

Below is a biography of Dr. Dennis that was written in 1879. He died in 1900 in Salisbury and is buried in Parsons Cemetery. The biography listed his partner in Salisbury as Dr. F. Marion Siemens, but a listing in the 1878 Maryland directory confirmed to me that his partner was, in fact, Dr. F. M. Slemons. Apparently he got married, as a reference to him is made in a 1954 history of the hospital and its nurses. In 1908, a Mrs. Fannie Dennis “commemorated the memory of her husband, Doctor Stephen Dennis, by providing a legacy of $1,000 to be applied toward a maternity ward planned for the hospital’s fourth floor”. Dr. Dennis was just another Eastern Shoreman who returned to his roots and made a difference for all of us.

The Biography

Stephen Purnell Dennis was born on October 13, 1827, near Pittsville, MD, in Wicomico County. His parents were John and Margaret (Fooks) Dennis. He was brought up on his father’s farm, in the labor and management of which his early life was spent. Not until he was of age did he spend an entire year in study. Then for three years he was engaged in teaching and studying preparatory to entering upon the regular study of medicine, his chosen and cherished profession. He graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1856, from the Pennsylvania Medical College. He at once commenced the practice of medicine in his native place among his early friends and companions. In 1861 he removed to the town of Salisbury. Dr. Dennis spent the winter of 1865-6 in the city of New York, in attendance upon a course of lectures at the Bellevue Hospital Medical College. Soon after his return from New York his health began to give way, and he became associated in the practice of medicine with Dr. F. Marion Slemons, of Salisbury. For four years this partnership continued with entire harmony, and in 1870, owing to the impaired health of Dr. Dennis, it was with mutual reluctance dissolved. After a protracted illness, when all hope of restoration to health had been given up, he so far recovered as to be able to spend the winter attending lectures at the University of Pennsylvania. On his return to Salisbury he was able to resume the practice of his profession. Again, with the true spirit of a seeker of knowledge, Dr, Dennis spent the time from October, 1872, until May, 1873, in New York, giving special attention to operative surgery, gynecology, physical diagnosis, and diseases of the eye and ear.

Again returning to his home in Salisbury, he has continued until the present time (1879), entirely devoted to his work. He has successfully performed several critical and delicate operations in lithotomy, in ligation of the common carotid artery, many difficult amputations, etc. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church of Salisbury. The only time when Dr, Dennis turned from the pursuit of his profession was in 1859, when he accepted a nomination for the Legislature of his native State from the Democratic party, of which he has always been a firm but independent adherent. He also served in the memorable session which met in Frederick City in the spring of 1861. He holds the honorary post of Surgeon to the Maryland Editorial Association, and is a Royal Arch Mason.


Anonymous said...

Royal Arch, wow.

Anonymous said...

Cool background..."memorable session" indeed.

Anonymous said...

A historical correction: Dr. Dennis was born in 1827 in Pittsville in what is NOW Wicomico County. Wicomico was not formed until 1867; it was formed from Worcester and Somerset Counties. I enjoy reading your historical pieces, George.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting...

Sam Smullen said...

Thanks again George for your articles of the past. I enjoy them and you are appreciated by those of us that like a blast from the past once in a while.