Jesse Montgomery Mosher was born 12 Oct 1864, the son of Jacob Simmons Mosher and Emma Starr Montgomery Mosher, and named for his maternal grandfather. The Moshers were from Coeymans; Jacob and two of his brothers, Cornelius Duel Mosher and Francis Gillette Mosher, were all doctors. Cornelius’s daughter (and little Montie’s childhood playmate) Clelia Duel Mosher, also became a physician, and as a professor of medicine at Stanford was an influential advocate for women’s health.
Mosher spent a peripatetic early childhood with frequent moves caused by his father’s career. Both of his parents died when he was in his teens: his mother in 1879 (when he was 15) and his father in 1883 (when he was 19), leaving the family in “straitened circumstances,” and with much of the parenting of younger siblings devolving on his younger sister, Gertrude.
Jesse Montgomery Mosher was baptized at St. Paul’s 19 Nov 1865, and confirmed here on Easter 1882. He attended Albany Academy, and graduated from Union College in 1886 and from Albany Medical School in 1889. During summers while in medical school, he worked in the pharmacy of a mental hospital. Mosher wrote his thesis on a psychiatric topic and upon graduation worked in mental hospitals until 1895; he took a European tour that year to update his training in other medical specialties, returning to Albany in June 1896.
While conducting a private practice, Mosher also edited the Albany Medical Annals. He was named an instructor in neurology in the Albany Medical College in 1896 and began clinical teaching at Albany Hospital in 1898. During this period, he conceived a novel idea for improvement in the care of the mentally ill:
“This idea was: that it having been definitely established that insanity was not merely an aberration of the mind, but rather a symptom of disease of the brain, whether functional, toxic or organic; therefore, these unfortunate victims of disease should be so considered and so treated. They should be sent neither to the “Poor House,” as was the custom in Albany in those days, nor to an Insane Asylum, which was so overcrowded and its medical staff so small that the individual patient could receive but little personal attention and treatment; but rather to a well-equipped, general hospital, where they could obtain treatment by the most modern methods.” [Albany Medical Annals, Volume XLIII, Number 1 (January 1922), page 526]
Mosher had to fight many years for a psychiatric ward in the hospital, facing opposition from physicians, administrators, and politicians. He succeeded in 1901, with the establishment of Albany Hospital’s Pavilion F, the first psychiatric ward placed within a general hospital in the world. It was to become a model for psychiatric wards in other cities in the United States, and later around the globe.
Like his father, J. Montgomery Mosher was elected a vestryman at St. Paul’s, and served from 1906 until his death in 1922. St. Paul’s Year Book for that year contains an unusually warm tribute to Mosher, praising both his professional dedication and his commitment to community organizations, including St. Paul’s, which his great-grandmother had joined more than ninety years earlier.
We have now reached the fourth generation of the legacy of our Mrs. Betsy Hawley. The next post will primarily concern J. Montgomery Mosher’s younger siblings, Gertrude Mosher Knight and Gouverneur Frank Mosher, with an appearance by another of Betsy’s descendants.