Dr. Samuel Cooley of Bolton

by Hans DePold, town historian
(Published in the Bolton Community News, April 2005)

In "Ralph Earl, The Face of the Young Republic," by Elizabeth M. Kornhauser, we learn that artist Ralph Earl traveled to Bolton. Reverend George Colton's journal puts his death in 1801. He had lived in the home of a prominent local physician, Dr. Samuel Cooley, on South Road for two years before that. Suffering from the debilitating effects of his heavy drinking, Earl sought medical treatment. It is likely that Earl met Dr. Cooley through his mutual friendship with Dr. Fitch Cogswell of Hartford.

Dr. Samuel Cooley of Bolton gave a lecture in Hartford on smallpox and cowpox in 1801. That year he developed Cooley's Pills, "a gentle and stimulating herbal elixir to promote regularity for healthy digestive function. Lost for centuries, the secret herbal formula created first by Paracelsus in the 16th century, was rediscovered. It was an artfully blended extract of selected herbs of unsurpassed quality, of unquestionable purity and optimum potency."

Dr. Cooley's bitters became famous and sold for much of the 19th century. The following Chemist and Apothecary advertisement appeared in Hartford, Conn., on May 8, 1863: "Cooley's Bitters. We have them, the old favorite bitters, known and Taken by all men. Put up in packages of 10 cents each." (Is Cooley's Anti Dispeptic Bitters our oldest Bitters? Read more about it on the Peachridge Glass website.)

The original 100-acre lot of Joseph Olmstead had been deeded to Samuel's grandfather, William Cooley, in 1742. William Cooley and his wife Elizabeth Drake-Cooley built the house on South Road close to the old Boston Post Road, which at that time ran down Stony Road and up Toomey Road to the center of Bolton. Elizabeth Drake-Cooley was the daughter of a respectable family and moved among the affluent circles in Hartford. Their unwed daughter Elizabeth was the mother of young Samuel, who overcame what was then a significant stigma and went on to study medicine at Cambridge, England.

In 1780, Dr. Samuel Cooley married Aurelia Abbott-Wells, the daughter of a wealthy family of East Windsor, Conn., and returned to the Bolton homestead. They raised seven notable children in their home on South Road:

  1. Oliver Wells was the adopted son of Dr. Samuel Cooley. Oliver moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, and became a co-founder of Cincinnati Type Foundry Co. in 1820.
  2. Dr. William Cooley became a physician in Manchester and East Hartford, Conn., and was also a very well-known local politician.
  3. Dr. Abiel Abbott Cooley became a doctor in Hartford, Conn. He was also a famous inventor.
  4. Samuel Cooley II moved to Manhattan, NY, and worked with Mr. E. White at the New York Type Foundry Co.
  5. Tryphena Cooley moved to Vernon and Hartford. She married Capt. John Talcott, the grandson of Benjamin Talcott and Lucy Lyman Talcott of Bolton.
  6. Dr. Horatio Cooley became a physician in Bath Village/Akron, Ohio. He married Mary Hammond, granddaughter of Nathaniel Hammond, a well-known landowner in Bolton.
  7. Horace Cooley died of canker fever in 1794 during an outbreak in Bolton.