The ABCs of Lowell History: P is for Arvine Peck

The ABCs of Lowell History is back for another round. This popular series explores a wide variety of topics in Lowell area history in weekly online articles and is written by volunteers and staff from the Lowell Area Historical Museum.

P is for Arvine Peck

At one time it was said that Dr. Arvine Peck’s name was a household word in the town of Lowell. When he died it was said “no man in Lowell will be more missed. For thirty years or more he rode far and near, night and day, to administer to the sick and dying; wearing himself prematurely out in his profession.”

Arvine Peck was born in New York in 1819, died in Lowell in 1884, and was laid to rest in Oakwood Cemetery. He was the son of Horace and Anna Burch Peck. He married Betsy Jane Loucks in 1842.

Dr Peck graduated from the Eclectic Medical Institute of Cincinnati, with the highest honors. He didn’t restrict himself to simply using botanicals and physical therapy practices, as was common with eclectic medical practices. As a physician he studied earnestly to familiarize himself with every known method of treatment.

After moving to Lowell in 1854, he practiced medicine as part of Peck & McDannell, Their office was in the old Masonic Building. He also volunteered and served as a physician and surgeon in the Civil War. He was a Captain in the 2nd MI CAV until ill health forced him to resign his commission.

The horrors of the war followed Dr. Peck even after its end. On October 28, 1868, on a street in Saranac, Lowell resident Dr. Charles Perry was shot and killed. Dr. Perry had been an assistant surgeon in the 21st Michigan Infantry. The shooter claimed it was an accident. The shooter had served in the same unit in the war as Dr. Perry. This simply seemed coincidental until Dr. Peck testified that three years earlier the shooter had come to him for treatment and while there, “spoke bitterly and profanely of Dr. Perry, whose neglect of him in the army had resulted in his becoming crippled.”

In the end the shooter was acquitted, but the trial brought to light how the Civil War Doctor was seen. The testimony showed that many soldiers blamed the doctors and surgeons for the large numbers of illness and death from disease and infection. The were many places blame could be placed, but the trial showed that even three years after the civil war, the doctor carried the blame in the eyes of the survivors.

Dr. Peck was a leader. He served as Supervisor of Lowell Township for one year, and when the village was incorporated in 1861, he served as a Village Trustee, then as Village President.

Dr. Peck’s hobby was horse racing. The late 1800’s and early 1900’s were the glory days for Lowell horse racing. Races were held at Dr. Malcolm’s Driving Park and at Train’s track. In an 1874 race, Peck’s star horse, ’Gold Dust’, beat horses owned by J.C. Train, B.R. Noble, H.W. Booth and John Fallas.

Dr. Peck died of heart disease at the age of 65. It was said he was a “most prominent citizen and had the confidence and respect of a large following. He was known as a man of few words, but he listened and weighed and thought a good deal.”

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