THOMAS McAWLEY WOOD, a physician of Oakland, was born in New York city, April 9, 1830, a son of David and Mary Ann (Van Steenburgh) Wood, both natives of New York and born in 1800 - Mrs. Wood in the city and Mr. Wood in Genoa, near Wasco Lake, ten days later. His grandfather, John Van Steenburgh, was a ship-builder in that city, and both himself and his wife were of Knickerbocker decent and lived to be about ninety-six years of age. David was at one time an importing merchant of New York city, moved to Ohio and settled on a farm in Huron county about 1833. Some time before his death he retired to Cleveland. He died in 1870, as the result of medical mal-practice. The Woods are of the early English immigration, of whom a portion spread into New York State and another portion into the South. The Doctor’s mother is still living.
At the age of fifteen years Dr. Wood returned to New York State in order to have better school advantages. Going again to Ohio, he at the age of seventeen undertook the study of law in Mount Gilead, Morrow county, under the supervision of the law firm of Stinchcomb & Sanford, and remained there three years. In 1851 he came to California, by way of Panama, arriving in San Francisco in November; mined a short time at Rattlesnake Bar in El Dorado county twelve miles from Auburn; next, during the summer of 1852, he assisted in building the Stockton & Sonora road in Calaveras county, from the Stanislaus river to Sonora, being in charge of a company of men; then he located a ranch of 160 acres, retaining it but a short time, near what is now Copperopolis; came to San Francisco in 1852-’53 and followed farming in Contra Costa county. He took a place eight miles from Martinez, rented 300 acres of one party and 300 of another, and put in crops of wheat and barley and a vegetable garden. A year afterward he went to Rabbit Creek (La Porte) and Warren Hill, Sierra county, and followed mining during the winter of 1853-’54, doing well. He discovered some good claims; paying $32 a day to each working hand. He bought other claims which afterward turned out well.
About 1855 he turned his attention to scientific investigation, especially in chemistry and the art of daguerreotyping, then prevailing and followed the art for some years, beginning at La Porte. From this on for several years he traveled through this State, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Nevada, practicing the art of daguerreotyping, for a livelihood, and medicine as a work of benevolence. Becoming dissatisfied with allopathy, he adopted a system of magnetic healing, partly his own discovery. In 1876 he visited the great Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, where he purchased an “artopticon”, with which he illustrated lectures that he delivered, thereafter, on his way back to the Pacific coast, his topics being derived from sundry features of the exposition. Since 1879 he has been lecturing and writing against the use of narcotic and alcoholic stimulants in medication, and he also continues to practice the healing art, especially in the treatment of delirium tremens, dipsomania and the opium habit.
In August, 1890, he located in Oakland. His vitality is remarkable. Although sixty years old, he can walk sixty miles in a day and deliver a lecture in the evening. He received his degree of D. M. (Doctor of Magnetism) from the college of that school in New York city. In 1886 he bought 240 acres of land in Lake county, this State, which tract he named Wood Dale and where he designs to erect a sanitarium this year, 1891. It is situated on a plateau east of Mt. St. Helena, in the healthiest part of the coast. His great principle in medicine is the removal of obstacles to the upbuilding powers of nature, and he believes that walking is one of the best universally acceptable remedies. In sixty years of life, and thirty or more of the full possession of his powers, he has accumulated the experiences of a much longer life.
Transcribed by Walt Howe.
Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, pages 19-20, Lewis Publishing Co., 1892.
© 2005 Walt Howe.