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Individual Record

Kilbourne, Edwin Arius

Age: 26, credited to Bradford, VT
Unit(s): 1st VT INF, 9th VT INF
Service: enl 5/2/61, m/i 5/9/61, SGT, Co. D, 1st VT INF, m/o 8/15/61; comn 1LT, Co. G, 9th VT INF, 7/1/62 (7/1/62), pr CPT, 3/12/63 (3/20/63), resgd 9/27/64

See Legend for expansion of abbreviations

Birth: 03/12/1837, Chelsea, VT
Death: 02/27/1890

Burial: Bluff City Cemetery, Elgin, IL
Marker/Plot: Section 2, Lot 15
Gravestone researcher/photographer: Rob Kilbourne
Findagrave Memorial #: 98628062
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes
Portrait?: VHS off-site,
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)

Remarks: None

Great Grandfather of Rob Kilbourne, Placerville, CA

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Copyright notice

Bluff City Cemetery, Elgin, IL

Check the cemetery for location/directions
and other veterans who may be buried there.


In the death at Elgin, Illinois, on February 27, 1890, of Dr. Edwin Arius Kilbourne, that portion of the medical profession of our country interested in the care and treatment of the insane, lost one of its honored associates; the American Association of Medical Superintendents lost a distinguished confrere, and many of its members personally a warm and highly valued friend. The state of Illinois was deprived of an able, honest and accomplished executive officer, the sufferers from insanity lost a faithful and enthusiastic laborer in their cause, while the beloved family were bereft of a husband and father of so kindly, generous and loyal a nature as to make the loss one of keen and crushing force. As one who knew him well from long and intimate association, I may speak of Dr. Kilbourne with fondness, but I trust not without moderation and justice.

The life on which so sad a silence has now fallen was one of zealous endeavor after excellence in personal and professional life, and, through it all, there ever beat a warm and earnest heart, which gave the impress of Dr. Kilbourne's personality to everything which he touched. His individuality was strong. It was impossible for him to be other than himself in all his activities, and, in his uncompromising adherence to what he advocated, he often provoked opposition and was sometimes misunderstood, but none could fail to acknowledge his faithfulness to conviction and principle, and his positive and outspoken self-assertiveness were many and endearing traits, even to those who differed from him. He was a good fighter and a cordial hater, such as men respect, and his very earnestness made his prejudices strong.

There was in him an inborn fondness for art, and an enthusiasm for all that was eminent and noble. He was especially a lover of music, and possessed a keen relish for humor. He was also a good story-teller, and often happy in his embellishment of conversation with racy anecdote.

It is sad to think that he is gone from among us, at the early age of fifty-three, and to reflect that probably, but for his unwearying and indefatigable labors in his official position and the unsparing zeal with which he plunged into his work, often denying himself rest and recreation which were sadly needed, he might to-day, perhaps, be standing in the position he so ably filled, in health and vigor unabated.

I will here briefly give some of the main facts of his career. Dr. Kilbourne was born in Chelsea, Vermont, March 12, 1837. When he was five years old, his family removed to Montpelier, Vermont, where he attended school and academy until he was eighteen. When Dr. Kilbourne was seventeen years of age, the family were deprived by death of the presence and aid of the father, a man of integrity and Christian worth; and the more serious responsibilities of life began to be felt. After assisting at home as long as needed, he went, at about twenty, or in 1857, to assist an older brother who was practising dentistry in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, and the same year began the study of medicine, which he continued with various interruptions-- notably his three years' service in the war of the rebellion-until he finally graduated and entered upon medical practice, after the close of the war, in 1868.

Dr. Kilbourne, at St. Johnsbury, and subsequently at Bradford, practised dentistry and continued his medical studies, lecturing also upon medical Subjects and upon temperance, and taking an interest in all the important social and political topics of that stirring period which preceded the civil war.

When the call to arms resounded among the quiet hills of Vermont, a prompt response came from the loyal little state, and, as a member of the "Bradford Guards," Dr. Kilbourne entered the three months' service among the earliest, this organization volunteering in a body on April 20, 1861, and forming a company in the first regiment Vermont sent to the field. Dr. Kilbourne, after being mustered out in June, 1861, was, however, still full of patriotic fervor, and again went out as captain in the Ninth Vermont Volunteers, with which he served until his health gave way, and he was under the necessity of resigning just before the close of the war. During the winter of 1864 and 1865, Dr. Kilbourne read medicine and attended the courses of the Georgetown Medical College, at Washington, D. C. The next year he spent at the medical school and laboratory of the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, and the following year continued his studies in New York, under Prof. Willard Parker, as his preceptor, and graduated at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1868. He was then for some time assistant physician in the New York City Asylum for the Insane, where he devoted much attention to insanity and nervous diseases, though not intending at the time to make that specialty his life-work. He next entered the competitive examination at the Brooklyn City Hospital, and, passing successfully, secured a position which gave him a year's valuable experience as house physician and surgeon. Dr. Kilbourne, after his year in Brooklyn, engaged as surgeon on one of the ships of the "Black Ball" line, thus securing an opportunity to spend some time in Europe. He utilized this opportunity by attending the clinics at the London hospitals of St. Thomas and Guy's, and receiving instructions in the wards of these famous institutions. Also at Paris he passed some months in attendance at the medical school and in gaining clinical instruction among other things visiting the clinics of La Salpétriére."

Returning home from Europe, Dr. Kilbourne went to Illinois and engaged in the general practice of medicine at Aurora, but was only a short time in practice there, when he received the appointment of medical superintendent of the Illinois Northern Hospital for the Insane, at Elgin, a state institution, one wing of which was just nearing completion, Whose board of trustees, after careful investigation, chose Dr. Kilbourne as having superior qualifications for the position. He entered upon his duties at Elgin, September 15, 1871, and continued in charge of this great charity of the state until his death in February, 1890, a period of nearly nineteen years.

At the next session of the legislature after Dr. Kilbourne's appointment, appropriations were made for the completion of the hospital, and in 1875 it was completed, furnished, and occupied with its full capacity of five hundred patients.

The institution grew, year by year, into greater beauty and completeness under Dr. Kilbourne's guiding hand and earnest purpose to attain all possible excellence, and high is the rank, among similar establishments to which he has brought this beautiful and stately dwelling-place of the sufferers from insanity.

The ornamental grounds possess a finish and picturesqueness such as have been seldom witnessed; with their smooth lawns, arbors, greenhouses, lakes, and fountains, while the interior finishing and appointments are attractive, bright, and orderly to a degree which is the wonder and delight of patients and visitors. Who can estimate the value, to the thousands of unfortunate ones who from time to time have passed through this beneficent institution, of the labors of their departed friend' in providing for them a tranquil, delightful abode, meeting all sanitary requirements, gratifying the taste, and orderly and cleanly to an admirable degree? This institution can not fail to supply an enduring monument to the fame of our departed brother.

Dr. Kilbourne was married, January 3, 1860, to Sarah Jane Hardy, of Vermont, but their only child died in infancy, and was soon followed by the young mother. He was again married in 1872 to Louisa Bowler, daughter of Edward Kilbourne, Esq., of Keokuk, lowa. Three children were born of this union, and are still living, a daughter and two sons.

Dr. Kilbourne was a member of the Fox River Medical Society, of the Illinois State Medical Society, of the American Medical Association, of the Medico-Legal Society of New York, and of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane.

For the last four or five years of his life, Dr. Kilbourne's health was much impaired through a long illness brought on by overwork, which nearly cost him his life and left his constitution impaired by a chronic rheumatic condition of joints and system. He suffered a slight paralytic attack, about Thanksgiving time. 1889, which was followed by more serious attacks of the same kind, the last occurring a few days before his death in February of the present year.

The enforced idleness of his illness was peculiarly trying to his earnest spirit, and he often felt life to be of little worth While giving scope no longer to the useful activity that was his out. He looked forward calmly and bravely to the end, and accepted the hard conditions with the spirit of a good soldier in the battle of life.

The future hides in it
Gladness and sorrow,
Naught that abides in it
Daunting us onward.

The above, from a writer who was a favorite with Dr. Kilbourne, expresses not 'inaptly the courage and fortitude of his later years, and indeed of his Whole life.

As the funeral train followed his mortal remains, winding up the sightly hill where they are to lie buried, and as the last honors were paid to him, one could but think of Kreutzer's beautiful dirge, loved by him, and of the lines-

To their long home on the mountain
All at last consigned must be.

Did I say the last honors? No; not the last; but, viewing the short span of human life, and the long future in which the renown of Dr. Kilbourne shall be recognized, as his work continues to testify of him, I might say the first honors to his fair fame.

The beautiful spot where he is buried was chosen by him, and affords a fine view in the distance of the institution to which so much of his life was devoted.

To his ashes - peace,
To his memory - a benison. (blessing)

Eleventh Biennial Report of the Board of State Commissioners of Public Charities of the State of Illinois. (H. W. Rokker, State Printer and Binder, Springfield, ILL., 1890), pp. 47-51.

Photograph courtesy of Rob Kilbourne, Edwin's Great Grandson.