G.A.R. Post: Oliver Morton Post #10 Snohomish, WA
Note: Albert Chase Folsom’s military career is an enigma. While reportedly in the regular Army prior to the onset of, as well as during the War of the Rebellion, no pension or military records have been located confirming this period of A.C. “Doc” Folsom’s life. The following information comes primarily from his obituary written by friend and colleague, Eldridge Morse, another G.A.R. member buried within the grounds of the Snohomish Grand Army of The Republic cemetery.
Residence: Inf. Not Avail Age: 20/21 yrs.
Enlisted/Enrolled: 1848 Rank: Second Assistant Surgeon
Left Military Service: 1865
Highest Rank: Acting Medical Inspector
The son of a physician, Albert Chase Folsom was born in Illinois 7/14/27. Thereafter the family moved to Cambridge, MA where, as a young adult, Albert entered Harvard University. He graduated from that School’s medical department in 1847 and, in 1848, received a regular army commission as Second Assistant Surgeon of the 4th U.S. Infantry.
Late that same year he received orders from Captain Robert E. Lee to transport to New Orleans, LA where he received further orders to report to the Presido in San Francisco, CA. Arriving in California in June 1849 “Doc” became a true “49er.”
In March 1850 Dr. Folsom became Acting Medical Inspector for the command of a Major Bowman. From that time, until leaving the service in 1865 he was assigned to a number of posts throughout California and the American southwest. In 1855 A.C. went on “Secret Service” for the U.S. Government in Costa Rica and Grenada.
That same year he tendered his resignation as Surgeon U.S. Army. The following year his Army resignation was accepted and he received his commission as an officer in The Secret Service of the U.S. Army.
In 1862, following the onset of the American Civil War, Dr. Folsom reentered the U.S. Army as a surgeon while retaining his commission in The Secret Service. It appears that throughout the years of The Rebellion he served as Acting Medical Inspector for troops stationed in northern California. He resigned both government commissions in 1865.
Standing six feet tall and weighing one hundred ninety pounds, the dark complexioned Folsom arrived in Snohomish City, Washington Territory in 1872. By one account the month was November. Exactly why he chose to settle in the Puget Sound wilderness is unclear. As the 4th U.S. Infantry had elements stationed in this area prior to the Civil War, perhaps he’d had a chance to travel here and liked the area. However, since there are indications he may have been fleeing “an unfortunate second marriage” entered into following the death of his first wife, he could have been seeking an out-of-the-way location where he could “get lost.”
Doc Folsom was the second physician to practice in Snohomish County and the first to reside in Snohomish City. The fact that his services were free to all regardless of ability to make payment immediately endeared him to the local populace. However, the kindly doctor’s practices did not sit well with other medicos attempting to set up practice in the area. Newcomers “bitterly” complained that his habit of collecting only what a person could voluntarily pay spoiled the area for those who desired to make a living by their profession.
Over the next five to six years all went well for Doc Folsom. As a respected member of the community he was elected county coroner and sat as co-superintendent of the local school district.
Unfortunately, the beginning of the end was around the corner. During the winter of 1877/78 a severe diphtheria epidemic hit western Washington. Although Harvard had provided Doc with the best professional training possible for the time, this unfortunate epidemic occurred prior to full development of the science of bacteriology.
As such, while the good doctor scanned current medical literature for information to assure his patients as correctly as he could, “by the autumn of 1878 all but two children of twelve in the local school district had died.” This tragedy, coupled with an injury sustained in a fall prompted Doc to terminate his practice and, for all practical purpose, his life. Doc Folsom’s final three or four years were, for the most part, not pleasant.
Failing both physically and mentally, he seemed to have no desire of life and made no effort to “prevent the approach of death.” Eldridge Morse noted, “His last sickness was long and painful and when death came it was welcome by his friends as a real relief from his suffering.”
Albert Chase Folsom died 5/15/85 of dropsy (kidney failure). His age was 57 years, ten months and one day. Initially buried in the old “Pioneer Cemetery” along Pilchuck Creek, some time between 1898 and 1927 his remains were moved to their present gravesite.
There is one documented entry that he was survived by at least one child, a daughter. In closing it should be noted that a brief biography of Doc Folsom compiled in 2000 to commemorate the dedication of his reconstructed headstone lead to the “Adopt-A-Vet (Snohomish) project.” In this sense over one hundred years after his “death” Albert Chase Folsom is still bringing “life” to his Civil War Comrades.
Buried at Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery Snohomish
R. Bruce Smith
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