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History of the St Andrew's Society of the State of New York
Biographies: James Tillary M.D.

Sixteenth President

Although he lived in comparatively recent times, little is known of the antecedents and history of the Sixteenth President of the Society.

James Tillary was born in 1756 in Scotland, and died on the 25th May, 1818, at his residence, No. 133 Broadway, in the City of New York, aged sixty-two years.

His early education and rudimentary instruction in medical knowledge was said to have been gained in Edinburgh, Scotland, and later he entered the Edinburgh Medical School, from which it is presumed he graduated, as he was a member of the Royal Medical and Physical Society of Edinburgh at the time of his death. He did not remain to obtain honors in this institution, however, but left to become a surgeon in the British Army, which he accompanied to this country at the commencement of the Revolutionary War.

Shortly after his arrival in America he retired from the army and took up the private practice of medicine and surgery in the City of New York, following his profession with success for over forty years, and devoting himself principally to the science of medicine.

During the ravages of the pestilence of yellow fever in 1795 and again in 1798, Dr. Tillary remained at his post in the city and by his tireless labor and indomitable courage, was of the utmost service to the rich as well as the poor under his charge.

As a commentary on the extent of the mail service, it may be stated that the Post Office once occupied his residence at the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, known as No. 86 Broadway, as temporary quarters, having been removed there during the yellow fever epidemic.

Dr. Tillary acted as a trustee of Columbia College from 17991818, and was elected a surgeon of the New York Hospital in 1792, but resigned after one month’s service. In later years he became a prominent member of the New York County Medical Society and in due course served as its President.

He was elected a member of Saint Andrew’s Society on the 30th November, 1785, and served as Physician to the Society for twenty-two years, 1786-1809. He became Second Vice-President in 1812; First Vice-President in 1813, and finally President from 1814-1818.

His death occurred when he was still in office, and a notice of the Society in the New York Columbian, issue of Tuesday, May 26th, 1818, requests the Society to assemble “at Washington Hall, each member wearing the badge of the Society, and from there accompany his remains to the place of interment, and further, that the members will wear crape upon the left arm for one month.”

The most information concerning him is contained in his will, dated the 26th March, 1818, and recorded in the New York County Surrogate's Office on the 3rd June, 1818, wherein he desires his body to be buried near the bodies of his sons, Matthew and James. He gives to his daughter, Mary Duff, his share in the Tontine Coffee House and his house and lot on the corner of Broadway and Wall Street, and to his son-in-law, Anthony D. Duff, five guineas to purchase a memorial. The rest of his estate is devised to Anthony D. Duff, Maltby Gelston and David S. Jones, in trust to pay over a certain income to the support of his daughter, Margaret Van Slvck, and her son, Adrien, and to his grandchildren, James Tillary Van Slyck and Elizabeth Van Slyck. He further mentions in his will a house and lot in Nassau Street, “now occupied by Mr. Griswold," a house and lot in Garden Street, a house and lot in Laurens Street, and land in Spottswood, N. J., the latter to be an estate for life to the Reverend John Ayres. He names as his executors Anthony D. Duff, Maltby Gelston and David S. Jones.

The following extract from his funeral address made by Dr. David Hosack attests his sterling worth as a medical practitioner:

“I must nevertheless be permitted to bear my testimony to his merit as a practitioner of the healing art. He seemed by nature to be peculiarly capacitated for the exercise of the medical profession, and the education which he received was sufficient to elicit the native energies of his mind for that purpose. He was a substantial classical scholar; his reading of medical authors was limited, but judicious. He was a patient and close observer at the bedside of the sick; he reflected, and his decisions evinced the solidity of his understanding. Few men surpassed him in strength of judgment; and this qualification of the head gave him that elevated station among many of his fellow-practitioners, which he so long and deservedly retained. He was sceptical of novelty in medical prescriptions and slow in adopting new methods of cure. He carefully observed the progress of disease; he discovered its nature and was bold and energetic in his principle of treatment. He was confident of his own practical knowledge and inspired a corresponding confidence in those for whom he prescribed. Few men performed their duty to their patients with more fidelity. He spared no pains in collecting all the symptoms from which the disease might be ascertained, and the corresponding remedies directed for its removal. * * * In the records of those eminent men who have supported the medical character of our country, Dr. Tillary will maintain a highly respectable rank; and while talents, inflexible integrity and distinguished virtue are held in remembrance, his memory will be cherished by his fellow-men; especially by that society of his native and adopted country, with whom he was so long and so intimately connected.”

Dr. Tillary married in April, 1779, Brachey Greaves, and had known issue: (1) Matthew; (2) James; (3) Mary, who married Anthony D. Duff; (4) Margaret, who married-Van Slyck.

His portrait is reproduced from an oil painting by an unknown artist, now in the possession of the Long Island Historical Society.

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