His academic education was limited to that available in the township district school and was completed at the age of seventeen years.
The degree of M. D. was conferred on him by the medical department of Washington College, Baltimore, Md.
When he was about nine, he fell into a smouldering kiln, an accident which resulted in severe burns on both feet, inability to walk for about two years, and permanent contractures that greatly handicapped him throughout life. His innate ingenuity enabled him to construct plaster models for a shoe last that permitted him to walk with some degree of comfort. His interest in surgery and dentistry became an absorbing one, and before reaching manhood he had developed such dexterity in the extraction of teeth that all work of this nature was referred to him by the medical practitioners of the community.
He began the practice of surgery and dentistry at Canton, Ohio, in 1832. He was especially interested in plastic surgery and operative surgical procedures involving face, mouth, nose, eyes, and teeth. In the early days of his practice in Wheeling he encountered much underhanded opposition; but his sterling qualities as a man, his eminent professional qualifications, and his sympathy for the needy and those in distress soon put his critics to shame. He was richly endowed with the creative instinct and manual dexterity. These faculties, combined with excellent judgment, native ability, a thorough knowledge of anatomy, and a tendency to work out improvements in operative technique, enabled him to contribute greatly to plastic surgery of the face and mouth.
Among his published articles are "Hare-Lip and Its Treatment, " American Journal of Dental Science, June 1844; "Cleft Palate and Its Treatment, " Ibid. , March 1845; "Abscess of the Jaws and Its Treatment, " Ibid. , December 1846; "Cases of Tic Douloureux, " Ibid. , October 1848; and "Observations on Such Diseases of the Teeth, as Induce Facial Neuralgia or Tic Douloureux, " Dental Register, January 1850. His interest in civic affairs and social conditions was unflagging. It was due primarily to his efforts that the Wheeling Hospital came into being as a corporate body on March 12, 1850. Perhaps his greatest contribution to medicine in its broadest sense was the conception, which he constantly advocated, that the practice of dentistry is one of the specialties of medicine and that dental practitioners should have the same type of training in the basic medical sciences as do practitioners in other branches of the healing art.
In 1834 he married a Miss E. Fundenburg at Pittsburgh and immediately moved to Wheeling, Va. (now W. Va. ).