Rev. T.P. Childs: A Minister Who Became a Maker of Medicine
By Judy Deeter
Down through the years, many individuals have served as ministers in Troy churches. Only one minister, however, worked both to care for peoples’ souls and manufactured and sold a medicine to heal their bodies. His name was Rev. Thomas P. Childs.
Childs was born in Woodstock, Connecticut on June 8, 1817. While he was a boy, however, his family moved to New York. At the age of 15, young Thomas was granted a license to preach by the Cassville Baptist Church of Oneida County, New York. A few years later, he graduated from Madison University in New York and then entered the ministry. While attending the university he became acquainted with the Rev. Zelora Eaton and fell in love with Eaton’s daughter Altezera.
In the 1840s, Rev. Eaton came to Troy to work for the Baptist Church; Childs soon followed him to Ohio. The book The Ohio Baptist Annual of 1901 says of Childs, “In 1840 he drove from Oneida County, New York, to Troy, Ohio and was united in marriage to Miss Altezera. (They were married on September 22, 1840.) With his bride he drove back to New York and spent two years there in a laborious, but prosperous pastorate at Cherry Valley. In 1842 he came back to Ohio as a minister to assist his father-in-law in mission work in this part of the field.” Childs’ obituary published in The Buckeye newspaper on June 20, 1901 says, “In 1842, he came to Troy as a Baptist missionary and labored under the directions of Rev. Eaton. He held a series of meetings in Troy and received 140 members for the Baptist Church. For thirteen consecutive Sundays he baptized converts in the Miami River. In 1844 he went to Xenia and organized a Baptist church there…Rev. Childs also organized the Calvary Baptist church at Piqua and the Baptist church at Covington.” He came to Troy from Covington in 1855.
Local Troy historian Thomas Wheeler wrote in his book Troy the Nineteenth Century, “A Trojan who had heard the sermons of all the preachers in Troy from 1854 to through the end of the century stoutly maintained that the Baptist preacher, Thomas P. Childs, made the strongest attacks on sin and the devil.”
Childs became a minister of the First Baptist Church of Troy in 1855. At that time, the church congregation decided to build a church building. Construction of the building began around 1855, but it was not completely finished until 1866. Though it still stands at the northwest corner of South Cherry and West Franklin streets, it is no longer used or owned by the church.
An historical story about the 100th anniversary of the building was published in the Troy Daily News edition of December 30, 1955. It reported, “The decision (to build the church) had come immediately after Thomas P. Childs, of Covington, the newly elected pastor, had come upon the field.” An old manuscript about the church at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library states, “The erection of the present building, in 1855, was largely the work of Rev. Thomas P. Childs, who accepted the call from Covington to build the new church and strengthen the congregation at Troy.”
Between 1841 and 1855—prior to coming to Troy—Rev. and Mrs. Childs had become the parents of three children: Almira, Abbott, and Mary. Records show that in 1856, a baby daughter named Altazera died. It is believed that in 1858 their twin baby girls named Clara and Calla also died. A boy named Frank was born to them in 1860.
Also, in 1860, Rev. Childs bought a house from Troy resident John Kitchen at 124 E. Water St. This house is now the Museum of Troy History and open to visitors on weekends from April through December. Rev. Childs owned the house for seven years.
Rev. Childs served as pastor at First Baptist Church for about six years. Soon after the start of the American Civil War in 1861, however, he resigned as pastor to become a chaplain of the 44th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the war. He was 44 years old at the start of his military service. Some records show that he was discharged on November 6, 1862; other records indicate he was a military chaplain for three years.
The book To See the Elephant by James R. James contains Civil War letters written by John A. McKee of the Ohio 44th Volunteer Infantry. A letter written by McKee on October 28, 1861 tells of Childs work as Chaplain. McKee wrote: “I am now writing after night in my tent and in hearing of two prayer meetings which are going on in adjoining tents. They have prayer meeting every night in some of the tents. They take it by turn. There has been a great many converted in the regiment lately. We have preaching every Sunday and a largely attended Bible class after sermon. Childs is our regimental chaplain. While I am writing, I hear that two of the hardest cases in the regiment have been converted this evening.”
First Baptist Church of Troy courtesy of The Troy Historical Society.
Following the war, Childs was employed for years as the financial secretary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, which worked with freed slaves in the south. After serving with this group, he organized a church in Salem, Ohio. While working at Salem, his health failed.
An important part of Childs’ work as a pastor was his ability to communicate. While at Salem, he became ill with catarrh. Catarrh is not a disease name used much today. It refers to an accumulation of mucus in the nose, throat or sinus. It makes breathing and sometimes speaking very difficult. The result was that Childs could no longer preach and he returned to Troy.
Childs tried many types of medicine and spent a great deal of money trying to cure his catarrh. Nothing worked. So, he made his own medicine.
In his book Troy the Nineteenth Century, author Thomas Wheeler wrote: “…after experimenting with various remedies during the next few years, (he) developed one which cured his condition. This he resolved to make available to others.” (It is thought that Childs started making his medicine for others sometime around 1874 or 1875.) In 1877 he took his son, Albert, into partnership and began the manufacture and sale of Childs’ Catarrh Specific. Two years later Dr. Joseph H. Green, a grandson of the founder of the Staunton Baptist Church and T.P. Childs’ son-in-law, entered the partnership.”
Historical records have not been found which describe how Rev. Childs, a minister of the gospel, figured out how to make and manufacture a medicine. His religious title of “Reverend” was shown on his medicine bottles.
Advertisements for his product show Childs’ medicine being taken into the body by a device that looks like a straw coming out of the top of a bottle.
In a company advertisement, Childs told of his experience with catarrh. The advertisement reads, “Eighteen years of terrible headaches, disgusting nasal discharges, dryness to the throat, acute bronchitis, coughing, soreness of the lungs, raising bloody mucus, and even bringing me to the verge of the grave—ALL caused by and the result of nasal Catarrh.”
In that same advertisement, there is an interesting quote from the Cincinnati Daily Gazette concerning air pollution faced by teachers that could bring on breathing problems. It reads in part, “Confinement in close, ill-vented school rooms; the over-heated atmosphere, charged with steaming poison exuding from the bodies of the not always over-clean children, breed this disease with fearful rapidity.’’
In 1879, Childs built a two-story, red brick office and factory building at the corner of West Water and Short streets. It still stands today next to the old Miami County Power Plant building. However, its red brick exterior walls have now been covered over with stucco and the building is painted gray. For many years, the building was the home of Eagles Lodge #971. Today, it is an office building.
LEFT: The T.P. Childs Medicine office and factory building on West Water Street in Troy, courtesy of Patrick Kennedy. RIGHT: The building today by Judy Deeter.
Wheeler wrote in his book Troy the Nineteenth Century, “The T. P. Childs Company in its new factory on West Water Street was busy filling orders for its ‘Childs’ Catarrh Specific and Bronchial Treatment.’ The company was a large advertiser in current magazines and appears to have secured orders from these advertisements without benefit of salesmen. Mail sometimes ran as high as 500 letters a day.”
Rev. Childs obituary says of his catarrh remedy, “This remedy proved very effective and had an enormous sale. He made a large amount of money out of it and was always very liberal to the missionary cause. In 1878 he gave $1,000 for the benefit of missions.”
Historical records seem to indicate that Childs’ business slowed and profits dropped in the 1890s as competing medicines were developed and sold. Childs died in 1901.
The story of the Troy preacher Rev. Thomas P. Childs who became a manufacturer of medicine is a part of the medical history of Troy.
There are currently two historical medicine exhibits in Troy, though neither display features Childs’ medical products. The exhibits are at the Museum of Troy History and the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center (in the Distillery Room), 301 W. Main St.