Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Jeremiah Kenoyer’s cancer cure

Jonathan D. Lewis


The remedies prescribed in the past by many of the learned (and even some unlearned) members of the medical profession were neither evidence-based nor presumably effective (unless the patients got better anyway!). Here are some samples derived from the therapeutic armamentarium of Dr. Jeremiah Kenoyer:

Kenoyer and wife
Dr. Kenoyer and his wife Elizabeth

Dr. Jerimiah [sic] Kenoyer’s cancer cure


Spanish fly 1 dram
Cobolt [sic] 3 drams
Sulphur 1 oz.
Mix together
Gum of Camphor 1 oz.
Two tablespoons full of Lard

Put on stove and mix until Camphor is disolved [sic], then mix all together. In cold weather use a little glycerene [sic], if to [sic] strong, Spanish fly will blister (weaken).

*Presumably this was to be used as a salve, not to be imbibed.

Cough medicine


1 pint best port wine
3 tablespoons full of honey
1 teaspoon of pine tare [sic]
The yolk of three eggs

Beat the honey, eggs, and tar together, then add wine.

For severe cases of vomiting or disentary [sic]


1 teaspoon full of each (sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar) in a teacup, pour boiling water over and let steep for a short time. Then 1 teaspoon is a doce [sic] for an adult.

We think this saved Harold’s life when you and he had been playing on the deer hide that had been tanned with arsenic; he vomited for 48 hours, after 3 drops of this, he quit.



Jeremiah Kenoyer was born on November 22, 1819, in Harrison, Indiana and in 1853 moved his wife Elizabeth and seven small children to the Oregon Territory, a trip of six month’s duration. Here they lived in a log cabin, while Jeremiah split rails and chopped wood for a living. In addition, he preached every night and twice on Sundays, having established himself as Reverend and Doctor Kenoyer, although there is no evidence that he was formally trained in either field. He also helped establish Sublimity College in 1857, as a representative of the North District of the United Brethren Missionary Colony. As a physician, he practiced herbal medicine and several of his remedies have been preserved by his descendents.

I reproduce them here as they were written. The medical recipes were transcribed unsigned by an unknown relative. The Harold referred to in the handwritten note was Dr. Kenoyer’s great-grandson. Evidently his concoctions were used for several generations.



JONATHAN D. LEWIS, MD, submitted on behalf of his wife, Betty deVise, great-great-granddaughter of Dr. Jeremiah Kenoyer. Historical information on Dr. Kenoyer was accessed from Ancestry.com.


Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2013 – Volume 5, Issue 1
Winter 2013  |  Sections  |  Doctors, Patients, & Diseases

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