Dr. James Still (1812-1882), a renowned herbalist and homeopathic healer often called “The Black Doctor if the Pines, was born at Indian Mills and resided in Burlington County most of his life. He was one of 18 children born to former slaves Levin and Charity Still. His brothers included abolitionist William Still, one of the founders of the Underground Railroad, and Peter Still, who rescued himself from slavery.
Born into poverty and mostly self-educated, James Still became one of the wealthiest men in Burlington County and owned land along Church Road in Medford from Cross Roads, the intersection of Church and Mt. Holly Roads, to Wilkins Station. He built a fine house with a small office next door and developed a hospital in an old tavern on Route 541. He married twice and had eight children.
James Still’s story was one of hard work, thrift and saving. He prospered through his own industry and gave much of the credit to Providence. He and his family experienced poverty and prejudice, but persevered with faith, modesty and frugality. Dr. Still recorded the story of his life and philosophy in an autobiography published in 1877.
(text above authored by Janet Jackson-Gould and Janet Carlson-Giardina)
For more details and program information, visit the official Friend’s group website Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center
Dr. James Still was born in 1812, in Indian Mills, New Jersey to Levin and Charity Still (originally Levin and Sidney Steel), two former enslaved Africans from the state of Maryland. He received only 3 months of formal education. For most of his life, beginning at the age of 8 or 9 and into his late twenties, Still worked as a day laborer, chopping wood, making charcoal, picking berries and “grubbing” – digging up roots and trees to clear land. Born into poverty and mostly self-educated, Dr. Still became one of the wealthiest men in Burlington County of his time. He prospered through his own industry and gave much of the credit to Providence. After his marriage to his first wife, Angelina Willow and the birth of their first child, Beulah, in 1836, Still bought a small piece of brush land for $100 near the Cross-Roads, and moved a partially built house to this land. In 1843, at the age of 31 years and determined to do something better, he purchased a still and began distilling roots and herbs.
Dr. Still was so moved to purchase two books on medical botany on one of his trips to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began practicing medicine somewhat by accident, agreeing to treat a sick man in exchange for some sassafras. Slowly, he found that he was distilling less and healing more. About 1845, Dr. Still stopped distilling and focused entirely on his medical practice.
His first wife, Angelina, would die in 1838. Dr. Still found himself alone caring for a sickly newborn child. He married a second time in 1839, to Henrietta Thomas. Unfortunately, death struck his family again with his first born passing the same year. He and his second wife, Henrietta, would later have 7 children. They experienced poverty and prejudice, but persevered with faith, modesty and frugality.
His practice began to flourish and in 1855, he built his office and his first home. Then 1869, he had a new house constructed with all the modern-day amenities of its time. It was a substantial, 3-story, mansard-roofed, Victorian style house.
He died in 1882, and was buried in Colemantown Cemetery(link is external) located behind Jacob's Chapel AME in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey.
Unfortunately, his home was torn down in 1932. His office building remained and would be used as a residence until 2006. In 2006, with encouragement from his descendants, the State of New Jersey purchased the property for the intent of restoring.
There is much more about Dr. James Still; much of it was written in his autobiography Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still(link is external) published in 1877. It is a must read for those who are interested in the story of such a remarkable man.
When the site is not closed due to Covid, We provide a 4th grade curriculum program. We will host scheduled class trips. The site is providing online herbal workshops, small festivals, history and community days, and nature/botanical hikes. All of our events can be seen on the Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center Facebook page or website.
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211 Old Church Rd, Medford, NJ 08055
54 Chapel Hill Rd., Mt Laurel, NJ 08054
Grounds Hours Dawn to Dusk
Tour Hours Please call site for hours of operation
Entrance Fee None. Additional programming & event fees may apply.