Alfred Spring wrote a biographical sketch of Dr. Henry Van Aernam
describing him as a man who made a marked impression on the people
in Cattaraugus County. This esteemed physician was born in Marcellus
in Onondaga County on March 11, 1819 and came with his family to
Mansfield in 1822.
His early education happened in a log school house and was later
supplemented by a term or two as a district school teacher. He clerked
in the store of William Ellicott and as a young man went to Virginia
and engaged in the construction of the Kanawha Canal. He served
as a paymaster and confidential clerk of the William Pierce &
He returned home and attended Springville Academy. In 1841 he began
the study of medicine with Dr. Levi Goldsborough in Otto. He attended
Geneva Medical College but received his diploma from Willoughby
College in Ohio.
After graduation he practiced his profession in the Village of Allegany
until he moved to Franklinville in 1848 where he resided throughout
the remainder of his career. On November 30, 1845 he married Amy
M. Ethridge, a marriage that lasted for decades.
He had the remarkable ability to accurately diagnose diseases and
had an intuitive insight into the mental characteristics of his
patients. He was sympathetic to those he treated vigorously and
was willing to ride out to the huts of the poor as well as the homes
of the rich. He was considered the expert when it came to determining
the pathology of the most difficult patients and even after he became
crippled and unable to continue with his daily practice, his judgment
was regarded as the ultimate authority.
Early in life he turned to politics and was a charter member of
the Republican Party with strong feelings of Abolitionism. He became
a political convention organizer. In 1867 he was elected to the
Legislature from the First Assembly District of the County.