(b. December 25, 1767, New York City; d. May 12, 1817, Cincinnati, Ohio).
Physician William Goforth was the son of William Goforth and Catherine Meeks. He studied medicine under Dr. Charles McKnight and the surgeon
anatomist Dr. Joseph Young. Like numerous other medical students and physicians, he left New York City in 1788 amid turmoil and riots fueled by controversy over the use of human cadavers in the study of anatomy.
Goforth’s westward travels led him first to Maysville and then to Washington, Ky., where he settled in 1788 and practiced medicine
for more than a decade. In 1799 he moved to Ohio, eventually settling in Cincinnati, and again established a large medical practice. He was one of the earliest physicians to introduce vaccination to residents of the Greater Cincinnati area.
During his initial journey to Kentucky, Goforth became acquainted with the Drake family and many years later honored a request by Isaac Drake that he someday teach medicine to Drake’s then three-year-old son Daniel. Goforth is today highly recognized for this role as preceptor to his apprentice Dr. Daniel Drake, another legendary early Cincinnati physician.
Possessing a wide spectrum of interests in the natural sciences, Goforth was also intrigued with paleontology. He was instrumental in leading an
1803 archaeological dig for mastodon and mammoth fossils at Big Bone Lick in Boone Co., an event visited that year by Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1803–1806).
Goforth relocated to Louisiana in 1807. There he became involved in political affairs and served as surgeon to a regiment of the Louisiana militia. He returned to Cincinnati in 1816 and died of hepatitis on May 12, 1817. He was buried at Columbia Grounds in Cincinnati, but his remains were moved to Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati in 1854.
Johnson, Allen, and Dumas Malone. Dictionary of American Biography. Vol. 4. New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1959.
Juettner, Otto. Daniel Drake and His Followers: Historical and Biographical Sketches. Cincinnati: Harvey, 1909.
The National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Vol. 23. New York: James T. White, 1933.
Obituary. Liberty Hall and Cincinnati Gazette, June 2, 1817, 2.
Judy L. Neff
Above excerpted from page 407 of THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF NORTHERN KENTUCKY THE UNIVERSITY PRESS OF KENTUCKY ISBN 978-0-8131-2565-7