Spring Hill woman doctor was first in Kansas

Dr. Celia Ann Dayton

By Gerald Hay

Dr. Celia Ann Dayton was an early pioneer in healing and hope in Bloody Kansas (1855-1861) and the eve of the Civil War.

According to the book, A History of Spring Hill 1857- 1983: “Two doctors came to Spring Hill in January 1859. They were Dr. C. A. Dayton and Dr. Hiram E. Dayton - mother and (adopted) son. Dr. Celia Ann Dayton was the first woman doctor in Kansas.”

Born on Jan. 24, 1815, in Herkimer County, N.Y., Dr. Celia Ann Dayton had studied and practiced medicine in New York, Michigan and Vermont from 1849 until she and her son settled in Spring Hill. Her husband, Amon, arrived a few months later.

The arrival of the Dayton family was amid a series of two-year benchmarks at that time.

In 1859, Kansas was still a territory. Spring Hill was a 2-year-old toddler since its founding in March 1857 by James B. Hovey. Johnson County was only two years older as one of the first 33 counties created on Aug. 25, 1855. It would be another two years before Kansas became the 34th state on Jan. 29, 1861. The Civil War began two months after Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state against slavery.

A year later, Dr. Hiram E. Dayton was shot in death on Jan. 27, 1862, in a cabin near Blue Springs, Missouri. At the time, he was a Civil War scout for the 7th Kansas Calvary and was killed after reportedly being discovered as a Union spy against William Quantrill’s Raiders. Dr. Hiram E. Dayton was buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery.

The Kansas Historical Society noted: “Also in 1862, Celia divorced her husband, which was very uncommon for the time period.” He reportedly had taken “a fancy to a Swedish settler,” leading to the martial split.

“Dr. Annie Dayton, as she was called, was successful and well-loved in the community. She lived here the rest of her life. Tradition of the community is that she was very active in the Underground Railroad.” – A History of Spring Hill.

She was also known to have offered aid and comfort to Black freedmen and freedwomen during Bloody Kansas and after the Civil War.

Dr. Annie Dayton died on Nov. 18, 1895, at age 80, She was buried beside her son in the Spring Hill Cemetery. Amon Dayton, her former husband, also is buried at the cemetery following his death on Oct. 20, 1871, at age 67.

Her obituary called Dr. Annie Dayton “a prominent character and an extraordinary woman in many ways” in the early history of Kansas, noting her prominence in its early struggles will never be fully known. “She was very reticent and retired in disposition, hence, her daring and heroic deeds in war times are unknown only to the old timers of that period.”

“In her practice, she became widely known all over the county in those early days and was very successful as a physician… There are scores of men and women in this community whose advent into life was at her hands…In her death, this community loses one of its oldest and most esteemed citizens, one beloved by all, old and young, alike.”

Celia Dayton Park, a small park, is located a few blocks from the Spring Hill Cemetery. Dayton Creek, a new elementary school and a new subdivision, also honor her memory.

The rest is history.