Christian Frederick Esberger
Esberger marriage in Little Grimsby
The museum possesses a copy of a pamphlet detailing a talk given by Richard Goulding to the Louth Antiquarian and Naturalists’ Society on 5 May 1902. The subject was Christian Frederick Esberger who was born near Berlin in 1732 and later practiced as a surgeon-apothecary in Eskholme near Marshchapel. This unlikely career trajectory came from Esberger’s sister having married a John Mussendine who was originally from Marshchapel. After serving time as a grenadier in the Prussian army, Mussendine had returned home with his wife. By 1755 Esberger was living with his now widowed sister.
Generally, we know very little about the lives of rural eighteenth-century medical men such as Esberger, not because they did not keep records of their lives but because hardly anything of them survives in the archives. It is fortunate then, that Goulding transcribed a journal (now lost?) that dates from 1764, in which Esberger describes visiting patients, wooing his future wife (Ruth Stephenson of Little Grimsby), suffering chronic toothache and oiling his wig.
Esberger emerges as an ambitious (he married up), literate (German, English, some Latin) and pious man (he read the Bible daily). He also enjoyed smoking a pipe and gambling on occasion. In 1764 Esberger made several journeys to Louth on horseback to buy supplies. He went to “Mr Barton’s Shoap to buy some painted paper” and browse the secondhand medical books. He obtained a promise of “some Seeds and Roots etc from Mrs Phillips’ Garden in West-Gate.” At the “Turks head” Esberger “Smoked a pipe over a Bottle of good porter” then bought cocoa and a cauldron of lime. During the Michaelmas Fair in Louth, he “smoaked a pipe of Tobacco in a noisy Room, against the Window. Amusing myself with observing people, passing and Repassing …”.
Of his activities as a surgeon and apothecary, Esberger mentions treating wounds from farm accidents, dispensing advice on childhood illnesses, and bleeding patients and himself -- when suffering from violent fits of toothache, he took three and a half ounces of blood from his foot but finally had to resort to opiates (elixir of white poppy) to dull the pain. His wife, Ruth, is seldom mentioned in the journal, however, on 25 December, 1764, Esberger uncharitably wrote, “Spent part of the Evening in agreable (sic) & not quite useless Discourse with my Spouse …”. Esberger died in 1789 with his widow surviving until 1803.
Christian and Ruth had ten children. In the 1840s their descendants set up a well-known business in Louth’s Chequergate which initially made carriages and later built bodies for motor vehicles.