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American Medical Biographies/Witt, Christopher

Witt, Christopher (1675–1765)

Christopher Witt, or DeWitt, as he is occasionally named, was born in Wiltshire, England, in the year 1675; he emigrated to America in the year 1704 and joined the theosophical colonists on the Wissahickon. He was then in his twenty-ninth year, and in addition to being a thorough naturalist and skilled physician, was well versed in the mystic sciences and in astronomy. He was esteemed highly by his fellow-mystics; his services as a physician were constantly called into requisition. Shortly after the death of Kelpius, Dr. Witt, together with Daniel Geissler, moved to a small house in Germantown upon the land owned by Christian Warmer, who, with his family, looked after the welfare of their tenants.

Dr. Witt was a good botanist, and upon moving to Germantown, he started a large garden for his own profit and amusement. It was probably the first botanical garden in America, antedating Bartram's celebrated garden by twenty years. Dr. Witt corresponded for many years with Peter Collinson, of London, whose letters to some of the leading men in the province mention the high esteem and regard in which Dr. Witt was held by the English naturalist. In later years there was a friendly intercourse between Dr. Witt and John Bartram (q. v.).

Besides being an excellent botanist, Dr. Witt was an ingenious mechanic, constructing the first clocks made in Pennsylvania, and probably in America. He was an artist and a musician, possessing a large pipe organ said to have been made by his own hands. He also practised horoscopy and would cast nativities using the hazel rod in his divination.

When the Doctor was eighty years old his eyesight failed him, resulting finally in blindness. His slave, Robert, carefully looked after his wants until his death in the latter part of January, 1765, at the age of ninety. He was buried in the Warmer burial-ground in Germantown. This spot became known as Spook Hill, as tales were told which have survived to the present time, how upon the night following. the burial of the old mystic, spectral flames were seen dancing around his grave.

The Botanists of Phila., John W. Harshberger, 1899.
The German Pietists of Provincial Penn., Sachse, 1895.