I recently received a copy of a journal written by a distant cousin in 1815. In it he talks about his great-grandfather, described below:-
June 23rd 1815
Of Isaac Mills, Son of Simon ....
In his person he was a large, strong man of great courage, instances of which I have heard my father relate, though not very distinctly, but I have too confused a recollection to repeat all I remember, is that his great strength was displayed with vast weights he had used to carry during his journeys and his courage in repelling attacks of robbers. He died at Isham, Northamptonshire in 1721. After his death his widow lived many years, I think to about the year 1760. I remember hearing my father say that she was the midwife, the schoolmistress and doctress of the village and before she died there was scarce a person living within ten miles of her house that she had not brought into the world: my father used always to speak of his grandmother as being very celebrated for her skill in physic and goodness of heart, one time went down to Isham to see her, he found her just gathering a swarm of bees that had all settled on her arm. Seeing her grandson somewhat alarmed, ‘Never fear child,’ said she, ‘they will not hurt me if I do not hurt them.’ Stroking them gently off her arm into the hive, one of them stung her. ‘Poor thing!’ said she, ‘I must have hurt it or it wold not have stung me.’
Most rural villages had such a ‘good wife’ who was midwife, comforter of the dying and herbalist. She would have been the nearest that the ordinary folk of that time got to a doctor and if the village was lucky, she was probably highly skilled, within the limits of medical knowledge at the time. It was perhaps less usual for such a ‘good wife’ to be the schoolmistress. This role usually fell to the local Vicar, but in this strongly Puritan, Non-Conformist area of the country, it may have devolved onto the family of the local preacher, hence Elizabeth Garett Mills’s involvement.