William Harvey Lillard

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Harvey Lillard

William Harvey Lillard (1856 - September 7, 1925) was the first chiropractic patient.[1]


Harvey Lillard was an African-American[2] janitor[3] who worked in the Ryan Building in Brady Street, Davenport, Iowa, USA.[4] He was the first person to be treated with chiropractic by D.D. Palmer.[5][6][7]

Lillard maintained the building where Palmer had his office. In September 1895 he told Palmer that he had lost most of his hearing and was almost completely deaf. Lillard added that he "could not hear the racket of a wagon on the street or the ticking of a watch."[8] When asked how he had become deaf he replied that, 17 years before, while bent over in a cramped, stooping position[9] he "heard something "pop" in his spine"[10] and immediately lost most of his hearing.[11]

Palmer later told that he then offered to take a look at Lillard's spine and found a lump just between his shoulders;[12] he persuaded Lillard to allow him to "rack his bone back into position."[13] Palmer, in fact, thought Lillard's hearing loss was due to a misalignment that blocked the spinal nerves which control the inner ear, the so-called vertebral subluxation;[citation needed] he decided to push the vertebrae back into place[14] and, after a few days, Lillard said that his hearing was better and almost completely restored.[15][16] Lillard described:

I was deaf 17 years and I expected to always remain so, for I had doctored a great deal without any benefit. I had long ago made up my mind to not take any more ear treatments, for it did me no good. Last January Dr. Palmer told me that my deafness came from an injury in my spine. This was new to me; but it is a fact that my back was injured at the time I went deaf. Dr. Palmer treated me on the spine; in two treatments I could hear quite well. That was eight months ago. My hearing remains good. HARVEY LILLARD, 320 W. Eleventh St., Davenport, Iowa.[17][18]

The date of Lillard's treatment is not confirmed. Some sources indicate September 6,[19] while others indicate September 15[20] and 18[21] of September. Some sources also indicate that the month and year were changed by B. J. Palmer, the son of Daniel David Palmer.[22] Others indicate different years, 1894–1896, and month, January — April, as well.[23]

Death and discovery of burial place

Harvey Lillard died on September 7, 1925, and was buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle.[24] Many years later, Steven Bartusch, D.C., brought up the rumor that Lillard had settled in Seattle and had been buried somewhere in the area. After months of researching, his small headstone (with a misspelling) was found by Beth and Dr. Darrell Gibson, D.C., and Linda and Dr. Rod Handly, D.C. Chiropractors Sid and Nell Williams decided to replace Lillard's small headstone with a larger permanent one.[25] In 1994 his small headstone was reported to be located in Sid Williams' office at Life University. Williams stated he intended to "build a shrine to him".[26]


  1. Keating JC Jr, Cleveland CS III, Menke M (2005). "Chiropractic history: a primer". Association for the History of Chiropractic. Retrieved 2008-06-16, pg. 9
  2. Dr Jagger - About Lillard
  3. World Chiropractic Alliance, 2006
  4. Chirohistory
  5. Lillard H. "Deaf seventeen years". The Chiropractic 1897a (Jan); Number 17 (Palmer College Archives), p. 3'
  6. Ludington Daily News, September 18, 1995.
  7. Herald-Journal, September 7, 1989'
  8. Chiropractic Clinic, PDF file
  9. Stephen Barrett, Samuel Homola (1969). "At Your Own Risk: The Case Against Chiropractic - The Iowa Grocer's Dream". Chirobase.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Norwood Chiropractic
  11. World Chiropractic Alliance, 1994.
  12. 1957 (Nov): ICA International Review [12(5)] includes:-B.J. Palmer authors “History in the making” (pp. 1, 9); discusses D.D. Palmer’s magnetic healing and Lillard’s adjustment, relates “bump” was in Harvey’s neck.
  13. Ewer Specific - History of Chiropractic Care
  14. 1958 (August): ICA International Review of Chiropractic [13(2)] includes: B.J. Palmer authors “Fourth dorsal or axis? A misstatement of fact – and why” (p. 1); BJ claims his father adjusted Harvey Lillard’s axis, rather than his thoracic spine.
  15. Lerner, Cyrus. Report on the history of chiropractic (unpublished manuscript, L.E. Lee papers, Palmer College Library Archives).
  16. "SciArtPhi" - Palmer, D.D. (1910) The Science, Art and Philosophy of Chiropractic Portland, Oregon: Portland Printing House Company.
  17. Keating JC Jr, Cleveland CS III, Menke M (2005). "Chiropractic history: a primer". Association for the History of Chiropractic. Retrieved 2008-06-16.
  18. Lerner, Report on the history of chiropractic, p. 41.
  20. Non-Profit Chiropractic Organization (NPCO)
  21. World Chiropractic Alliance, History.
  22. Lerner, Report on the history of chiropractic, pp. 16, 20.
  23. Keating J. BJ Palmer, Chronology.
  24. Lakeview Cemetery website. Search for Lillard. Only use last name.
  25. Queen Anne Chiropractic - Finding Harvey Lillard
  26. Chiropractor Touts His Strong Beliefs, Gainesville Sun, 17 April 1994.