National essay winner

Josiah Taft of Edgewood receives his first place certificate for winning a national essay contest sponsored by the National Society of the Daughters of Colonial Wars. Josiah was honored in Washington, D.C, where he read his winning essay on Colonial medicine. (Submitted photo, The Aegis / May 5, 2014)

Josiah Taft of Edgewood is the first-place winner in a national patriotic essay contest sponsored by the National Society of Colonial Wars Inc.

Josiah, the son of Brad and MaryAnn Taft, is 13 years old and in eighth grade. He has been home-schooled for eight years.

The society annually sponsors an essay competition open to seventh- and eighth-graders. Essays are 250 to 500 words and are judged on subject matter, interest, spelling and punctuation. Each year a new topic is announced; this year's was Colonial Medicine.

"The early colonial peoples and doctors did not have the knowledge that we have now, and so their view of illness and other diseases were very narrow. They were running for their lives, sailing across an entire ocean for a slim hope that held no guarantees, no certain success," the award winning essay reads in part.

"When they finally reached their new home, they were then faced by hostile Native American tribes. Some, however, were friendly and taught the settlers how to use the local herbs and plants as medicine," Josiah wrote. "Doctors later refined these techniques, and some of those still remain in the use of the modern medical community. But in the colonial days, they had no knowledge of bacteria and germs, and what animals and insects carried them."

"Unfortunately, much of this was due to misinformation, and some a result of superstitious beliefs. Many of these 'recipes' had been passed down through individual families, and had never really been tested for effectiveness. However, some of these herbs did have positive effects, such as willow bark. This seeming useless material was used to help bring down fevers and help pain. Now, doctors have been able to isolate the helpful parts; using them to create what we now call Aspirin.

"As the years passed, medicine in the colonies slowly, but steadily, improved. Medical methods and tools were invented and improved, such as the tooth key and the scalpel. Doctors were able to use them in the constant battle against sickness and disease in the Americas."

Josiah was invited to attend the awards ceremony at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on April 12.

He attended along with his younger brother, Isaiah, who is also home-schooled.

The society had Josiah read his essay aloud and then awarded him with a monetary gift of $100.

"He was poised, well spoken and his delivery exceptional," Josiah's mother said. "The paper kept the crowd captivated as he presented his essay."

MaryAnn Taft said her son has entered several essay contests because a tutor who works with him, Corrie March, felt he had exceptional writing talent.

"It turned out she was correct," MaryAnn Taft said, explaining that Josiah entered four contests, including one in which he will be published.

His essay, "How Martin Luther King Jr. Motivates Me," was accepted to be published in the book "Celebrating What is Important to Me," she said.

Organized in 1932, the National Society of the Daughters of Colonial Wars' mission is to honor and perpetuate the memory and spirit of the men and women who, by their acts and counsel, assisted in the establishment, defense and preservation of the American Colonies.

According to the organization's website, the society collects and preserves records relative to the American Colonial Period between 1607 and 1775, promotes historical research and the study of history and to commemorate the events of the period and works to "inspire patriotism and loyalty to our country."