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Early Greene County Doctors

Robert Neumann


FROM THE COUNTY'S FORMATION IN 1833 THROUGH THE 1860's, a record of Greene County health care is available in probate files, deed books, coroner's inquests and court proceedings, as well as two histories of Greene County. They are the R. I. Holcombe History of Greene County Missouri, published in 1883 (cited as "Hol 1883") and the Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck Past and Present of Greene County Missouri from 1915 (cited as "F&T 1915") Numbers in parenthesis indicate probate file numbers.

     Two "first" doctors are listed in these histories. Dr. Edward Rogers of Tennessee came to this area in 1831. (Hol 1883) But after a few years he moved on to Texas. A Dr. Perum "lived and died a bachelor" which explains why he "boarded at the Smith Tavern" in Springfield rather than have a household of his own. (F&T 1915) There is an 1848 bill from a Joseph Perham to the estate of A. J. Aikin . (probate #18) Perum and Perham are possibly the same doctor, indicating the man was practicing from the early 1830's to at least as late as 1848. Another "first" may have been Dr. James H. Slavens of Warren County, Kentucky, (Hol 1883, p. 150) who was also the first Methodist preacher in the area coming here in 1831. There are Slavens medical accounts for 1853 and 1855. Are they the same man? A question arises from Finis Shannon's probate with an 1822 medical account due a Dr. Crockett . (#5786) Because of the early date it was probably not from southwest Missouri though. Whoever was first is unimportant. Many more would follow.

     One early doctor was Cornelius D. Terrell. As with many physicians he had other jobs besides practicing medicine. When he died in 1840 he was county clerk. Coming to Greene County in 1833 he was in practice with other doctors. (Hol 1883, p. 191) There are medical accounts of Matthews & Terrell in 1833, Hammer(?) & Terrell in 1835, Terrell & Polk in 1836, and Terrell & Jewett in 1837. (probate #9745) Before 1841 Dr. Jewett lived in Wilson Township. (Hol 1883, p. 684) Dr. Terrell also is associated with James Wilson--his name was given to the creek--through marriage to Wilson's widow. (Hol 1883 p 867) A Dr. B. M. Jerritt billed for services for examining stabbing in J. Renno. Randolph Britt killed Renno in 1838 in a Springfield grocery [tavern] creating quite a stir. (Hol 1883, p. 189) Jerritt and Jewett may be the same person.

     Among other physicians practicing in the 1830's were G. P. and W. Shackelford . An account for them dated 1839 was found in Francis Leeper 's probate. (#6638) William R. Shackelford died in 1847. G. P. died around 1863 and was a leading "Southern" man in the county. (Hol 1883 p 279) As with the general population of the county doctors had both Union and Confederate leanings.

     One of the Shackelfords was in a partnership. Shackelford & Thornton are found in an 1844-1845 account. (William Crenshaw probate #1592) Earlier in 1843, Perham & Shackelford are listed treating the same patient. An 1842 account lists Shackelford & Farrier. (John Kimbrough probate #6265) Possibly these pairings were regular partnerships. It is also just as likely that two doctors working on the same case billed the patient on one bill.

     From Moses Foren's probate is an 1838-1839 invoice from Bailey, most likely Dr. T. J. Bailey. (#3119) Born in Kentucky in 1803 he had studied medicine at Danville under Drs. Smith & McDowell. (Hol 1883 p 595) Moving to Greene County in 1837 he became active in business and medicine. Unlike Dr. G. P. Shackelford , he was a Whig and Union man. When he died in 1869 he left money for a monument to the men killed defending Springfield from the Confederate attack in 1863. (It is near the Lyon stone in Springfield National Cemetery.) Bailey is also listed with other doctors. There is an 1845 account of Bailey & Williams. (William Crenshaw probate #1592)

     There is an 1835 medical receipt for Stephen Blackman in Moses Foren's probate. (#3162) In this same file is an 1841 bill for midwife services to a slave named Rachel. It may come as a surprise that slaves received medical care but there are references to it in several files. Dr. Edwin T. Robberson treated a black boy in 1861. In 1849 P. J. Brown asked for payment for "Medical services" for "Negro boy." (William Purselley probate #8520) In 1851 Dr. Chenoweth treated a "negro." (E. F. Roberts probate #5146) There is an Aug. 11, 1861, listing for medicine for negroes with Wm . C. Caldwell. (Jacob Bodenhamer probate #579) An 1849 receipt from Dr. Perkins is for treating a "black girl."

     In connection with Dr. T. J. Bailey a "Williams" was mentioned. Bailey & Williams are listed in accounts from 1843 to 1845. This "Williams" is James T., who died around 1850. His probate file is an incredible trove of medical information. The day book of "Bailey & Williams" is in it with patients' names and treatment. May 1, 1843, is the first of multiple entries for Jacob Painter, the Springfield gunsmith. On May 8 "Col Boyd", presumably Marcus Boyd, got "Cook" pills. This seems to be a brand name as it appears many times. On June 20 Charles Yancey, a judge in Greene County, received " Godfries Cordial." This was being used locally at least as late as 1864 in Springfield. R. Langham received opium on July 24. John James was treated with "Scarifying and Cupping" which involved making multiple shallow cuts in the skin and then blistering it. Women were also treated. The entry was usually written as "visit lady."

     Williams had received training at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. As was common, he sat for lectures. Entry tickets, or cards, for those lectures are in this file. For Anatomy and Surgery he sat with Benjamin W. Dudley, M.D. Charles Calewell, M.D. lectured on Medicine and Clinical Practice and Lunsford P. Yandell, M.D. spoke on Chemistry. Williams attended these class lectures in 1834-1835.

     In Missouri Dr. Williams kept up with conditions elsewhere. A brother, J. Landen Williams, wrote from Livingston County, Missouri, in 1845 describing it as a " healthy for any Dr. to expect to make a surport by his practice." Apparently also a doctor, he reported on their father as "Confined to the House he has . . . Turbercular Pumonalis." In another letter dated the same year, this time from Mt Vernon, Missouri, he asked his Springfield brother for medical advice. One of his patients, William Brown "labors under inflamatory Rheumatism." He also complained "I will have more Competition one Dr Flowers a New Yorker [always a derogatory term in the Ozarks] is about settleing in this place. J. G. Williams goes on to say "Flowers says he is a graduate from the New York Medical School a school I know nothing about." In addition the brother recounts an attack of "Billious intermitants" but that he "never refused to ride but once on the account of my fever."

     It seems that after being in partnership with Dr. Bailey, Dr. James T. Williams was a partner of Dr. Henderson. In Williams probate file is an "inventory of accounts due" of this partnership. (#10347) The document is dated August 24, 1848. Listed as patients are N.[Nicholas] R. Smith and several of the Fulbrights, well-known early county residents. The 1846-1847 account shows a total of $277.35 due indicating a good practice.

     There were probably few medical suppliers during the 1840's. Dr. Williams' file has two bills. One is From E. Deroin of St. Louis dated April 2, 1844. It includes such standbys as calomel and camphor. Also cinchona from which quinine is derived. (In John P. Campbell's probate there is a bill from Dr. W. S. Chenoweth for $22.88 for Peruvian barks, another name used for cinchona. #1460) There is also a bill from the Philadelphia company of Pleasants & Maris for calomel and jalop, snakeroot, sago, opium, and $5.50 for a pair of obstetrical forceps. Again there is quinine. It is $33.00 of the $128.73 bill.

     Intermittent malarial fevers (malaria) were a constant problem in the 19th century. The disease would occur, then go into remission only to reoccur in the future. Quinine was widely used to treat it but not without side effects. Too much could damage hearing. Probably one of the first brand name products utilizing quinine for these fevers was Sappington's Pills, which were produced by Dr. Thomas Sappington of Arrow Rock, Missouri. (Making a fortune on this product he became a strong political force in the state affiliated with the Governors Marmaduke and Claiborne Fox Jackson) References to Sappington's Pills are numerous in probate files. They appear in 1836 in Joseph Crow's probate file and others. (#1590)

     Medicines were also probably available from stores. There is a medical prescription to the N. P. Murphy Drug store in Springfield in or on the Square. (Deed Book L 1863, p. 432) N. P. Murphy was a doctor. Another description locates a property as being west of [the] drug store of M. M. McCluer on the Square in 1857. (Deed book H, p. 719) Dr. M. M. McCluer is mentioned in the Holcombe 1883 history when his wife died in 1859. (p. 269) An 1857 receipt for a whiskey and medical account is from McCluer & Bros. (Gibson Hardin probate #4069) There is also a reference in Deed Book K, page 355 in 1860 to a drug store on the Square. In the 1852 store inventory of Elijah Perkins of Ebenezer, a place where area people bought supplies and necessities, bottles of castor oil and Fahnestock vermifuge were available for sale. A vermifuge was a deworming product. In the J H Caynor & Co probate file is an 1860 order to Matthews & Sons, wholesale druggist in St. Louis. (#1519) Caynor & Co was a tobacco company.

     Over the years many doctors practiced in Greene County. Drs. Goodall & Wooten appear in 1857-1859 accounts. Fairbanks & Tuck's history, p 486, notes they came from St. Louis going to Texas with their slaves before the war. Another medical pair seen is Davis & Whitsill, appearing in accounts from 1853 to 1858. They were composed of N. A. Davis (mentioned in the Holcolm 1883 as an 1857 delegate to the Democrat State Convention) and J. C. S. Whitsitt . Another pair was White & Sloan noted in an 1865 medical account. Thomas White appears by himself in 1852. Thomas G. White, who appeared in an 1857 note, is apparently the same doctor. He died in 1869. Associated at one time with James T. Williams, Dr. Henderson also appears as Perham & Henderson from 1847 to 1849. Dr. Perham also links with Dr. Shackelford in 1843. The Shackelfords have been previously noted.

Yet another team of doctors are Robberson & Barrett. This is E. T. Robberson and presumably Beverly A. Barrett. (1859 medical account) Born in Tennessee in 1830, Edwin T. Robberson moved with his family to Greene County in 1831. (F&T 1915, p. 719) He was graduated in 1854 from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. In June, 1861, Robberson , along with S. H. "Pony" Boyd and L. A. D. Crenshaw, sought Union assistance for southwest Missouri. They traveled to Rolla where they met Colonel Franz Sigel under whose army escort they returned to Springfield. (Hol 1883 p 287) Later, along with W. C. H. Harwood, Robberson developed what became North Springfield. Dr. Robberson died in 1893. (Hol 1883, p. 840) Beverly A. Barrett was born January 8, 1826, in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri. His father was a physician from Virginia. The younger Barrett began study in 1845 and practice in Dallas County in 1847. (Hol 1883, p. 603) He started in Springfield in 1858. Although a Southern man he is well spoken of by Dr. S. H. Melcher, Union surgeon in Springfield who cared for the Battle of Wilson's Creek wounded. He says: Of Dr. Barrett I will say . . . he was always . . . in full sympathy with the rebellion, but never...did I know or hear of anything but gentlemanly, courteous conduct toward all. (Hol 1883, p. 368) For his sympathies Dr. Barrett went to prison in St. Louis in 1864; he died in 1899.

     Besides Robberson the name Barrett is seen with others. It is associated with Dr. S. Blevins (or Blevinns) in Daniel Chandler's probate in February, 1863. (#1523) As there are two "Dr. Barretts" when no initials are given it is sometimes difficult to determine which one is being referred to. Besides Beverly there was George R. Barrett who practiced around Ebenezer. (1859 medical account reference) There is a listing in Chatham Duke's probate for medical attention Ebenezer Green Co Missouri in 1863; presumably from Dr. George R. (#2427) In this same file are papers mentioning Dr. R. S. Wallis for medicine and visit in 1857-58. In the Melburne Hall probate is an 1859 bill of a C. S. Wallis of Lebanon in Laclede County. (#4049) With handwriting sometimes difficult to decipher it may be the same man. Like Beverly, George R. was sometimes working with other doctors; at least once with Dr. Gray. (probate file #349) It ended with Barrett's death in 1866. There is a medical receipt for an N. W. Gray. The date may be 1862. He was from Ebenezer according to Fairbanks & Tuck.

     One probate file, that of Dr. L. A. McGowan, gives a good picture of one doctor's practice. (Sometimes the named is spelled McGown. #7030) The appraisement of property was done in November of 1860. There was one lot of medical books worth $50.00, pill bags worth $5.00 and one lot of instruments worth $40.00. Dr. Luther A. McGown bought supplies on account from W. N. Jopes Company. The February to June 1860 sheets lists opium, rhubarb, metal and glass syringes, female and male, and of course, quinine. There are patient account sheets listing a visit to Daniel B. Flint to dress a wound, a visit to Johnathan Young for quinine (one of many references to quinine), a visit to Frederick Weaver's wife to visit and arrest of hemorrhage, and a notation for B. H. Davis "To blue mass & quinine." (Blue Mass was prescribed for both constipation and diarrhea. It was made from an opium and mercury compound.) For April 15th, 1863, is a receipt signed by Mary F. Prunty, Relick (widow) of L. A. McGown . On March 22,1863, Mary F. "McGown" (McGowan) had married Robert C. Prunty. Born Mary F. Horseman, she had earlier married Luther A. McGowan on October 20, 1859. She is listed in the 1850 census from Boone township, age nine, born in Kentucky. Robert C. Prunty, physician, is also listed in the 1850 census. He was thirty with a two-year-old daughter. Possibly Mary assisted her physician husbands.

     Robert C. Prunty appears in medical accounts in 1854, in 1855 and others. (Wm . Caulfield probate #1512 and Ingram heirs probate #4968) He was said to have been the first resident physician in Brookline township. (Hol 1883 p 673) Born in Warren County, Kentucky, July 7, 1820, his family moved to Greene County in 1839. His medical training began reading medicine under Drs. Shackelford and Perham . He had a practice in Ash Grove in 1845 but soon began attending Missouri State University medical department in St. Louis. He graduated in 1847. His first wife was Mahala S., a daughter of Nathan Boone. (Hol 1883 p 689)

     Of other Greene County and area doctors sometimes little is found. An S. G. Tate in mentioned in 1841 and again in 1847. (1847 in Henry Collier probate #1531) William R. Mathews is found in 1845 and 1854 papers. Several times Dr. Booth appears; in 1848 and 1849. (1849 in R. B. Owen's probate # 8429) Dr. T. W. Boothe died in Newton County on December 31, 1857. (Hol 1883, p. 245) Dr. D. W Bryant appears in 1856-58. (William White probate #10276) Dr. McBride is mentioned in the 1840's. (Deed Book H, p. 291) He also in on a receipt for "1 night visit" in 1847. (John S. Ricketts probate #5134) Dr. E. E. McBride of Springfield is mentioned in Fairbanks & Tucks history. "Dr. White" appears in 1865. He may be Thomas G. White, of White & Sloan previously mentioned. The team of Sloan and Coltrane are in an 1866 medical account. Dr. Thomas Coltrane practiced around Cave Spring, in northern Greene County, after being in the Union army. He was born in North Carolina in 1842, started practice in Walnut Grove in 1866. (That year he also ran on the "National Union Ticket" for superintendent of common schools.) He moved to Cave Spring in 1867. His wife was the former Lulu Staley. (Hol 1883, pp. 714, 717). "Dr. Denby" is mentioned in an 1865 paper. (Isaac Whittenberg probate file #10261) He also appears in 1859.

     Henry and John (J. S. & J. W.) Chenoweth are together in 1854. Other single Chenoweth listings are 1852, 1853, and 1864. (Dr. John W. Chenoweth was a Whig for Gen. Zachary Taylor's presidency in 1850. Hol 1883 p 216) Another Taylor Whig was Dr. Horatio Monroe Parrish. (Hol 1883, p. 216) He came from Kentucky-- where he had been born on March 18, 1823-- to Greene County in 1837. He studied surveying under John L. McCraw, county surveyor, then got medical training under Dr. G. P. Shackelford in 1841, and at Kemper's college graduating in 1845. (Hol 1883, p. 820 ) Dr. Parrish is documented in 1848-1851, 1853, and 1856.

     Other brief mentions of medical men include "Dr. Upshaw" in 1848, "Dr. Wann" in 1852 (spelling unsure), "Dr. Harrington" and "Dr. Batson" both of 1861, "Dr. Rose" who was treating a patient with "Black mass" in 1860, "Dr. Ragsdale" of 1860-61, "Dr. Jennett" who is in an April 1850 medical receipt and "Dr. Lemmon" in 1866. Others are Alex Still in 1856 and 1860, an R. D. Maxurle (?) in 1854, "Dr. Burks" in 1853 (possibly the same D. J. Burks in an 1855 account), "B. B. Thornton" in 1844 (he appears in the team of Shackelford & Thornton in an 1844 medical account). "E. K. Woodward" in 1853, "Dr. Frazier" in 1856, partners "Davis & Whiteside" in 1853 (this could be Davis & Whitsitt ), "Dr. Spenser" and "Dr. R. B. Smith" both in 1852, A. B. Ewing in 1841, "John D. Shelton M D" receipt [no date] (in the probate file of Marcus L. Britain #482 who died in 1843), J. B. Landreth about 1864, "Drs. Smith & Carson" of the same year, and in 1854 "Dr. Brown." There is a P. J. Brown who billed for Medical services for Negro boy on December 15, 1846. Dr. J. A. Brown turns up in 1864. Other obscure doctors include D. M. Main(?) in 1859, "Dr. McGown" in 1859 (who is probably Dr. L. A. McGowan previously mentioned), "Dr. Wilson" in 1862, "Dr. Farmer" or "Farrier" in 1845, Wm B. Cowon / Cowan in 1855, "Drs. Wills & Spain(?)" in 1852, "McHatten" in 1864, a "Wm Hopkins" in an 1849 medical receipt, P. K. Miller in 1857, William G. Wilson in 1860, "Dr. Bender" in 1864, "Rice" in 1851, A. Small in 1859, "McElwan" in 1851, B. McCord Roberts in 1847 (a Sons of Temperance man in 1849, Hol 1883 p 206), J. F. Hale (1850's), M. J. Blackman in 1855, and Stephen Blackman in 1854-55 (In John Casey's probate #1516 for Visit and medicine to negro Boy 3.00 and Visit and Medicine to negro woman 2.00.)

     Little more is known about others. "Dr. Caldwell" in 1864 may be the Fair Grove doctor named Colwell in Fairbanks & Tuck. Dr. William C. Caldwell from Virginia, is listed as living in Fair Grove in 1883 (Hol 1883, p. 703) He was said to be the first doctor in the township. Dr. D. R. Hoyal was probably David R. Hoyal of Lawrence County, practicing in the 1858-63 period. (He was killed by assassins in 1866. Hol 1883, p. 653) There is a medical bill for Cole & Grant, Fair Grove in 1861. Fairbanks & Tuck confirm Fair Grove for Dr. Cole. A. S. Clinton appears in 1851, 1854, 1853, 1856, and 1857-59 so he must have been relatively active. H. R. Clinton is in an 1865 account. (An A. R. Clinton appears in 1863 and an A. K. in 1865. They may all be the same man.) The team of Drs. "Hovey & Natross" appeared in an 1865 account. A Doctor Natress is listed as the first dentist in the county. (F&T 1915, p. 496) Dr. E. Hovey was born in Trenton, New York on September 23, 1816. (Hol 1883 p 761) He came to Texas County, Missouri, in 1840 and studied dentistry and medicine. He practiced both fields in Buffalo, Dallas County, until the war when he became a lieutenant in the Home Guards. He joined the Missouri State Dental Society in 1865. Dr. E. [Edwin] K. McMasters is in the area by 1856. He was a native of North Carolina moving to Dade County where he lived from 1847 to 1851. (Hol 1883 p 864) He moved to Greene County in 1851. A "Dr. Cox" is in an 1865 account. Fairbanks & Tuck’s history says he was first in Ebenezer and later in Springfield. There is a George M. Cox in the Greene County State Board of Health Physicians registry. (County Clerk accessions) This Dr. Cox received a degree from Bellevue Hospital Medical College in New York on February 27, 1865. N. H. Hampton (1856), may be Noah H. Hampton a Republican candidate with S. H. Boyd in the district senatorial delegate election in 1875 per Holcombe.

     Greene County doctors not yet mentioned were "Dr. Perkins". (He is on the books of the first Masonic Lodge in Springfield. Hol 1883, p. 150) He moved to town in 1849 or 1850 and died in 1860. William C. Wadlow studied medicine at Walnut Grove under Dr. Sloan. Wadlow had attended Missouri Medical College in St. Louis. (Hol 1883, p. 719)

     Doctors from other areas appeared in probate files. William Allan Roberson was in Mt. Vernon, Missouri by 1845. On an 1847 printed sheet from Belleville, Illinois, was a local account with Dr. Champion. Thomas J. Watts M.D. is mentioned in the 1883 Holcombe history. His parents moved to Greene County on the James River near the Webster County line. Watts, born August 10, 1837, in Tennessee, began medical study under Drs. Robinson [Robberson] and Barrett and sat for lectures at St. Louis Medical College. In 1861 he commenced practice in Webster County. (Hol 1883, p. 698) Another doctor out of Greene County was Lorenzo T. Watson. Coming to Greene County in 1853 he studied under Dr. Clinton (probably one of the Dr. Clintons previously mentioned; probably A. S., maybe A. R., A. K. or H. R.) at Ash Grove in 1855, and went to McDowell College in St. Louis in 1856. (Hol 1883 p 836) Watson started practice in Hartville, Wright County, in 1858. He was a surgeon for the 24th Missouri Volunteers and also the Missouri State Militia during the war. Watson had been born in Monroe County, Tennessee, on September 17, 1833.

     The 1860's brought many medical changes to Greene County. A medical "Fee Bill" discovered pasted in a probate book listed Springfield physicians in 1860 and their fees. Doctors previously mentioned on this sheet include E. T. Robberson, H. M. Parrish, B. A. Barrett, Z. Van Hoose , N. P. Murphy, M. M. McCluer , T. D. Wooten , T. Goodall , A. V. Small, and James A. Brown. Not yet noted were P. Burns, Thomas W. Cecil, and William M. Gibson. One, or several of these doctors subscribing to this fee bill, treated conditions more advanced than might be expected for the time. Operations for cataract were performed for $50.00 to $75.00. For an Extirpation of Tonsils or removal, the fee was from $10.00 to $20.00. Cupping, an old procedure seen in an 1847 county medical bill, was done for $1.00. Extracting Teeth cost fifty cents, but if you wanted ether used it was double the price. Operations to remove tumors, reduce fractures, amputate, correct "hare-lip" defects and treating " Gonorrhoea and Syphilis" were available. The last two cures were payable in advance at $5.00 to $10.00 and $20.00 to $50.00 respectively. Other services included post- mortems and "trepanning."

     A post-mortem, or examination of the body, was done on General Nathaniel Lyon killed at Wilson's Creek. Dr. S. H. Melcher washed the body and examined the wounds. Dr. E. C. Franklin, with the Union army, also later examined Lyon's body in Springfield. A post-mortem could include an autopsy but did not necessarily have to. The coroner’s inquest held August 4, 1865, on Harrison J. Ferguson in Springfield, did include one. M. King Moxley, Assistant Surgeon of United States volunteers, performed one assisted by Drs. Murphy (presumably N. P.) and Burns (presumably the P. Burns previously mention in "Physicians Fee Bill.") Previous to death, Harrison's skull had been subjected to a trephine which was a type of drill. A plug of the skull bone had been cut around and lifted. This was done to relieve pressure on the brain. After Harrison's death the skull was opened--possibly by cutting around it and removing the top--and examined. A "large abcess in the middle lobe" was discovered" and a smaller one on the "right cerebellum."

     Many surgeons and doctors passed through Greene County during the Civil War. Surgeon Whitney fought in the defense of Springfield when it was attacked by Confederates in 1863. These army doctors would be another study entirely. Needless to say local doctors benefited from the experience of treating numerous soldiers in the area and working with army surgeons and doctors. From the partnership notes inventory of Drs. G. R. Barrett and N. W. Gray are several military men listed. (probate #349) The Civil War provided much practical experience to area doctors.

     Thus is a not brief enough history of medicine and doctors of early Greene County. It is unfortunate that for many of these medical men--and sometimes women--so little is known. Without more information only a rather sketchy listing of them is now possible.

Robert Neumann is the former Director of the Greene County Archives and Record Center. This article originally appeared in the Greene County Historical Society Bulletin 59, no. 1 (January-April 1997). Thanks are extended to Linda Myers- Phinney, Dr. Thomas P. Sweeney, Amy Langston and Carolyn Snider for reviewing this article.

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