||Medicine in Buncombe
County Down to 1885; Historical and Biographical Sketches,
Gaillard S. Tennent, M.D., Asheville, N.C.
Reprint from the Charlotte Medical, May 1906, Charlotte, N.C.
Medicine in Buncombe County Down to 1885;
Historical and Biographical Sketches.*
By Gaillard S. Tennent, M. D., Asheville,
The act establishing the county of Buncombe
was ratified on the 14th of January, 1792, the new county embracing all
that part of North Carolina lying west of the Blue Ridge, or watershed.
From this large area other counties were cut off from time to time, the
formation of Madison in 1850 reducing it to its present limits, to which
we shall confine ourselves in the following sketches.
Ten years before the formal establishment
of county government the first settlers had crossed the Ridge and
effected permanent settlements on the Swannanoa, and for at least
twenty-five years after the same event we may regard the county as but
the seat of a primitive backwoods settlement.
The only reliable and connected records of
this period available are the court records beginning in 1798 and the
entries in Bishop Asbury's journal made on the occasions of his yearly
visitations in the mountains, quoted by Mr. F. A. Sondley in his article
published at the time of the celebration of Buncombe's centennial, and
from them we are unable to glean more than a trace of anything connected
with the general health conditions or of anyone engaged in the practice
These settlements were about thirty-five
years behind the Piedmont districts of...
*Read before the Buncombe
county Medical Society Nov. 20th, 1905.
...South Carolina, of which an excellent
description is found in the appendix to Ramsey's History of that State
from the pen of Dr. Davis, presumably a citizen of the Piedmont, and
written about the year 1808. He says : "While the upper country has been
growing richer it has declined in health. When the interior of this
country was first settled by white men, and for many years after,
disease was rarely known. This state of things, however, has been
gradually changing from that period to the present. Ever since the last
years of the eighteenth century diseases have multiplied in a ratio much
exceeding the increase of population. Many types and grades incident to
populous and older countries have been introduced with their usual force
and malignancy." The increase he attributes to physical changes in the
face of the country, the gradual revolution in manners and modes of
living and the increasing difficulties attendant upon making a living.
He omits the factor which in the light of modern science would stand at
the head of the list. viz. ; increased facilities for travel,
intercourse and exchange of commodities, germs, etc.
We may with reason assume that the above
conditions existed in the settlement in the formative period in which it
was a more or less isolated colony. After this began what may be termed
a transitionary [sic] period of fifteen or twenty years, dating from the
opening of a passable road into Tennesse [sic], which soon became such a
highway of travel that a Turnpike Company...
...was organized in 1826 to improve and
operate it. The consequent intercourse with more populous communities,
both east and west, must have quickly imported the diseases of
civilization along with its other attendants, while the stream of
emigrants passing through must have left seeds of infection in its wake.
We can only speculate on the probable date
of the appearance of one or two important diseases. Dr. Davis goes on to
say, speaking of fevers : "Agues and fevers are more rare than formerly.
They seem to have been merged in the more virulent forms of bilious
fever." This is clearly typhoid fever, it not being generally recognized
as a specific disease at this time, and though it is possible that no
accidental case came into the settlement earlier, it must have gained a
more or less permanent foothold soon after the tide of travel turned
across the mountains.
"Milk Sick," that mysterious mountain
disease, which was quite common from the time of the earliest
settlements, occurred in the Hominy valley as late as the middle of the
nineteenth century, and even in the eighties there were points of
infection fenced off in pastures in the Pisgah Mountains. The symptoms,
those of severe gastro-enteritis with some variations, were said to
follow the ingestion of milk or butter from an infected cowa [sic] The
origin was variously ascribed to some unknown plant or fungus growth, or
to some mineral poison occurring in certain spots. Scarlet fever and
diphtheria were not...
...unknown in the low country during the
eighteenth century, therefore it may be presumed that they occurred to
some extent before the first authenticated epidemics reported by Dr. J.
A. Reagan in the early sixties. Dr. Reagan also reports a serious
epidemic of pneumonia in 1864.
It is a well known fact that tuberculosis
was a rare disease among the inhabitants up to the end of the time
covered by these sketches.
In the earliest times the practice of
obstetrics and the care of such cases of illness as affected the hardy
race of hunters, whose agricultural operations were secondary, and
shared in largely by the women, were generally in the hands of the
"Granny" of the neighborhood. She was usually a woman of mature years or
even aged, well versed in the arts of primitive medical botany, the
collecting and curing of roots and herbs, as well as the preparation of
"teas." This relic of frontier life has clung to the population with all
the tenacity of superstition, often fostered by necessity, and it is
only in recent years that it is receeding [sic] into the coves and
corners of the county. In the more intelligent households this practice
was improved by the study of some work on family medicine. Accidents,
injuries, etc., were attended to by some man qualified by long
This state of affairs will not cause wonder
when we realize that, according to Ramsey, there were only twelve
natives in the whole State of South Carolina who had obtained degrees in
medicine up to 1778...
...and these from foreign schools, the
remainder of the practice being in the hands of Europeans, and that even
in 1808 most of the plantation practice was domestic in the rich and
populous country around Charleston where disease was rampant.
During this long period the only man known
to have engaged in the art of healing was Geo. Swain, father of the
Governor of that name. In his book of sketches, Gov. (of S. C.) Ben
Perry mentions that while attending school at the Newton Academy in
Asheville he boarded in the home of Geo. Swain, who to the office of
post master and his trade of hat making added the calling of doctor.
Swain came here from Oglethorpe county, Georgia, in 1796 and bought a
lot on the west side of Main street where it is presumed he lived at
In the transitionary
[sic] period above mentioned we cease to grope in the mists of
comparison and surmise wherein our paper was near losing its claim to
the historical, and come upon one fact. Back of this period, in 1793,
there was born in the Reems Creek valley, Robert B. Vance, son of David
Vance, and the youngest of several children. He was the first native of
Buncombe county to adopt the practice of medicine, and, until many years
had passed, the last one, according to the limited data at our command.
We are indebted to Mr. F. A. Sondley for
information concerning Dr. Vance's life obtained from papers in his
possession. This young man, born of a family whose...
...name is now historic, began his short
career of activity with a serious handicap, his left leg being shorter
than its fellow as a result of white swelling. Despite this infirmity,
however, he gained a great notoriety in his nine years of public life.
He studied medicine at the medical school
of Dr. Charles Harris in Cabarrus county, and in 1818 opened his office
in Asheville where he practiced till 1821. Disliking the work, he gave
it up for politics, being able to do this on account of a $5 000 prize
won in a lottery and property left him by his father. He succeeded Felix
Walker, (the man who spoke for Buncombe) as representative for the
Buncombe District in the lower house of the 18th Congress (1823-1825),
but was defeated in 1825 when he ran for the same office by S. P.
Carson. In 1827 Carson again defeated him after a canvass in which Vance
forced Carson to challenge him.
The duel was fought at Saluda Gap on the
South Carolina line in the fall of 1827 when Vance was mortally wounded,
only living a few days. There were present at this duel among others,
Vance's physician, Dr. Geo. D. Phillips, and the celebrated David
Crockett, one of Carson's party.
After Dr. Vance's retirement from practice,
in 1821 the next man of whom we have any knowledge was Dr. George D.
Phillips, who in the early twenties came to Asheville, like many of his
successors, on account of ill health.
Like Dr. Vance he was fond of public
affairs, but, unlike him, his span of public...
...service extended over a half century.
He was born in Amherst county, Virginia, in
the last decade of the eighteenth century, educated at William and Mary,
and graduated in medicine at Jefferson, in Philadelphia. Before coming
to North Carolina he practiced in Newberry and Union, South Carolina,
where he served one term in the State Legisture [sic]. He engaged in
active practice in Asheville, and here he was married in 1823 to
Elizabeth, daughter of James W. Patton. In 1830 he bought property on
Cane Creek, the place now known as Struan, The Lyman home, where he
lived and practiced for six or seven years, moving from there to
Habersham county, Georgia. While a resident of Buncombe he was one of
the promoters of the French Broad Turnpike, above referred to.
After moving to Georgia he was still more
actively engaged in public affairs, being sent to the legislature for
ten years, where he was materially interested in the organization of the
State Medical Board, and the building of the Georgia Railroad and the
State Sanitarium. For many years he was a member of this board, acting
as examiner for North East Georgia. At the time of Sherman's raid he was
superintendent of the Railroad, and was credited with saving most of the
These varied activities exhibit a
strenuosity [sic] of life and the possession of a power of initiative
seldom found in the profession. To the culture and polish of Old
Virginia he added much of the roughhewn strength...
...of the early settler, a combination long
since lost. He died at the age of eighty.
A contemporary and probably a pupil of Dr.
Phillips next claims our attention. J. F. E. Hardy was born in Newberry
District, South Carolina, in 1802, and, though coming from one of the
first families of upper Carolina, he began life in a very obscure
position from which he arose to prominence by virtue of his own efforts
and merit. At an early age he was left an orphan in the care of an uncle
who apprenticed him to a tailor. As a youth he had higher aspirations,
but it is not known whether his renunciation of the work was earlier
than or whether it was on account of the same breakdown in health that
brought him to the mountains.
At any rate, he came to Asheville about
1821 ''with only one lung." which organ, we may state for the benefit of
the specialists, served him in a satisfactory manner for the following
sixty-one years. In 1824 he married Jane Patton, sister of Dr. Phillips'
wife, and shortly thereafter went to Charleston to attend lectures,
graduating at one of the two medical colleges then in existence in that
For fifteen or twenty years Dr. Hardy lived
in the house on the corner of South Main and Eagle Streets, at that time
one of the imposing residences of the town, but for many years
degenerating, till, under the name ''Greasy Corner," its reputation sank
so low as to necessitate its removal this year (1905). It is surprising
to note how many of these old landmarks were either...
...built or occupied by physicians, at one
time or other. Dr. Hardy's first wife did not live long, and in 1840 he
married Miss Erwin of Morganton, soon after which he moved to Swannanoa
Hill which now overlooks Biltmore Bridge.
Here he lived till 1860 when he sold this
fine estate and bought Belleview, on South Main Street, built by his
son-in-law, Gilbert Tennent, in the early fifties as a summer home, and
now owned by Mrs. Buchannon. Soon after the Civil War he withdrew from
practice, and built the brick house on the west side of the
Hendersonville road beyond Biltmore, which like his first home has
recently been torn down. Here he ended his days at the ripe age of
Unlike his predecessors he had little to do
with public service, though his life was an active one, his sphere of
activity being limited to his practice and the cares of his estate which
at length became large for Buncombe of that day.
For many years he was the acknowledged
leader of the profession in Western North Carolina, and to this day his
professional and social position has never been equalled
In general practice he was the most
universally beloved and popular man the profession has known in this
county, his clientelle [sic] embracing, besides his own county, the
Flat Rock settlement, and at times even invading lower South Carolina.
In surgery he was a fearless and skillful
operator, these qualities being severely taxed during the early years
when he was often solated [sic] from professional aid.
Socially he was possessed of engaging and
polished manners, and the broad hospitality dispensed at Swannanoa Hill
and his other homes was long remembered by visitors to the mountains.
Of the children of each marriage the first
son was killed at the age of twenty, James in one of the battles of the
Mexican War, and William in the first battle of Manassas in the Civil
One son, J. Geddings, named after Dr. Eli
Geddings, a life long friend, took up his father's calling.
Another contemporary of Phillips and Hardy,
Dr. John Dickson, was born in Charleston in 1795, graduated from Yale in
1814, and studied medicine and divinity, being pastor of the Asheville
Presbyterian Church in 1843-45. He came here for his health sometime
before 1836, in which year he bought property now located by the
junction of the Biltmore and St. Dunstans roads where he built the house
long known as the Middleton place, recentlv [sic] removed to make room
for St. Dunstans Road. Here he opened a school which he continued after
moving several years later into the house at the corner of Church
Street, where the Dhrumor building now stands.
Elizabeth Blackwell, a native of England,
came here from Cincinnati as an assistant in this school, read medicine
under him, and later through the influence of his brother. Dr. S. H.
Dickson, obtained the first Medical diploma granted a woman in this
Dr. Dickson died in 1847, and this year
a tablet to his memory in the wall of the First Presbyterian Church.
From the thirties two more names come down
to us, Dr. Milton, who practiced in the Hominy Valley, moving from there
to Georgia about 1832, and Dr. Osborne from Haywood county, who
practiced in Asheville for a short time.
About this time two distinguished names
were connected with Asheville; Dr. S. H. Dickson and Dr. Eli Geddings,
both of Charleston, spent many summers here. Dr. S. H. Dickson, whose
name stands in the front rank of practitioners of his day, was a brother
of John Dickson. He built Swannanoa Hill and later, Forest Hill, at
which place he entertained large parties of guests in the lavish style
of the antebellum days.
Dr. Eli Geddings was in the first class
graduating from the Medical College of South Carolina and filled at
different times several chairs in this and the succeeding institution.
In "Green's Pelvic Organs" we read that he was the first operator to
pare the edges in the operation for cervical lacerations.
Dr. Thomas C. Lester, another South
Carolinian, came here a young man about 1841, and opened an office in
South Main Street opposite, the head of Eagle Street. Some time after
coming here he was married to Miss Happoldt, of Morganton, and before
his death, which occurred in 1854, he had succeeded in building up an
Dr. Barnard Weaver, son of James...
...Weaver of Reems Creek, was practicing in
northern Buncombe in the forties. About 1858 he went to Missouri where a
few years later he met a tragic death. He had [sic] sold some stock and
was murdered for the money.
The next accession to the ranks, Dr. Morgan
Lines Neilson, deserves a greater tribute than these few weak lines. He
was a plain and unassuming man of the highest ideals, always exhibiting
that large sympathy so endearing in the family physician, of which he
was a perfect type. His services did not always end with advice and
prescription, but often embraced some of the arduous duties of the nurse
in a critical period, a custom common among physicians of his time. Dr.
Neilson did not give up this practice as it fell into disuse in later
years, and a half century of this sort of work coupled with his large
marriage connection so closely identified him with this country that it
was generally lost sight of that he was not a native Buncombite [sic].
He was born in East Tennessee in 1822,
educated at Tusculum College, and came to Asheville in 1839. He attended
lectures at the old Transylvania University, and in 1844 married Laura
Vance, sister to the Senator, and started practice. His home, with the
exception of two years spent in the California gold fields, was the old
Fulton place, 254 North Main Street, until the beginning of the war.
At the outbreak of the Civil War he entered
the 14th N. C. Infantry as surgeon, serving in the same regiment to the
end. Following this he spent six years in South...
...Carolina. Returning to Asheville, he lived
at 71 Woodfin Street till his death in 1894.
He was associated in practice with Dr. W.
L. Hilliard in the early days and later with Dr. Cain.
Dr. David J. Gibson, another associate of
Dr. Neilson, came here in the forties from Tennessee. He married Miss
Harriet Johnston, daughter of William Johnston, and after a few years
moved to Jonesboro, Tennessee.
Dr. Charles N. Candler came to Asheville
some time before 1850 from the present Madison county. His office was on
the north west corner of the Square, where he practiced several years
before being infected with the western fever, and succumbing to this
disease seemingly common among the young physicians of his time. He
returned to Leicester after the war, where he practiced upwards of
During the decade beginning with 1850 the
ranks of the profession were recruited by an influx of young men of
ability, who, for the most part, came to stay. Four of them are with us
yet, three being still engaged in practice.
Dr. William Lewis Hilliard was born in 1823
in Hall county, Georgia, of North Carolina parentage, grew to manhood in
Spartanburg, where he began the study of medicine. About 1845 we find
him in Asheville, studying with Dr. Lester. After attending lectures in
New York, he entered the Philadelphia Medical College and graduated in
1850, in which year he entered into partnership with Dr. Lester.
Some time previous to this a political
disagreement with an editor named John Hyman led to a duel, which was
fought at Saluda Gap. Unlike the former occasion this was the cause of
no serious damage. These two instances are the only practical references
to the code chronicled, in which medical men of our county were
In 1854 Dr. Hilliard was married to
Margaret Love, daughter of James R. Love, of Haywood, and moved into the
house so long a landmark on the Hilliard lot, replaced in 1886 by the
present building. His office was at first a small, two roomed structure
at the corner of Willow and South Main Streets.
During more than forty years Dr. Hilliard
devoted himself with untiring self-sacrifice to the relief of the sick
and suffering without respect of rank or circumstance. He was a perfect
type of that masterpiece evolved by nineteenth century conditions and
culture, the family physician, and he exemplified the strength of the
bonds between that type and its votaries in holding the same clientelle
[sic] through antebellum prosperity, reconstructional [sic] depression
and the instability of the growing city.
Dr. Hilliard's war record was a
distinguished one. His first commission was from the Governor as Surgeon
in the 1st N. C. Cavalry, in May, 1861. Six months later this was
confirmed by President Davis, the regiment being then known as the 9th N
C. After a few months he was transferred to hospital duty at Knoxville,
and in September, 1862, was appointed by the...
...Surgeon General, Chief Surgeon of Division.
In August, 1863, he was appointed president
of an examining board to meet at Knoxville to examine applicants for
When Bragg's army fell back from Tennessee
the order came for him to open up hospitals at Dalton, Ga., in
anticipation of a great battle. This was Chickamauga. Here he became
critically ill, and a long convalescence caused his return to Asheville
, where he was in charge of the hospitals at this post till the end of
In 1890 death suddenly ended his career.
Three sons, however, have lengthened the medical services of this
J. S. T. Baird, a grandson of Bedent Baird,
one of the Pioneers, was born on Beaverdam in 1831, attended lectures in
Charleston and graduated at Jefferson in 1851. After a few years'
practice here, he went to Tennessee. Moving back to Buncombe in a short
time, he settled on Beaverdam where he now lives, having given up
practice since 1887. His son, the late Harry L. Baird, was once
president of our society.
During the war Dr. Baird served on the
conscription examining board with Dr. D. T. Millard who came under
orders from eastern Carolina for the purpose.
Dr. Millard, it maybe here stated, though
long a resident of Asheville never engaged in active practice here.
In the early years of this decade Drs.
Geddings, Hardy, Stevens and Fletcher were fellow students under Dr.
...and the elder Hardy.
J. Geddings Hardy was born in Asheville in
1829. Here he spent his childhood and youth, and following in the
footsteps of his father went to Charleston, where he graduated in
medicine in 1851. After practicing in Asheville a short time, he moved
to the Georgia Seaboard where he married and lived until commissioned
Assistant Surgeon in the Bethel N. C, regiment, in which he served till
the close of the war.
Returning to Asheville, he again took up
practice, and continued in active service till shortly before his death
in 1885. His home was in Church Street, just below the rectory of
He fell heir to a large share of his
father's practice, and being a man of ability with the same faculty for
making friends, he was only prevented from rivalling [sic] his father's
success and brilliancy by the depression, mental as well as material, of
this sad period.
Beginning with his return home he began a
series of metereological [sic] observations, supposed to be the ones on
which were based the table referred to below.
James Mitchell Stevens was born on
Swannanoa in 1827. His childhood and youth were spent at the old Stevens
homestead on the Hendersonville road, another old landmark recently
gone. He studied medicine in Asheville and attended lectures in
Charleston, taking up the practice in 1853 in Asheville, where he
remained until 1859, when he removed to Leicester. While in Asheville he
was married to Miss Cath-
||erine Cecilia Corpening.
Upon the sounding of the call to arms he was commissioned Captain, in
which capacity he served a short time until transferred to the surgical
service in the 60th N.C.
In 1865 he was engaged in practice with Dr. Boyd in Asheville, soon,
however, returning to Leicester, his present home, after a short sojourn
in the west.
One familiar with the physical difficulties and the conditions of life
met with in practicing in the outlying portions of our county, the real
mountains, needs hear no higher tribute than this to the moral, mental
and physical strength back of this career : Dr. Stevens still continues
to ride to every call as erect and as resourceful as at any time these
fifty odd years.
After Dr. Stevens the next native of the county to take up medicine bid
fair to rival any of this group of young men in the extent of his wide
and useful practice when he was cut off in his prime. John Daniel
Reynolds was born at the old Reynolds home on the Sulphur Springs road
in 1832. He graduated in medicine at Nashville in 1854. In which year he
was married to Theresa E. Sheppard, of Yancey, and settled in Asheville
on the Reynolds lot, corner of North Main and Woodfin Street, where his
small office building still stands.
He served throughout the war in the 29th N.C. in a surgical capacity.
After only a few years more of practice he died in 1874, too soon to see
more than the dawn of his county's prosperity. His only surviving...
||...son is Dr. Carl V.
Here we must digress a mile or so across the Henderson border to pay our
meed [sic] to the memory of another long life of country practice
covering a large area in southern Buncombe.
George W. Fletcher, grandson of another pioneer, was born at the old
Fletcher place across Cane Creek in 1829. His active life of practice
began in 1855 in which year he graduated in Charleston. He built the
present Fletcher home, and married Elizabeth Clayton, who survives him.
Here he practiced until a short time before his death in 1901, endearing
himself to a large circle of friends, comprising, besides the native
population, a number of low country planters who had summer homes in the
He was a man of strong personality and opinion, of rugged strength, yet
withal, of broad sympathy. One son, Dr. M. H. Fletcher, adopted his
Dr. James Americus Reagan is the only survivor of the first effort at
organized medicine in our county. He was born in Bradley county,
Tennessee, in 1824, and moved to Weaverville, his present home, in 1851,
being then a circuit rider in the Methodist Church. After graduating in
medicine at Shelby in 1859 he added the practice of physic to this
service of the church. For many years his regular work extended over a
wider scope of territory than that of any one in the county, taking in
parts of Madison and Yancey.
In 1867-68 Dr. Reagan was vice-president...
||...of the first Buncombe
County Medical Society. Later, when it was re-organized for a time, he
was vice president again for one year and president for the two
remaining years of its existence. In 1884 he was appointed on the State
Board of Medical Examiners.
His marriage to Miss Mary Weaver made for him a large connection in the
county, and his many years of devotion to the spiritual as well as
bodily welfare of a large following have won a place for him that will
never again be filled. Dr. Reagan has always been the deepest student
and the most scholarly of our country physicians, his facile pen still
at times enriching the medical annals of the State.
Another student of Dr. Milliard's, George H. Thrash, was born in the
Turkey Creek section in 1834. He attended lectures at the National
Medical College in Washington and in 1859 entered upon his long career
of country practice in the Hominy Valley, where he still lives and
practices. He was a surgeon in the Militia during the war.
Before leaving the fifties mention should be made of Dr. J. L. Crumley,
one of the first ''birds of passage" in the profession, who came here
about 1852, and moved on in two or three years. Dr. Foreman, another,
came into the Hominy Valley from Transylvania, and during the war moved
on to Haywood.
In 1860 Daniel F. Summey, a native of Lincoln County, who had studied
under the elder Hardy, graduated in medicine at the University of the
City of New York...
||...and began work here.
He served through the war in the Quartermaster Department under Col.
Stephen D. Lee, after which he practiced in Asheville until 1885. He
then moved to Leicester where he now lives though not in active
Another graduate of this period was Dr. Joseph McDowell, brother of the
late Maj. W. W. McDowell of this city. For some time before the
war he was in charge of the old Warm Springs Hotel. His war record was
in the line where he rose to the rank of Colonel.
During the four years of war Dr. J. F. E. Hardy was the only physician
who practiced uninterruptedly in Asheville, all of the others being in
some way or at some time connected with the army. A complete war record
of the county from a medical standpoint will not be attempted. In most
cases the command in which engaged is all the information available as
to these medical officers whose services are here chronicled. The only
remaining names connected with the military service are those of Drs. R.
W. Cooper and David M. Gudger.
Dr. Cooper was on the surgical staff of the 60th N. C., and practiced
for many years in the Fairview section.
David M. Gudger was a private and corporal in "Zeb Vance's Company" in
the 14th N. C. until wounded in "The Seven Day's Fight,"
furloughed and entered the Q. M. Department of the Western Army.
His medical services date from 1868 when he graduated at the University
||phia after studying with
Dr. Holt. Dr. Gudger was born at the old Gudger place in the Lower
Hominy Valley which continues to be his home, though he has given up
Dr. E. P. Holt, above mentioned, came to Asheville from Alamance county
in 1865, and practiced a year or two with Dr. Summey. Dr. Boyd, of
Mecklenburg, also practiced here in 1865.
About this time Dr. Daniel J. Cain, of Charleston, made Asheville his
home. He was a man of the highest professional attainments, scholarly,
possessed of a most pleasing personality and the courtly manners of the
He was born in St. John's. Berkeley, South Carolina, in 1815, graduated
at South Carolina College, and in medicine at Charleston, after which he
spent two or three years studying in Paris. During his practice in
Charleston he served on the staff of the Roper Hospital for eight years,
and of the Marine Hospital for fifteen years. Soon after coming here he
opened a sanitorium [sic] at Swannanoa Hill which he conducted for two
years, treating among others some consumptives. His home for many years
was on South Main Street just below Hilliard Lane, and it was here that
he died in 1888.
In 1886 Dr. Cain received a fee of $6.000 for a visit to Europe, the
largest single fee, so far as known, ever received by a physician in
this county up to that time.
In 1855 Dr. Charles Tennent, father of the writer, built Edgehill, in
more recent years the home of Maj. H. C. Hunt until...
||...destroyed by fire a few
years ago. This place he used as a summer home occasionally till 1868,
in which year he moved to Asheville. He was born in Charleston in 1812,
graduated at Amherst in 1834, and in medicine at Charleston in 1836. In
1870 he moved into the Lower Hominy Valley where he practiced in a local
way till his death in 1881.
The first homeopath to make his home here was Dr. Charles Cliff. He came
from Indianapolis in 1869, in which year he graduated at Hanneman, in
Chicago, and settled at Swannanoa where he now lives. Of Dr. Gatchell.
another homeopath who came about this time and of Dr. Gleitsmann we
shall have occasion to speak further on.
Dr. I. A Harris, who had attended lectures at Philadelphia, and
adjourned with other Southerners to Richmond on account of the war,
moved into northern Buncombe about this time. He is still engaged in
practice, being at present on the Pension Board.
Dr. Gabriel F. O'Brian, of Cincinnati, also a homeopath, came to
Asheville in search of health in 1871. He only lived a few years after
coming here, during which time he engaged in practice.
In 1874 Dr H. B. Weaver settled in Weaverville after two years' practice
in Mitchell county. He was born in Weaverville in 1851, studied under
Dr. Reagan, and graduated in medicine from Washington University,
Baltimore, in 1872. He is the only western man ever honored with the
presidency of our State Medical Society.
||His practice in Asheville
dates from 1886.
A commentary on the practice of these times is contained in the
following advertisement from an Asheville paper of 1871 : "Dr. ——— will
attend all medical calls promptly. Prompt pay required in cash or
produce." We do more scientific and hair splitting advertising nowadays.
Beginning with Dr. Weaver and up to 1884 most of those whose names
appear in the annals of medicine are still with us one exception being
Dr. Percy Norcop, who was a sojourner here for a year or two about 1881.
We will therefore obey the spirit of the old Greek maxim, "Call no man
happy till he is dead," and only record the names and advent of the
group of men collecting here in this period. The first of this
number, Dr. R. I. Wilson, is still practicing in the Swannanoa
section, where he was born and reared. Dr. William D. Milliard graduated
at Jefferson and took up work with his father in 1878 Dr. W. C.
Brownson, of Connecticut, came in 1878; Dr. John Hey Williams, a native
of Kentucky, in 1879; Dr. William J. Clontz, of Alexander, engaged in
practice about 1880; Dr. James A. Burroughs, a Virginian, came in 1882;
and Dr. A. M. Ballard, of Massachusetts, in 1884.
In this year, 1884, Dr. John Anderson Watson began his useful career in
Asheville. He was born in York county, South Carolina, in 1849,
graduated at South Carolina University and took up the study of medicine
at the University of Maryland, where he graduated in 1872. After some
||...spent in practice at
Chester, S. C., he came to Asheville and soon made a name for himself in
gynecology, being an unerring diagnostician and a skillful operator. He
was president of our society in 189—, which by his death in 1902 lost
one of its most loved and valued members.
In 1884 came also Dr. Wardlaw McGill, a native of Maryland, who, after
graduating in Baltimore some years before, had been engaged in Eye, Ear
and Throat work in his native town, Frederick. This work he took up
here, and despite the feeble state of his health, his ability and his
pleasing disposition won for him a good practice and many friends during
his short stay. The climate had cured several of his immediate
predecessors, but it was not infallible, and death claimed him in 1888.
Those whom curiosity or interest may incline to sift the wheat from the
chaff of the threshing begun by the act of 1885 are respectfully
referred to the records of the Court Clerk.
For what has come down to us concerning the first and second Buncombe
County Medical Societies, the present one being the third, we are
indebted to the memory of Dr. J. A. Reagan, wherein is chronicled the
only remaining record of these two early efforts. In 1867 the first
society was formed, meeting once a month, with Dr. J. F. E. Hardy,
President, J. A. Reagan, Vice President, and J. G. Hardy, Secretary.
This organization lasted two years with the same officers and a small
membership. A year or two later it was reorgan-
||ized with Dr. D. J. Cain as
President, and Dr. J. A. Reagan Vice President. These officers were
elected the next year and during the third and fourth years Dr. Reagan
No further attempt was made at organization till 1885 when the present
society had its birth. The original paper written on Jan. 12th, 1885,
calling for a meeting on Jan. 26th, for the purpose of organizing the
society, is now in the possession of Dr. J. A. Burroughs. It bears the
following signatures: J. A. Burroughs, Wardlaw McGill, J. G. Hardy, D.
J. Cain, M. L. Neilson, John Watson, W. W. Clark, W. D. Milliard,
John Hey Williams, W. C. Brownson and J. M. Stevens.
The importance of the county as a health resort is so great that a brief
outline of this feature can only be attempted in this connection. If we
are allowed the privilege of stepping a few miles beyond the present
compass of the county, we will find that the region was known as a
health resort some years before its settlement by the whites. To quote
from Mr. Sondley's article : ''The Warm Spring on the French Broad had
been discovered in 1778 by Henry Reynolds and Thomas Morgan, two men
kept out in advance of the settlements" (in Tennessee) "to watch the
movements of the Indians. They had followed some stolen horses to the
point opposite, and waded the river. On the southern shore, in passing
through a little branch they were surprised to find the water warm. 'The
next year,' says Ramsey, 'the Warm Springs were resorted to...
||...by invalids.' "
The first consumptive to visit Asheville, so far as we know, was Dr.
Hardy, who came in 1821. He was cured, at least he lived here in good
health for 61 years.
The first movement towards making a regular summer resort of Asheville
for some reason failed. About 1827 Judge King, of Charleston, and
Charles Baring, of the well known firm of Baring Brothers, then living
in Charleston, came to Asheville to plant a little colony of summer
refugees, driven annually by the heat and fevers from the south. Meeting
with opposition, they bought the land now comprising the Flat Rock
The town, however, continued to be visited by invalids, many of whom
were consumptives, off and on till 1870 when the publication of a
pamphlet drew wider attention to it. This pamphlet, which was
distributed at twenty cents per copy, bore the following title : (I)
"Western North Carolina, its Agricultural resources. Mineral wealth,
Climate, Salubriety and Scenery. By H. P. Gatchell, M. D., etc.
Published by E. J. Aston. Esq., Asheville. Buncombe County North
Carolina." The author treats of the climatic advantages with a degree of
moderation and accuracy that could have been copied to advantage by many
succeeding writers. He states that in 1870 there were many people living
in Asheville at an advanced age who had "come there as invalids early in
life in the hope of being able to prolong a little their stay on earth."
In this connection he quotes enthusiastic...
||...words from the pen of Dr.
S. H. Dickson. Here appears for the first time the table comparing
Asheville's climate with that of Geneva, Turin, Milan and Vienne , which
has been used in many pamphlets, most of which failed to state that it
was based on only four years of observations at Asheville, and most of
them confuse "Vienne," the French town, with Vienna.
The writer, who was a professor in Hanneman College, Chicago, for some
years conducted at Forest Hill the first sanitorium [sic] for
consumptives ever attempted here.
The following pamphlets were circulated after the above :
(2) "Life in North Carolina,'7 a reprint from the London Daily News,
Aug. 8th, 1874.
(3) "Western North Carolina," by Beale and Martin, Asheville, 1875.
(4) "Western North Carolina as a Health Resort," by Dr. J. W.
Gleitsmann, reprinted from Philadelphia Med. and Surg. Reporter, Feb.,
(5) "Biennial Report of the Mountain Sanitarium for Pulmonary Diseases,
(6) "The American Mountain Sanitarium at Asheville," by Stanford E.
Chaille, New Orleans Med. and Surg. Journal, April, 1878.
(7) "The Land of the Sky, Nature's Trundle Bed of Recuperation," by
'"Guy Cyril," (Hinton R. Helper), about 1880.
Several of these to the number of 64,000 were circulated by Dr. J. W.
Gleitsmann, who was the* first recognized authority to write at length
on this subject.
Dr. J. W. Gleitsmann was
a German by birth, a graduate of the University of Wurzburg and a
pioneer in his special line of work. He came here from Baltimore in 1875
after hunting through the Virginia mountains for a suitable location. On
June 1st, 1875, he opened the Mountain Sanitarium for Pulmonary Diseases
at the old Carolina House which stood opposite to the Sluder place on
North Main Street. Here he treated on an average twenty to twenty-five
patients daily for five years, practically all of them coming from a
distance; in the winter from the north and in the summer from the south.
Dr. Gleitsmann states that of all this number there were not more than a
dozen lung patients from the town or immediate vicinity. During the
sixth and last year of his stay he treated his patients at the Eagle
He gives as his reason for throwing up the work and leaving Asheville,
failure to obtain a suitable house wherein to carry on the work. It may
be presumed that had the more enterprising citizens realized the immense
results to accrue from Dr. Gleitsmann's advertising, the difficulty
would have been overcome, and the Woodfin House which the doctor desired
for a sanitarium would have been obtained for him. As it was Dr.
Gleitsman [sic] probably did more than any other one man to bring this
place into notoriety, for since his time the stream of travel has been