The doctor is here with your tobacco

Posted 7/7/20

Dr. George Washington Robinson, born in Missouri in 1814, came to Texas at the age of 15. At the Siege of Bexar in 1835, he was a member of Captain John Crane’s Company. At San Jacinto he was severely wounded by a large ball that went through his groin while he served in Captain William Ware’s company. After he recovered, on May 31, 1837, he was appointed second lieutenant of a company of mounted gunmen, and in the next year he served in the companies of Captains Elisha Clapp and Daniel Monroe.

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The doctor is here with your tobacco

Posted

The following is a repeat from a couple of years ago. After my first Musings about doctors appeared in print, a friend complained that I had missed some of the earlier doctors. For some, information was scarce, but I had “dug in.” Then I kept finding about others that interested me too. So for the next two weeks, we’ll dive deeper in the world of doctors.

Dr. George Washington Robinson, born in Missouri in 1814, came to Texas at the age of 15. At the Siege of Bexar in 1835, he was a member of Captain John Crane’s Company. At San Jacinto he was severely wounded by a large ball that went through his groin while he served in Captain William Ware’s company. After he recovered, on May 31, 1837, he was appointed second lieutenant of a company of mounted gunmen, and in the next year he served in the companies of Captains Elisha Clapp and Daniel Monroe.

After that, Dr. Robinson practiced medicine for 30 years, mostly in the Elwood community of Madison County. According to some sources, he was a self-educated doctor. His old homestead was near where Old San Antonio Road intersects FM 119 today, convenient for him to minister to area families as well as travelers who had just crossed the Trinity River at Robbins Ferry crossing. Robinson’s previous groin injury prevented him from serving in the Civil War. During those years, he did not charge for treating widows, wives and children of men serving or lost in the war. By then, he had trained two of his daughters to help him. Laurana filled prescriptions and helped in emergency cases, while Julia often traveled with him, serving as his nurse.

Family members later told that Robinson left ledgers revealing that he had provided services to more than 80 families. Numerous entries were included, like “spent night with ___ and remained with the child all day to assist with treatments.” Charges for a home visit usually ran $2 to $3, with an entire night costing $4 to $5, and that usually included medicine administered. Apparently, he would also deliver items requested on his visits, as the ledgers contained notations of charges for tobacco (50 cents), thread (10 cents), and such. Records also included some of his recipes for medicines, and some ending with the name “Kittrell”. Perhaps that meant that Dr. Kittrell trained Robinson or shared recipes with him, but there is no proof of that.

Findagrave restored my faith in it when I searched for information on a Dr. Hayes of the Midway area. In Hayes burial information, I found that Patrick H. Hayes was born 1807 in Ireland and arrived in Texas about 1836. Shortly after that, he enlisted in the Texas army and fought in the war for Texas independence. After being honorably discharged at the end of the war, Hayes moved to Leon County near the Trinity River. He was known as Dr. Hayes, a respected rural doctor who also practiced herbal medicine. In the following years, he amassed large tracts of land that he used for cotton farming and horse breeding. He established three plantations, Seven Oaks, Cairo, and Boggy Creek, all along the Trinity River. Seven Oaks included 7,000 acres, between the current town of Midway and the Trinity River.

When Dr. Hayes was killed by one of the horses he treasured in 1863 or 1864 (sources disagree), he was buried in his small family cemetery on Seven Oaks Plantation. Now the cemetery is on private property and contains only five known graves, with the only marked grave, that of a Hayes daughter and her infant. It is believed that slaves and servants are also buried there. Seven Oaks survived the Civil War and became the home of Patrick’s son, Hugh, and his family.

Doctors Langston James Goree and Pleasant Kittrell come up so much in each other’s stories that I’m putting them together. Dr. Goree (1793-1853) was Dr. Kittrell’s father-in-law. Goree was born in South Carolina and moved to Alabama in 1825. His second wife was Sarah Williams Kittrell, and I could not find how she was related to Dr. Kittrell by blood. I found no records of Dr. Goree’s medical training except one statement, “he was a practitioner of botanic medicine”.

Pleasant Kittrell was born in North Carolina in 1805. He graduated at the age of 17 from the University of North Carolina, and then studied at the medical college of the University of Pennsylvania. In 1824 he left there without a degree and returned to North Carolina to practice medicine. He married -- that first wife died -- and in 1847, he married Mary Goree, daughter of Dr. Langston Goree and (I think) his first wife.

Now, a bit of backtracking is required. At one time Dr. Goree and his wife were associated with Alabama’s Judson College, one of the oldest women’s colleges in the United States. Margaret Lea attended Judson before she married Sam Houston, and she and the Gorees became close friends. When she married Sam Houston in 1840, Mrs. Goree was a member of the wedding party. General Houston joined in the friendship, and at the urging of the Houstons, the Goree and Kittrell families came to Texas, arriving in December, 1850. They stayed with the Houston family while their homes were built, and they moved into their own homes in 1851. The Gorees’ home and farm, Trinity Bend Plantation, was located at the present site of Eastham prison farm, in what is now Houston County. Dr. Goree did not get to enjoy life there for long, dying in 1853. His grave marker is the oldest in Midway, but that left me questioning why he is buried in Midway, when different sites said he died in Houston, Trinity, or Huntsville. Perhaps his body was brought to Midway because his daughter lived there.

Dr. Kittrell built Prairie View Plantation, located in Madison County where the current Ferguson Prison Farm stands. Records showed that he conducted an active medical practice in Madison, Walker, Trinity and Polk counties. After a few years, he moved to Huntsville and became an even closer friend of Sam Houston, whom he also treated as a patient. Sam Houston died in the Steamboat House in 1863, and later Kittrell bought that home and moved his family there. He cared for yellow fever patients when that epidemic hit Huntsville in 1867. Kittrell succumbed to that disease, dying September 29 that year, in the same bedroom that Sam Houston had died in.

Next week, we’ll take a look at some other early doctors, including an appearance by the first car in the county. Madison County Museum, at 201 N. Madison St., Madisonville, TX, is closed at this time.

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