Monday, October 13, 2014

Medical Doctors: Caswell County, North Carolina

Early Caswell County Medical Doctors

In the early 1800’s, medical training was by apprenticeship. By 1810 there were five practicing physicians in Caswell County, North Carolina:

Dr. John McAden
Dr. William S. Webb
Dr. Samuel Dabney
Dr. James Smith
Dr. Edward Foulks.

Perhaps Solomon Debow, as well as his son, Archibald Debow, apprenticed under one of these Caswell County physicians.

Source: Biography of Dr. Solomon Debow, M.D. (1780-1831), Caswell County Historical Association.

Subsequently, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School became a source of medical training for several Caswell County doctors.

Included in the 1840-1841 University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine class were eight students from Caswell County, North Carolina.

Catalogue of the Trustees, Officers & Students of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Medical Class Session 1840-41. Matriculants:

Name                      County           State

Anderson, John Q. Caswell, North Carolina.
Collins, Allen T. Caswell, North Carolina.
Currie, Shelby S. Caswell, North Carolina.
Price, James A. Caswell, North Carolina.
Walker, James C. Caswell, North Carolina.
Watt, William M. Caswell, North Carolina.
Wright, Weldon E. Caswell, North Carolina.
Yancey, Albert G. Caswell, North Carolina.


Dr. Lancelot Johnston, M.D. (1748-1832)

Caswell County's first surgeon. See: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 607-608 (Article #836, "Albert Gallatin Yancey M.D." by Katharine Kerr Kendall). Dr. Lancelot Johnston was the maternal grandfather of Dr. Albert Gallatin Yancey.

Four of the children of Dr. Lancelot Johnston migrated to Madison, Georgia; three remained in Caswell County.

The earliest known doctor-surgeon of Caswell County was Launcelot Johnston. Born at Ardess, County Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1748. His parents descended from the Scottish House of Annandale.He received his medical education at the University of Dublin and came to America before 1770. Source: The Caswell Messenger, Wednesday, June 23, 1976 (article by Mrs. A. Y. Kerr).

Dr. Lancelot Johnston, an Irishman, served as a surgeon in the American Revolution. The Colonial records of North Carolina show that Dr. Johnston served in N.C. Militia in 1771 from Orange County, having served 60 days at 2 shillings per day. In 1777 he received a commission from the Congress of the United States, signed by John Hancock, appointing him "Surgeon of the 9th Battalion in the Army of the United States, raised for the defending of American liberty and for repelling every invasion thereof " according to his Commission preserved by relatives in Alabama.

In 1778 he was appointed regimental surgeon of the levy of Continental troops about to be raised from Hillsborough and Salisbury districts to the assistance of South Carolina during that campaign. Colonial records show he was advanced 150 lbs. for the purchase of medicine for troops. After the Battle of Camden, he was commended for his treatment of the wounded, the citation being delivered before the N. C. Legislature in 1780. After the Revolutionary War, he returned to the relative peace of private practice for the next 40 years at Locust Hill (his residence in Caswell County), remaining active almost until his death. Source: Mark Phelps

Lancelot Johnston, who was born in Ireland, served as surgeon of North Carolina troops during the war. His commission [p.8] is now valued by his descendants. He died in Caswell county, aged eighty-four.

Source: National Society, Daughters of the American Revolution. Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books, 152 vols. [database on-line] Provo, UT:, 1998.

A daughter of Dr. Lancelot Johnston married Dr. Elijah Evans Jones (1795-1876). Whether Dr. Jones practiced medicine in Caswell County is not known.

Medical care was inadequate [before the Civil War], of course, in most of the state, but Caswell County generally was more fortunate than many other counties. In 1823 there were 273 doctors in 56 counties, an average of about five per county. Halifax County with the most had fourteen, and Caswell was second with thirteen. Dr. James E. Williamson of Caswell was one of a small group of doctors, several of whom were also members of the legislature, who met and "resolved to issue a call to the medical men of the State to organize." A meeting was held in the clerk's room of the Senate Chamber of January 27, 1849, and the Medical Society of North Carolina was the result.

In 1850 there was an impressive number of doctors practicing in Caswell County. They ranged in age from a youthful 20 to 59. [Name, Age, Birthplace, Residence, where known]:

Robert N. Boles (Born: Connecticut; Residence: Milton)
Samuel E. Brackin (Born: Caswell County)
William Brooks (Born: Virginia; Residence: Milton)
Bedford Brown (Born: Virginia; Residence: Milton)
Jackson L. Collins (Age: 22; Born: Caswell County)

John Comer (Age 59; Born: Caswell County)
David M. Currie (Born: Caswell County; Residence: Yanceyville)
Charles R. Dodson (Born: Granville County; Residence: Milton)
John C. Garland (Born: Virginia)
Allen Gunn (Born: Caswell County; Residence: Yanceyville)

Wiley Jones (Born: Franklin County; Residence: Milton)
Thomas Martin (Born: Caswell County)
James P. Pennise (Age: 25; Born Caswell County)
John Pittard (Born: Caswell County)
Stephen F. Richmond (Born: Caswell County)

N. M. Roan (Age: 47; Born: Caswell County; Residence: Yanceyville)
Ajax Walker (Born: Virginia; Residence: Milton)
William M. Wethers [Withers] (Age: 20; Born: Caswell County)
James E. Williamson (Born: Caswell County)
John L. Williamson (Born: Caswell County)

John Wilson (Age: 22; Born: Caswell County; Residence: Milton)
Albert G. Yancey (Born: Caswell County; Residence: Yanceyville)

The 1850 census also reported two dentists in the county: Elija W. Owen, 27, a native of the county, and John D. Wimple, 41, a native of New York. Wimple's wife and children were all natives of Caswell County, however. James R. Callum, 33, a native of Raleigh, was a druggist in Milton.

The number of doctors by 1860 had declined somewhat, with five living in Yanceyville but none in Milton:

Thomas Badgett (Age: 22; Residence: Blackwells)
Samuel F. Bracken (Age: 40; Residence: Blackwells)
T. C. Dodson (Age: 32; Residence: Yanceyville)
A. G. Henderson (Age: 28; Residence: Yanceyville)
W. H. Henderson (Age: 30; Residence: Yanceyville)
J. G. Lea (Age: 20; Residence: Yanceyville)
S. F. Richmond (Age: 35; Residence: Yanceyville)
E. M. Scott (Age: 30; Residence: Graves)
James E. Williamson (Age: 59; Residence: Locust Hill)

There were three dentists: E. H. Hooper, 29, and W. P. Hooper, only 19, both at Blackwells, and J. D. Wimple, now 51, and practicing in Yanceyville. 

Source: Powell, William S. When the Past Refused to Die, A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977. Durham (North Carolina): Moore Publishing Company, 1977. 164-165. Print.

See: Caswell County Doctors

Yanceyville Medical Doctors (draft list):
1. Thomas Lea Gwynn (1928-
2. Houston Lafayette Gwynn (1896-1963)
3. Stephen Arnold Malloy (1872-1944)
4. William Oliver Spencer (1863-1938)*
5. James Scott Doak (1864-1892)
6. William Henry (Buck) Henderson (1828-1909)
7. Albert Gallatin Yancey (1817-1887)
8. Allen M. Gunn (1807-1884)
9. Preston Roan (1842-1882)
10. Nathaniel Moore Roan (1803-1879)
11. Bedford Brown, Jr. (1823-1897)**
12. John Edmunds Brown (1800-1846)
*Left Yanceyville around 1906.
**Practiced in Yanceyville until start of the Civil War.
*** Dr. Lancelot Johnston (1748-1832) is Caswell County's earliest known physician/surgeon, but he is associated with Locust Hill and not Yanceyville.

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