Doctors of Early Giles County

Pulaski Citizen

Doctors Training Often Poor in 19th Century  ©
The Pulaski Citizen’s 19th Century editions noted graduation of local men from medical school and often reported activities of the county’s physicians. Doctors advertised with a professional “card” each week, with some of the practicing physicians taking larger ads to promote their drug store or other pursuits (often banking or insurance). Medical schools advertised regularly, and occasionally a doctor wrote a letter or CITIZEN editor L.W. McCord published an opinion that doctors should be better educated. Most doctors learned their trade through apprenticeships with practicing physicians, which provided the doctors with needed extra income and cheap labor. Hence the profession was unwilling to replace the proprietary schools and apprenticeship system with more appropriate education. Opening a medical school required only a hall and a group of physicians willing to lecture. Students bought tickets for the lectures, producing hefty supplemental incomes for physicians, who earned little from patient care. Most schools had no admission requirements, and money was the motivating force in accepting students, who were often unruly and undisciplined, and sometimes illiterate. No clinical practice, aside from apprenticeship, was offered to augment lectures. Learning by dissection was difficult since most states prohibited dissecting human corpses, and students either had to bring their own cadavers or colleges employed body snatchers to steal corpses. In an effort to improve standards, state medical societies fought colleges for the right to license physicians through examinations. But most were forced to accept either passing an examination or a diploma from a college as proof of ability, and as states did away with licensing in the middle of the century, even these criteria were dropped. Finally, in 1869 Harvard set a new standard by extending its medical college's school year from four months to nine, requiring both written and oral examinations and establishing a three-year curriculum. But it was not until Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876 that medical education improved significantly, because clinical practice became a requirement as an integral part of training.
Giles County Served by Distinguished Physicians  ©
Compiled by Claudia Johnson
Pulaski Citizen staff writer

Pioneer DR. GABRIEL BUMPASS, who carved the first road through the county from the 
canebrake and became the first postmaster, practiced medicine at Crosswater and over 
a large extent of country, as there were but few physicians in the county in its 
earliest days of settlement.  Bumpass was a learned and skillful physician but a man
of great eccentricity of character so much so that his influence was affected by it, 
according to James McCallum’s 1876 History of Giles County, which was published in 
1928 by the Pulaski Citizen.

Physicians who began practicing medicine in Pulaski around the time of the county’s 
founding in 1809 were Dr. Gilbert D. Taylor, a surgeon on Andrew Jackson’s medical 
staff during the War of 1812, Pulaski’s first mayor, Dr. Elisha Eldridge, and Dr. 
Shadrack Nye, who practiced medicine in Pulaski before its incorporation, Dr. David
Woods, Dr. Alfred Flournoy and Dr. Charles Perkins.

CHARLES CLAYTON ABERNATHY, M. D. was born near Pulaski Oct. 9, 1827. In 1848
he began the study of medicine under Dr. R. G. P. White and in the spring of 1851 he
was graduated at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1862 he went on duty as a 
commissioned surgeon in the Army of Tennessee at the hospital at Chattanooga. In 
December 1862, at his request, he was transferred to the 18th Tennessee Infantry, Col. 
J. B. Palmer's regiment, Gen. John C. Brown's brigade, and served as the surgeon of 
this regiment until after the battle of Chickamauga, when he was transferred to the 
Third Tennessee Regiment, and continued to occupy that position until the close of 
the war. At the time of the surrender he was a prisoner of war at Fort Delaware until 
release July 19, 1865. In the fall of the same year he resumed the practice of 
medicine in Pulaski.

In a 1872 CITIZEN advertisement for Abernathy’s practice with Dr. J. F. Grant, who 
returned to Pulaski to practice medicine in Dec. 1871, according to a CITIZEN article, 
the physicians assure patients,
“Special attention given to surgery. Having had ample experience in the Army during 
the war and being supplied with all the appliance necessary, they feel fully prepared 
to treat all cases entrusted to their care.”

Dr. C. C. Abernathy of this city was elected President of the State Medical Society in 
Nashville last Tuesday, the honor is well and worthily bestowed. Nearly all our 
physicians went up Monday to attend the meeting.

April 3, 1873
DR. JAMES SUMPTER, both physician and druggist, DR. J.C. ROBERTS of Bethel and 
DR. CC. ABERNATHY practiced medicine in Pulaski during the Civil War. Sumpter and 
Abernathy were exiled from Pulaski during the Union occupation and Roberts was captured 
and held prisoner. These men advertised weekly in the post-Civil War issues of the 
Pulaski Citizen.

Country doctors included M.S. WATERS of Stella, JOSEPH MASON of Prospect, W.E. 
LANCASTER and his sons, A.J. and G.W. and GRANT NELSON, R.E. AND LEONARD 
AYMETT of Pisgah.  Campbellsville was served by Drs. Berry, Campbell, Herbert, 
Upshaw, Hulme, Voorhies, Fitzgerald and Copland. Bethel produced nine doctors who 
practiced in the area, including Dr. Van Edmundson and Dr. Louie Edmundson, who 
received a commendation from then University of Tennessee for his 50 years of service 
to the community.

DR. GEORGE DEJARNETTE BUTLER was one of the most prominent physicians and 
surgeons in his section of the state. Born in Giles county on July 10, 1856, obtained 
his medical degree from University of Louisville in 1876, took postgraduate work at 
Bellevue Hospital in 1884 and attended the Polyclinic at New York City in 1889.
Immediately after receiving his degree Dr. Butler located at Aspen Hill and practiced 
there from 1876 to 1884. The following year he relocated to Pulaski, where he opened 
offices and built up an extensive and lucrative patronage. He was on the medical board 
during the World War I and was appointed as assistant surgeon of the Tennessee State 
Militia by Governor Robert L. Taylor.

Elkton physician DR. JOHN HAMLIN CAMP began practicing in 1817 after graduation 
from the University of Pennsylvania. A graduate of Maine Medical College and Jefferson 
Medical College, DR. CHARLES N. ORDINAY practiced first in Elkton and
Pulaski before relocating to Nashville. After serving in the Civil War, DR. 
ANDREW GLAZE, completed medical studies and resumed practice in Elkton. 
DR. BEN CARTER practiced medicine when he lived in Elkton, but after moving 
to Pulaski, became a leading businessman, often mentioned in the Pulaski Citizen for 
his civic activities.

CHARLES ALFRED ABERNATHY, M. D., born April 1, 1853, attended lectures at the 
University of Louisville, graduating from the institution as an M. D. The 
CITIZEN reported on Oct. 28, 1875, that Abernathy had set up practice in the Brown 
building on the west side of the square. Later he received a diploma from the New York
Polyclinic School and took postgraduate work in the New York Postgraduate School of 
Medicine. He practiced one year in Pulaski, and then went to Prospect to form a part-
nership with Dr. Theo. Westmoreland. The Prospect doctors advertised consistently in
the Citizen. However, within a few years the Pulaski Citizen reported that the
doctor was relocating to Lewisburg, Marshall County, but in 1880 he returned to

The CITIZEN followed Abernathy’s distinguished career with short news items
throughout his life. In May 1885, he formed a partnership with Dr. C. C. Abernathy,
one of the oldest physicians of the county. For half a century was local surgeon for
the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and was county health officer and physician for
the county asylum for a decade. For some 13 years he was a member of the state board
of medical examiners and was executive officer of this body for nine years.

DR. WILLIAM A. LEWIS, born in Giles County in 1876, was the first African-American
to be elected president of a county medical association, automatically making him a 
member of the national association. A graduate of Fist University and Meharry Medical
College, by 1956 he had delivered more than 2,000 babies in Giles County. Prominent 
in local and state organizations, he remained active professionally until his death 
in 1971.

Pennsylvania native DR. DAVID SPOTWOOD opened practice in Giles County after 
graduation from Meharry Medical College. In addition to his medical practice, during 
the 1960s and 1970s, Spotwood, an African-American, served as president of the local 
medical society, vice president of the local T.B. association and a member of the
board of the mental health association. As a member of the Tennessee State Board of 
Education, he was instrumental in the introduction of vocational programs into the 
public school system The Pulaski Citizen reported his death in 1970 at the age of 63.

MONROE M. JOHNSON, M. D. was born in Giles County on Jan. 3, 1828. Our 
subject received the advantage at the common schools afforded, and supplemented that 
by a five years course in the College Grove Academy, in Williamson County. In 1850 
he began studying medicine under Dr. R. G. P. White, and in the fall of the same year
entered Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia, Penn., from which institution he was 
graduated three years later. He practiced in Old Lynnville until the breaking out of 
the Civil War, when he enlisted and served in his professional capacity four years. He 
then purchased the farm of 252 acres where he practiced his profession and farmed.

W.J. JOHNSON, M.D. graduated from U.T. medical school, practiced medicine from 
horseback in the eastern portion of Giles County, opened an office a drug store in 
Frankewing, served two years in the medical corps in WWI and performed surgery on 
kitchen tables before opening Pulaski’s first hospital in 1926.

Giles County Medical Timeline  ©
Compiled by Claudia Johnson from information
published in the Pulaski Citizen over the past 150 years.
1843 Dr. James H. Campbell graduates Kentucky School of Medicine and locates practice at Campbellsville
1857Dr. Robert Fulton Boyd, born into slavery on Solon Rose farm, would later become the first African-American to set up private practice in Nashville.
1861-65Pulaski physician S.H. Stout oversaw more than 50 hospitals as Medical Director for the Army of Tennessee during the Civil War
1866Physicians of Pulaski pay tribute upon death of Dr. J.P. Epperson
1866Atlanta Medical College buys large ad for one year course costing $155
1866News of smallpox epidemic
1867Practicing physicians included Stout, C.C. Abernathy, Grant, Batte, White, Gordon, Clark, Bowers, Lancaster and Brown
1869Giles County Medical Society adopted constitution and bylaws, set fees, adopted a code of ethics and resolved to treat former slaves if payment secured by an employer
1869Dr. Jasper Kelsey, Civil War veteran, opened medical practice in Lynnville
1871State Medical Society meets in Giles County and attends a ball at Antoinette Hall
1871Cure for cancer using red clover announced
1872Giles County Medical Society secures rooms in Dr. White building on northwest corner of Pulaski square
1872Renowned traveling gynecologist and surgeon T.S. Bracking sees local patients for 10 days
1873University of Louisville Medical Department, from which many local physicians graduated, advertises
1873Cholera outbreak spurs medical advice columns
1874Dr. J.F. Grant performs successful cancer surgery
1875First ad for doctor to cure opium habit appears
1881Vanderbilt University Medical School graduate Dr. H. TAYLOR CAMPBELL opens practice in Lynnville
1890Dr. W.J. Johnson born in Cairo, Ala.
1912Dr. J.K. Blackburn opened a hospital in a new residence on Flower Street
19131918 King’s Daughters attempted to establish a hospital at the Perkins Mansion (now American Legion). County court refused to appropriate funds, forcing the KD to abandon plan.
1926Dr. W. J. Johnson opened the first permanent hospital in the old Dan Eslick home on East Jefferson Street
1927Tennessee Vital Statistics from Giles County are included in state report
1935Act of Legislature established County Board of Health. The Giles County Board of Health consisted of: Campbell Hannah, County Judge, Dr. J. U. Speer, Health Director, Dr. James K. Blackburn, Dr. T.F. Booth and Dr. G.A. Roberts.
1937Dr. J.U. Speer joins Johnson’s hospital
1950Giles County opened a county hospital on East Madison Street
1950-Giles County Health department moved to the basement of the new Giles County Hospital. It had first been located off the square on East Madison Street and in the old King Building on West Madison.
1966-Hill-Burton Grant funded the building of a new health department at 209 Cedar Lane.
1977New county hospital was built on Highway 64 west
1984County sold hospital to private corporation
1995New health department built behind 209 Cedar Lane Building.