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On large plantations, in the case of the
illness of a slave, the patient or another
slave reported to the overseer, who decided
whether it was a real or pretended
sickness and whether he could treat it
himself. If the case seemed serious, he reported
it to the master who promptly
called a doctor. Some large planters like
Jared E. Groce had a doctor who lived on
the place and was paid a yearly salary.
Otherwise the planter arranged for a doctor
in a nearby town to take care of his
family and slaves and submit a yearly bill.
The doctors tended to congregate in
the larger towns such as Houston and
Galveston. And in East Texas, as in the
lower Brazos area, many of them were
planters first and physicians second. By
the time of the Civil War, in Harrison
County there were at least five doctors
with 20 or more slaves. Three of Texas'
best-known planter-doctors were Anson
Jones of Brazoria, Asa Hoxley of
Washington-on-the-Brazos, and Ashbel
Smith of Galveston Bay.
Medical fees varied from place to place
and from the colonial period until the
Civil War. Houston physicians seem to
have charged the highest fees. Dr. Anson
Jones of Brazoria submitted a modest bill
to planter James Perry for $236.50 for visits,
medicine, and treatments for whites
and blacks from February 1835 to October
In August 1848 Dr. William Beers visited
Julien Devereuxs plantation in Rusk
County and remained to treat one of Devereuxs
sons for five days and nights. For
his services he charged a total of $100.
Presumably he also got room and board
during the five days.
The fee schedule published by Dr.
W. B. Wallace of Washington (fig. 1) was
fairly typical of the charges made by Texas
doctors in the mid-1800s. On plantations
the versatile blacksmiths often pulled
teeth for humans.
Fig. 1. Fee schedule
Visit to the country by day per mile$.50
Visit to the country by night per
Midwifery by day-$10
Midwifery by night-$15
Other fees typical of the mid-1800s
Bleeding-$1 to $2
Cupping-$2 to $5
Medicines-$.25 to $.50 per dose
Use of syringe-$1
Extracting teeth-$.50 to $1
Surgical operations- $5 to $25
Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 4, Number 3, Winter 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45440/. Accessed June 3, 2015.