An Account of the Early History of Surgery in Texas Page: 3
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AN ACCOUNT OF THE EARLY HISTORY
OF SURGERY IN TEXAS
ALBERT O. SINGLETON, B. S., M. D., F. A. C. S.
One of the first Caucasian doctors on Texas
soil of whom we have any record, was the French
Surgeon Liotot, (1) who was one of the adventurers
accompanying La Salle. In 1684, La Salle led a
second expedition to American shores in search of
the mouth of the Mississippi River, and one among
them was Surgeon Liotot who was subsidized by
the King to care for the health of the party. Dis-
sention soon arose over the division of authority,
and when they arrived at Matagorda (near Gal-
veston) instead of Louisiana, the land they were
seeking, there was great discord in the company.
Camp was made on the shores of Matagorda Bay,
which was named Fort St. Louis.
In January, 1687, food being scarce, a party
was sent out to secure buffalo meat. The two
messengers sent out by La Salle to look for the
hunters were most inhumanly murdered by Liotot,
the surgeon, who used an ax on the tired men as
they slept after their journey. La Salle soon fol-
lowed to see what had happened to his men and
was shot from ambush by Duhaut, one of the
malcontents who had been plotting such an act for
months. Liotot was a witness and acquiesced in
this great tragedy-the untimely end of one of the
greatest adventurers that history has recorded. Ret-
ribution was near for the murderers soon received
the same treatment from some of their fellows,
Liotot being one of those killed. Thus ends the
record of the first Texas surgeon.
After Louis XIV, King of France, made the
magnificent gift of the whole colony of Texas and
Coahuila to his Cousin, the King of Spain, the
Spanish attempted to colonize Texas by the estab-
lishment of missions, the first mission, the San
Francisco was built in 1690, near Nacogdoches. It
was abandoned in 1693. The beautiful missions
around San Antonio were built in 1731 to 1772.
From the vicinity of San Antonio radiated the
civilization of the Southwest, the land that was
ruled under five flags before it became one of the
stars in "The Stars and Stripes" of the United
In the records of about 1760, we find accounts
of some of the first surgical efforts in Texas. There
was one soldier-surgeon, Don Pedro Duran, who
claimed to have had a good knowledge of surgery.
In 1772, we hear of this surgeon giving testimony
in the Courts, and states "that he is 48 years of age,
more or less, and that he had been a practicing
surgeon for twenty years, more or less. He was
called to see a wounded patient and he assured the
bystanders that he had been called just in time to
save the patient's life. He assured them that by
bleeding him and with the application of lotions
he could cure him, but it would be necessary for
him to be paid for his services." We also have a
record of a hospital being established in San
Antonio about 1806. Dr. Frederico Zerban was
the Physician and Surgeon in charge.
A most unusual Royal Decree found in the
records pertaining to surgery, occured in 1804.
This was concerning the many spiritual and secular
evils caused by not using the Caesarean operation
according to instructions. This decree defined
clearly the duties and obligations of those respon-
sible for labor cases; and the rules prescribed by
the College of Surgeons of San Carlos are included
in the Royal Cedula. 'It provided that in all towns
physicians should be on duty and be notified of
the danger of death of patients in labor and every
preparation made for a Caesarean operation; and
that they must not consent to the burial of anyone,
regardless of class, dying of childbirth unless they
knew that the operation had been performed upon
her.' This decree was sent to all the colonies in
Texas, and we have evidence of it having been
received and commented upon in the various settle-
We also find scant records of surgeons in the
Battle of the Alamo and at Goliad. Dr. John
Surtherland was one of the heroes of the Alamo.
Dr. Joseph H. Barnard was a Surgeon at Goliad,
and his life was spared that he might treat the
wounded, but was required to treat the Mexican
wounded before he was allowed to treat the Texans.
Barnard has given one of the most interesting
accounts of the early struggles for Texas Indepen-
dence in a journal, and it is very well written.
Also, Dr. Amos Pollard, who was Surgeon-in-Chief
of the Texas Army should be mentioned.
The list of doctors who fought in the battle of
San Jacinto consists of sixteen. Dr. Alexander
Ewing was acting Surgeon-General of the Texas
Army. Dr. Anson Jones was a Surgeon of the
Second Regiment of volunteers; and the only doctor
killed during the Battle of San Jacinto was William
L. Motley, who was Aide-de-camp to Secretary of
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Singleton, Albert O. An Account of the Early History of Surgery in Texas, book, 1932; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143533/m1/7/: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.