An Account of the Early History of Surgery in Texas Page: 4
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War, Thomas J. Rusk. Dr. Anson Jones played a
very distinguished part in the making of Texas,
and was called the "Architect of Annexation." He
was the last President of the Republic of Texas.
He was a decendant of Oliver Cromwell.
Little was known of medical or surgical men in
Texas during the years of its first settlements, Re-
cords are very few referring to them, but we do know
that in 1837 there was enacted by Congress of the
Republic of Texas, a most satisfactory law to the
effect that a board of Medical Censors be elected
by Congress, composed of doctors graduated from
regular colleges or universities, whose duty was to
examine and grant licenses to practice. This law
was approved by General Sam Houston. (2) The
first Board of Medical Examiners consisted of:
Dr. Ashbel Smith,
Dr. A. C. Hoxie,
I)r. George W. Hill,
l)r. J. M. Neil Stewart,
Dr. J. P. January,
Dr. R. A. Irion,
1)r. Joel Johnson,
Dr. Isaac Jones,
Dr. Thomas Anderson,
Dr. H. Bissell,
I)r. A. M. Levy,
Harrisburg and Liberty.
San Patricio, Refugio
" " Nacogdoches and
." " Austin and Colorado.
." " Red River.
" ." Gonzales and Mina.
" " Bexar.
". ". Matagorda, Victoria
But unfortunately with each succeeding change
in the practice laws of Texas, the profession and the
laity have sunk deeper into the mire of cults, quacks,
and isms with increasing confusion up to the present
An organization of medical men began quite
early, and the State Medical Association of Texas
was organized on January 17, 1853, at Austin,
Texas, Jos. Taylor being the first president. (3)
The first annual meeting was in San Antonio, Nov.
16, 1853, and its president was George Cupples. (4)
This first organization was noted for its inactivity
due to difficulties of transportation and civil war
disturbances. Nothing is heard of it until the re-
organization of the State Association which oc-
curred at a meeting in Houston, Texas, April 15,
1869, and Dr. J. H. Heard was elected President. (5)
Members present at this meeting were:
T. J. Heard, President.
R. H. Jones, Vice-President.
Alva Connell, Jr., Recording Secretary.
W. P. Riddell, Corresponding Secretary.
F. Hassenberg, Treasurer.
The record of surgeons is even more scarce
than of medical men since the specialist was not
developed at that time. We have mention made
of some surgeons during the Texas Revolution and
the Mexican War. The conviction that climatic
and geographical conditions were important factors
in diseases was very strong in the early days of
Texas. Medical literature is filled with this theory
in many discussions. Much discussion resulted from
the epidemic of Yellow Fever along the coast in
1867. In explaining the cause of the epidemic, one
report by Dr. Merrill (() says: "The most marked
difference between 1867 and '68 was the range in
temperature, that of 1867 being much higher than
1868, and we can see that a higher thermometrical
range is essential to the development of yellow
fever. It is a fact known to the chemist that venous
fermentation occurs only at or below a given tem-
perature, for example, 60 while if this temperature
be raised to 650, the acetous fermentation will be
This same opinion prevailed as to the climatic
influence upon surgical procedures. This is seen
in an article published in the Journal of the State
Medical Association of Texas by Drs. Beall, Walker
and Capps. (7) This article denies current opinion
that the climate of Texas is not favorable to healing.
It cites the healing of wounds in animals and live
stock in the dry hot time of the year, also that dead
animals lie on prairie for months without putre-
faction. It reports a series of forty-four major
operations with one death and included were hys-
terectomies, nephrectomies, breast amputations, ap-
pendicitis and mastoid operations; in all healing
With a new country filled with adventurers one
naturally would not expect a high scientific develop-
ment among the profession, and unquestionable
surgery was extremely crude. Texas naturally
could not expect to develop her own surgeons
during these days, and we notice that the importa-
tion of surgeons and medical men came chiefly
from the medical schools of Philadelphia, Louis-
ville, and a certain number from European
countries. European surgeons who immigrated to
Texas naturally had had the best training, and
were the backbone of the profession for a number
of years. Browsing over the literature of this early
period one is struck by the ability of some of those
doing surgery, and on the contrary by the ignorance
of others. Many literary gems are found, some
of which are worth quoting as they give an insight
into conditions better than actual recitations upon
these subjects. When one realizes the vast extent
of territory and inadequate method of transporta-
tion, the absence of cities from which instruments
and equipment could be secured, the absence of
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Singleton, Albert Olin, 1882-1947. An Account of the Early History of Surgery in Texas, pamphlet, October 1932; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth143533/m1/8/: accessed December 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas Health Science Center Libraries.