Memories of William Howell, M. D.

Monument Honors “Beloved” Dr. Boyd

by Charles V. Patton – Knoxville Journal, January 29, 1956, Page 3-D

There stands at the corner of Gay Street and West Main Avenue entrance to Knoxville County Court House, a marble monument imposing in beauty and as commanding as it may appear, it is a tribute to the memory of the late Dr. John M. Boyd, one of the city’s earliest practicing physicians. The monument was erected by the citizens to perpetuate the name of a kindly family doctor, who was known as “Our Beloved Physician.”

Dr. Boyd was an eminent physician and skilled surgeon. He practiced for years in Knoxville before a hospital was established. There were no ambulances. Patients were treated in family homes.

Patients for surgery operations also were cared for in improvised operating rooms prepared in private homes. It was known by older residents that Dr. Boyd had never failed to respond to calls from homes where patients were unable to pay for treatments. The poor were given free treatment, Knoxville was then a small city.

The writer of this column has promised to assemble all of the information available and turn it over to the Knoxville Academy of Medicine. Any other information received will be described and sent to the Academy of Medicine.

It was in a period when doctors were few and hospitals unknown here. Many persons could be found who believed in treating all illness with salts and poultices made of peachtree [sic] leaves and onions. Some people carried buckeyes in the pockets to ward off rheumatism, and children were forced to have a small bag of asafetida tied about their necks to prevent diseases.

This column began working up stories on the first hospital and later the Medical Colleges established in Knoxville near the close of the 19th century.

Dr. William E. Howell, a prominent Morristown physician, who was active in Knoxville years ago as a practitioner became interested in the stories. He added the following comments and historic information:

Dr. Howell said: “You was correct (Old Timer) the first hospital in Knoxville was an eight bed one, located at State Street and Cumberland Avenue and was for Knoxville patients only. The additions of Park City, North Knoxville, West Knoxville, Mechanicsville, Lonsdale, and Mountain View hadn’t come into the city at the time. Dr. John L. Howell, Dr. Charles E. Ristine, Dr. John M. Boyd, Dr. McCrary, Dr. R. S. C. Hill, Dr. Lancester and possibly others were the staff, Maggie Powers, Mrs. Leach was the nurse.

“The exact date of the establishment of the Tennessee Medical College, I do not know, possibly 1890. In addition to Vanderbilt Medical College, there were several located in different cities, one in each Knoxville, Tenn. (Tennessee Medical College); Chattanooga Medical College, another in Nashville and still another in Memphis, all have now been absorbed, so that now the Medical Department of UT and Vanderbilt remain.

“Laws have been enacted from time to time until now, graduating physicians, dentists and etc. must take a rigid examination, also pay a license fee of $5.00 per year in addition to a fee of $1.00 for narcotic license. Formerly prospective doctors simply read medicine under an older doctor, purchased a pair of saddle bags, a pocket case of some 12 drugs, a blood lance, a hook like instrument to extract teeth, a good horse and the doctor was ready to ride in fair or foul weather.

“A visit was $1.00 and prescription five cents, not often paid, but always promised. There was little reciprosity [sic] among the states and much rivalry and very few graduates were accredited the privilege or license to practice in other states. North Carolina was very caustic, but now most states rule that qualifications in one state qualifies the right to practice in other states.

College Established

“The Tennessee Medical College was established in the 1890’s, the exact date I know not. Commencement exercises were held in Staub’s Opera House each year. The faculty of Tennessee Medical College was composed of Charles P. McNabb, M. D., Olaf Olsen, secretary; Michael Campbell M. D., professor of mental and nervous diseases; Charles P. McNabb [sic], professor of theory and practice of medicine; S. M. Miller M. D., professor of Obstetrics [sic] and gynecology; E. R. Zemp, M. D., profssor of Maretia [sic] Medica and Pediatrics; S. L. Jones M. D., professor of Hygeine and Physiology diagnosis; E. E. Early, Ph G. [sic], prof of Chemistry; Henry R. Gibson, A. M. LLD., prof of Jurisprudence; John L. Howell M. D. prof of surgery (died July 1900); Ben B. Cates M. D., professor of surgery; B. F. Young M. D., professor of eye, ear, nose and throat; John H. Morton M. D., professor of physiology and histology; W. P. Nash, M. D., professor regional anatomy bacteriology; William E. Howell, student, demonstrator of anatomy, the only member of the faculty now living.

The college was on the corner across from Knoxville General Hospital. It is a nurses’ home now.

After the college building burned it was moved to a school building. [Correction: the fire occurred before the college moved to the KGH corner.]

Lincoln Memorial University of Harrogate bought the Tennessee Medical College after 1903 and built a beautiful stone hospital. University of Tennessee bought the college, and the city bought the hospital. An overpass was built connecting the hospital with the Knoxville General Hospital. The graduates of Tenn. Medical College were without Alma Mater and many bought a covering diploma which established Medical Department of UT as their mother. It is mine too.

Collision Victims

The capacity of the Knoxville General Hospital over filled after Sept. 24, 1904 when two Southern Railway passenger trains crashed in a head-on collision near Hodges Switch killing and injuring many. Dr. Rain and I were on duty at the hospital. The picture of suffering death was horrible. Some of the nurses were Mary Trigg of Jacksboro; Sophia Tucker, Miss Cowan Snowden and Ada La horn [sic]. [Correction: the names were Mary Trigg Jackson, Sophia Cowan, Jocelyn Snowden, Ada Lawhorn.]

When the University of Tennessee observed its 159th year of existence Sept. 28, 1953 in Memphis, Tenn. I was one of the 104 who had practiced over 50 years and had graduated from Medical College acquired later from the University of Tennessee, who had received a “Golden T Recipient” diplomas [sic]. One doctor was 92 years old.

How many can remember when the children wore a [torn] of asafetida in a cloth bag around their necks to prevent diseases, or carrying a buckeye in their pockets to ward off rheumatism or stump water to prevent sweats or peach tree leaves and onion poultices?

Some of the doctors who graduated in my class were Dr. Zirzle [sic – Zirkle] of Kingston, Dr. John Massey of Sevierville, Dr. Frank Zoller, Dr. George Booker, Dr. Have Ford [sic], Dr. John Haddox, D. Ed Goetz, who operated a “dope cure” sanitarium at Fountain City Hotel, Dr. A. L. [sic], Dr. M. M. Copenhaver, Dr. W. W. Huling of Lawrenceburg, Tenn. and others. Nearly all have passed on.

“How many of us of the class of March 31, 1903 are left? I should like to know.”

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