Where to Find a Doctor in Richmond in the 1880s

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Where to Find a Doctor in Richmond in the 1880s


Before the Pattie A. Clay Infirmary was established in 1892, there was no hospital in Richmond. Most people who were seriously ill or injured were cared for at their own homes until they either got well or died in their own beds. From time to time there were rooming houses for invalids run by compassionate persons in both the city and Madison County.

In the 1880’s there were no telephones in Richmond, and when a person became seriously ill he was put to bed at home and someone was sent by horse "to fetch the doctor." The professional notices of physicians and surgeons in the Climax indicate that their offices and residences were bunched up on a few streets, making it easier for a fellow to find a doctor available.

The block of North Second Street facing the courthouse was the most popular location, with no less than six offices. Dr. G. W. Evans was over D. P. Armer's Jewelry Store; Dr. T. J. Taylor was two doors from Dykes' Grocery; and the office of Drs. Heath and Cornelison was also in that same block. Above White's Drug Store in the middle of the block was the office of Dr. H. W. Bright, who lived in that handsome old home on Lancaster Avenue built by Daniel Beck in 1832. Next door to the drug store was located Dr. J. M. Poyntz, who in the mid-1880's was the president of the first unsuccessful Richmond Telephone Co.

Four other physicians had their offices in a three-block area of Main Street Dr. J. M. Foster and Dr. William Jennings both had offices over Smith's Hardware; Dr. Phil Roberts had his office in Roberts, and Wines Drug Store "on lower Main Street;" and Dr. L. J. Frazee shared the office of county Judge Chenault over the circuit court clerk's office in the courthouse. Dr. S. M. Letcher had his office and residence over D. M. Bright's Boot and Shoe Store on First Street, opposite the courthouse.

Someone looking, for a physician after office hours would likely go to the Willis House on Main Street (where the city hall now stands), for that was the residence of Drs. Foster, Heath, Cornelison, and Foster. Dr. Jennings lived on Main Street near the Christian Church, while Dr. Roberts' residence was out West Main at the corner of Tates Creek. Dr. Poyntz lived on North Third across the street from the J. P. Herndon house; Dr. Taylor resided on Lancaster Avenue near Water St.; the home of Dr. Evans was at the comer of North Street and Aspen.

For those who were unfamiliar with the medical profession in Richmond in the 1880's, Dr. Bright attempted to make the situation clear (as he saw it!) for his professional notice in the newspaper included the statement, "I want it distinctly understood that I am the only one in Richmond that understands the thorough use of the microscope and chemistry as applied to examinations of tissues and fluids of the human body."


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “Where to Find a Doctor in Richmond in the 1880s,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 30, 2023, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/791.