1847: J. McG. G. to Dr. James McG. Boyd

The identity of these correspondents has not yet been confirmed. Clearly they were cousins; their names were J. (probably James) McG. G______ and James McG. Boyd. Both appear to have been doctors just beginning their respective practices. My hunch is that they were born in the 1820 timeframe. Prairie Bluff — where the letter was directed — is now a ghost town in Wilcox County, Alabama. It first appeared on maps in 1819 and was located at the midpoint of an early road that connected Cahaba, the first state capital, and St. Stephens, the territorial capital. Situated atop a cliff overlooking the Alabama River, the town grew as river trade increased. The town was at its height in 1861, but declined rapidly in importance with the introduction of new railroads following the American Civil War.

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Addressed to Dr. J. McG. Boyd, Prairie Bluff, Wilcox County, Alabama

[Cedar Shoal, South Carolina]
Saturday Evening, December 18th 1847

Dear Cousin James,

Weak and emaciated as I am by a severe attack of Typhus Fever, I feel prompted to give some of the first fruits of my recruiting strength to you. Your letter was long ago received and would have been answered but for my sickness. I passed through a fiery ordeal — confined to my bed constantly for four weeks and nearly three weeks of the period quite unconscious and raving.

The family tell me that at times my situation resembled more the tetatanic [tetanic] spasm than anything else. My nervous system was very much deranged and at one time the ____ came away involuntarily. This, you know, denotes an alarming degree of prostration. Thanks to a kind Providence, I now have a reasonable, yes an encouraging prospect of recovery.

My friends from all quarters were very prompt in coming in to see me. They tell me of many that I mind nothing of. To some I am deeply indebted for their kind attention to me. Thomas House, I believe scarcely left me from the time my case became serious until there was a a decided change in my disease for the better. Tom was a faithful friend to me indeed. Hicklin stood by too in the hour of need. Sarah scarcely slept any, but was always ready to be at my bedside. Pa and Ma no doubt taxed their strength too much but all have come through well; and as yet there is no other case of fever in the family. It has generally gone through a family when it got into it in our country.

Two sons of Squire John Ferguson have died the last month. Hicklin attended them. My illness preventing us. He had treated two or three cases successfully and I think was becoming a little elated, all this practice having been in our hands: but I think these cases, with some other unfortunate ones, will have a contrary effect. There is a pretty strong rivalry existing between Hicklin and myself but it is all on friendly terms. But he does not observe that high-minded feeling which I think becomes a physician. He will cudgel about and electioneer for practice. This I won’t condescend to. I regard it as mean. I think a physician should take a straight foreword course and depend upon merit.

Mail Day, December 22nd 1847

What is written on the previous pages was undertaken about as soon as my strength would permit. As no mail day has intervened since, I am enabled to give you something a few days later. I have had the luxury of a ride out since writing those lines. I am getting the old buggy refitted and I calculate upon some considerable visiting. I am mending as fast as I could expect. My greatest deficiency is in the hair line. They did the work of shearing far more completely than Sampson’s wife did for him. I attribute a great deal of the efficacy of my treatment to the blister completely covering my scalp. My head is about well now, but perfectly bare. I will have an artificial covering in the form of a wig though shortly. Hair or no hair though, I intend to go to a Christmas frolic where some fine young ladies are invited. It is at the old Judge’s.

There is a wedding today (two of them) in the neighborhood. One, James Tumer, ¹ who lives with the old Judge, to Miss Nancy Edwards. The other, a name-sake of yours, son of the old lady above Moffatt’s, to one of old Henry Culp’s daughters. I could write you more but be content for this time.

Your true friend, — J. McG. G.


¹ James Alexander Turner (1826-1906) married Nancy Catherine Edwards (1828-1880). From this letter, we learn they were married on 22 December 1847.


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