...I hope your health is good...

Sending for the Doctor

In the letters of the 19th century, wishes for continuing good health are abundant since a cough or cold could actually end a life. The following documents are from the papers of Governor Howell Cobb, who was in residence in the Governor's Mansion from 1851 to 1853 and Governor Joseph Brown who lived with his family in the mansion from 1857 to 1865. Their children and servants received medical care from doctors at home and in Milledgeville. These documents will serve to sponsor some interesting discussions and thoughts about medicine past and present.

You will need the following images:
Brown Letter, Nov 8, 1857, page 1
Brown Letter, Nov 8, 1857, page 2
Brown Letter, Nov 8, 1857, page 3
Brown Letter, Nov 29, 1858, page 1
Brown Letter, Nov 29, 1858, page 2
Brown Letter, Nov 29, 1858, page 3
Cobb Letter, Feb 1, 1849, page 1
Cobb Letter, Feb 1, 1849, page 2
Cobb Letter, Feb 1, 1849, page 3
Cobb Letter, Feb 1, 1849, page 4
Cobb Letter, Nov 30, 1857, page 1
Cobb Letter, Nov 30, 1857, page 2
Cobb Letter, Nov 30, 1857, page 3
Doctor's Bill

Activity 1: Looking for a Cure
Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to :
  1. Compare and contrast medical practices and expenses of the 19th century with those of the present.
  2. Locate and identify at least (5) five different remedies that were common in the 19th century.
  3. Research at least (2) two illnesses and remedies that were common in the 19 th century.
  4. Synthesize a written activity which demonstrates knowledge of 19th century letter writing customs, remedies and illnesses.
  5. Discuss social and economic reasons for the medical care of slaves.

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Topics/Concepts: A12, Skills: A1, A2, A3, A8, A12, A13
Grade 8: Topics/Concepts: D20, Skills: A1, A2, A6, A7, A10, A12, B14, B15, C24, C25, D38, D39

Suggested Lesson:
  1. Give each student a copy of a different letter to read and to examine in class.
  2. Ask the students to list the similarities and the differences in 19th century medical practices and in current medical practices that they may find in their document.
  3. Allow the students to research the illness or treatment that was described in their letter.
  4. This information should be written so that it can be presented to the class.
  5. Students should keep a list of the different maladies and cures that their documents described during the class discussion.
  6. At the conclusion of the discussion, each student should choose two remedies that were commonly used in the 19th century to research.
  7. As an extending assignment, students should write an imaginary letter or a diary entry using common 19th century manners of writing and should include an illness and remedy to the illness in the body of the letter.

Activity 2: "Send for the Doctor!"
Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to:
  1. Describe the duties of a 19th century physician.
  2. Discuss common medical practices in the 19th century.
  3. Complete basic research concerning medical advances.
  4. Compare and contrast the expenses of medical care in the 19th century and in the present.

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Skills: A1, A2, A3, A4, A8, B12, B13, C23
Grade 8: Topics/Concepts: D20, Skills: A1, A2, A6, A7, A12, C24, D38, D39

Suggested Lesson:
  1. Make a copy of the invoice for medical services provided by Dr. Moore for each student.
  2. Discuss the concept of the house call (visit) and explain to the students that a good portion of medicine had to be mixed and administered by the doctor.
    Terms to Know:
    1. Emetics- (common type:Ipecac) Used to treat high fevers and croup. These treatments were used to purge the body by vomiting.
    2. Bitters- commonly found as a mixture of medicines/herbs to settle the stomach and to relieve headaches.
    3. Remind students that there were no antibiotics, no sulfa drugs, and sterilization practices for medical instruments was not common. The health of the person was generally determined by the state of his/her digestive system.
  3. Ask the students to complete some research to determine when antibiotics became available and when most of the vaccines that are commonly given today to babies were created (diphtheria, polio, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, etc.) Also, the students can include in their research other common 19th century diseases such as typhoid fever (found in Elizabeth Brown's letter, Nov. 8, 1857), malaria, dysentery, whooping cough, scarlet fever, tuberculosis and smallpox. Lockjaw, the common cause of death from tetanus, is discussed in the letter from S. R. Cobb, mother of Governor Howell Cobb, Feb, 1, 1849. In this same letter, it is discussed that "...Ellen's little Jim" has "...a great many worms." Being "wormy" in this time period is fairly common. Ask the students to find the reason(s) for the presence of worms and how the parasites were transferred.
  4. Food preparation and storage practices could also be discussed at this point. Remind students that refrigeration, pasteurization and canning practices were limited or did not exist. ( The letter from S. R. Cobb, mother of Governor Howell Cobb, Sept. 24, 1842, discusses the fact that the wild crab apples preserves caused illness.)
  5. Sanitation, disposal of human wastes and water sources were also a cause for illnesses.
  6. Allow the students to compare the prices for medical care offered in the 19th century and today. Students should complete some research to determine the typical salary of a man in the 19th century and estimate how much of the family income was spent upon the services of a doctor. Compare this information with the present day costs of medical care.

Activity 3: Sickness in the Family
Upon completion of this activity, students should be able to:
  1. Discuss the social and economic implications of illness among slaves.

QCC Objectives:
Grade 4: Topics/Concepts: A11, Skills: A1, A2, A3, A7, B10, B11, B15, C23
Grade 8: Topics/Concepts: D20, G38, Skills: A1, A6, A7, A9, A10, B13, C24, C25, C33, D38, D39

Suggested Lesson:
There are several references to slaves in the letters and the bill of Dr. Moore:
"Emma"- Letter from Elizabeth Brown, wife of Governor Joseph Brown, Nov. 8, 1857
"Ellen's little Jim" - Letter from S. R. Cobb, mother of Governor Howell Cobb, Feb 1, 1849.
"Visit to boy" or "woman" - Bill from Dr. Moore, 1846
  1. Discuss with the students the reasons for which the doctors were called.
  2. According to the letters, who was responsible for the initial care of the slaves before the doctors were called?
  3. What social and economic problems could be caused by the sickness of a slave? (This becomes not only a question of caring for the sick but as the letter from Mrs. Brown, Nov. 8, 1857, states when the servant is too ill to work, another servant must be hired or found.)
  4. Point out to the students that a social role reversal occurred when the slave holder became the care giver. Also, ask the students to discuss the race of the physician. Was this important? Why or Why not?


Sept. 26th 1842

My Dear Mary Ann, I expect you will be surprised at Bob's not reaching Athens tonight but I hope you will not be uneasy as I was, at his not coming home last night, he got here this evening, he was detained a day in McDonough by the sickness of Edmond, who was taken very ill the night they got there, Mr. Glenn sent at once for a Dr. Who gave him medicine, and Milly kept Bob one day hoping he might be well enough to come with him. She went, but although he was better, the Dr. said it would be running a very great risk to bring him, Bob had to leave him, and Milly wrote me. They would have him well attended to and either send Titus with him as soon as he was well enough to come or bring him themselves, I am afraid poor Susan will be very uneasy about him, but do tell her. The Dr. said he was in no danger and Milly will do all
(p. 2)
she can for him, and black Milly had taken him in her bed. Milly says I must tell you she was truly thankful to you for letting the wagon bring her things as she was in much want of them, all got there safe, one odd crate was sent that wont stand in her casters& they forgot to send her slop bowl she has written to John about them do make him attend to it for her, she writes to ask you to try and get her music book from Col Jackson's and send it by Bob to me so she can get it if she comes or Laura can carry it to her, she sent the children a larger potato a piece and said she would have sent more if she had had them I shall put them on the bag and send them over to you must give them the Misses she also sent to them, she sent me a nice loaf of salt yeast bread to let me see what a good cook she had, we had a nice plate of toasts for supper off of it, she has been trying to preserve wild crab apples in her zinc pan and Mr. Glenn insisted on having some for supper whilst she was fixing them he eat a spoonful or two and complained of feeling very sick, that frightened her & she eat two or three & became very sick black Milly had also eat some
And she was throwing up Milly sent one pan with some of the syrup to the Dr he said the acid from the apples had drawn the (something I could not make out what) from the zinc like under grease, but that it would not hurt them only make them sick that night she says she thought she should have thrown up all the contents of her "breadbasket," she threw all the preserves away and lost her labour & sugar besides being so sick. I sent Tom's & John's shoes and hope they will fit them. I also send your little bag of dried fruit, your pepper and your green vail which I found in my room and your trunk, Mr. Logan told Mr. Cobb he was going to send Johnny a great deal, I shall put your things in a linen bag of mine which you can put the sugar in don't let the size frighten you, I send it because I should separate the the pepper & shoes from the fruit better than in a small one & you can have my sugar sewed up in it and then the empty part wrapped around it, I met with a sad misfortune yesterday I gave chang my molasses demijohn to wash ready for Bob to carry and she broke it, I never did want to whip any body as bad in my life, I have sent a small stone jug. I have felt very anxious to hear how you got threw your journey home I hope and trust safely, you don't know how much we all missed you and the dear children, I believe little Johnny missed the children, kiss them a thousand times for us all, and tell them not to forget Grandma. Laura had a bad cold and sore throat, Mr. Cobb also has been complaining of sore throat and mine hurts me some, Johnny had a cold in his head. The girls are well and all join me in love to you. Howell Tom John and the dear little boy also to all at Col Jackson's. Write me by Bob how you found them all, as I expect you will go out before Bob reaches Athens. I shall write a few lines to Patsy about the room. Mr. Glenn sent a letter to Henry, which I send.
God bless you all and dear child pray you
S R Cobb
(Mother of Governor Howell Cobb)

Athens Febry 1st 1849

My dear Mary Ann
I would have written sooner but I thought I would wait till I felt better & was in better spirits, I got a severe hurt on one of my large toes, from the hand iron falling on it, I never had any thing to give me more pain, for two days & nights I had to keep large poultices on it, and the dread of its give me that horrible malady the lockjaw made me feel worse, but my general health has not been good since you left indeed I have been sick enough to lay by, but you know as long as I can keep up, I try to do so, especially when my services are needed and they never were in greater demand that since you left, for our lot has been a perfect hospital Betty big Lucy old Charlotte Miles & Ellen's little Jim all sick & the last so ill we had to send for the Dr today who says he has a great many worms, if it had not been for my having Milly here I dont know how I could have got along, I have not yet been able to hire her & have written to Milly that she had better try & hire her in Griffin Laura has suffered a good deal with pain in her arm we put on a large mustard plaister which blistered like a fly plaister, and was so sore that one day it gave her a chill & fever, it is now better & I hope the pain is relieved, but she
Is not as well as when you left, little Mary Ann keeps quite, well and grows fast, she is beginning to notice Williams has determined to start to Crawford the first of next week if nothing happens to prevent him, I so hope all will get well before he leaved, as I miss them enough anyhow, but more to when sickness is about. Mattie went to your house today to get the reciept for your physic for me to enclose to you but you have not left the key of the wardrobe, you only left one bunch of keys & none would open the wardrobe or the trunk where the receipt was, she says I must tell you she means to write you a long letter next week , she & Mary have been assisting their brother in fixing the curtains to his carriage. I hope every day to get a letter from you or the dear boys but I am doomed to disappointment, not a letter has come from Howell either to you or me several enclosures with seeds have come for you, which I have carefully put away as I do all the papers as soon as they are read, do let me hear when you get letters how he is, as I expect that will be my only chance of getting any intelligence of him, I hate to pester him with any more of my letters, if he wanted to hear from me he would let me know it. Tom got home the other day, he was unanimously elected to the office of the late Mr. Shelly he & Marion came to see me one evening for a few moments, the only time I have seen them since you left, Tom looks very well but Marion came to see me one evening for a few moments, the but Marion was pale & had a bad cough, their little girls are all much better. I got a long letter from dear Sarah, written in her old style and filled with the overflowings of her affectionate heart, her health she says is perfectly good, her dear mother was in tolerable health, but both, still suffering anguish of heart
for their irreparable loss, the dear little babe was growing rapidly, and I expect is the idol of their hearts, Henry's health is still bad & Tom says he don't look well, and he thinks the plan of starving him is doing him no good. I also got a letter from Milly, she had just got to her new home, she says her children had colds, the house was very open, but altogether she was very well pleased, Judson is delighted & thinks he will do well, her furniture was much injured in moving it & she lost a good many of her things, I feel anxious to hear from her again. Mattie says all are well at your lot, the old woman is still there, Sylvia was here on Sunday & asked me when she had best have your meat hung up, I told her the first cold clear day, but it has been warm & raining all the week it has broke off this evening & turned colder, and she may soon be able to have it done, it is time of the fly's will be about before it is smoked enough to pack away , we have not hung up ours yet. Tell my dear boys they must all write to me, and you must too, I will take no excuse, and now I am sick & low spirited your letters will be doubly dear to me, I want to hear if you had a pleasant journey and indeed every thing that concerns you and the dear children will be interesting to me, I hope my dear Johnny's tooth has not been troubling him all the time, Mattie had been suffering a good deal with it. John B. keeps well and comes out sometimes to see us, I have not been off the lot since you left & now I cant walk much on my foot, I expect you will find me just where you left me. Mr. Cobb was quite sick a day or two with an affection of the bowells, but he has recovered and walks to town every two or three days to hear the news. (p. 4) All join me in much love to you and the dear boys to whom you must give a kiss for Grandpa & Ma & their little cousins all send their love & a kiss. Give our most affectionate regards to your brother, and write soon my beloved child to your ever devoted mother.
S. R. Cobb
(Mother of Governor Howell Cobb)

Macon Nov 30th /57 (1857)

Dear Sister
I have spoken to Dr. Lamar about Mary Ann, as you decided. He says hers is tubular bronchitis, as distinguished from capillary bronchitis, - the latter affecting the lungs, while hers affects only the large tubes of the throat. And that the only difficulty is that by exposure, it might run into croup, rheumatism or pneumonia. There is no danger in the bronchial tubes being affected, as in her care, only that care is necessary to prevent her taking cold & its running into something else, as there is liability. She ought to be kept close during variable weather, and particular care taken that she does not take cold, until the Spring of the year. He suggests that counter irritation produced by rubbing Croton oil on her heart would perhaps be productive of good. It would produce pustules on the skin & make her irritable however. The sum & substance of his ideas on the subject is, that if she can be kept from taking cold, she will be as fat as a pig
when warm weather comes on & her lungs be as sound as a pair of new bellows. My family are all quite well except Amos, who eat so much cold roast pig night before last, that Dr. Lamar services were necessary. He is still abed & unwell. During my absences at Milledgeville some villain poisoned two of my best dogs-big Barnum & Boy. They have gone to that home whence no dog ever returns & left numerous friends to bewail their untimely end. Some thief who found them too vigilant for him to rob my smoke house, find if necessary to carry on his trade, to put them out of the way. I had but one Turkey, one lone Gobbler awaiting Thanksgiving day, & the night the dogs died, he took his departure, to grace some other table. Betty as if to do her share in the way of repairing my loss in the luck of dogs, presented the establishment with a litter of eight puppies, a few days since. Four of them I apprehend, in accordance with a barbarous customs, which originated in the dark ages no doubt, will be consigned to the ruthless waves of the Ocmulgee.
It has been raining for the last two days almost unceasingly. Today has reminded me very much, of those- "dark, dull, dreary, drizzly, dismal December days" that Professor Wilson in his fondness for alliteration; used to talk about in Blackwood Magazine. Prince, John Addison, myself, Dodge & Irving, Laird have spent the day around a rousing fire in the sitting rooms, some in rocking chairs & some on the rug & lounge. Some reading Plutarch & the Eclectic magazine & others snoozing. You don't know how much more pleasant Macon is than Milledgeville in raw, cold weather. I think Macon is the most pleasant winter climate in the world. In fact, for nearly nine months of the year it is as perfect an experience as the earth affords- So I think. After Christmas you had better all come over to the Bears Den & spend the balance of the winter. Affectionately Your Brother John B. Lamar P. S. Kiss Mary Ann for me. (Brother of Mrs. Mary Ann Cobb, Governor Howell Cobb's Wife)

1846 Mr. John B. Lamar Trustee
To A. B. Moore Dr.$ cts
Augt 17thTo Milage & visit to boy1.50
24thTo Medicine & visit to boy1.50
Septm 8thTo Medicine for boy ben .75
13To Milage & visit to boy Edmund1.50
"To Giving (*)Emt & Medicine left1.25
October 10thTo Milage & visit to woman1.50
"To Medicine Left .50
" 11th To Milage & visit to woman1.50
" " To Medicine left .50
" 12th To Milage visit & medicine2.00
" 14th To Milage at night & visit2.00
" " To Medicine .50
" 17 To Medicine sent .75
" 23 To Medicine sent .25
" 30th To Medicine .25
Nov. 12th To Milage & visit & Medicine 2.50
" 14th To Bitters .50
Bagly Place
Augt 24th To Milage & visiting two cases & medicine 4.00
" 25th To Medicine sent1.25
Received payment Jan. 2nd 1846 A B Moore (*) Emetic

Click here for the Fifth Lesson, Traveling to Milledgeville with Maps

Click to return to the Educational Resource Site Main Page

If you have any questions or comments about the Mansion,
please contact Jim Turner either by phone or email-

(478) 445-4545 / jim.turner@gcsu.edu

or by mail -

The Old Governor's Mansion
120 South Clarke Street
Milledgeville, GA 31061

Last updated: