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Dr William Lewis Gardner Davis, Sr

Dr William Lewis Gardner Davis, Sr

Wilkes County, Georgia, USA
Death 9 Oct 1873 (aged 51–52)
Albany, Dougherty County, Georgia, USA
Burial Albany, Dougherty County, Georgia, USA
Memorial ID 62572423 · View Source
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William Lewis Gardner Davis (1821-1872) was a general practitioner and surgeon. He had an office in the 100 block of Broad Street and also made house calls on horseback. During the Civil War he served as a surgeon with the 25th Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry.

Dougherty County has always been blessed in the character and skill of its physicians. In the early days when the practice was chiefly among the planters who had settled with their slaves in this section, the hardships of the country doctor who daily rode many miles on horseback or by buggy with his case of medicine and instruments to ease the ills of humanity were such as cannot be appreciated in this day of powerful automobiles and accessible hospitals and drug stores.
The earliest settlers among the medical fraternity so far as can be learned were Dr. John G. Slappey, Dr. W. A. Love, Dr. W. H. Jeffries, Dr. Taliaferro Jones, Dr. W. L. Davis, Sr., Dr. Jeremiah Hilsman, Dr. John B. Gilbert, Dr. Chan. Hill, Dr. E. L. Connally, Dr. I. B. Dickinson, Dr. Lawrence Robert, Dr. Stoney Robert, Dr. William Twitty, Dr. B. M. Cromwell, Dr. W. P. Jennings, Dr. J. E. MacMillan, Dr. T. D. Mathews, Dr. L. L. Strozier, Dr. E. W. Alfriend, Dr. Joe Davis, Dr. Thomas M. Nelson, Dr. John Nelson, Dr. Sims.
Among the brave men who pushed their way through the virgin forests, erected trading stations and became the pioneers of our ever growing population, the physician deserves a place in the annals of every town. Albany was in, its second decade when Dr. W. L. Davis, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, cast his lot with the village. He was enrolled in the first class at Penfield, where Mercer University was then located, and with a good education he began the study of medicine. To reach Philadelphia in those days was an arduous task, and while he first enrolled as a student in the Jefferson medical College, he found those he considered the most distinguished professors at the University of Pennsylvania, and transferred his membership to a class at this most eminent university of medicine the United States. There were found at this time the greatest teachers of medicine in America, and under their tutelage and by diligent application he qualified himself for the practice of medicine. In fact, the department of anatomy at; that time was equal to any in the world, and some of his specimens, which he carefully prepared during his student days, would be models for teaching today. After graduating he located in Albany, the then struggling village remote from cities and many of the advantages that a young M. D, desired. While living in Albany, together with several prominent physicians of the state, they planned the organization of the Medical Association of Georgia, thereby making themselves charter members.
Born in 1821 of good Welsh and English stock at the family home in Wilkes County, son of William Lewis Davis and Velinda Gardner, of Augusta, Ga., daughter of Colonel Gardner, of the English army, he grew with five brothers and one sister on his father's plantation in a home where duty and honor were the keynotes in their daily lives. His father was noted for his unquestionable veracity and as one whose name was sufficient to a promise. It was from such an atmosphere and training that the young M. D. came to wrest fortune from a pioneer section.
He established himself in an office on Broad street, north side, in what is now known as the 100 block. Patients consulted him from far and wide, at a distance of 60 miles or more. To go east the river must be ferried, to go north, west or south the roads were almost impassable--and many times no roads at all. Creeks to be forded and long stretches of country to be covered between the homes of settlers.
Sometimes the young doctor on horseback with his saddlebags filled with medicines and necessities would be gone three days or more on calls. His tender sympathy for the sick, resourcefulness when in need of medicines or instruments not to be had, his fidelity to his patients, received their reward when on his death in 1872 every business house in the town was closed and all classes mourned the loss of the skilled surgeon and family friend. One who knew him told of this fidelity to his patients and his intrepid courage of purpose: Arriving at the river's bank on a cold and bitter night, finding the ferry on the opposite side of the river, he called to the ferryman. The ferryman having retired to his home for the night, the physician vainly called to him to bring the ferry over to transport him and his horse on the way to the sick bed of some patient. Finding that he could not arouse the sleeping ferryman, he disrobed and by the aid of the ferry rope and his determination swam across the stream, warmed himself over some smouldering coals and brought the ferry back, replaced his clothes and ferried his horse across the stream. After rebuilding the fire and getting himself warm, he continued his journey to the patient, who received him most gratefully, and for a long time no one knew the sacrifice the physician made in order to reach his patient's sick bed.
In 1849 Dr. Davis married Ella Catherine Winkler, of Savannah. From this union there were four children who reached maturity: Abby Howe, William Lewis Gardner, a practitioner in Albany, Edward Campbell, at this time a surgeon in Atlanta, and Edwina Theodore Lamar, of Albany, Ga.
When the Civil War began he offered himself as a private, stating that he preferred to be in the line rather than occupy any position in the medical department or behind the line, but his medical skill was of such a character that he was urged to accept a position as assistant surgeon in the 25th Georgia Regiment. He soon was made surgeon and promoted to a position as brigade surgeon with the rank of
major, in the brigade commanded by General Walker. After the promotion of General Walker he still remained in the brigade as chief surgeon under Colonel Wilson. He was in active service during the entire four years, and at the conclusion of the war, with tears streaming from his eyes, he stated that he was far from defeat, and desired to go on to the consummation of his most ardent wish, namely, the
success of the Confederate Army. An instance still related by one of the soldiers rather characterizes the sympathetic nature of Dr. Davis. Once a former soldier on asking one of his sons if he was in any way related to Dr. W. L. Davis, whom he remembered as a surgeon in the Confederate Army, and who, he stated, always rode a little white horse while in the army, and being informed that he was the father
of this young man, turned and with tears in his eyes stated: "My life is due to his kindness. In Mississippi it was thought that I was fatally wounded and was left on the field to die, as most of the transportation for the sick and wounded was overburdened, and only those for whom hope was entertained for their recovery were sent back to the hospital, I being so badly wounded, that as previously stated I was left to die in the blazing sun of a hot Mississippi day." He also stated that he
could well recall the physician on the little white horse with his feet almost dragging the ground, and hearing groans he stopped, placing a canteen of water to the soldier's parched and almost famished lips gave him some drugs to relieve him of suffering, and pinned upon him a little card directing the ambulance driver to take him to a hospital. The ambulance came within a few minutes and carried him to a hospital, and he made a complete recovery.
At the beginning of the war Dr. Davis had moved from Albany to the city of Savannah, seeking a larger field for his profession, and once each year he spent from one to two months in the city of New York. Most of these periods were spent in the office of Dr. Carnachan, one of the most eminent surgeons of America at that time, and whose original operations are still quoted in surgical literature. He was a professor of surgery in the medical department of Columbia University. So much did Dr. Carnachan admire Dr. Davis's work that he offered him a position in his office at what was then considered a very good salary, if he would locate in New York City, but having such strong affection for the South he declined this offer and went to a little town wherein he spent the balance of his life. He had formed several partnerships during his residence in Albany, and he finally took as his partner his younger and affectionate brother, Joseph, whom he had educated, and the two enjoyed a large and lucrative practice.
In 1872 Dr. W. L. Davis died from pneumonia, and was buried in Oakview Cemetery, honored by the entire populace of Southwest Georgia.

Civil War Records
48738 Davis W.L. F&S 25th Inf. Reg't. Assistant Surgeon Assistant Surgeon

During the Civil War Between the Northern and Southern States, 1861-1865. Consolidated from the Original Medical- Director's Records.
Page192 Southern Historical Society Papers
DAVIS, WILLIAM LEWIS, Surgeon, appointed by Secretary of War July 29, '62 to rank July 29, '62. Ordered to report to General Mercer. Passed Board at Savannah, Ga., March 10, '62. Aug. 31, '63, 25th Georgia Regiment, October 31, '63, to April 30, '64, 25th Georgia Regiment.

William Lewis Davis (Dr.) Sr.--- Born 1821 Wilkes County,Ga. (Washington, Ga,
Son of William Lewis and Verlinda Gardner Davis of Augusta,Ga. Enrolled in first class at Penfield where Mercer University was then located. He attended Jefferson Medical College then went to University of Penn. He with other Albany doctors began the Medical Association of Georgia. He was an excellent doctor and performed every major operation of that day. At age 31 he enlisted in Civil War in Savannah as a private. Later he was made Lieutenant and Army Surgeon subsequently became Major under General Walkers staff. He also served in Gen. Joseph E. Johnson's Staff and was in the Battle of Atlanta. He contracted blood-poison and was sent home to die, but he recovered and returned to duty in an Augusta hospital. Once while in charge of camp in Virginia where hundreds were dying of measles he countermanded orders of previous doctor in charge and made men remove "choke" clothes around their necks, He then had the flaps lifted on the tents. Officers on duty reported his actions to tho commanding officer. The commander asked how many more deaths had occurred since Dr. Davis took charge, the report was that none had occurred. Thus, the Commander put Dr. Davis in charge of hospitals. He had four brothers Joseph, Gasaway, Obdiah ("Ob") and Edward and one sister Matilda(or Martha) Rachael. In l849 he married Elvira "Ella" Catherine Winkler of Savannah. At the beginning of the war he moved from Albany to Savannah. He spent one or two months of the year (after the war) in New York and studied under Dr. Carnachan a world famous surgeon. Dr. Carnachan offered him a position but Dr. Davis declined and eventually returned to Albany to practice with his younger brother Joseph.
He and Ella Catherine had four children to reach maturity -- Abigale (Abbey) Howe, William Lewis, Edward Campbell, Edwina Theodore Lamar. In 1872 he died of pneumonia and is buried in Oakview Cemetery in Albany, Ga.

Dear Ms McFadden,
I appreciated your post about this man. For the last 25 years I have been compiling a biographical register of physicians who served the Confederacy in a medical capacity. At the present time I have over 10,900 files in my database, but because of duplications through multiple spellings of surnames, etc., I estimate there were about 8000-9000 different individuals who served as physicians. Dr. William Lewis Gardner Davis, Sr. is in my register. The only thing that is in his file that you did not mention in your post is the fact that he received his M.D. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, in 1840 and the subject of his thesis was "Luxations." [ref: Catalogue of the Alumni of the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania. 1765-1877. (1877) Published by the Society of the Alumni of the Medical Department. Collins, Printer, Philadelphia, PA.
As you are aware he served as both an Assistant Surgeon and a Surgeon with the 25th Georgia Infantry. There was also a "W.L. Davis" who served as an Assistant Surgeon with the 14th Georgia Infantry and a "W. L. Davis" who served as a Surgeon with the Georgia Infantry, 1st Confederate Battalion. I do not know if either or both of these people are William Lewis Gardner Davis. If you have any more information on the latter's service to the Confederacy, I would appreciate your sharing it with me.

F. Terry Hambrecht, M.D.
Senior Technical Advisor to the
National Museum of Civil War Medicine
14015 Manorvale Road
Rockville, MD 20853

second message

Thank you for your timely reply.
I did find two other things in his file. Dr. Davis was nominated by the Confederate Senate for the position of Surgeon on September 26, 1862 and confirmed for this position on October 7, 1862. [ Ref: Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States 1861-1865, Washington, DC. GPO 1904-05 7 Volumes.] Note: Senate confirmation dates are generally later than "appointment" dates.
He is listed in a Return of Medical Officers for the Army of Tennessee, December, 1864, as being "absent sick in hospital."
This suggests that he missed the Battle of Franklin [TN] which may have been a good thing for him as at least two Confederate physicians were killed at this battle. [Ref: Return of the medical officers of the Regular Army, Volunteer Corps, and Militia, including physicians employed under contract,serving in the Army of Tennessee, Commanded by Gen J B Hood for the month of December, 1864. In the History of Medicine Division, National Library of Medicine, Bethesda, MD.]

Some Recollections of One Who Was Here "Long Time Ago."
First Settlers and First Buildings-Some Persons and Incidents That Few Persons
Who Are Now Living Remember When the Town Began to Grow.

My first Albany acquaintance was Dr. W. L. Davis, the father of modern Albany's Dr. W. L. Davis.
I think he was the first physician that ever practiced in this vicinity, and there has never been a more popular one. For a time, his brother, "Dr. Joe," was associated with him in his work, but "Dr. Joe" never attained the pinnacle of "Dr.
Bill's" popularity.

Family Members

Gravesite Details It is thought that his and Ella graves were washed away in the 1994 flood





  • Created by: Naomi Snider (Yocom) McFadden
  • Added: 5 Dec 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 62572423
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Dr William Lewis Gardner Davis, Sr (1821–9 Oct 1873), Find A Grave Memorial no. 62572423, citing Oakview Cemetery, Albany, Dougherty County, Georgia, USA ; Maintained by Naomi Snider (Yocom) McFadden (contributor 47310768) .