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A Yankee Doctor in Central Texas after Civil War

From a story titled "The Benevolent Ghost of Oakalla, Texas" by Morris Bell, originally published in the April, 1975 issue of True West Magazine. Story suggested by Jimmy Williams, who furnished the original article and provided the photographs (originally taken by his grandfather, Joe Williams).

Our story begins in the1850s in Cincinatti, Ohio with Alonzo Hines. Mr. Hine, who had gone to law school, was a co-founder of the Literary Club of Cincinnati. (Fellow members of this organization included no fewer than three future American presidents. Hayes, Garfield and Taft.) Although Hine had been trained in law, the flood of volunteers to the raging Civil War created vacancies in many professions. One of these was journalism and when Alonzo took the editorship of the Cincinnati Gazette, he may not have known that it would become his life's work.
Lucius Seneca Hine, M.D Yankee Doctor in Texas after Civil War
Dr. Lucius Seneca Hine

Photo Courtesy Jimmy Williams Collection, Joe Williams Photographer
During the war, Alonzo, as editor, traveled to Pennsylvania to hear Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He was one of the few journalists to review it favorably (at that time). Two of Hines former associates had gone to fight for the Southern cause, both of them becoming Confederate Generals (Felix Zollicoffer and Archibald Yell). After the war, when Alonzo was a publisher, he experienced two notable setbacks worth mentioning. One was being taken advantage of by a partner (the soon-to-be notorious Ned Buntline) and the other was failing to come to an agreement with William McGuffey on publishing McGuffey's Eclectic Reader, the most widely-used schoolbook in American history (over 6 million copies were eventually published).

Alonzo, however, was not one to cry over spilt milk. Forgetting his setbacks, he settled in as the publisher of the Gazette, devoting himself to community and family. He sold off family property in Ohio to finance his son's medical education at the University of Cincinnati and when Lucius graduated, it was not merely as a doctor, but as a trained surgeon - a much needed specialty.

For reasons that young Doctor Hine could not explain "even to himself" he boarded a train in Cincinnatti and left in search of a practice. He bought a ticket to the end of the line - which in those days was nearly synonomous with "the ends of the earth." The railroad was the Santa Fe and the end of the line happened to be Killeen, Texas - part of the vanquished Confederacy. Hine continued westward toward Burnet County incognito. Demand for doctors was such that had he announced his profession, he would've been grabbed by the first town. Instead, took a job on the Bigham sheep ranch to get a feel for the area. It was obvious to Mr. Bigham that the soft-handed, inexperienced young man was no shepherd - and he told him so when Lucius confessed a few weeks later. Bigham's loss of a poor shepherd meant that Oakalla had gained a doctor.

In his story about his grandfather in True West Magazine, Morris Bell wrote that the countryside around Oakalla, Texas had reminded Dr. Hines of Ohio. Hine had decided that it was here, forty miles from the nearest hospital (in Temple) that he would hang his shingle. The important point to Dr. Hine was that the decision had been his. But while he was able to choose his place of practice; he had nothing to say about choosing a wife. That decision had already been made by Nancy Gillum, who announced the marriage to her friends shortly after meeting the young doctor.
Oakalla Texas old photo
Oakalla, Texas as it was when Dr. Hine first saw it
Photo courtesy Joe Williams
Dr. Hine followed his father's example of community involvement and organized a Literary Society for Oakalla, consolidated the small neighboring schools with Oakalla's larger enrollment and formed a Sunday school. Aware of his being a "Yankee" - Lucius was careful to register himself as a political Independant in the Democratic village. He was famous for reciting Poe's The Raven at community gatherings and during the Temperance movement, he starred as "The Drunkard" in the enormously popular morality play "Ten Nights in a Barroom." To the adults, he may have been Oakalla's prince - but his spooky recitation of The Raven and his brutal treatment of his family as "the drunkard" had the small fry of Oakalla "scared to bits."

Dr. Hime's surgical knowledge came in handy one day when he was forced to amputate the leg of a boy who had been bitten by a rattlesnake and wouldn't have survived the trip to
Temple. The boy lived a long and productive life - granting an interview in 1973 at the age of 80. In another case that surprised even the doctor, Hine kept a little girl's airway open by inserting the tube of his fountain pen - thereby saving her life.

Surprise came again when Hine was helping his own daughter give birth. After holding up his first grandson, Hine was heard to exclaim: "My stars! Here comes another one." One of the twins was to become author Morris Bell.

During the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918-1919, Dr. Hine's services were in great demand. His days were spent running from house to farm, often fording streams in the winter cold. In January of 1919 he came down with the flu himself. A doctor from Copperas Cove was summoned, but from his deathbed, Dr. Lucius told the man by telephone that he was more needed in his own town and to stay there. Dr. Hines was dead three days after contracting the disease.

From a life that would've been far more comfortable back in Ohio, Dr. Lucius Hine had decided to go where his services were most needed - even though he, himself, never knew why.
They Shoe Horses, Don't They?
January 1, 2007 Column

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