457. John Newton Kirkpatrick was born on 30 October 1831 in Franklin Co., Illinois. He died on 14 December 1916 at the age of 85 in Thayer, Oregon Co., Missouri. He was buried in Hope Cemetery, Imboden, Lawrence Co., Arkansas.
John Newton Kirkpatrick entered St. Louis Medical College in 1856 and received his M. D. degree*. Following graduation he located in Elm Store, Randolph County, Arkansas, where he practiced medicine for many years. According to the History of Arkansas, when Dr. Kirkpatrick arrived in Randolph County "He had but twenty-five cents in his pocket and a borrowed horse to ride." Eventually he owned 366 acres of fine land in the county, as well as property in town. He was one of the pioneer doctors and surgeons in the county. One descendent reports that he would sometimes ride 35 miles by horseback to visit a patient.
According to one descendent, John Newton and three of his brothers enlisted from Lawrence County, Arkansas in the Civil War, that he served in Company C, 45th Arkansas Cavalry, and that he was paroled at Jacksonport, Arkansas on 5 June 1865. According to the Civil War records of this man, he was 33 years old when he enlisted, 5 feet 8 inches tall, had blue eyes and dark hair and complexion. However, there may be some confusion, because the history of Randolph County states that he was living in Randolph County at that time and did not serve in the war. A granddaughter, Vada Kirkpatrick Stubblefield, states that her grandfather told her that he had enlisted, but that he had been sent back home to take care of the area's medical needs. He was twice captured, once having his horse taken from him, but he was allowed to remain working as a doctor in the area.
John Newton Kirkpatrick was active in civic and social affairs in addition to his medical work and was widely known and respected throughout the state of Arkansas. He was a member of the Missionary Baptist Church and also a Mason. He was a member of the Democrat Party.
John Newton Kirkpatrick died on 14 December 1916 in Thayer, Missouri. Both he and his wife are buried in Hope Cemetery, Imboden, Arkansas.
There were eight children born of this marriage.
Interestingly, I have been unable to verify John Newton Kirkpatrick’s matriculation or graduation from St. Louis Medical College at any time.
As a physician myself, I have been particularly interested in trying to make sense of this.
With the help of the St. Louis County medical historical society librarian, I combed the student registration and graduation records for each of the several medical schools in St. Louis for the timeframe 1850-1860 and found nothing at all. Some of the late 1850’s records had been destroyed in a fire for some of the schools, so there is the possibility that the year 1856 was wrong and he attended and graduated later. I suspect, however, that an alternative explanation is more likely correct. My guess is that he worked in one of the St. Louis hospitals, perhaps as an orderly, for some time during the mid-1850s.
At that time, the body of medical knowledge was quite small (anatomy, limited understanding of physiology and pathophysiology, and knowing about a few drugs that actually worked—belladonna, digitalis, etc.). The physician’s skill set was minimal (listen with stethoscope, palpate the body). The physician’s decision making processes were relatively simple and easily mastered with careful observation. The bulk of training at that time was in the form of an apprenticeship with an experienced physician. It is my understanding that the state medical boards at that time were fairly lax with respect to verification of educational credentials.
My cynical hypothesis is that J.N.K. observed physicians at work, decided that it wasn’t rocket science and that he could do it without going through the formal educational process, presented himself to the Arkansas state medical board as a graduate of St. Louis Medical College, and obtained a license to practice medicine that was never questioned. The earliest documentation of his physician status that I’ve been able to find is a listing in an early 1870’s Arkansas physicians compendium. (I’ll send you the details when I get time.) At first I was a bit ashamed about this, but I’ve decided that, if this scenario is more or less true, his bravado is admirable in a way. He apparently became a reasonably competent physician, probably through trial and error.
Another interesting family story about JNK:
I was recently told by my Aunt Martha K. Niehoff (at the memorial service last year for my 95 y.o. Uncle Clark K.) that two disgruntled patients tried to burn his house down on one or two occasions. So maybe his competence was questionable, or you just can’t please everyone.
John Newton Kirkpatrick and Sarah Catherine Wann were married on 17 January 1856 in Batesville, Lawrence Co., Arkansas. Sarah Catherine Wann, daughter of Joshua Wann and Lydia Collins, was born on 15 July 1833 in Jackson Co., Alabama. She died on 10 May 1910 at the age of 76 in Elm Store, Randolph Co., Arkansas. She was buried in Hope Cemetery, Imboden, Lawrence Co., Arkansas.
John Newton Kirkpatrick and Sarah Catherine Wann had the following children: