One of the best parts of working at Laupus Library on East Carolina University's medical campus is that I get to study the way doctors worked in the eighteenth century, both before and after the Civil War, sometimes during the Civil War, and then, of course, afterward. A local medical professional by the name of Joseph Nicholas Bynum lived just north of the town of Marlboro, closest to the present Farmville, Pitt County, North Carolina (see map). If you've ever eaten at the Bojangles just off the "Farmville" exit from Hwy 264, then you were on the old Richard A. Bynum homeplace. This was Joseph's brother and business partner.
Field Map of Lieut. Koerner's military survey between Neuse and Tar Rivers North Carolina (1863) showing actual locations of residents and businesses. Source: NC Maps at: http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/ncmaps/id/1810/rec/7
The old plank road ran straight through Marlboro and it was the center of west Pitt commercial activity in the 19th century. Not until the construction of Norfolk and Southern railroad did Farmville come into existence, eclipsing Marlboro. Still, the greater metropolis of Greenville already overshadowed Marlboro, even more after the beginning of East Carolina Teacher's Training School (ECU today) in 1907.
Thus, the confusion over Joseph's time in medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, 1854-1857.* In one record, he lists his residence as "Marlboro," but in the other, as "Greenville." It is interesting to note that many Eastern North Carolina country doctors studied at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and did their internships at the University of Pennsylvania. This includes at least two generations of the Garrentons from Currituck and Pitt Counties and others that I have encountered in the northeastern part of the state.
- * From "The Line of James Bynum (c1690 – 1763), Grandson of John Bynum," Bob's Genealogy Filing Cabinet: "He received a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1857 as a classmate of his distant cousins Mark Wesley Bynum and Joseph Medicus Bynum."
|University of Pennsylvania 1855 student roster|
Many references like Dr. Brown's Recipes and Information for Everybody gave more than just simple homeopathic remedies. My grandmother from Burgaw often boasted of her abilities in medicine and I once tested her knowledge with an 1888 copy of this book. Indeed, she and her oldest daughter (my Aunt Marie) conferred with one another over every question like medical professionals. Their final answers were usually quite close to the books and I had to concede, that she did, indeed, have a great deal of medical knowledge!
Dr. Bynum was listed in the 1850 census (Cross Roads, Pitt County) as a "clerk" for his uncle John P. Bynum's merchant business, a vocation that would stick with him throughout his life. Still, in only one census, the 1860 (Maysville PO), right after graduating medical school in Pennsylvania, he was listed as a "physician." In the other two censuses in which he is recorded, however, the 1870 and 1900, he is listed as a "farmer." This trend is also evident in the early generations of Dr. Alfred Franklin Hammond of Pollocksville, Jones County and the generation that followed him there (all three generations were named "Alfred Franklin!").
The account records show approximately 17 entries on each page, equaling 357 separate accounts and charges, mostly for "visits," some for "surgery," but most often, no doubt, for child birth. This record covers July 1894 - April 1895, a small sample of the work he performed as a physician.
Samples of these records include:
July 9 - Rufus Barrett
- To visit son & daughter 20/-
Wm. Nichols (for daughter)
- To med daughter 5/-
July 11 - Rufus Barrett
- to visit daughter and son - 15/-
George C. Barrett
- to med wife 2/6
July 13 - Alfred May for son R
- To med son Robert 7/6
- To med wife and baby 5/-
- To visit daughter 15/-
July 14 - Mrs. Nancy Holloman
- To med self 15/-
Bynum noted on page 52, "John Dilday to day (Jun 24th 1895) paid me five dollars and gave me a due bill for five (5) dollars which settles the books of his account up to now."
The medical diary (LD 19.2.d) has much more detailed information about his patients and their concerns and activities. He occasionally refers to consultations with Dr. David Morrill from the Farmville area, another of the four doctors which also included Dr. C. C. Joyner and Dr. Samuel Morrill.
Some of the data can be personal and even though these people have passed on, their families may not appreciate them being advertised. Also, much of this information may be covered by HIPAA regulations and cannot be made public as of yet.
Most of us are familiar with the prescription "Laudanum" to which Wyatt Earp's wife was addicted in the movie Tombstone, probably prescribed by the dubious contemporary of Dr. Bynum's, Doc Holliday. Quite surprisingly, laudanum is still sometimes prescribed today. As a kid, I even remember taking it for diarrhea... by its less innocuous name of Paregoric. Dr. Bynum also makes reference to this particular variety of camphorated tincture of opium.
One of the advertisements in which Dr. J. N. Bynum was quoted was for Hayden's Viburnum Compound, used for "Ailments of Women." And many of the visits recorded by Bynum were made out to local men or women with "to med wife" or "to visit with wife" or their children in the account. Also, the records in the diary refer primarily to wives and daughters of local men. So, it would appear that Dr. Bynum would have had a great deal of use for this particular prescription.
As for the Hayden's advertisement testimonial which included Bynum, it is shown below:
Also, testifying as to Dr. Bynum's work as a family physician, the The Pacific Record of Medicine and Surgery Vol II No 1 of 15 Oct 1887, p. 96 shows a comment of Dr. Bynum's about medicinal baby food:
- I have now given Lactated Food a fair trial, and am prepared to say that it is superior to any food preparation I have ever used. A decided advantage is that it is not rejected by the most delicate stomach, something that I cannot say of several other "Foods" that I have used. A case of apparently hopeless marasmus [severe malnutrition] in an infant is now recovering under its use alone. I consider it a boon to the bottle-fed baby.
Dr. Joseph Nicholas Bynum died 24 May 1909 in Farmville, Pitt County. He was a man of letters, as the desk, bookcase, surveyor's compass, pocket watch, and "silverbead walking cane" in his will suggest. The only note in his will that indicates his status as a doctor is his item bequeathing his "mycroscope and its fixtures" to his son Joseph... four pages of will to end the quiet farm and community life of an old country doctor. How many of his babies went on to lead prosperous lives, create wonders? How many of their grandchildren remember hearing the story of how they were born at his hands?
If you want to learn more about the Bynums and many other families from this area of Pitt and Wilson Counties, go to: Tabitha Marie DeVisconti Papers, 1705-1983 at the Joyner Library Special Collections on the main campus. Also, check out the May Museum at 3802 S. Main Street, Farmville, NC 2782,Phone: 252-753-6725...