Celebrating Alabama's Bicentennial 200

by Dr. Tom Vaughan '55 | Dean Emeritus

Celebrating Alabama’s Bicentennial

By Dr. Tom Vaughan ’55, Dean Emeritus

Twenty-nineteen marks the Bicentennial of Alabama’s statehood when, on December 14, 1819, President James Monroe signed the joint resolution of Congress admitting Alabama as the 22nd state of the Union.

By the turn of the 17th century, the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and more specifically Mobile Bay, had been on world maps (German, Spanish, French, and British) for 300 years. Mobile Bay had been discovered by Spanish navigators as early as 1520. Thanks to the navigable reaches of the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers and the friendly relations that the French cultivated with the Indians (in contrast to the Spanish), the interior of Alabama was explored earlier than any of the other territories along the northern Gulf. Fort Toulouse was built near Wetumpka at the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers in 1714. Fort Tombecbe was built near Demopolis at the confluence of the Tombigbee and Black Warrior Rivers in 1735.

The Mississippi Territory was regarded by the rest of the Union as the Southwestern Frontier, still populated (and owned) by Native American nations, but otherwise, as a part of the New World, open for continental expansion with rich land ripe for cultivation and virgin forests to replace much of the depleted woodlands of the North and Midwest. “Discovered” during the War of 1812 when the Federal Road between Washington City (D.C.) and New Orleans was ordered by President Jefferson in 1806—at that time a horse path—it was later widened and rerouted somewhat for movement of military troops and ordnance in 1811 during President Madison’s administration. Soon afterward, it became a highway for pioneer settlers from the Atlantic states as far north as Pennsylvania. Reminiscent of the prehistoric drainage of erosion flow from the ancient Appalachian Mountains down the watersheds of the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, this southward migration took a similar path into early Alabama. In addition to the river valleys, including the Coosa River from north Georgia, no fewer than 12 overland routes were followed. Land companies and speculators took advantage of many settlers, and the high price of cotton and choice cotton land fueled the migration. An “Alabama Fever” developed that was comparable to the “California Fever” of 1849. The Cypress Land Company included such men as Thomas Bibb, second governor of Alabama; General John Coffee, surveyor general of the Alabama Territory; President James Madison; General Andrew Jackson; and other notable men of means. Lands originally purchased for two dollars an acre were sold for 10 to 20 dollars an acre 10 years later, with prime cotton land going for $50 to $100 an acre.

Lands surveyed for towns brought more than that.Not all of the new settlers were well-to-do, and many fell victim to rampant land speculation which led to the Panic of 1819 when Alabama was mired in a land debt of $11 million, one of several antebellum recessions.

The world in the meantime was in a state of ferment. European nations were perpetually at war with one another. Napoleon was on the rise. Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated president in 1801, and two years later made the Louisiana Purchase of land extending from the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi R iver to the Pacific Northwest. He commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the territory that would become the Oregon Trail. In 1810, Simón Bolívar emerged as a major figure in South American politics; and, by 1813, Mexico declared itself independent. Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and the rest soon followed. Napoleon reached his zenith in 1810, and two years later, lost all but 20,000 of his army of 550,000 in a disastrous defeat at Moscow and the retreat afterward. Three years later on June 18, 1815, he was defeated at Waterloo by the Duke of Wellington with the same army that General Andrew Jackson had defeated on January 8, 1815, in the Battle of New Orleans, which ended the War of 1812.

Also, in 1819, Secretary of State (under President Monroe) John Quincy Adams reached an agreement with Spanish Foreign Minister Luis De Onís for the United States to assume the legal claims of American citizens against Spain in the amount of $5 million in exchange for the legal status of lands in West Florida (bordering Alabama) and extending the transcontinental boundary of the U.S. to the Oregon coast.Returning to the home front, in 1808, the U.S. prohibited the importation of slaves from Africa, but it was well-known that “slave-runners” continued this practice long afterward, especially along the Gulf Coast. Abolition of slavery was a growing issue in Congress with the expansion of the West and the addition of new states which had to be declared free or slave states. This came to a head in March 1820, just three months after Alabama became the 22nd state, when Congress enacted the Missouri Compromise that made Maine a free state and Missouri a slave state. This issue would continue to brew over the next 40 years that included the administrations of 10 presidents from John Quincy Adams to Abraham Lincoln (1825 to 1861), two of whom died in office (of natural causes) before President Lincoln was assassinated. Thus, two of them, John Tyler and Millard Fillmore, merely served out the terms of the deceased presidents, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor, without having been elected. With the exception of Andrew Jackson, none of these administrations served for but one term. If you think fake news and a controversial, mainstream media was invented during the Trump administration, go back and review national politics during the 19th century. Even without social media and electronic communications, it was every bit as bitter as any today.

The next major problem facing the young state was that of Indian removal. Between 1820 and 1830, the state’s population had swelled from about 125,000 to more than 300,000, the population of slaves 38 percent. Unfortunately, the burgeoning growth and settlement of the New Republic was no more respectful of the Indian lands than had been the case with the Spanish, although each had legal (if not moral) claims. Contentious issues in both Georgia and Alabama almost brought federal and state forces into open conflict, and did result in a weakening of the states’ previously unanimous support of Jackson and a strengthening of the Whig (opposition) party.

Despite the earlier suppression of Indian hostilities in 1814 and the treaties that followed, namely the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and treaties with the Choctaws (1830), the Creeks (1832), and the Cherokees (1835), conflicts only increased between squatters, unscrupulous land agents, and disgruntled Indians. The Creek War of 1836 erupted during the Creek Indian removal to the new Territory in Oklahoma. Bands of Indians committed depredations across the countryside, stealing livestock and burning buildings. Governor Clement Clay called out the State militia in the failure of Federal control, and it wasn’t until 1837 that the last battle was fought at Hobdy’s Bridge on the Pea R iver in the southeast corner of Alabama. The other event of the day was the Panic of 1837, caused by international factors as well as poor banking practices. Within weeks after President Martin Van Buren had taken office after eight years under President Jackson, the bottom fell out of the American economy. In April 1837, one year after Judge John J. Harper arrived via the Federal Road to establish the little settlement which was subsequently named Auburn, some 250 businesses had failed in New York City; and, by mid-May, every bank in the city had suspended payments of gold and silver. In the same month, $100 million of losses were counted; and, within a few months, 40 percent of the nation’s banks had folded, rivaling the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Standing alone among the challenges to the South during the 19th century was undeniably the Civil War. By 1860, the eighth census reported Alabama as eleventh out of 34 states in improved land acreage, with $43.4 million value in livestock, ninth of the 34 states, and one of the largest in crops produced (cotton, sweet potatoes, peas and beans, rice, and corn). In four years, these were “gone with the wind” along with the sequestration of its entire labor force, and nearly a half-million recently freed blacks. Another hurdle was the need for a second industrial revolution to mechanize agriculture which had been dependent upon manual labor.

In one tumultuous month between April 4 and May 1865, Lincoln gave his second inaugural address, Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Lincoln was assassinated, General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered to General William T. Sherman in North Carolina, and Generals R ichard Taylor, Dabney Maury, and Nathan Bedford Forrest surrendered their Confederate forces to General Edward Canby in Citronelle. On May 10, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia.

What followed was termed “the Reconstruction,” the supreme oxymoron for a complete collapse and dissolution of government and social order. Occupied by Federal troops for 12 years (1865 to 1877) after the end of the war, the period was the bleakest of Southern history—during which time nine Confederate states were bankrupted by corrupt public officials. “Since no armistice was signed or treaty of peace made…there were no terms of surrender…which the North need respect” (Coulter). After four years of death and destruction, the cost of war was compounded by the price of peace. Efforts to rebuild and feed their families were further complicated by the loss of most of their livestock and the virtual absence of seed, giving rise to what was called “the Starving Time.” How ironic that this rebuilding process was the diametric opposite of the Marshall Plan to rebuild ravaged Europe after World War II.

Though painful the memory, lest we forget, the abuses inflicted on an entire race are no less excusable. The regrettable thing is that, in war, retribution is unevenly directed at the guilty, and “collateral damage” to use a militarism, may be more the rule than the exception.

As though the young state, but recently readmitted to the Union and dead broke, needed further problems, in November 1869, the Suez Canal was opened giving Great Britain a much closer and cheaper sea route to its colonies in southeast Asia and cotton-producing India, in direct competition with the southern United States. When an entire economy was indexed to the price of cotton, this was the last thing the South needed. The hegemony of King Cotton, a legacy that would persist well into the next century, continued to press its subjugation over whites and blacks alike, both unfortunate subjects of his economic dominion.

So, when the young state chose to spread its wings, with apologies to Mr. Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”


Yr humbl and obdt svt,


This column will be continued in the Fall Auburn Veterinarian with an examination of veterinary medicine in the 19th century. Be sure to join Dean Vaughan for his JTV Equine Conference talk October 17 as part of Annual Conference/JTV Equine Conference weekend. See pages 14-22 for details.

Bicentennial logo

In the Summer issue, Apocrypha discussed the Bicentennial of Alabama’s statehood and 19th-century Alabama. We continue with the 1800s, focusing on our rich veterinary medicine history.

Meanwhile, what was going on in the world of veterinary medicine?

Drawing on accounts by Bert Bierer published in 1939 on animal plagues of North America from 1800 to 1866, before the U.S. Department of Agriculture was established in 1862, we find diseases such as hoof disease of cattle and horses due to eating hay affected with ergot; worm in the head of sheep; epidemics of unknown origin among swine; salivary defluxions in horses; yellow water and epidemic sore throat among horses; Texas fever of cattle; hydrophobia in dogs; burnt tongue of cattle and horses; canine distemper; bighead disease (osteoporosis) of horses; mad itch in cattle; anthrax among cattle; buffalo gnats in horses; hog cholera; actinomycosis in cattle; equine encephalomyelitis; trichinosis in swine; shipping fever of horses; contagious pleuropneumonia in cattle; and glanders in horses. Of course, rabies (hydrophobia), anthrax, some encephalitides, trichinosis, and glanders were zoonoses, and Louis Pasteur’s proof of the germ theory was yet years away.

Retreating to an earlier period of history, the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries questioned traditional doctrines and barriers and emphasized the empirical method in science. The ruinous plagues of rinderpest that decimated cattle and sheep populations in the wake of war, and the public outcry to the deaths of 200 million cattle in Europe between 1711 and 1779, pressured governments to take action and led directly to the first schools of veterinary medicine in the French schools at Lyon in 1762 and Alfort in 1765.

[In July 2019, Dr. Tony Frazier, Alabama State Veterinarian, reported that an outbreak in China of African Swine Fever—a close cousin of hog cholera only recently eradicated from the U.S.—had necessitated the culling of more than a million pigs, with “some projections that over 200 million could die or be culled in China due to ASF.

In a recent update, as of October 15, Dr. Frazier, in communication with Dr. Doug Meckes, North Carolina State Veterinarian, reported that pig inventories in China (the world’s biggest pork-producing and consuming nation) had plunged 39 percent in August from a year earlier. That equates to a loss of 167 million animals, based on the 428 head the USDA estimates China had at the end of 2018 (Washington Post 10.01.19). See also, JAV M A Ne ws, pp. 866-867, Oct. 15, 2019.

Reminiscent of the historical plagues that decimated humans and animals alike, such as the Black Death plague (Yersenia pestis) of 14th-century China and 17th-century Europe, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—war, famine, pestilence, and death—are always there, whether on the battlefield or biding their time in the stable.]

Other schools followed in Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark. The first English veterinary school was founded in London in 1791, followed in 1820 with the Royal Dick School at Edinburgh. Two of its graduates, Andrew Smith and Duncan McEachran, founded the first veterinary schools in North America in the Ontario Veterinary College (1862) and the Montreal Veterinary College (1866), respectively, while a third graduate, James Law, became the first veterinary professor in the U.S. when he began teaching biology and veterinary classes at Cornell University in 1868.

Described by J.F. Smithcors in his classic The Veterinarian in America 1625-1975, the first friends of veterinary medicine were, oddly enough, two physicians, Benjamin Rush, M.D. and James Mease, M.D., and a judge, R ichard Peters, all from Philadelphia. They were strong advocates and influential voices that called for a formal education for veterinarians to elevate and identify a profession distinct and separate from the blacksmith-farrier that the public had become dependent upon. Representing the latter was William Carver, who in 1820 published his Practical Horse Farrier, Shewing The Best Method to Preserve The Horse in Health, based on his 40 years of experience, and published in Philadelphia. This was attended by others urging every man to be his own horse doctor.

In tribute to what have been called the “veterinary physicians” of the 19th century, three names command special attention: Edward Jenner (1749-1823), Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), and Robert Koch (1843-1910). Jenner claims credit for studies that led directly to small pox vaccination. Pasteur presided over the funeral of the theory of spontaneous generation of diseases and gave birth to the germ theory and the advent of modern medicine. He developed the first attenuated vaccines and immunization against fowl cholera, rabies, and anthrax, and demonstrated the agents of pneumococcal and staphylococcal infections. Koch also advanced methods of dealing with anthrax, but is best known for having isolated the bacterial agents of tuberculosis, cholera, wound infections, and foot and mouth disease—the first known filterable virus of animals.

The veterinary writings available to well after the mid-19th century did not address principal livestock diseases of the U.S. Rather, the agricultural press increased from one publication in 1819 to more than 30 in 1840, as exemplified by The American Farmer in 1819.

An exception was George Dadd, M.D., V.S., a prolific, if controversial figure born in England in 1813 but placed in Boston by 1845. Dadd produced no fewer than 10 books on veterinary medicine in addition to his American Veterinary Journal and others. He was the first American veterinarian to use general anesthesia in practice (a mixture of ether and chloroform), to successfully spay a mare, and to perform cesarean sections in swine.

One of the most notable surgeons was T.C. “Farmer” Miles, billed as “the best castrator in the world,” who from 1830 until 1884 or thereabouts performed inguinal cryptorchectomies and spayed mares, as he claimed, from coast to coast and from Texas to Canada. Interestingly, his ethics were commended by no less than Merillat and Campbell and in the U.S. Veterinary Journal.

Another event worth noting was the great influenza epizootic of horses in 1871-72 that paralyzed transportation and commerce in New York City and Boston and necessitated the use of oxen to provide some relief. Reported every spring and fall since 1856, in 1873, the epizootic was remarkably fatal among the mules and asses of the West and the South, running as high as 30 to 70 percent, and raging on the Pacific coast.

An outbreak of contagious pleuropneumonia in American cattle occurred because of lax federal regulation of contagious and infectious diseases. Only when Great Britain imposed an embargo in 1879 on the importation of all American cattle for slaughter and several other European countries exercised the same sanction for trichinae in pork was the United States government prodded into action (by American commodity groups) to establish the Bureau of Animal Industry in 1884 under the direction of Daniel E. Salmon, finally coming to grips with the important plagues and zoonoses as well as public nuisances. These efforts included regulation of slaughterhouses and the milk supply and better methods of waste disposal. The first federal meat inspection law was passed in 1890, with additional legislation in 1891 providing for antemortem and postmortem veterinary inspection of animals slaughtered for foreign and interstate trade. Campaigns were launched against Texas fever, hog cholera, foot-and-mouth disease, and bovine tuberculosis to name a few. A footnote to the initial problem is that contagious bovine pleuropneumonia was introduced to the U.S. by a cow off a British ship.

The world-wide scourge of malaria, known since antiquity, was not to be solved until Fred Kilborne and Cooper Curtice of the B.A.I., working under Salmon and Theobald Smith, M.D., proved ticks to be the arthropod vector of Texas fever, the first demonstration of insect-borne disease in medicine, which opened the door to explanation of the pathogenesis of malaria, plague, typhus, yellow fever, and numerous hemorrhagic fevers and encephalatides.

Auburn’s own Charles A. Cary deserves kudos for his contributions to the furtherance of one medicine. In his original exchanges in 1891 with President William Leroy Broun, a condition for his coming to Auburn was that he be allowed to continue with graduate studies in Europe in the laboratories of Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, when Germany and France were the fountainheads of human and veterinary medicine of the day. An immediate benefit of this association was that Alabama was one of the first states in the Union to institute the use of tuberculin for detection of bovine tuberculosis and the application of public meat and milk inspection and the pasteurization process. Prior to this, T.B. was the leading cause of human morbidity, particularly in the young. As professor of veterinary science in the College of Agriculture, subsequently dean of the new College of Veterinary Medicine, and State Veterinarian, Cary exerted tremendous influence on the public health, animal agriculture, and veterinary medicine.

So, from the days of hollow horn and hollow tail in cattle, horse catarrh, lockjaw and blind staggers, epidemic distemper in dogs and cats, and surgery on the dog’s tongue to prevent and cure rabies, until the establishment of the profession with the first five schools in the last 20 years of the 19th century (Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Cornell, and Washington), veterinary medicine had emerged from the Dark Ages and experienced its own renaissance that coincided with a new nation’s liberation from European domination.

In 100 years (1800-1900), the nation had fought four wars (1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War); had won the Southwest from Texas to California; had tripled the number of states (from 15 in the 18th century to 45 by 1896); had extended its boundaries by nearly as much; and had endured six economic depressions. In the 60 years between 1841 and 1901, five presidents died in office, three by assassination. Alabama also had to contend with the Creek Indian War of 1836, the year the village of Auburn was founded, and the panics of 1819 and 1837. Yet, determination prevailed and saw the live birth of the State of Alabama, the city of Auburn, the land-grant college of Alabama, and conception of the first College of Veterinary Medicine in the entire southern United States, a fitting denouement to the 19th century.


Yr humbl & obdt svt


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