Gideon Hill Morgan, M.D.

Copyright (2002) * All rights reserved
J.C. (Jim) Tumblin, OD, DOS
3604 Kesterwood Drive, East
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2557
(865) 687-1948

Fountain Citians Who Made A Difference

Gideon Hill Morgan, M.D.


Fountain City has produced a number of authors.  These include Claudius M. Capps, John W. Green, Lucy Curtis Templeton, Robert Cunningham, Joseph Gorman, Josephine Breeding and others.  Fortunately for the modern-day historian, another Fountain Citian, Dr. Gideon Hill Morgan, wrote his book, Autobiography of My Life Up To The Present Date (1913) and made a significant contribution to the history of Fountain City.

Gideon was born in eastern Hawkins County near Church Hill on January 6, 1852, one of the ten children of Sinoah (Noah) (1807-1891) and Martha F. Morgan (1816-1894). Noah Morgan was a farmer and carpenter, quiet, sympathetic and honest. He was also a rather accomplished violinist. Gideon was the youngest of the six boys in the family. He enjoyed life on the farm but, since he was not as robust as his older brothers during his pre-teen years, "Gid" was assigned to assist his sister Martha in spinning cotton. He recalled that, when they caught up with the carder their mother had hired for that task, he could dart out and work on the shed he was building for the calf his father had given him. His industrious nature stood him in good stead then and persisted into his adult life (1).

In the winter of 1864, during his early school years at the old Wallace School House, news came of a great army of "Yankees" marching up the nearby Stage Road. The teacher dismissed school and a number of the boys ran the two miles to the road. Gid observed a scene he would remember to the end of his days--great cannons being pulled by ten or more horses, vast numbers of men in blue uniforms with guns, bayonets and sabers and numerous wagons lumbering over the frozen road. He was informed that, not long before he arrived, three of his brothers (Milton, William and Pleasant) had been seen among the soldiers marching north under the command of General Stephen G. Burbridge toward Saltville, Virginia (near Abingdon) to destroy the salt works. These vital saltworks supplied the bulk of the salt used throughout the southern states. Although they had been away fighting the war for so long and were within two or three miles of home, his brothers had not been able to see any of the family.

In a chapter in his book entitled, "A Radical Change in My Life," Gideon described how he professed his faith when he was fourteen years old and how he attended church and Sunday School regularly thereafter. His faith and his practice of his religion played a significant role in his life.

When he was only fifteen, Gideon left the family home to live with his brother William T. Morgan in north Knox County. When he promised to pay his father $7.50 per month until he became twenty-one, he was permitted to stay. He worked for his brother and faithfully sent money home each month. He had never been studious before, but began to find great pleasure in reading, especially in reading the New Testament. He would work hard all day, then would often read until eleven or twelve o’clock at night.

When he was nineteen he accepted a temporary job in town mowing for Colonel J.J. Reese. The colonel recognized his potential and advised his brother that, if he could pass the examination and become a "state student" at the University of Tennessee, Gideon could board with him in exchange for tasks he could perform nights and mornings. Mr. Reese helped him prepare the papers and Gideon set out for Hawkins County to call on Representative John Blevins who could secure the state appointment. 

Gideon received the appointment and was counseled by University president Thomas Humes in the books he would need. Then Mr. Humes advised him that he would meet with things that would be discouraging, but then said, "Never mind anything of the kind, I will help you if I can. You can make your mark in the world, no one will make it for you." After his first year his studies required more time and Gideon moved onto campus. He worked for a Mr. Cummings landscaping "The Hill" nights and mornings at ten cents an hour and $1.00 for all day Saturday. Years later he remembered helping to plant many of the beautiful trees on the Hill.

It was during his second year at the university (1872) that Horace Maynard gave him additional advice he would always remember, "You only need to be industrious, honest and faithful to duty, and if so, there is no power under Heaven sufficient to defeat you in your undertakings for good." Evidently, Gideon took this advice to heart. For instance, he recounts that he ranked second in mathematics among his 37 classmates and would have been first but for J.B. Witherington’s expertise (2).

During his school vacations Gideon would always teach and make good money; but, due to the financial strain, he decided he would not go back to college for his third year. When he wrote president Humes to that effect, he received a letter saying, "You must come back; and if you will, I will pay your board for the next year, and will also help you in any other way I can." He returned to the university (3).

When he graduated in June of 1873, he began teaching at Grassy Springs, a Knox County school. At the end of that school year he moved to Cowan’s Branch school near Gate City (Scott County), Virginia. It was in Gate City that he met, courted and married Sarah (Sallie) A. Jones, daughter of prosperous farmer John and Nancy (Harrell) Jones, on February 21, 1875. The happy union would result in ten children (4).

Gideon Morgan’s career as a teacher would last for eight years. After teaching at Gate City he taught at Mt. Pleasant for one year, at Charlton Grange for three years and at Bradshaw for another three years. He was particularly proud of his record at Bradshaw where he was able to convey his superior knowledge of science and mathematics to the students and where he had an excellent debating society. After his three years there, he accepted the offer to teach a Normal School at New Hope, Tennessee. 

The "Normal School" was at that time responsible for refresher courses for teachers. He taught 35 or 40 teachers for ten days, reviewing the most difficult aspects of the free school curriculum. Then he was appointed to administer the examinations for teachers. Years later he recalled his own experience in having taken and passed 28 rigid examinations during his lifetime and took pleasure in the memory of his ability to conduct strict and thorough examinations but with kindness and consideration for those he was examining.

By 1878 Gideon and Sallie had two children and increased responsibilities, but he thought he had enough capital to venture into a new field. He made contact with Dr. D.D. Britton to ride on his rounds with him and "read" medicine until he could take his first formal course of lectures in the practice of medicine. As he was preparing to attend the medical lectures, his father-in-law sold his farm near Gate City and moved to a farm eight miles east of Rogersville. Mrs. Morgan and the two children stayed with her parents while Gideon attended college.

His first course was at the medical department of the University of Tennessee, then located in Nashville. He was soon examined on the part of the course he had partially completed and was appointed demonstrator for his class in anatomy and served in the position until the close of the term. After a visit to the state penitentiary, the warden invited him to teach a Sunday School class there each Sunday afternoon. In addition to that he usually attended morning services at his church and often attended evening services also. In 1881 he was graduated at the head of his class and made a perfect score on the crucial physiology and surgery exam, even though he was very ill at the time with both measles and mumps.

Although he was still sick, he departed for Rogersville with his medical diploma in hand, arriving at 8:00 p.m. He then drove eight miles to his home on a very cold, snowy night. The next day his personal inventory revealed he had but $2.00 cash and three children and a wife to support. Giving thanks for his many blessings, he recovered from his illness and rested a few days. Soon a man arrived at the house and asked him to come to attend his wife who was suffering pneumonia. Dr. Morgan borrowed a horse from his father-in-law, made several visits to the patient and terminated the fever successfully. As word of the new doctor spread; he became very busy, sometimes consulting on patients as far as 20 miles to the east and 20 miles to the west of Rogersville.

In less than three years he had a small home suitable for his growing family and all the outbuildings he needed. His father-in-law bought 115 acres of land adjoining the home and deeded it to his wife. Now his family had a very nice farm and Dr. Morgan had plenty to do, including the practice of medicine and his other business ventures. His reputation as an expert with fever cases grew. A typhoid epidemic occurred one year and the doctor rode day and night and treated 383 cases in that one year, losing only two cases. When he reported this success to a medical journal, they advised that the results were not surpassed in the entire state that year.

Gideon Morgan, M.D. in 1897 at Age 45

(Dapple gray "day horse" weighs 1350 pounds)

The Morgans lived on the farm for eight years. Meanwhile Dr. Morgan was conducting a large medical practice, building houses, running sawmills and threshing machines and engaging in other successful enterprises. The doctor felt he needed to concentrate on his practice of medicine so he rented the farm and moved his practice to Rogersville. He built a home for his family on Reno Street and practiced medicine exclusively. The practice increased very fast, especially when he was appointed examiner for the U.S. Pension Board. The doctor felt he had become "the busiest man between two oceans."

He had served the people of Rogersville faithfully for twenty-two years when, during the early hours of March 16, 1901, Dr. Morgan was awakened by a sound that he first thought was a developing storm. Soon he smelled smoke and quickly leaped out of bed and opened the door to the hall. He discovered that the house was on fire. The fire would have blocked access to the stairway within minutes and trapped his children upstairs, but he was able to rescue all of them. In less than an hour his house and belongings were destroyed, including his downstairs medical office, his library and his instruments.

Friends in Knoxville, aware that he needed to make a new start in life, encouraged him to relocate there. He immediately enrolled in a post-graduate course in the diseases of women and children in Philadelphia, then attended lectures in surgery in New York City. Upon his return he visited Knoxville and also Harriman, where he had been invited to practice as a specialist. He decided the best opportunity was in Knoxville and investigated the purchase of a home there. He chose a home called Lake View in Fountain City consisting of a house and five acres of land just one minute from the car line and overlooking Fountain City Lake. He returned to Rogersville and spent several months liquidating his properties and settling $8000 to $10,000 in accounts receivable from his practice (5).

Dr. Morgan's Home on Five Acres Overlooking the Lake (Circa 1913)

(Present site of Gentry-Griffey Chapel)

They arrived at their new home in Fountain City on November 13, 1902. It was at the height of a depression and the house had been allowed to deteriorate. One of the Knoxville physicians advised, "You have come here to starve with the rest of us." Dr. Morgan replied that he had no notion of starving as he could live on what he had earned in Rogersville. He hired several men to assist him and they made many improvements to the house and land and put them in first class condition.

Soon after he located in Fountain City the doctor noticed difficulty with his eyesight and experienced a ringing in his left ear. Thereafter he noticed an elevation of the great bone of the skull and quickly consulted with a specialist, an eminent surgeon. After a careful examination, the surgeon advised that only a great deal of pressure from a sizable space-taking process could cause such an upheaval of the skull. He advised immediate removal of two and one-half inches of bone and replacing it with a silver plate. Dr. Morgan realized this would not by itself eliminate the cause of the swelling and made a decision. He relates that, "(I) ...resolved freely and firmly to place my case into the hands of God who does all things well." He prayed not less than three times a day in a more earnest and direct way than he ever had about anything in his life. Miraculously in less than five or six days the upheaval reduced more rapidly than it had developed and the vision and hearing problems vanished. He was entirely well.

At first he practiced only in Fountain City, but began thinking about an office in downtown Knoxville. Fortunately he soon met a railroad ticket agent, Mr. W.T. Rogers, a fellow passenger on a train carrying them home. Mr. Rogers was suffering severe asthma and was receiving no relief, although he had consulted the best doctors. Dr. Morgan advised him that he had just received special training at the Polyclinic Hospital of Philadelphia in 1903 and felt he could treat him. Within sixty days Mr. Rogers was breathing well and was still doing so ten years later. Through word of mouth he referred many patients and even invited Dr. Morgan to occupy a room in the ticket office near the Southern Railway depot as his medical office. He practiced there two years and there was never a "hard thought" between them.

The practice having increased rapidly, Dr. Morgan sought a larger office and found one at 311 North Gay Street, renting from George (Busy Bee George) Apostolis. He remained there five years with never a disagreement with his landlord. He experienced even more growth in his practice (6).

In 1904 Dr. and Mrs. Morgan and their son, Dr. Clint Morgan, attended the St. Louis World’s Fair (the Louisiana Purchase Exposition). The fair celebrated the Centennial of the Louisiana Purchase in which the territory acquired from France included all the land between the Mississippi River and the crest of the Rocky Mountains. He observed that it was the ownership of these lands that made possible the extension of the United States boundary to the Pacific Ocean.

After practicing on Gay Street for five years, Dr. Morgan was tired and, as happened so often in his life, felt a need for another special course of lectures. Having studied in the East in years past, he chose to study first in Hot Springs, Arkansas and later in the University of California. On the way he visited El Paso, Texas and took a train to Mexico, just across the border, expecting to see a bull fight. When he found there would be none for three days, he returned to El Paso and boarded the train for Los Angeles.

He began his course in East Los Angeles, but used his spare time to see various sections of the city and to visit the Island of Catalina, where he was awed by his submarine voyage on a boat used by President and Mrs. William McKinley. The strange animals and beautiful vegetation at the bottom of the sea reminded him of some lines in a poem by Gray:

Full many a gem of purest rays serene,

The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear,

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And cast its sweetness upon the desert air.

After his course, he visited San Francisco just five months after the earthquake and observed that the eastern two-thirds of the city resembled "a large brick kiln burned and they had gone through and picked out the best bricks and left the pieces." He saw the great Golden Gate and crossed the Bay to Oakland. Proceeding north, he had a pleasant visit near Portland, Oregon with his niece, Mrs. Charles (Maggie) Haynes, the daughter of William T. Morgan, and saw her three little girls, Ruth, Hazel and Jeannette. They visited the Willamette Valley, observing the beauty of the place and the bountiful fruit orchards.

He again boarded the train and departed for Seattle, Washington; but, arriving in a hard rain, he decided on the spur of the moment to return back to Knoxville. On a beautiful day he crossed the Rocky Mountains and observed a snowstorm as they crossed the pinnacle at Marshall Pass. During his stay in Salt Lake City, Utah, the State Secretary of the Morman Church showed him around and he saw the grave of Brigham Young. Dr. Morgan observed that the city was well planned with very wide streets, perfectly aligned.

In Colorado Springs he saw the large sodium spring that gave the city its name, viewed the very large diamond said to be worth $20,000 and saw many deer and bear at the depot brought there by big game hunters who were on their way home. Kansas City was the next destination. The doctor observed the rich farm lands as he crossed Kansas during the day light hours. His son, Edmond, living nearby, met him there and they visited the medical college that another son expected to attend. The dissection room and his first experience with microscopes and specimen fascinated Ed. Then they visited the faculty lounge and met several of the professors who asked Dr. Morgan a number of questions about his practice back home. It was a very enjoyable visit.

Boarding the train with his final destination in mind--Knoxville and his Fountain City home--Dr. Morgan reflected on his trip through the West. In his book he recalled, "I will never forget running through those great canyons. The train roared as if we were in a mighty hall and there was just room enough for the railroad bed. We could look straight up for hundreds of feet and this condition was for miles. Seeing so many snow-capped mountains off at a distance of 100 miles, looking as white as pearls, was a delightful sight to behold." When he arrived in Knoxville and reached his home in Fountain City, he found nothing had gone wrong since he left.

For the next two and one-half years, he was very busy in his practice. But it also was a period of introspection. He remembered that, at that time, there were 2,151 known diseases and 10,652 remedies to control or eliminate them. He concluded that the medical profession surely required more thought than any other profession did for no two patients were afflicted the same.

The doctor was again fatigued and in need of relaxation. He and Mrs. Morgan boarded the train to Atlanta where they spent a few days and then proceeded to St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. They arrived in Tampa only a few days after the great fire and observed the destruction of property over an area of several blocks. They crossed the state to Jacksonville but Mrs. Morgan became ill and they returned home by way of Atlanta.

Two years later he again visited a son in Kansas City and returned to the medical college there. Elsewhere in the state he observed the expansive fields of wheat and corn and visited another medical college in Manhattan, Kansas. Then Dr. Morgan toured a large ranch with the owner and saw the rancher’s 1,200 to 1,400 head of cattle and perhaps 1,000 to 1,200 hogs. He marveled that the rancher could be worth several hundred thousand dollars yet choose to live in a three room, white-washed house ten to twelve feet high and that his wife wore brogan shoes and was still using a rusty cook stove.

After several years as a medical specialist, Dr. Morgan shared some conclusions he had reached. He commented that people visit the general practitioner until he fails, then they go to the specialist. Therefore he concluded, "...the head of the specialist is always on the block, in other words, a specialist must know his business or very soon he has no business."

One of his physician friends said to him one day, "Well I opened an office as a specialist and there is something very strange about the so-called specialist. I know I am as well informed as you are, and I am a great deal better looking man, and I opened an office as a specialist, and in less than three months I had drifted until I had no callers except collectors and a lot of (d-----) beggars." Dr. Morgan commented, "... I had no explanation to make, that this is a very queer world which we are passing through, and that if my success had depended on good looks and shrewdness, I would have long since been where hope is a stranger and mercy could never come (emphasis added). ... I give every one special attention, make my charges reasonable and give everybody to know that I know my business."

In the Fall of 1912 the doctor was again fatigued and asked his wife and youngest daughter if they wanted to accompany him on another Western trip. Mrs. Morgan and seventeen-year-old Elsie Mae said yes. They boarded the train in Knoxville not knowing exactly where they were going to stop or when they would return. They stopped first in St. Louis and visited a nephew, his wife and daughter. The time there in their nephew’s beautiful home "created a green patch in our lives," Doctor Morgan observed. Then they enjoyed a four-day visit with their son, Neal, his wife and their little daughter near Philippsburgh, Missouri. Then they went through Springfield to Eureka Springs where Elsie Mae was impressed with the way "men dig back into the steep mountain and concrete a nice suit(e) of rooms and then another man (will) go above him and dig back in the hill and make himself a nice suit(e) of rooms and at the same time use the top of the first man’s house for his front yard." Elsie Mae had not seen this type of home back in Tennessee. The doctor remarked, "Eureka Springs is a great place. Those who have never been there should be sure to visit that place."

As they returned through St. Louis, they visited the site of the World’s Fair and observed the places where the doctor and his wife had seen the many exhibit buildings when they attended the fair. They noticed the high water mark on the trees and houses created by the previous Spring floods with some of the houses still upside down and many two story houses with high water marks half way to the roof. It was obvious it had been a sea of water and farmers, having planted late, would produce very poor crops that year.

On their return trip to Knoxville they stopped for a day in Chattanooga and Elsie Mae felt the trip up Lookout Mountain was the "treat of her life." They arrived in Fountain City to find the hay had been cut and shocked and placed in the barn. His neighbors, Joseph Cox and Jesse Suffridge, had put enough hay in the barn to feed the Jersey cow bountifully through the winter. This comment on the kindness of his neighbors parallels other comments made as he wrote the closing passages of his book in 1913. He said,

I have lived in Fountain City twelve years and with very few exceptions I can truthfully say that I never lived by better people in every respect. I feel that they have dealt out more kindness and respect to me and my family than we deserved. When my family was sick and resulting in death at times, I never saw kinder people, and I will never forget them. Fountain City is a beautiful suburban town of Knoxville and has many beautiful homes. The churches and schools make it an attractive place to live. The pulpits have been filled by able ministers and the schools have been run by able teachers. When I sum up all the facilities which are found in Fountain City, I am free to say that I never lived in a better place.

Dr. Morgan returned to his busy practice, but he also was planning other trips he hoped to make in the future. He particularly desired to make three more trips: to Niagara Falls, to the Panama Exposition and finally to visit the Holy Land to see Jerusalem and other scenes from the life of Christ. It was not to be. In the early Fall the doctor incurred a small wound on his foot from a rusty nail that seemed innocent enough. However, he developed tetanus and died on September 29, 1915. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery. His wife, Mrs. Sarah Morgan, survived until February 3, 1928, and is also buried in the family burial plot at Greenwood along with several of their children (7).

Toward the end of his life, Dr. Morgan reflected on his accomplishments. He remembered that Congressman Nathan Hale appointed him to attend the Anti-Tuberculosis Congress in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where he read a 5,800 word paper, which was later published, to the delegation of the most renowned physicians in the United States. At the same convention he was offered the position of superintendent of the largest Tuberculosis Sanitarium in St. Louis, but declined. He mentioned a large number of articles he had written in the medical journals that resulted in letters from doctors all over the U.S. Lastly, he recalled his speech to the Christian Association in Limestone, Tennessee and his founding of the American Philosophical Society of Knoxville in 1912.

Dr. Gideon H. Morgan had made a difference as an educator in several communities and then, in his second career, made a difference in the lives of the patients he had served during his thirty-four years in the practice of medicine.

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1.  Gideon Hill Morgan, Autobiography of My Life Up To The Present Date, 1913 (Knoxville, 1913); Hawkins County Genealogical Society, Cemeteries of Hawkins County, Tennessee (Volume 2) (Rogersville, 1986); Ancestry World Tree lists the following as children of Noah and Martha Morgan: Milton Morgan (1841-____), Minerva M. Isenberg (1843-____), William T. Morgan (1845-____), Pleasant B. Morgan (1847-____), Rufus C. Morgan (1848-____), Gideon H. Morgan (1852-1915), Martha A. Morgan (1853-____), Ella F. Morgan (1854-____) and Rosannah Morgan (1857-____).

2.  ibid. (Morgan, 1913); Mary U. Rothrock (Editor), The French-Broad Holston Country (Knoxville, 1972): Horace Maynard (1814-1882) was born in Massachusetts, educated at Amherst University and came to East Tennessee University (now the University of Tennessee) in 1842 as a professor of mathematics. He then studied for the law, became a successful lawyer and then was elected to Congress in 1857. In 1863 Andrew Johnson, military governor, made him attorney general for the state of Tennessee. After the Civil War in 1865 he was elected to Congress again. In 1875 President Grant appointed him minister to Turkey. After five years in the Foreign Service, he returned to the United States and was appointed postmaster general by President Hayes. William Rule called him the most cultured man who was ever in public life from Knoxville.

3.  ibid. (Morgan, 1913); ibid. (Rothrock, 1972): Thomas W. Humes (1815-1892) was born in Knoxville, graduated from East Tennessee University in 1831 and attained a master’s degree in 1833. He studied for the ministry but later became a member of the mercantile firm of Cowan, Dickinson and Company. He then turned to journalism and edited the Knoxville Times, Knoxville Register and the Watch Tower in succession. He was elected president of East Tennessee University in 1865 and served in that capacity until 1883. He served as librarian of the Lawson McGhee Library for the last six years of his life.

4.  The Morgan children were: Clint H. Morgan (1875-1939), who followed his father into the field of medicine; Ludema V. (1877-1935) who married Major W.A. Davis; Cornelius J. (18__-19__), who moved to St. Clair, Kansas; Neal (18__-19__), a local farmer; Cora A. (18__-19__), who married J.C. Moore; Hessie E. (1884-1907), who married Thomas Smith; Chassie N. (1886-1909), who died when she was only 22; Edward Lee (1886-1910), who became a policeman and detective in Seattle, Washington; Nettie B. (1892-1898), who was killed when only six years old in a carriage accident caused by a runaway horse; Gale D. (1891-1891), who died early and Elsie Mae (18__-1979), who married James S. Bondurant, later vice-president of Fowler Brothers Store.

5.  Renee Kent, "Stately home reflects Fountain City history," Halls/Fountain City Shopper, July 27, 1977. This is the site of the Gentry-Griffey Funeral Chapel. Many of the rooms were originally part of Lake View, although the porch has been altered. Col. J.C. Woodward, originally of Lexington, Kentucky and head of the Knoxville and Fountain Head Land Company, built the home for his son in the 1890s. The next owner was Mr. H.A. Rogers, followed by Dr. Gideon Morgan and Dover Williams. The Williams’ daughter, Mrs. Harold Davis, lived there until World War II in 1943. Then a Mr. Nichols bought it and converted it into apartments for use during the war. The late Glenard Gentry bought the house and three acres of land in November, 1948, and remodeled it extensively for the Gentry, Bartling and Griffey (now Gentry-Griffey) Funeral Chapel.

6.  The Knoxville City Directories show Dr. Morgan’s office address as 311 North Gay Street (2nd Floor) in 1908 with Spence Trunk and Leather Company, a well known Knoxville firm, occupying the ground floor (309-311). By 1910 his office address was 22-24 Minnis Building, located at 217 Wall Avenue.

7.  Obituary, Dr. G.H. Morgan, Knoxville Sentinel, October 1, 1915 and Knoxville Journal and Tribune, September 30, 1915.

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