Exploring Our Hazy Real History-Our Roots: Dr. Frank Bozeman King

I’m taking a short break from writing on gender equality, my favorite subject to blog on, to publish a story I recently received by email from a cousin I have become acquainted with recently while searching for information on one of my great grandmothers, Annie Letcher King Isaacs.  This story is the autobiography by her brother, Frank Bozeman King, M.D.  The only thing in the story about my great grandmother is that she is in the family portrait whith her husband, Leonard, and sons, Burford, who was my grandfather, and his brother, Conn.  This story is a walk into the hazy years of a very young Texas,  the forming of the medical profession in Texas, and how one young farm boy, my great, great uncle (if I figured that correctly!), who was raised in a log cabin, who picked cotton, and sharecropped as a young boy to be able to attend school, made a profound and lasting impact on the medical profession in the great  state that I live in.  It is the history that is not taught in our schools and it is history that occured in a part of my family ancestry, which has produced some history makers in the past that I am only now, at 64 years of age, learning about and growing in appreciation of how difficult life really was compared to ours in the 21st Century.  It is a history that describes the American Dream coming true and how that occured for this one young man.  I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did the first time I read it.  My thanks go to Kathleen Reed of Houston, who has spent considerable time researching our mutual family ties through the Bozeman, King, and Isaacs families of Milan County,

Autobiography by Frank
Bozeman King, M.D.

written ca. 1925
BOZEMAN KING, born January 21, 1864, Milam County, Texas. Married
Elizabeth Ann Winston on December 21, 1887 in Quincy, Illinois. Died
March 14, 1936, Houston, Texas.
“Maturity is the gates of Paradise, which shut behind us; and our
memories are gradually weaned from the glories in which our nativity was
I, Frank Bozeman King, was born and reared on a farm in Milam County,
Texas, about six miles west of Cameron, now the County Seat, then the frontier
of Texas. My earliest recollections were Indian raids on the full moon, nigger
slavery and tales of their creative imagination of those times, and the Ku Klux
after the Civil War, and the impressions created by the black man on the mind
of the youngsters were vivid and lasting.  My first recollection of work on the
farm was driving two yoke of oxen, first to a plow and the second to a wagon,
under the tuterage of an ex-slave. This was my vocation between the school terms
up to fifteen years of age.
At the age of about eight, there came into our community a red-headed woman, and
her husband, who was a Doctor, who had emigrated from Alabama. The wife soon took
up school teaching, opening up in a log cabin on the hillside by a spring,
about two miles to walk from where we slept and ate. The house in which we
lived was an imposing double log cabin with a gallery between dirt and stick
chimneys at either end, and in the fireplace we cooked Indian style, pots hung
over the fires, bread was rolled in corn shucks and roasted in hot ashes and
embers; so were potatoes and other edibles.
I was going to tell about education. This red-headed school teacher limited her
children from five to eight years old, which left me out in the cold. By
special dispensation she took me in to learn how to read from a blue back
speller, and my most vivid impressions are that I had to stand on one foot
about three hours a day because I could not see the necessity of studying when
all the best looking girls in the community were there to look at.
After this I was promoted to a school in another community about five miles from
town. Had to get up at five o’clock in the morning so as to have plenty of time
to make this distance by foot so as to report for duty about eight o’clock.
This being a summer school, and there was a mighty good swimming hole about
half way, I always liked a morning bath, and fishing was good thereabouts that
most of my education was obtained sorter tarrying around this swimming pool.
Right here probably was where my vision came to me to study medicine. I had
appropriated a mule out of a pasture one morning about day break, I should say,
to ride to school that day. It was customary to ride bare-backed, no bridle,
but a rope or rawhide thrown into the mule’s mouth and around the under jaw
Indian style. On my return that day, this mule wanted to return to his mate,
still grazing in the pasture, and he returned, not paying much mind to my
wishes. His partner was evidently vexed on account of his long absence, and
when he ran up to greet her, wheeled around and let go with both hind feet,
which caught me on the shin and broke both bones in the lower leg. Necessarily
I made the acquaintance of this doctor, who was my first school teacher’s
husband. He was a good kind of a fellow and nursed and doctored my broken bones
until I was well. In the meantime he imbibed into me the germ which afterwards
gave me the doctor craze.
Also if we believe in the theory that doctors are born not made, I might say my
ancestral tree was filled with doctors or Baptist preachers. Especially am I
proud of one great young man, Doctor Nathan Bozeman, from whom I take my
middle name, and who was an associate of the first great American surgeon, Dr.
Marion Simms, who together moved from Alabama to New York City in the
early part of the sixties and established a State woman’s hospital, this being
the first hospital of this character established in the United States.
Following my recovery after the above mentioned injury, I wanted to go to school. It was
about cotton picking time of the year, and I picked enough cotton at fifty
cents per hundred pounds during the months of August, September and fore of October
to make six months school in Salado, Texas, and got up to the fourth grade.
Worked through the next summer and got enough money to go to the winter term, passing
the fifth grade. This ended my educational career as far as common school was
Worked on the farm next year on the halves. Made fifteen bales of cotton. Sold it at
five cents a pound, half of which went to the boss for keeps. Hauled it on a
wagon with six yoke of oxen hitched thereto to market at Calvert, Texas, then
the terminus of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, the first railroad or
train I had ever seen. Then I went to the city, a village of about two hundred
souls, and went into a drug store, washed bottles and did general chores around
thereabout at ten dollars a month and found my own board and washing studying
at night under the tutorship of an old doctor, for a year and a half.
Went to Louisville, Kentucky, and there entered the Louisville College of
Pharmacists in the year 1881, working in a drug store at night to get by. After
six months took up medicine. Entered the Kentucky School of Medicine, which was
a spring school, taking my medical courses in the spring and pharmacy in the
winter terms, graduating in pharmacy with honors in the winter of 1884,
graduating in medicine with a gold medal of honor in the summer of 1885.
Had just reached my 21st birthday, which enabled me to bring home my sheep skin,
and cast my sight to the windward to practice medicine in all of its branches.  There
was no law at that time controlling the practicing of medicine in Texas.
Saddle-bag doctors were the rule. That is, you carried your drug store along
when you got a call to see a sick person in the community, which was after the
neighborhood granny and the preacher had failed. Both were considered as
doctors. When they sent for the medical doctor it was a life or death case. The
doctor went with his traveling drug store in his saddle-bag. They usually came
after the doctor in a two-horse wagon and loaded him in (the doctor otherwise would
have to walk, as he did not possess a horse to ride, or other visible
conveyances). He went and stayed until the patient got well. In the meantime,
this was headquarters for consultations. Patients had to come here to see the
doctor, and it was unprofessional to leave the patient until they died or got
My professional competitor in the community there was a so-called doctor, like the
preachers that are called by God – in some mysterious way he had been called to
practice medicine after he had failed in his preacher’s efforts. His standing
was deep dyed in the hearts of his community and he had the first call. I had
the second call, and had to sign his death certificates as he could not read
nor write.
My professors had always sung the swan song “Go West, young man, go West and grow
up with the country”, so I borrowed five dollars to pay my railroad fare to
Burnett, Texas, then the terminus of the Austin Northwestern Railroad. When I
reached there it looked like the terminus all right, and a pile of rock granite
and it looked like there was nothing beyond but the setting sun.
I was broke after paying fifty cents for supper, breakfast and a bed. I looked up
the doctor of the granite mound and found him to be a self-made doctor,
whiskers to his pants and cow-boy leggings was his attire. I made love to him
right off, and told him I was an educated doctor, just from college and had two
sheep skins, a fever thermometer and hypodermic syringe. He had been practicing
there twenty years, and had never seen either of those things, nor had he ever
talked to a real doctor. I made my first call that day with him, and we took
his patients temperature with a glass tube under his tongue. My reputation was
made. Everybody on, around and beyond the mountain knew of this wonderful
doctor by the next meeting time, and then it was announced in the pulpit by the
deacon of the church.
Soon after this there were some fellows, looking like city dudes, come out there and
looked over this pile of granite. I was named as pilot to find what they were
up to. They turned out to be Taylor Brothers and Gus Wilkies’ engineers from
Chicago, who afterwards paid the owner of this pile of granite three hundred
and ninety dollars for enough granite rock to build the State Capitol with. Before
this deal was closed I had a consideration that I should be made surgeon to the
camp while the granite was being quarried, which was officially done by Gus Wilkie,
the general contractor. This syndicate took from the State for this work three
million acres of State land.
After this contract was completed, I had acquired a thoroughbred Kentucky trotter and
a four-wheel top buggy. I donned a silk hat and Prince Albert coat, now doing
practice in seven counties, was known far and wide as the “silk hat doctor”.
When making a call fifty to a hundred miles west, I always required them to
send in a saddle horse and a body guard. We usually rode at night, as the cow
boys had a habit of taking a shot at that silk hat when caught in the open. The
doctor was heralded going and coming so that any sufferer along the way would
get attention on the return trip.
About this time there came into our town a beautiful woman from Quincy, Illinois, to
take charge of our schools. I soon came to the conclusion that she needed a
guardian in that country and took her for my wife.
About a year after this I got too big for this town, and a neighboring town about
twenty miles north at the terminus of the Santa Fe Railroad, which road was
getting ready to move on west to Lometa and Brownwood, Texas. Some Houston and
Galveston capitalists had discovered the natural sulphur springs water located
in this place, namely Mr. Wm. D. Cleveland, Mr. Porter Weems of
Houston, and Mr. Charles Fowler, Mr. George Sealy and others of
Galveston, Texas, became interested and built a large summer hotel for those
people in Texas who thought they needed rest and recreation (at that time no
business man thought he had time to leave his business long enough to take a
vacation). The families and friends of these original promoters were the most
frequent visitors at this hotel, and I might say that this was then, and is
now, the garden spot of Texas.
I got on the inside, as the saying is, and took over the practice of one of the
big doctors there, who had recently become inflicted with the Dallas Fever, as
Dallas, Texas, had just completed a three-story bank building, and had offices
for rent on the side. I was interned as resident hotel physician for the Park
Hotel Company, and through them was appointed local surgeon for the Santa Fe
Railroad Company at that point.
About this time a medical law was passed by our legislature, known as the Multiple
Board Law, and the District Judge of our District had the naming of the doctors
to serve on this Medical Examining Board, so I was named and appointed
President of the Board of Medical Examiners of our District, which included
about fifteen counties. Being the only graduate of pharmacy in our District, I
was named President of the Board of Pharmaceutical Examiners. Held both of
these positions until my removal to Houston, Texas, in January, 1894.
I believed I had won all the glories in this little burg, Lampasas, and began
roving around for new fields to explore. Temple, Texas, looked prosperous, and
as a railroad center offered fine inducements. Dr. A. C. Scott had
graduated a few years ago and located there, and had one Dr. White as
his assistant, both young men and full of visions. We failed to see a living in
it for three and I was always a single-bore-gun man. Probably I missed my best
opportunity, as Dr. Scott and White, both well grounded in surgery and
medicine, developed on of the best hospitals there, and is so recognized today
as the model for Texas.
Then I took myself to Galveston, at which time I found my old life-long friend, Dr.
A. W. Fly, at the apex of his political career, serving his constituents
as Mayor, in addition to his long success as a practitioner and surgeon of some
repute. He had a practice representing twenty thousand a year here, which he
wanted to turn over to me and go into another political preferments. I sweat
over this for several days, and in the month of August when it does get hot
down there. It was then I heard of Houston and the new Kiam Building, five
stories high, having a lift to run you to all floors.
I am not sure if I did not get off at Chaneyville Junction, and looking down
Washington Street, which was a gully. Probably I would have gotten off at the
main depot in the Fifth Ward, but I had heard of the Bloody Fifth and did not
have my fire-arms with me, so I came into the back door of Houston. From that
direction, approaching the bayou, before it became a ship channel, the
impression it made upon me from its green slime and filth, as the surface
sewers flowed freely into it, I said “Here is a place for a doctor, if he is
looking for work”. I hit the old Hutchins House, and hung out for a few days,
as it was a downpour of rain at that time, such as I had not witnessed before.
Drays and wagons were stuck up in the mud on Fannin and Travis Streets about
two feet deep and unable to move. Finally I found a paved street, which was
Main, and was paved with cobble stones plumb down to the Capitol Hotel, now the
Rice, from Franklin.
I found the doctors the drug store variety, that is all the work was done in
front of the drug store, or in the bottle room in the rear. Men patients were
usually in front of the bar, with a foot on the rail and had a peculiar crooked
Looking over the hospital, which was a five-room converted cottage on Franklin and
Commerce, one ward and two beds, manned by six sisters of Charity, mostly
County and City patients. People only went to hospitals those days to check in,
so I investigated the Kiam Building, which was mostly vacant, and agreed to take
a front office on the Main Street side at the nominal sum of $35.00 a month
rent. I thought then I was buying the building, as I was only paying $18.00 a
month rent on a nine-room house in my home town, so we fixed up, on returning
home, to ship my worldly effects down. I found my best patients and citizens
sick, especially my banker, who was to finance me. He was a worldly fellow
named E. J. Marshall, recently from Chicago and President of our local
bank, and was down with typhoid fever. As all good doctors should I pulled off
my coat and went to work, forgetting my new ideals for the present. He became
so seriously ill we wired Philadelphia, Pa. for a trained nurse, the first
trained nurse, to my recollection, brought to Texas. Will say more about this later.
After my patient had recovered and cashed some vendors lien notes for which I had
sold my home, paid freight on my little belongings, bought tickets and arrived
in Houston, putting up in the old Hutchins House, where the Sunset Building now
stands. Afterwards removed to the old Capitol Hotel, now the Rice, where I
lived for sixteen years and was resident physician during that time. Also
remained at the new Rice Hotel, when it was built, for three years.
I soon acquired a case of typhoid fever at the hospital, which I soon cured.
Doctors here denied the existence of such a fever at that time. Everything was
malaria, and after calomel and quinine failed to cure, they died.
This gave me a stand in with the Sisters of Charity and we boosted a hospital until
the latter part of that year. The first unit of the St. Josephs Infirmary,
Crawford and Pierce, was begun, consisting of about twenty beds and the county
ward. This was in 1895. In the year 1905, there was added to the St. Josephs
Infirmary a 110-room addition and in 1918 a 150-room addition and we organized
a training school for nurses in 1906, known as the St. Josephs Training School
for Nurses. Today we have a training capacity up to sixty, with a lecturing
staff of fifteen doctors and sisters teaching in the foreground. I have been a
member of the lecturing staff since its organization; subjects: Psychology,
Medial Nursing and Materia Medica. We have now a staff membership of St.
Josephs Infirmary of twenty-six of the best doctors in medicine, surgery and of
all special branches, in Houston. I am General Chairman of this staff. I may
add that this hospital handles five hundred patients a month, eighty percent
surgical. It was standardized two years ago, and accepted by the American
College of Surgery as A-1, having four general operating rooms, two special
operating rooms and two emergency operating rooms, the largest and best
equipped X-ray rooms in the South, including a deep therapy machine. This
equipment alone stands an outlay of $20,000. One of the best equipped
laboratories in the country, manned by the best pathologist that money can buy.
Incidentally, any patient that enters this hospital for medical or surgical
treatment or any other treatment, has a thorough analysis of blood, urine and
other excretory products before being admitted to an operating room for any
character of operation except emergency cases.
In the early beginning of this promotion of hospital interest, I saw the necessity
of a medical organization, and in the year about 1896 I, in connection with six
other doctors (we had no specialists or surgeons in those days in Houston)
organized the South Texas District Medical Association, which embodies the 8th,
9th and 10th Districts, all doctors therein being eligible for membership. We
started with an original charter membership of eleven, including the six
organizers. We now carry on our membership roll 1,000 or thereabout. With my
associates we reorganized our local medical society, which was in a state of
lethargy, having had as many as five members on its last roll call before it
ceased to function. We re-named it the Harris County Medical Society and
increased its membership to fifteen, and had a meeting once a month at some
member’s office with an average attendance of about six. This Society now
registers 400 active members, meeting every Saturday night in its own rooms,
with an average attendance of 60.
About seven or eight years ago, we organized the Houston Academy of Medicine, to be
the holding company of the visible assets of the Harris County Medical
Association, since which time we have built up a library and employ a full time
librarian. This library is open to all members of the Harris County Medical
Association daily and is fully equipped and up-to-date in every particular.
Recently we have, through the combined efforts, closed plans for a Medical Arts
Building, to be located on the corner of Rusk and San Jacinto Streets, at a
cost of $3,000,000. I was Chairman of Harris County Medical Society and
appointed the first committee looking to this end, and induced Mr. E. F. Simms
to make the original investment and acquire the Wm. D. Cleveland
homestead property for this purpose three years ago. This building program was
completed this month.
Was instrumental and a frequent adviser of the late George Hermann, who
donated his wealth to Houston and Harris County, Texas, and especially
bequeathed to the Herman Hospital and its maintenance an endowment that is
amply sufficient to carry out his original ideas, for the first unit of the
Hermann Hospital is now under construction, opposite the Rice Institute, at a
cost of $575,000. This hospital is for the indigent poor of Harris County. I
expect to be one of the doctors that donate my services the balance of my life
to this institution.
The organization of the Municipal Hospital, which of course being a creature of the
acting mayors and his appointees, though we are maintaining a staff of fifty
active members, whose services are free to the inmates of that institution, I
have been appointed and re-appointed as Senior Consultant to its Medical
Department. Since the cooperation of the City and County to build a modern
hospital, which is under construction for their own use, I expect to serve that
institution without charge.
I am now looking for funds to build a memorial to someone who wants to perpetuate
his name in the image of God to build a home for nurses of St. Josephs Training
School. I have been instrumental within the last year of having the Sisters of
Charity to secure a site just south of Mr. E. F. Simms’ estate on the Telephone
Road Cut Off, and they are now building a Novice’s Convent at an expense of
$400,000, and will move their mother house from Galveston to this place, once
I was Charter Member and one of the original organizers of the Texas Dental
College of Houston, now a high grade graduating school of Dentistry. I
organized and financed the State Dental College of Dallas, Texas, in the year
1906, or 1907, worked it up in five years to a student body of 100 in
attendance, having shown its colors as a success, partially donated to the
Baylor University and incorporated it as the Dental Department of that
Medical Associations and Societies of which I am a member might be named as follows:

  • American Medical Association
  • The Texas State Medical Association
  • Harris County Medical Society
  • South Texas Medical Association
  • American College of Surgery, in process of completion, and other auxiliaries
Owing to these activities, I have never had the time to attend social lodges or other societies, and am only an ex-member of the Elks, Knights of Phyhias, Woodmen and other social orders.
I was one of the first buildings of an apartment house in Houston, especially a three story brick one on Walker and La Branch, and others since.
I was one of the discoverers of the Humble Oil Field and one of the original syndicate of Houston men who put up their money and bought the Echols 60-acre tract, which after we were all broke proved to be the largest oil producing territory in Texas.
I said I would have something more to say about the banker, E. J. Marshall, because he more than any other is responsible for my move to Houston. We had a fellow-townsman, one W. T. Campbell, a promoter of ability, and when he got sick, came to Dr. King of Houston to be cured, and one, R. E. Brooks, at a little cross-roads town, north of Lampasas, and one A. S. Fisher, a little south of Lampasas, at Georgetown and one ex-Judge Swain, of Forth Worth, Texas, and one ex-Governor Jas. S. Hogg. I being the doctor of these parties, and an adviser of one J. P. Willis, who owned the Sour Lake mud springs, who was anxious to transfer his holdings, the Sour Lake Mud springs to one E. J. Marshall, at my suggestion, for a small money consideration, as I, Dr. King, had smelled oil in the mud when rubbing it on people to cure the itch. So they believed what I told them to be true. So this coterie of men bought this watering place and soon thereafter we found an oil man, one J. S. Cullinan, and a local lawyer, one E. R. Spotts, of Houston, who was our legal adviser, and we founded the Texas Company on paper basis.
Signed Dr. Frank B. King

About Wiley

I am a Christian Biblical Egalitarian who is 67 years young who retired on Feb 24, 2011 after being employed by Securitas Security Services at the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant since August 26, 1983 as a Central Alarm Station operator and an Armed Security Officer. Comanche Peak is a nuclear powered high pressure reactor electric generating facility owned by Luminant. I have a wonderful wife, Linda, to whom I have been happily married for over 42 years. We have three daughters and son-in-laws and five grandchildren. My wife and I have lived in rural North Central Texas on a small ranch for 37 years. I started blogging because I can be very opinionated and this has turned out to be a very good way to state my opinions! If you want further info, see my web page titled "About Us" on http://www.clarksons.org
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.