It’s strange at the things that catch my interest. An old friend of mine is always sending me things she finds in magazines. A few weeks ago, I received a thick envelope full and among the articles was one about Dr. Benjamin Thomas Crumley.
Dr. Crumley was known far and wide as “the old Indian doctor.” He was born in 1822 and was part Cherokee. In Texas, he was a bit of an oddity because he wore his hair very long. No one knows for sure if he went to medical school but it was common knowledge that he studied with the Cherokee for seven years.
A resident of Buttercup, Texas which is now Cedar Park, he treated his patients with plants, roots and herbal remedies for almost 50 years. Such as horehound for coughs, colds and sore throats. Sassafras to settle the stomach. Chest colds with a mustard plaster. Willow bark for fever. Johnson grass or broomcorn for kidney and urinary problems. Chicory root as a sedative. Asafetida for stomach flu and sour stomach.
In his saddlebags, he carried his trusty “madstone” for treating rabid animal bites. Madstones were often found in the stomach of deer. It was an oval, quartz-like stone about 1 ½ inches in diameter and ¾” thick. Patients swore by the stone’s healing properties.
He achieved quite a reputation across the state and doctors in larger cities were always asking for his help with difficult cases.
I would love to have seen him. It’s said that he wore a white linen suit and rode a white horse to visit patients. Once he was abducted by masked horsemen and taken to a remote hideout to treat the outlaw Sam Bass.
The photo shown on the page is of him with his third wife, Lulu.
In my work in progress, I have a woman who was born and raised in the mountains. She knows all about natural medicines and what they cured. So no wonder this article caught my eye!
I have a doctor in almost every story I write. On the American frontier, they were few and far between. Almost every settler had to have some basic remedies so they could treat gunshots, cuts, sickness and burns. They knew which plants were good for what.
In my upcoming To Love a Texas Ranger, Sam Legend and Luke Weston both get shot. On Luke’s they stuff spider webs inside the wound and covered that with a poultice to stop the bleeding. That may seem rather odd but it was a common thing to do back then. And it worked. Sam was lucky to have a doctor close.
Have you ever used or heard of any of these remedies or a madstone?