Portrait of Dr. John M. W. Davidson, as found in Miles Kenan Womack Jr.'s, Gadsden: A Florida County in Word and Picture, Quincy, Florida: Gadsden County Bicentennial Commission, 1976, p. 65.
In 1843, Dr. John M. W. Davidson of Gadsden County began recording medical recipes and treatments in a small, leather-bound notebook.
Davidson was a family practitioner and farmer who lived and worked in Gadsden County for more than 50 years. The 126-page journal reveals a glimpse of the knowledge and concerns of a pioneer physician in early Florida, including recipes for medicines, diet supplements, tinctures, salves, and treatments for illnesses as varied as colic and typhoid fever.
Noticeably absent from Davidson's journal (though we can assume not from his attention altogether) were treatments of yellow fever, which had ravaged population centers in Florida, including nearby Tallahassee, St. Joseph, and Apalachicola only two years earlier.
"As much black snakeroot as you can grasp between the thumb &
middle finger, steep in one quart of Iemaca rum 48 hours. One pound
new nails (free from rust) steeped in one quart of cider vinegar"
Davidson was one of early Gadsden County's most prominent and active citizens, serving as mayor of Quincy, Florida, in 1849. [i] Davidson helped found Quincy's first school and served on the board of trustees for The Quincy Academy. He and his wife also operated a school for Gadsden County's female students. Davidson helped establish Gadsden County's first Presbyterian Church, Old Philadelphia, in 1828 soon after his arrival, and was an original "elder" of the First Presbyterian Church of Quincy, established in 1838. [ii]
Davidson's journal exhibits knowledge of chemistry and showcases his education, including the use of Latin and French notes and excerpts. The citations included with many of the prescriptions and recipes indicate wide scholarly and professional reading and Davidson's willingness to experiment as he sought suitable treatments for his patients. In a few instances, Davidson includes his impressions of the efficacy of a treatment or approach.
"Mercury & Iodine"
Davidson employed apothecary symbols to denote measurements throughout the journal. While his notations were at times inconsistent, over the course of two years writing the journal, Davidson scrupulously ordered most of the entries and appears to have edited some with later information or corrections.
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