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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dr. John Duerson Pulliam

Newlyweds: John and Lucy Pulliam, 1861 (CH)

     Every so often I am privileged to come across a collection of photographs relating to one of Spotsylvania's historic families. Such a stroke of good fortune occurred earlier this year when Pulliam family researcher Craig Harnden began to post these photographs to his family tree on Ancestry. With Craig's kind permission, I am able to share with you today this very rare look at the Pulliam family. Pictures from Craig Harnden's archive that appear in today's post are designated with '(CH)'. All images in my blog may be clicked on for enlarged viewing.

Western Spotsylvania County, 1863

     Named for his grandfather, John Duerson Pulliam was born in Spotsylvania on 3 November 1840 to Richard H. Pulliam and Rebecca Duerson. The Pulliam farm can be seen in the lower left portion of the map detail shown above. Richard Pulliam's sister Eliza's farm lay just to the north. To the northeast was Greenfield ("Mrs. Rowe"), my family's ancestral home.
    John D. Pulliam graduated from the University of Virginia in 1859. Like many young men in Virginia of that time who wished to practice medicine, he then attended the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He graduated in 1861, having written his thesis on the topic of digestion.
     The year 1861 would prove to be the most significant in the life of young Dr. Pulliam for two other reasons as well. On 15 July he enlisted in Company E of the Ninth Virginia Cavalry, my great grandfather's old regiment. Also serving with John were his brother Thomas Coleman Pulliam and his cousin Thomas Richard Pulliam, whose self-indulgent life and violent death have recently been featured in this blog. Click here to read what has become the most popular article ever published on Spotsylvania Memory.

Lucy Noel Jerrell, age 17 (CH)

     The most momentous event in the life of John Pulliam in 1861 was his marriage to eighteen year old Lucy Noel Jerrell on 4 December. Lucy was born in July 1843 to John C. Jerrell and Mary Cropp. The Jerrells lived southeast of Spotsylvania Court House, where her father operated a grist mill and ran a store.
     Dr. John Pulliam survived his year in the Confederate cavalry, managing to avoid injury, sickness or capture. He returned home to Spotsylvania, where he began his fifty year medical practice. Unfortunately for John and everyone he knew, the Civil War that they had so avidly wished for would soon be on their very doorsteps.

John C. Jerrell (CH)

     Among the first to suffer were John Jerrell and his second wife, Ann Marshall. On 5 November 1862 their home, mill and store house were ransacked by Federal troops. In the Confederate archives is the long list of the Jerrells' property that was stolen or destroyed that day by Union soldiers who "laid violent hands on his goods and wares." Among other things, the Jerrells lost ten slaves, a double barreled shotgun, 100 pounds of coffee, and 110 pounds of nails; English, French, Latin, Greek, law and medical books; percussion caps, quinine and other medicines. Without a doubt the most intriguing object stolen that day was a set of obstetrical instruments. As if that were not enough, the Jerrells suffered further indignity that winter when Confederate troops camping on their property burned 1,900 fence rails for fuel.
     A year and a half later John and Lucy Pulliam would have their own violent encounter with Union troops swarming through their neighborhood during the battle of the Wilderness. The experience of the Pulliams was included in the historic letter written by Maria Dobyns of neighboring Oakley plantation: The yankees even tore off the plaster off Dr. Pulliam's cellar, thinking something had been hid, took money off his and Lucie's clothes, together with everything else.

The Pulliam family, 1876 (CH)

     This family portrait made in 1876 shows John and Lucy Pulliam with their five oldest children (Ivy would arrive in  1877 and the youngest, Flavia, was born in 1883). The oldest daughter, Mary Etta, is at far left. She married John F. Lewis in 1880 and had three children with him before dying in 1886 at the age of 23. Standing at John's shoulder is Justinian, who also practiced medicine until his untimely death in 1891. Standing between her parents is Lucy Noel Pulliam, who married Dr. Charles Dudley Simmons. In John's lap is Alma, who married Dr. Frank P. Dickinson, whose family owned "Mercer Hall" in Spotsylvania. Warner moved to Augusta County where he lived near his sisters Ivy and Flavia for a time before dying during the influenza epidemic in 1918.
     Other photos from the Pulliam album:

Dr. Justinian Pulliam (CH)

Alma Pulliam (CH)

Flavia Pulliam (CH)

Ivy Pulliam  (CH)

     As a physician, John Pulliam touched the lives of many during his long career, including my own family.

Estate expenses of Nancy Estes Row

     Dr. Pulliam treated my great great grandmother, Nancy Estes Row, during her final illness in January 1873. The Rows were able to recoup some of his $12.50 fee when he bought several items at her estate sale.

Virginia Herald 6 May 1875

     By the 1870s John had begun to dip his toe into local politics. In 1875 he was elected as a delegate from the Livingston district for the Conservative Party's convention. Also elected from the Livingston district was Dr. Thomas W. Finney, who had served with John in the Ninth Cavalry. In 1860, while still a medical student, Finney lived with John Pulliam's family. Years later both doctors would be lauded for their heroic efforts during an epidemic in Spotsylvania:

The Free Lance 15 July 1887

     John Pulliam was elected a justice of the peace and served on the Spotsylvania  Board of Health 1909-1912. In 1910 he was elected president of the Spotsylvania chapter of the Farmer's Alliance. The only setback I have spotted in his multifaceted career occurred in 1884, when his nomination as superintendent of Spotsylvania County schools was rejected by the Virginia Senate.

Spotsylvania Court House, about 1900

     In the photograph above, Dr. John D. Pulliam is sitting with the political elite of Spotsylvania County. He is seated front and center, fourth from the right.

Dr. John Duerson Pulliam (CH)

     For many years John and Lucy Pulliam lived on a 160 acre farm near Peake's Crossroads, later known as Belmont.

Lucy Pulliam (CH)

Daily Star 29 May 1905

     Lucy Pulliam died of a stroke while entertaining friends at her home in 1905. John continued to live in their old home for a time, but sold it for $4,200 in 1909. He then moved in with his nephew Richard Graves and his family.

John Pulliam at White Hall, 1906 (CH)

     By about 1912 Dr. Pulliam had mostly retired from medicine, although he still would treat special cases. The last of these occurred in January 1914 when he traveled to Richmond to attend a sick nephew. While there he contracted a bad cold, which developed into pneumonia. He died on 15 January 1914.

John Pulliam (CH)

Richmond Times Dispatch 17 January 1914

     John, Lucy, Mary Etta, Warner and Justinian Pulliam are buried at Mount Hermon Baptist Church in Spotsylvania.