BEFORE the family doctors came, frontiersmen sawed off legs with handsaws, tied up arteries with horsetail hair, cauterized them with branding irons. Before homemade surgery with steel tools was practiced, Mexican curanderas (herb women) supplied remedios, and they still know the medicinal properties of every weed and bush. Herb stores in San Antonio, Brownsville, and El Paso do a thriving business. Behind the curanderas were the medicine men of the tribes. Not all their lore was superstition, as any one who reads the delectable autobiography of Gideon Lincecum, published by the Mississippi Historical Society in 1904, will agree. Lincecum, learned in botany, a sharply-edged individual who later moved to Texas, went out to live with a Choctaw medicine man and wrote down all his lore about the virtues of native plants. The treatise has never been printed.
The extraordinary life of Lincecum has, however, been interestingly delineated in Samuel Wood Geiser's Naturalists of the Frontier, Southern Methodist University Press, 1937, 1948, and in Pat Ireland Nixon's The Medical Story of Early Texas, listed below. No historical novelist could ask for a richer theme than Gideon Lincecum or Edmund Montgomery, the subject of I. K. Stephens' biography listed below.
BUSH, I. J.
Gringo Doctor, Caldwell, Idaho, 1939. OP. Dr. Bush represented frontier medicine and surgery on both sides of the Rio Grande. Living at El Paso, he was for a time with the Maderistas in the revolution against Diaz.
COE, URLING C.
Frontier Doctor, New York, 1939. OP. Not of the Southwest but representing other frontier doctors. Lusty autobiography full of characters and anecdotes.
"Don Pedrito Jaramillo: The Curandero of Los Olmos," in The Healer of Los Olmos and Other Mexican Lore (Publication of the Texas Folklore Society XXIV), edited by Wilson M. Hudson, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1951. Don Pedrito was no more of a fraud than many an accredited psychiatrist, and he was the opposite of offensive.
NIXON, PAT IRELAND.
A Century of Medicine in San Antonio, published by the author, San Antonio, 1936. Rich in information, diverting in anecdote, and tonic in philosophy. Bibliography. The Medical Story of Early Texas, 1528-1835 [San Antonio], 1946. Lightness of life with scholarly thoroughness; many character sketches.
RED, MRS. GEORGE P.
The Medicine Man in Texas, Houston, 1930. Biographical. OP.
STEPHENS, I. K.
The Hermit Philosopher of Liendo, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, 1951. Well-conceived and well-written biography of Edmund Montgomery -- illegitimate son of a Scottish lord, husband of the sculptress Elisabet Ney -- who, after being educated in Germany and becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians of London, came to Texas with his wife and sons and settled on Liendo Plantation, near Hempstead, once known as Sixshooter Junction. Here, in utter isolation from people of cultivated minds, he conducted scientific experiments in his inadequate laboratory and thought out a philosophy said to be half a century ahead of his time. He died in 1911. His life was the drama of an elevated soul of complexities, far more tragic than any life associated with the lurid "killings" around him.
"Ranch Remedios," in Man, Bird, and Beast, Texas Folklore Society Publication VIII, 1930. The richest and most readable collection of pioneer remedies yet published.