DR. DANIEL SPENCER MIDDLETON
RISING FAWN, GEORGIA
Daniel Spencer Middleton was born January 2, 1871 in Webster Co., Mississippi. He graduated from Bellefontaine High School in Mississippi in 1889 and U.S. Grant University Medical Department in 1894.
He had typhoid fever as a child, and at that time made a promise that if he got well, he would become a doctor and help others. He remained true to this vow throughout his life. It is said he delivered over 5000 babies – never charging more than $25, and in over fifty-five years of general practice, he never sent a bill.
He was a Missionary Baptist, a Democrat and a Mason. He was often asked to speak at Easter Sunrise services. He served in the House of Representatives in Georgia in 1913-1914, and again 1937-1938. From 1925 to 1926, he served the 44th district as Senator. In 1914, the Middleton-Ellis Health Law was passed. This the first Georgia Public Health law.
Married (1) December 19, 1894, in Dade County to Dollie Virginia Chadwick from DeKalb County, Alabama. She accompanied Dr. Middleton and their daughter Mary Lucille to a medical meeting in Jacksonville, Florida, after recently recovering from the flu. She returned from the trip very sick and was later diagnosed as having tuberculosis. After spending many months in hopes of a cure, she returned to Rising Fawn, where she died on June 10, 1910.
(2) Dr. Middleton married the girl next door, Mallie Alma Hale, December 31, 1912. One son, Spencer Hale Middleton was born May 25,1918, to this union.
As a young man, Dr. Middleton loved fine horses and buggies. When the automobile replaced the horse, he was always interested in the new models.
He loved hunting, but had little time for it. Target shooting kept his aim sharp.
He loved to travel, however his time for this was limited to medical meetings in St. Augustine, New Orleans, Washington, and other southern cities. He was a Southern Railroad physician for over thirty years.
I often heard it said during the 30’s and 40’s that Dr. Middleton was the only physician in twenty-five miles. This was roughly the distance from Chattanooga, including both Sand and Lookout Mountains. He used the downtown Newell Hospital in Chattanooga for his patients, and the Newells remarked to my parents that he was a gifted diagnostician. He would send a patient into the hospital with an “idea” of what the ailment was without the benefit of x-rays and lab reports. After tests were run, he was most often correct. His simple office was the scene for many surgeries – even amputations in the early years.
In 1907, he devised a splint for a fractured lower jaw by fashioning a dipper to hold the bone in place. After delivering a paper on his splint at a medical convention, a splint of this design began to be used. It was called the Middleton Splint and endorsed by the International Journal of Surgery.
Dr. Middleton came to Rising Fawn in 1894, to begin his practice. The iron foundry was in full operation and there was a thriving community with a number of general stores, churches and saloons. He built his home when his daughter, Lucille, who was born April 25, 1898, was a small child. There was a small room containing medicines and an examination table near the side porch. This was used regularly as patients would try to see him at home before he left to make house calls or open his office in Rising Fawn and Trenton.
He was a lover of poetry and history. Long talks on these subjects before the fire in winter or on his generous front porch in summer were usually spiced with quotations from favorite passages.
He was the physician for the prisoners who built the road across Lookout Mountain from Trenton to Lafayette. Every Sunday he would spend the afternoon there giving check ups and medicines to the labor force.
In 1927, he organized and operated the Trenton Water System. He was involved with this operation until it was sold in 1947 to the City of Trenton.
In his practice he did not have X-rays, laboratories, or pharmacies. He would buy medicines in Chattanooga and dispense them as needed to his patients. In reviewing his day book of 1916, the charges range from 25 cents for medicine to $3.00 for office call and medicine, and $8.00 for “surgery” in the office.
Dr. Middleton had the only phone in Rising Fawn for a number of years, and there always seemed to be people either waiting to see the doctor or to use the telephone. He moved slowly and deliberately – never seeming to be in a hurry or lose his patience. And he was always ready to hear a good joke.
He ate lunch at Wright’s Restaurant for a number of years. They noticed that he saved his cornbread or biscuit from his meal and left with it in his hand. One day they stepped out to see what he did with it. He left it crumbled on the fencepost by his office door, and the birds were there waiting.
He was a happy man who enjoyed his work and the people he served. In the latter years of his practice, his wife Mallie was his office nurse. A large part of his practice was in the day of house calls. He knew his patients in a way few doctors today are able to know them. He treated the whole family and was cognizant of their living conditions, diet and personal relationships.
He maintained an active farm most of his life. He continued to add to his land holdings, and loved his mountain property. He was interested in national and world affairs, and regularly read his current issues of the Congressional Record.
He died on February 8, 1959, following a lengthy illness -not cancer.
This was received from Nancy Denter. She was Mallie Middleton’s Niece.