21 July 2016

A Cenotaph More Durable than Marble: James Mercer Green, M.D. (1815-1881)

Photo by James Allen.Where do I begin with James Mercer Green? Often, in older newspaper articles commenting on the life of a person recently deceased, you will see the word useful used to describe said individual.  We don't use the word in the same way as much anymore.  What I interpret that term to mean in that context, is the recently deceased individual gave more to their community than they took.  That their life made other lives better.  It doesn't have to be in some grand way, necessarily, it simply means the community benefited from their presence in it.

Useful, based on the research I've conducted, truly describes the life of Dr. James Mercer Green.  And in his case, there are, some might say, a couple of grand examples.  Before we get to those larger examples, let's go over the "basics."

James Mercer Green was born 15 November 1815 in Georgia (maybe Milledgeville?) to Dr. William Montgomery Green and his second wife, Jane McKonkey.  It may or may not be important to note, I'm not sure Dr. William Green was a physician, though I have seen him described as such.  He was an educator, having been the Director of Mathematics and Languages at Franklin College (UGA) in Athens, Georgia.  Dr. William Green also opened academies in Milledgeville, Baldwin County.

Less than a month after his thirteenth birthday, the mother of James Mercer Green died.  Yet he pressed on, and graduated from Jefferson Medical College at Philadelphia in 1837.  Dr. James M. Green would follow that vocation for the rest of his life.

When Dr. James Mercer Green died 13 June 1881 in Macon, a funeral notice in the local newspaper described him as "the oldest practitioner in the city." Some twenty years earlier, when pushing for Dr. Green to get a position at a military hospital, wealthy Maconite John B. Lamar described him as "the best physician we have in Macon, as he is the only physician who attends me, when I am sick." [Civil War Macon by Richard W. Iobst.  Pub. 1999, Mercer University Press.  Pg. 96.]

Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
10 July 1881 -- pg. 1 [Entire article available online at GenealogyBank.]

On the 13th day of June, 1881, James Mercer Green, M.D., for years one of the most prominent, useful, distinguished and highly esteemed citizens of Macon, passed from time to eternity.  He was the son of William Green, M.D., a native of Ireland, and graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who, driven from his native land, on account of his intense love of freedom and of country (having participated in the rebellion of Lord Edward Fitzgerald,) like numbers of his illustrious fellow exiles, found on these shores a warm welcome and generous appreciation…Dr. James Mercer Green was born on the 15th of November, 1815, and like his brothers, the late Drs. Thomas F. and H. K, Green, was educated by his father, who was not only a faithful, but highly competent instructor of youth.  He taught his pupils to think and to study, and their after career reflected the highest credit upon his fidelity and skill.  Thus equipped, the subject of this sketch entered upon the study of his chosen profession, and having completed his preparatory course to the satisfaction of the late Benj. A. White, of Milledgeville, matriculated at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, where he graduated as doctor of medicine in the year 1837.  Immediately upon his graduation he returned to Macon, which had been his home since 1831, and entered upon the practice of his profession, in connection with his brother, Dr. H. K. Green.  Almost from the commencement, they had a varied and extensive practice, and rapidly rose to prominence, in a community that could boast of quite a number of able and accomplished practitioners.  After many years, when this professional connection was dissolved, Dr. J. Mercer Green continued active practice on his own account, and notwithstanding his numerous and exacting professional engagements, he devoted much time and thought to political duties, and for one at least of the great public charities of the State, he was an earnest worker to the day of his death.  Like his eldest brother, Dr. Thomas Fitzgerald Green, who for more than thirty years was connected in controlling capacity with the State lunatic asylum, he had a warm sympathy for and an ardent desire to minister to the wants of the afflicted of his race…

…Dr. Green had very exalted but very just views of the character and learning of his profession, and he scrupulously guarded it from practices that had a tendency to lower its dignity and impair confidence in its integrity.  The foundation of all professional excellence is broad, generous and extensive culture, and Dr. Green was a conspicuous example of this truth.  He was well read in history, philosophy and polite literature.  His acquintance [sic] with the best of our English classics was extensive and accurate.

There was nothing that affected the wellbeing of his country in which he did not take an active interest…

In 1846, Dr. Green was united in marriage to the eldest daughter of the late Hon. Oliver H. Prince.  She, after many years of wedded happiness, with two only of their children, is left to cherish his memory and to deplore their loss.  But they are not as those who mourn without hope.  In early life he united with the Episcopal church, and for twenty years was senior warden of Christ Church parish, Macon.  Few men have had the good fortune to leave behind them more pleasing and grateful memories.  A cenotaph more durable than marble is erected in the hearts of those whose sufferings he alleviated and whose maladies he healed.  This feeling descending from them to their posterity will be a precious legacy to his children and their descendants.     A FRIEND.

James Mercer Green, M.D. rests in the Magnolia Ridge section of Rose Hill Cemetery.  Next time, we'll look at a couple of those grand examples that made Dr. Green such a useful individual.

(See also Helping Georgia's Blind and Serving the Confederate Soldier.)

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