16 August 2016

Ambrose Baber Died from the Effects of His Own Medicine (Tombstone Tuesday)

deathofdrambrosebaber1846In the Spring of 1846, Dr. Baber confidently copied the dosage information from Ellis' Formulary before the prescription was sent off to the druggist.  George Payne, prominent druggist of the time in Macon, Georgia, thought something wasn't quite right.  He filled the prescription, but attached a "beware" note to the vial before giving it to the patient.  When the doctor later called on his patient, a Mr. Jarrell, he was a bit aggravated the medicine hadn't been taken as prescribed.  Jarrell showed Baber the note of caution.  Dr. Baber took some of the medicine to prove its safety to his patient.  Then Dr. Ambrose Baber was no more.

drababer1824Even as late as 1907, more than 60 years after his shocking death, articles were written in the local paper about Dr. Baber.  This is one of many posted at the time of his death.  Issued Wednesday, 11 March 1846, Macon Weekly Telegraph (via GenealogyBank).

It is with feelings of the deepest sorrow that we are called upon to record the death of Doct. AMBROSE BABER of this city.  We know that this sad news will fill with pain the hearts of a numerous body of admiring friends not only in this community but throughout the State.

This sudden and unexpected stroke has cast a gloom over the whole community.  Doct. Baber was up to the hour he fell in the enjoyment of his usual health and in attendance on the calls of his profession -- but the hand which has so often ministered to the sufferings of others is now cold in death -- the heart which has so often felt for their afflictions has ceased to beat forever.  The scenes of his triumphs and fame witnessed his own fall; he expired about 9 o'clock on Sunday morning last in the chamber of one of his sick patients.  He met death at a moment's warning, in the full possession of all his faculties, and without a murmur resigned his spirit to his God.

In his death what a striking illustration is there given of the uncertainty of life; of the futility of all human calculations; and of the fleeting and perishing nature of all sublunary things.  Like flowers cast upon the unreturning waves which are borne to the wide ocean where they sink and are seen no more forever.

"Earthly things
Are but the transient pageants of an hour;
And earthly pride is like the passing flower
That springs to tall, and blossoms but to die."

Doct. Baber was a native of Rockingham county, Virginia: and after completing his education emigrated early in life to this State, where he has resided, with the exception of a short absence in Europe, ever since.  He served as Surgeon in the Army under Gen. Jackson, in the Seminole campaign.  On repeated occasions he has been a prominent member of one of the political parties of this State: and although differing with him in opinion, his most ardent admirers cannot cherish more sincerely the recollection of his private virtues than the writer of this article.  Doct. Baber has several times represented this county in both branches of the legislature, where he was an influential and efficient member.  In 1841 he was appointed by Gen. Harrison minister to the Court of Turin in the Kingdom of Sardinia, in which capacity he remained until the spring of 1844, when he returned to this city and resumed the practice of his profession.  As a husband and father his devotion and affection were unbounded.  Gifted with a strong mind which was also cultivated well; unchanging in his friendships; with warm and generous feelings; with a high sense of honor and love for all that was noble and elevated in sentiment and practice, he has passed through all the stages of a life far advanced in years with the esteem of all who knew him.

He has left a wife and three children of tender years to mourn his loss.  Our deepest sympathies are with his bereaved and stricken household; with the orphans and the widow. -- But we will not invade the sanctity of their sorrow by attempting to off any words of consolation here.  No human speech can alleviate their anguish or assuage their unspeakable grief.  That solace must come from on high, from the author of every good and perfect gift -- from the father of the fatherless and the widow's stay; and to Him in humble resignation and adoring faith, we are sure they will turn for that consolation which can alone bind up the bleeding heart or assuage the poignancy of grief like theirs.

His funeral will take place from the Episcopal Church this morning at 10 o'clock, and his friends are respectfully invited to attend at that hour without further notice.  His remains will be interred in Rose Hill Cemetery.  Sit tibi terra levis.

Rose Hill Cemetery - June 2009 014"May the earth rest lightly on you." That's what that final Latin phrase translates to – I like it.

If Ambrose Baber is in your family tree, or you just want to know a bit more about him, keep reading.

He was born in September.  Some say 1792, others say 1793.  The first is inscribed on his tombstone.  Edward Ambrose Baber (his full name) was a son of Thomas, who "served on the American side during the War for Independence," and Sarah Oglesby Baber.  He was also a twin to Edward Hardin Baber.  The same first name was a bit much for Ambrose, so he dropped it for adulthood.

Ambrose was a veteran of the War of 1812.  He participated in the Battle of Bladensburg, and was severely wounded.  A friend, Henry St. George Tucker, carried him off the battlefield.  Though Ambrose felt the effects of his wound for the rest of his life, he did somehow recover.  He later named his first son after the friend who saved him.

Dr. Baber received his early medical training in Virginia.  From 1815 to 1817, however, he attended the Medical College at Philadelphia.  After this training, he relocated to Georgia and began his own medical practice.  He first settled in Dublin, Laurens County.  He then moved to Hartford in Pulaski County, where he joined troops fighting in the Seminole War.  His next stop was Marion in Twiggs County.  There, it seems, Dr. Baber would have been content, but a friend (Oliver Hillhouse Prince) requested his help in laying out the new town of Macon in Bibb County.  Ambrose acquiesced, and was residing in Macon by 1824.

It is about here where R. B. Flanders, in his biographical article about Ambrose Baber for the September 1938 Georgia Historical Quarterly, writes:

In contrast with so many members of his profession, this physician did not devote any time to cotton production and plantation management, but attended to his professional duties.  Books were purchased, subscriptions to medical journals were entered, and he sought in every way possible to add to his store of knowledge.

Rose Hill Cemetery - June 2009 022Soon after relocating to Macon, Dr. Baber founded the Constantine Chapter, No. 4, Lodge 34, of the Masonic Order – the organization which he had joined while in Marion.  He obtained the degree of Royal Arch Mason before leaving Twiggs County.  After founding the Constantine Chapter, he became the Worshipful Master of the Lodge and High Priest of the Chapter.  About 1831-1832, he was named Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Georgia.

As alluded to previously, Dr. Baber's medical practice never suffered because of his "extracurricular" activities.  In 1825 he was appointed to the Board of Examiners for the Medical Department of the University of Georgia, and ten years later to the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the same.

That same year, Dr. Baber figured heavily in an endeavor that would lead to the founding of Christ Episcopal Church in Macon.  In March of the next year, Ambrose Baber fought in a duel, killing his opponent.

Then there was politics.  Though a personal friend, whose opinion Baber sought, advised against him entering the political arena, the already respected community leader could not say "no." Ambrose Baber was elected Georgia State Senator from Bibb County in 1827, 1831, 1835, 1838, and 1839.

Dr. Baber had a fondness for, and felt a duty to protect, state and national history.  From Flanders' article:

A most valuable service was [Baber's] introduction of a resolution providing for the appointment of a person to go to London to copy the colonial records of Georgia, the appropriation of $4,000 for expenses, and the solicitation of the support of the President of the United States in the enterprise.  While the resolution failed to pass at the time, it was later acted upon, and Baber deserves full credit for his work in the collection and preservation of the historical records of the State.

Let's talk about education.  Baber "was one of the organizers and trustees of Montpelier Institute, an academy located in Macon, and served as its supporter and financial backer for years." His daughter Lucy Marian attended the school.

Baber was also a driving force behind bringing the railroad to Macon.  Flanders wrote the following:

The economic necessities of the State would have resulted in the construction of a road between Macon and Savannah had Baber never lived, but the yeoman's labor he rendered in performing the "spade work" accounts largely for its early success…Over forty years later one man testified that Baber's arguments in 1830 had converted him. "Dr. Baber, I positively know is entitled to the paternity of the Macon and Savannah Railroad," he wrote.  Baber had discussed the matter with him, observing that "the true road to individual and national wealth was the successful tillage of the earth, abundant crops, cheap and easy transportation of them to market for home consumption or exportation.  That would stimulate industry and foster our commerce." With such views he advised the building of the railroad.

Dr. Baber believed in books.  He thoroughly enjoyed reading and discussion.  This led to the Macon Lyceum and Library Society, of which the doctor was president.

Original image by Tim Kemp (Timkemp) via Wikimedia Commons.Baber was a large landowner.  At one time, he owned more than 2,500 acres across five Georgia counties.  This included the family's summer home – called Hamilton – in Habersham County.  The home the family occupied on Walnut Street in Macon (built about 1829-1830) stands today, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The property was converted to a medical clinic around 1919.  Baber was also on record as the owner of nineteen slaves.

Still another interest of Baber's was banking.  I won't go into too many specifics, because I honestly find them a bit confusing.  I will note, however, Baber was the president of the Insurance Bank of Columbus, Georgia.  The headquarters were in Macon.

In 1841, Baber reluctantly accepted the undesirable appointment of ChargĂ© d'Affaires to Sardinia.  Flanders described the few years the doctor and his family spent on the Italian island as "altogether unpleasant." And I'm not sure it would even be considered a successful trip for the United States.  Dr. Baber was recalled, and the family returned to Macon in 1844.

Baber resumed his medical practice, though his desire was to retire and permanently relocate to the summer home in Habersham County.  If he had done so, he might have lived longer than his fifty-two or fifty-three years.  Though highly respected and seemingly well-liked, I believe it was a touch of arrogance that stood in the way of his retirement and hastened his death.

Immediate Family

Dr. Ambrose Baber married Mary Eliza Sweet 16 June 1829.  Mary, of Savannah, Georgia, was born 16 June 1810 a daughter of George Dunbar Sweet and Rachel Ross Porcher.  She was just 19 at the time of her marriage to Ambrose (he was 36), and Mrs. Sweet did not approve of the union.  Mary, who supposedly suffered from tuberculosis, was well cared for by Dr. Baber and lived to the age of 84.

Rose Hill Cemetery - June 2009 017Ambrose and Mary had five children:  Floride Calhoun (b. 1830), Henry St. George (b. 1831), George Francis Burleigh (b. 1833), Lucy Marian (b. 1836), and Ella Hunter (b. 1839).  Floride Calhoun and Henry St. George died as infants.  Burleigh was a Naval Officer lost at sea about 1854-1855.  Lucy Marian went on to marry Joseph W. Blackshear, touted by the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Georgia as a "teacher, accountant, and Civil War soldier of Macon." Joseph was a son of Joseph Blackshear and Elizabeth C. Paul.  Ella, the last daughter of Ambrose and Mary, lived to the age of 90, but I know little else about her.

It might be interesting to note (I found it so) that four of the children of Joseph and Lucy Marian were not ready to give up the well-known Baber name.  Ella, Paul, Birdie, and Minnie all took as their surname "Baber-Blackshear."

Research Note:  R. B. Flanders wrote a fabulous, all encompassing article on Ambrose Baber for the Georgia Historical Quarterly in 1938.  His article, source for a large portion of this article, is available at jstor.org --

Flanders, R. B. "AMBROSE BABER." The Georgia Historical Quarterly 22, no. 3 (1938): 209-48. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40576567.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Widget by LinkWithin