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Indiana Commission on Public Records

ICPR > State Archives > Collections > The History of the Regulation of Medical Practice in Indiana: 1850-1900 > Indiana Heritage Research Grant - Online Exhibit > Hoosier Doctors > Biographies - Thomas J. Griffith Biographies - Thomas J. Griffith

Information provided courtesy of Martha Bladen, President, Switzerland County Historical Society

"Dr. Thomas J. Griffith Writes a Short Sketch Mostly About Himself", (1921)

"I was born near Moorefield, Indiana, July 20, 1851. I received my education in the public schools, and in the Moorefield Academy. The following three years I taught school, and between terms studied medicine under the teachings of Dr. Levin J. Woollen.

"In the fall of 1873, having acquired a smattering of the text books, enough to follow the lectures, I matriculated in the Medical Department of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, at the immature age of nineteen, the youngest in an enrollment of nearly three hundred....

"Perhaps two months had passed, when something happened which gave me a delightful thrill. During a quiz, this question was asked: "Give the anatomy of an artery." The first man missed, so the question was passed on and on. It was partly answered by one or two. Perhaps one hundred had failed. Things were becoming decidedly interesting: everybody sat up and took notice. I was praying the question might reach me. I did not have long to wait. The professor's ringing voice called my name and asked if I could finish the answer. I replied promptly, "I can", and gave the names of the vessels and nerves supplying an artery. I was surprised that some of the others had not thought of them. The professor bowed to me, signifying that I had answered correctly. Then pandemonium broke loose. Everybody tried to make as much noise as he could. It seemed they would wreck the building. It was the sweetest music I had ever heard....

"After three years of hard study, I received my diploma March 3, 1873.

"My business was to find a location to practice medicine. This did not take long. I selected Vevay, my old home town. I had plenty to do from the day I hung out my 'shingle'. I ministered to 'all the ills flesh was heir to .' I was friendly with all the other doctors.....

"After fourteen years of practice in Vevay, on account of illness, I located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Again I hung out my shingle.... I was made a member of the board of examining surgeons for pensions. In a business way, all went well, but I was not fit for general practice. My lameness did not improve, so I determined to take a Civil Service examination for departmental service in Washington, D.C. I received my appointment May 4, 1890. It was for the office of Adjutant General, U.S.A. My office was in Ford's Theatre, which had been taken over by the War Department soon after President Lincoln's tragic death, and used for office purposes. I had been here a little over three years, when on June 9, 1893, a terrible disaster occurred. Workmen, excavating for a cellar, weakened the foundation, causing part of three floors to crash down, killing twenty-two, and injuring more than one hundred. Fortunately, I escaped with only minor hurts.... Just before this disaster, I had requested a transfer to the office of the Surgeon General, U.S.A. I got the transfer and was given the work of preparing tables of injuries and of surgical operations in the army. This was my agreeable duty for more than twenty-five years. Then came the World War and with it an enormous increase in my work.... Simultaneously, the war work was finished about the date of my retirement, July 20, 1921, after serving my country more than thirty-one years."