Sunday, June 22, 2008

Did You Ever Hear of Dr. Ephraim McDowell?

You would say I am a bit of a history nut when it comes to Kentucky. I like to read about the history of our state and its people. Kentucky sometimes gets a bad name. Everyone has heard the stories about Kentucky people being hillbillies and going around barefoot all the time. (I do like to go barefoot!) Our state is rich in political leaders, nationally acclaimed authors and musicians, just to name a few.

I am originally from Frankfort, the state capital of Kentucky, but lived in Boyle County for many years.

Danville, the county seat of Boyle County, is home to the Ephraim McDowell House.

My daughter, Leigh, worked here as a tour guide when she was in school.

The Ephraim McDowell House was the location of the world's first successful abdominal surgery performed by Dr. Ephraim McDowell in 1809. Dr. McDowell was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1771 but moved to Kentucky with his father when he was twelve years of age. He studied medicine in Virginia and Scotland and in 1795 opened his practice in Danville.

In 1809, Dr. McDowell was called to Green County, Kentucky to see a patient, Mrs. Jane Crawford, thought to be pregnant and expecting twins. Dr. McDowell, upon examining Mrs. Crawford, discovered she was not pregnant at all but had an ovarian tumor. He advised his patient that he would do experimental surgery if she would come to his house for the procedure. A few days later, Mrs. Crawford, rode sixty miles on horseback to the McDowell House.

On Christmas morning in 1809, Dr. McDowell performed the surgery without benefit of anesthetic and removed an ovarian tumor that weighed twenty-two and one-half pounds. The operation was successful!

Twenty-five days later Mrs. Crawford was well enough to travel and returned to her home nine miles south of Greensburg in Green County.

Jane Crawford lived for 32 more years after the operation.

Dr. McDowell died in 1830 with what is believed to have been a ruptured appendix.

The Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville is named for Dr. McDowell.

To see tour dates, hours and prices click here:

Can you imagine riding 60 miles on a horse with a 22 lb. tumor and having surgery with no pain medicine? Then, being recuperated enough in about three weeks or so to go home and live another 32 years. Talk about a strong woman!!!


patsy said...

Ephraim McDowell is the reason I have a hole in my belly but if they hadn't operated on me in 2001 I surley would have died. so I guess he is the reason I lived to be 70 years old.

Ladyfromthewoods said...

Every time I pass his house, I think of her without pain medication. I think of her more than him! We haven't toured the house for decades so I really should venture back one day.

Leigh said...

I used to be able recite his entire life and hers from memory. When I worked there I had to learn about 40 pages of script. It is a very neat house! Yes, Jane Crawford was amazing!

Love you mom!

Leigh TN said...

I'm glad it was HER instead of ME. Women aren't that srong now days! I guess we are weaker and wiser.

judypatooote said...

Well as I sit here writing this comment, I am barefoot.....I'm barefoot until my feet hurt, then I have to go back to shoes...and I'm not even from southern ohio.... History is fascinating to me.....and it becomes more interesting the older I get... I am now into reading Authors Stories, it's an old book on authors I got at an antique store... and some are my poetry too.... judy

Beth said...

What an interesting story, Judy! It does seem that people were of sterner stuff back then--Mrs. Crawford was amazing! Hopefully, they at least gave her some sort of sedative...

bobbie said...

A really interesting post. Thanks for the history lesson. I enjoyed it very much.

JunieRose2005 said...


This was an interesting story!

No! I can't imagine going through that!


AnnaMarie said...

Since Anne passed on "Pauline's" to me as a reading suggestion - and I LOVED it - I'm passing one along to you. It's much less... spirited, but I really loved it. It's called "Lexington: Queen of the Bluegrass" and it totally fascinated me!

Grammy said...

Dear Judy,
Thanks for commenting on my blog! I just started it a week ago, due to my daughter's urging. I find your blog extremely interesting. Now I find I must read it. It is wonderful to meet people from other places. I was born and grew up in east TN. and have lived here most of my life. We have a lot in common in our lives. Thanks again for the comments.
Grammy Ruby

grammyof13 said...

Judy, I have been enthralled with your blog, (now that my company is gone). It isn't just informative, it is filled with History which I love. However to study Kentucky History, I probably would never have started. I loved the idea that KY is known for barefoot, etc. I thought only AR was looked on as backwoods, survivalists, and country hicks! Even though I'm not born and bred here, I do feel this has been our home long enough to call AR home. AR has a rich heritage, but I've never thought about posting the wonders of the Natural State on my blog.
Keep up the good work. I'll be back. Blessings

Kate said...

Hi again Judy, Mrs. Crawford was some woman I am amazed at what she must have suffered. It is totally incredible...