Dr. George Alfred Baxter






Well Known Physician Dies in His Office Chair.




One of the Heroes Who Risked His Life in the Dark Days of 1878 –

Public Spirited Physician’s Work Is Done.


            Dr. George Alfred Baxter, Chattanooga’s well known physician, and one of the most prominent and widely known practitioners in the south, was found dead yesterday afternoon, sitting upright in a chair at his office, 13 1-2 East Eighth street . Death was due to heart trouble.

            Doctor Baxter spent a greater part of the morning at Erlanger hospital where he was in consultation with Dr. J. S. Dye, during a difficult operation on an employee of the Queen and Crescent route, with which road the deceased had been connected as surgeon for many years. They returned to the city about 1 o’clock . Doctor Baxter stopping at his office. He soon afterward had lunch there, after which he took a short nap, instructing William, his servant for over twenty years, to call him at 2:30 o’clock . The colored man obeyed, and at about 2:40 o’clock Doctor Baxter sent the servant across the street to the Chattanooga Savings bank. When he returned about five minutes later, Doctor Baxter was leaning back in the rocking chair where the servant had left him, and life was extinct.

            Doctor Baxter’s death was not entirely unexpected. Since last May he has been in feeble health. For the past nine months he has been associated with Dr. W. A. Duncan, who has been looking after the major portion of the practice. Yesterday morning Doctor Baxter stated to one of his sons that he was feeling especially well, and commented on the fact that he had passed a very restful night.

            The funeral service will take place tomorrow (Friday) morning at St. Paul ’s Episcopal church. The rector, Doctor Holley, and Dr. J. W. Bachman will officiate. The burial will be in Forest Hills . A number of relatives from Knoxville and Nashville will attend the funeral. The pallbearers will be J. C. Howell, S. E. Howell, John B. Nicklin, Dr. W. T. Hope, W. W. Kent, Dr. W. A. Duncan, Henry Bond, Sr., and R. H. Hunt.


            Doctor Baxter was born at Alexandria , a small station on the Southern railroad, near Asheville , N. C., Nov. 28, 1851, celebrating his fifty-eighth anniversary last Thanksgiving day. His father was George Baxter, a leading attorney of North Carolina , who died soon after the birth of this son, and Doctor Baxter was reared by his uncle, who was also his stepfather, Judge John Baxter, Knoxville ’s noted jurist and man of affairs. Dr. Baxter’s mother was one of the famous Alexander family, also of North Carolina .

            There were five sons and one daughter of the Baxter family, all of whom are now living with the exception of the subject of this sketch. George W. Baxter, ex-governor of Wyoming, is now in the west, John Baxter in the well-known insurance man of Nashville, Lewis Baxter is the president of the Nashville bank, Will Baxter, who now lives in Nashville, has retired from business. The surviving sister is Mrs. A. S. Robinson, of Nashville , wife of a banker of that city.

            Doctor Baxter received his first education in the schools of Knoxville , his mother having moved to that city in 1857. He completed his education at the East Tennessee University , and then went to Kenyon college, in Ohio , and later to Hobart college, in New York State . He graduated from the latter in 1871, and immediately began the study of medicine under the famous New York surgeon, James R. Wood, of the Bellevue hospital, New York . Two years later he graduated.

            Soon after he accepted the position of assistant surgeon of the Erie railroad, and organized the surgical department of that system. On account of failure of health he resigned his position and came south, settling in Chattanooga in 1873, where he has been in active practice. In May, 1876, he performed successfully the first ovarion (sic) operation done in East Tennessee . In 1880 he was made surgeon of the Alabama Great Southern railroad, and organized , as he did in the case of the Erie , the medical system of the road, and on the lease of the Cincinnati Southern that road was also added. Doctor Baxter has been continuously connected with the systems for over thirty years, and at one time was surgeon for every railroad entering Chattanooga with the exception of the Nashville Chattanooga and St. Louis . He was also surgeon for all of the street railroads and the roads operating on Lookout mountain.


            In 1889 Doctor Baxter undertook the raising of funds for the construction of a large general hospital for the city and surrounding county. This hospital was at first supported principally by the railroads entering this city, and for which he was surgeon. Later he secured the interest of Baron Erlanger, and sufficient funds were secured for the erection and maintenance of the present magnificent structure known as Baroness Erlanger hospital. Doctor Baxter was for many years the chief of staff for this institution and was also a member of the board of trustees of the institution for a long term.

            Since the organization of the University of Chattanooga medical school Doctor Baxter has held the chair of surgery. He has shown a great interest in the work, and many if the young physicians of the south received their first training under his direction.


            Perhaps the work by which Doctor Baxter is best known was during the later part of the seventies, when he and three other physician remained in Chattanooga during the yellow fever scourge. Doctors Hope and Sims, both of whom are now local practitioners, and Dr. Frazier, a surgeon who has since died, remained with Doctor Baxter through the ordeal. A historical sketch published several years ago, says of the deceased in that connection:

            “In speaking of the career of Doctor Baxter, we would not fail to mention that during the epidemic of that dreadful disease, smallpox, and that almost fatal scourge, yellow fever, in 1878, he devoted his entire time free to the people, and did a noble and never-to-be-forgotten work, and his name will always be a household word in many a grateful home. By the latter disease he was himself stricken down at the end of his long work, and barely escaped with his life.”

            Doctor Baxter served the city at a later date when a smallpox scourge threatened the city. In 1905 he was sent to New Orleans as the representative of the city of Chattanooga , and made a thorough investigation of the yellow fever conditions there. The report which he brought back was accepted by the city and his suggestions for defense and quarantine against the dreaded disease, were carried out to the letter.


            In 1890 Doctor Baxter was elected president of the Tennessee Medical society. He was also a member of the American Medical association, an organization composed of fifty of the foremost physicians in the country. He was a member of the Masonic and Knights of Zythias lodges, and until recent years was an active worker in each. He was one of the original members, and assisted materially in the construction of the St. Paul ’s Episcopal church.

            Doctor Baxter was married in 1880 to Miss Ellen Douglas, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Byrd Douglas, of Nashville . To their union were born three children, Douglas, Katherine and Bruce. Katherine died when young. The two sons are both well known residents of this city. During his long life in Chattanooga , Doctor Baxter has, until recently, lived at 118 McCallie avenue .

            The first signs of the doctor’s failing health were noticed while he was in Florida two years ago this winter. His sons were with him at the time, and the physicians attending him said he would never live to return to Tennessee . His wonderful vitality kept him alive, however, after all members of the medical fraternity believed he would soon die, and it was this vitality that kept him up during the past few months. It was in May, 1907, that Doctor Baxter gave up his active practice, and became associated with Dr. W. A. Duncan. Since that time he has been able to be in his office most of the time. In fact, with the exception of his illness in Florida two years ago and the yellow fever, he had never had a day’s illness.

“The Chattanooga Daily Times,” Thursday, February 13, 1908.