Early Education and Medicine

During the late 18th century and early 19th century the literacy rates in Georgia as a whole were low. There was no effective way of measuring the amount of Georgians who could even sign their name during the last days of its colonial occupation, instead one could use personal accounts that describe the disparity between the amount of Georgians who possessed a great amount of books and those who couldn’t even sign their own name. This changed during the early 19th century in which reform programs attempted to universalize or at least make accessible education. Education in the state was undertaken mostly by private religious institutions on the basis that they would teach their congregants to read the word of god. If one was lucky and their parents had some wealth they would often employ a private tutor. These were a way in which the aristocracy would improve their children’s status and thereby their own.6 

Andrew C. Marshall, an illiterate free black preacher, attempted to institute a Sunday School program which would enable young blacks (both enslaved and free) to learn to read and write. This Sunday school was widely attended, reporting up to two thousand people in attendance on some Sundays in the mid 1820s. Attendance at these sessions required a note from their owner or their guardian which stated that they exhibited outstanding behavior each week. Those who did not procure such notes or it was reported that they exhibited bad behavior were shunned and ostracized during each session. Through these sessions every Sunday the attendees would raise their own standing within society because of their ability to read and write, which was a desired skill. It is important to note that the requirement that one must posses a note was a serious deterrent in the amount of acts of violence against educated blacks.3

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century medical education constituted of an apprenticeship. After a young man graduated from college where they mostly received a liberal arts education, often in ancient Greek and classical thought they would apply for apprenticeships with a doctor. Many of these new doctors came from a religious background. The modern religious scholar and Jewish faith leader, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks describes the shift from religious education to a scientific one during the nineteenth century in a book on religious violence. “We no longer need the Bible to explain the universe. Instead we have science. When we are ill, we do not need prayer. We have doctors, medicine, and surgery.”7 In the early nineteenth century however prayer was the response to sickness. Doctors who trained in Biblical and classical thought used methods from their learning to impact the way that they practiced medicine, down to writing ‘prescriptions' in Latin. In his book The Youngest Science written in 1983 Lewis Thomas describes medicine in the 1920s was still changing from its faith based approach to the modern science it is now.8 One did not even need to be certified by a board until the mid 1930s, when that became standard practice. Instead any young man armed with an education was capable of applying the things that he learned to the practice of medicine.

As we will see in the coming sections both WC Daniell and William Warring attempted to apply scientific reasoning to the outbreak of diseases. Each doctor had their own approach to the study and treatment of the fever. Both of them however engaged with the fever in a primarily scientific manner as opposed to a faith based response to the issue. Instead of prescribing random herbs that they thought would best sort out the patients or praying for their safety, they attempted to root out the cause of the disease and then treat it.

1822 Georgia Map

A map of Georgia in 1822.