From the Richmond Times-Dispatch, 8/14/1906, p. 1, c. 6
DR. JAS. B. M’CAW ANSWERS THE CALL
DR. JAMES B. McCAW,
Oldest and one of the Best Beloved Physicians of Richmond, Who Passed Away Early Yesterday Morning
Distinguished Physician of Richmond Dies at Ripe Old Age.
MANY THE HONORS HEAPED UPON HIM
Retiring from Active Practice in 1901, He Still Retained Positions of Trust – His Life History Filled With Interesting Events. Served South.
Dr. James B. McCaw, very probably the oldest medical physician in Richmond and one of the city’s most prominent and distinguished citizens, died at the residence of his son-in-law, Dr. Christopher Tompkins, No. 116 East Franklin Street, at 8 o’clock yesterday morning.
The funeral will take place from St. Paul’s Church at 5:30 o’clock this afternoon, and the interment will be in Hollywood. While Dr. McCaw had been in ill health for some months, he was not taken dangerously sick until some ten days ago at Basic City, from which place he was brought here for treatment.
He was eighty-three years of age, but notwithstanding this fact, he was conscious up to the hour of his death, recognizing the members of his family and friends to the last.
The distinguished citizen and physician was the victim of no malady; he simply reached his end as a result of the infirmities of age, and when he breathed his last, it was all calm and peaceful.
No man in Richmond was more widely beloved than Dr. McCaw. He was at the head of a great profession in a great city, and was at once the highest type of the old Virginia gentleman.
A Chivalric Spirit.
Within a month or six weeks he was thrown in company with a lady whom he knew when he was a young man in his teens. The lady was a few years his senior, and now her sight is poor. Dr. McCaw recalled that the lady was an acquaintance of his youth, and when he saw her sitting, almost blind, he obtained a handsome bouquet, and walking up to where she was seated, said: “I trust you will accept the compliments of a friend of your youth, who recalls very pleasant days when we attended a dancing school in this city in 1840.” The lady was agreeably surprised, and for several hours they talked over incidents of their youth.
Dr. McCaw is survived by six children – Mrs. Christopher Tompkins, wife of the dean of the Medical College of Virginia; Mrs. Charles Davenport, of this city, and Mrs. Dabney Maury, of Peoria, Ill.; Thomas W. McCaw and Dr. David McCaw, of this city, and Dr. Walter D. McCaw, surgeon in the United States Navy, stationed in Washington.
Born in Richmond.
Dr. McCaw was a native of this city, having been born here in 1823. He received his early education at the Richmond Academy, and from 1837 to 1842 was employed as engineer’s assistant on the old James River and Kanawha Canal, taking up later the study of medicine at the New York University, under Dr. Valentine Mott, taking the degree of M. D. in 1844.
In 1855 Dr. McCaw was elected to the chair of chemistry in the Medical College of Virginia, and later to the chair of practice. He then served for twelve years as dean of the college, and at the time of his death was chairman of the Board of Visitors of the Medical College of Virginia, always taking the greatest pride in the work of the college, and never tiring in his efforts to fit the students of the institution for their life work. There are thousands of physicians and surgeons in the country to-day who will recall his kindly manner, his never-failing courtesies and the high example set by him.
Had Many Honors.
All the honors that a citizen and professional man could have wished were conferred upon Dr. McCaw by his fellows. He has been president of the Medical Society of Virginia, president of the Academy of Medicine and Surgery, president of the Eye and Ear Infirmary, and for many years a member of the vestry of St. Paul’s Church. At the time of his death Dr. McCaw was senior warden of the church, a position he had held for as much as twenty years. In 1901 Dr. McCaw announced his purpose to retire from the active practice of his profession, in which he had been engaged for fifty-seven years, and was tendered a great banquet at the Commonwealth Club. At the close of the festivities his brothers of the profession presented him with a handsome loving cup, which he greatly prized up to his last hours.
A Scholarly Man.
The news of Dr. McCaw’s death swept over the city rapidly yesterday, and great streams of sorrowing friends made their pilgrimage to the stricken household to express their sorrow and to tender their services.
The period of time covered by the professional and social prominence of Dr. McCaw’s family extends from 1786 to 1901, years crowded with the march of progress and the mighty sequence of great events. His own mind was enriched not alone with his personal experiences, varied, and interesting as they had been, but he was the heir of those of his line who have preceded him and who have bequeathed him their priceless accumulations of tradition, medical lore, and history. During the time of his active participation in the interests of the medical world, a whole generation of Richmonders have played their parts upon the stage of life, and, with but with few exceptions, have passed away.
The months and years of the Civil War, with their soul-stirring record and the heroes who made it, were freshly and vividly alive in the wonderful memory of Dr. McCaw up to the time of his death.
Chimborazo Hospital, including the main building and those of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, was under his immediate charge and supervision, a trust involving a great responsibility and one most faithfully met. During the four years of his incumbency here seventy-six thousand wounded and sick soldiers received hospital treatment, and nine thousand of that number are now sleeping their last sleep I the shades of Oakwood. The names of these nine thousand soldiers were accurately kept and bear additional testimony to the untiring energy of the medical director, by whose order the list was made out and preserved.
Dr. McCaw attended General Robert E. Lee through a severe and painful attack of rheumatism which developed in the midst of the campaign of 1862. The Doctor always doubted whether General Lee ever fully recovered from the severe illness, which probably left behind its seeds of heart trouble, eventually causing death. A short time before his end, General Lee came to Richmond and Dr. McCaw, who examined his heart, ascertained the danger which threatened him
“From enlargement of the heart, he died,” said the Doctor, “not from a broken heart, as some people have thought. General Lee was supported by the consciousness of having done everything that honor, duty and patriotism made imperative, and he was too strong, manly and brave, he faced ill-fortune too serenely and calmly, to die of a broken heart” A life-like painting of General Lee, taken while in camp at Petersburg, was kept for years in Dr. McCaw’s study, standing on an easel where his eyes could readily fall upon it. This beautiful picture will become the property of the Confederate Memorial Literary Society and be chief among other precious relics of the museum
Dr. McCaw was present during the last hours of President Tyler, whose death occurred in the old Ballard House, the scene of so many memorable happenings and the preferred hostelry of so many eminent Virginians. The Doctor and the President were close and intimate friends, having known each other in early life in Charles City county, the home of Mr. Tyler for many years.
Had Things Remedied.
On one occasion Dr. McCaw was called to the bedside of Mrs. A. P. Hill. Richmond was crowded with refugees during those dark days, and when the physician answered an urgent summons he found his patient in a room with no carpet on the floor, no fire on the hearth and with her child to be born in a few hours.
“My God, madam,” exclaimed the Doctor, “can such a state of things as this be possible, while your gallant husband is at the front, risking his life for his country?”
Then, without more ado, he sent for two Richmond women that he knew to come to his aid. They came at once – a carpet was procured and tacked down, a fire was speedily blazing, and when the husband and father, who had ridden twenty miles from his lines in great anxiety, reached the house, Dr. McCaw met him with the assurance that all was well, and that Mrs. Hill and his little daughter were safe and cared for.
The marriage of the famous wartime beauty and belle, Miss Hettie Cary, to General Pegram, which took place in St. Paul’s Church here while the army of Northern Va. were encamped at Petersburg, was witness by Dr. McCaw. General Pegram went from the marriage altar to the front, and was very soon killed. His wife brought his body back to Richmond in an ambulance with his head resting in her lap. From the same church where he had so recently wedded, his funeral services were held – and this was but one of many like tragedies.
The pall-bearers are:
Honorary – Vestry of St. Paul’s Church, Board of Visitors of the Medical College of Virginia, Faculty Medical College of Virginia, Dr. C. W. P Brock, Colonel Archer Anderson, Mr. John H. Montague, Dr. O. A. Crenshaw, Mr. Howard Swineford.
Active – Mr. William S. Fergusson, Lewis W. Brander, Colonel Thomas B McAdams, Blair Pegram, Dr. J. P. Davidson, Dr. Ennion G. Williams, Dr. D. D. Talley, Jr., Dr. Edwin Hobson and Mr. Levin Joynes.