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Thomas A. Blaylock, M. D. A pioneer physician and surgeon of the Indian Territory now included within the limits of the young but great commonwealth of Oklahoma, whence he came in 1895, Dr. Thomas A. Blaylock, now one of the leading practitioners of Madill, superintendent of health of Marshall County since the attainment of statehood, and at this time president of the Marshall County Medical Society, has passed through many interesting experiences and has borne his full part in the development of the state. He was born at Springfield, Illinois, in 1869, and is a son of Rev. John Henry and Elizabeth (Dalton) Blaylock. His father, a minister of the Baptist Church, was a native of Georgia, as was also his mother, and both descended from pioneer settlers of the Cracker State.
Doctor Blaylock was educated in the public schools of Illinois, the Belleville Academy and the Marion Sims Medical College of St. Louis, which latter was the medical department of the University of St. Louis. He was graduated from this institution with his degree in 1892, following which he spent one year as intern in the St. Louis Hospital and several years in private practice, and in 1895 removed to Indian Territory to begin permanently the practice of medicine. After spending a few years at Fort Arbuckle, Davis and Springer, in 1902 he settled at Madill, then one of the growing new towns of the Chickasaw Nation, and where he remained until statehood was granted, when he took up his present residence at Madill. While a number of years were devoted to rural practice largely, Doctor Blaylock never forgot to keep abreast of the times in his profession and took post graduate courses at Philadelphia, New York, New Orleans and Chicago. An interesting point in his career in the Indian country is that he entered upon the practice at Davis of Dr. T. P. Howell, one of the best known early-day physicians of the territory, who was then retiring from practice. Doctor Blaylock has built up at Madill a large and important professional business, and is a member of the Marshall County Medical Society, of which he is president, the Oklahoma State Medical Society and the American Medical Association. At the time of statehood his abilities gained him the appointment to the office of superintendent of health of Marshall County, and this position he has retained to the present time.
Doctor Blaylock was married at Davis, Indian Territory, to Miss Nannie Shrum, and they have one son: Jennings, who is now sixteen years of age. Doctor Blaylock is a Mason, belonging to the Blue Lodge at Madill, the Consistory at McAlester and the Shrine at Muskogee. He has numerous friends and influential connections in professional, business and social life, and is known as one of Madill’s most useful, stirring and public-spirited citizens.
The life of the pioneer physician of the Indian Territory was fraught with many hardships and not infrequent dangers. In the region surrounding Fort Washita, a historic spot near the present Town of Davis, there lived many men with a predominancy of the primitive in them. There were cattle and horse thieves, bank and train robbers and murderers, and until a few years before Doctor Blaylock’s arrival the community had been occupied by United States troops. Even the most peaceably inclined people found it necessary to engage in fights occasionally, and the physicians of those early days had more recourse to surgery than to the administration of medicine. Among the many experiences of Doctor Blaylock, an incident of peculiar interest may be presented. A strapping fellow, booted and spurred, and mounted on a fine horse, stopped at Doctor Blaylock’s gate one day and informed the young physician that a comrade was sick in the mountains eighteen miles away and that the services of a doctor were needed. Roads were few, and those few were in poor condition, and it was necessary to travel on horseback. Drug stores of course there were none; prescription clerks were persons to be read of only in books; the doctor of that day carried his own stock of medicines, generally, as did Doctor Blaylock, in a large black bag. The doctor started off with his companion and entered an unfrequented region of the Arbuckle Mountains; roads gave out and only rough paths indicated routes toward human habitations. It was early in the day when the journey began and half midday when the two entered a wild canyon hid far back in the hills. They stopped at a cabin that once had been the home of an Indian and near which stood a recently pitched tent, and the doctor’s companion led the way into the cabin and pointed out the sick man, who was lying on a couch. After making an examination, diagnosing the case and administering curative medicine, the doctor pushed back from the couch and while awaiting developments observed that the cabin was inhabited only by men. All were of the type of the messenger and he noticed that all were armed. After a time he gave the patient more medicine and announced that his services were no longer required for the day. When, however, he put on his hat, shouldered his “pill bag” and started to leave, he was blocked at the passage by a man who coolly informed him that he must remain there the rest of the day. “And when you do go,” said the man, “it must be on condition that you keep your mouth shut. Can you do it?” The doctor replied that nothing could unseal his lips. He took a seat and remained in the house during the day, during which he took stock of his surroundings. There were several kinds of arms on the walls and floor and much ammunition. Several of the men came and went many times during the day, but the doctor noticed that one man, Winchester rifle in hand, stood or sat on guard on a big boulder near the mouth of the canyon. The men were neatly dressed and spoke excellent English, as though they had been reared in a more advanced section of the country, but although Doctor Blaylock many times sought to engage them in conversation, they only listened to what he had to say, laughed a lot at his pleasantries, and kept silent regarding themselves. Toward sundown the promise of silence was again enforced, the doctor was led back into a highway, and he rode home under the stars; but although his mind was filled with many strange thoughts, it was not until many weeks later that he suddenly realized that during that day he had been the guest of one of the most notorious gangs of outlaws in the Southwest–the Dalton band!