William Hall Stringfellow

William Hall Stringfellow, MD  1818 – 1869

The Florida career of Dr. William Hall Stringfellow spanned only fourteen years, and yet his leadership in civic affairs and his humanitarianism were significant in the early development of  Alachua County and the town of Gainesville.  He was born in Chester, South Carolina, on July 31, 1818, the son of William and Patience Buford Stringfellow.  After receiving his early education in the schools of Chester he attended the University of South Carolina from which he graduated as Bachelor of Arts in 1838.  After an interval of a year he enrolled in the Medical Department of the University of Pennsylvania where he received his medical degree in the Spring of 1841.  His doctoral thesis was entitled “The Non-Existence of Congestive Fever.”

Returning to Chester after his graduation Dr. Stringfellow began his professional practice.  A year or so later her married Julia Eliza Rainey, a union to which two children, William Jr. and Eliza were born.  Mrs. Stringfellow, however, did not long survive the Birth of her second .  Within a year of so after her death Dr. Stringfellow remarried, in this instance a widow, Mrs. Sarah Dogan Wright who had two children by her first husband, Richard Simpson Wright. 

Family documents do not clearly indicate the date of  Dr. Stringfellow’s removal to Florida, although 1856 is the year usually cited.  There is evidence, however, that he had been in Alachua County as early as 1854, and that he had attended a Fourth of July celebration at Dr. Anderson’s mill at the head of Sweetwater Branch where he had given a “fiery speech”.  He is also reported to have attended a meeting at Boulware Springs, a mile South of Gainesville, at which a vote was taken to locate the County seat in Gainesville.  It appears likely that he was in Alachua at the time of prospecting for suitable land on which he might settle.

Whatever the date of his arrival, 1854 or 1856, Dr. Stringfellow purchases a tract of land at Fort Clarke, six miles West of Gainesville, where he developed the Stringfellow Plantation.  His first years in the new location bode well for the future, as he carried on the dual roles of physician and planter, achieving success in both.  In 1860 his slaves numbered thirty-five; his other property was valued at $8,000.00  He also entered vigorously into the life of the community.  He is said to have been responsible for bringing the eminent South Carolina Presbyterian minister, the Reverend W. J. McCormick, to remove to Alachua County, and establish the Kanapaha Presbyterian Church, the first such church in the County.

Meanwhile Dr. Stringfellow was establishing himself as a trusted and dedicated physician whose services were much in demand over a wide area of Alachua County.  His daughter, Sallie, in her reminiscences, wrote:

" My father was a very fine man, a wonderful doctor dearly beloved by all who knew him.  One of our slaves, Jane Gaines told me a lot about “Marse William”, she took care of him in Chester, S. C.  She told me of his going on horseback to visit his patients, and in the winter he would come in from his visits, his feet almost frozen, and Aunt Jane would get a foot tub full of warm water and “thaw out” his feet."

The disruption brought on by the War (1861 – 1865) prompted Dr. Stringfellow to leave his plantation and move into Gainesville, where he continued to practice medicine.  In 1869 he returned to his native State for a visit.  He became ill and died in Aiken, but his remains were taken to Union, S. C. for burial.  He was survived by his wife, Sarah, and five of the six children who had been born to the couple. 

Mr. Stringfellow gets a toupee

These shipping activities were extended during the latter part of January 1863 when the sloop Elias Beckwith was acquired. The original cost of the vessel was $400, the expense of outfitting it was $706.10, and the cargo of cotton was valued at about $7,000. 8 The individuals investing in the enterprise were S. G. Frierson, C. S. Friebele, A. T. Frierson, and E. A. Clark.

In March 1863 Mr. Swann sailed for Havana, Cuba, on the Elias Beckwith, to serve as a broker in various enterprises for private individuals. For the purpose of the adventure to Cuba he was advanced a sum of $1,605.17 by those for whom the transactions were to be made. In addition to the staple supplies which were required by the Confederate government, Mr. Swann shipped back to Florida various merchandise throughout the spring of 1863. These articles included such items as a dozen gold pens valued at $8.50; a dozen violin strings at $1.25, bought for a Mr. Hedges; a pair of shoes at $2.00; and a toupee at $12.50 purchased for Dr. W. H. Stringfellow.   Other goods brought in on the Elias Beckwith were muslin, linen, shaving cream, hairpins, starch, quinine, shirt buttons, combs, and morocco gaiters.

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