The Vagabond – Dr. Bevans, first mayor of Gadsden

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By Danny Crownover

One of the most interesting citizens of 19th century Gadsden was Dr. Joseph Bevans, who came to this area from Virginia in 1852 to practice his profession of physician and surgeon.

Dr. Bevans was the first mayor of Gadsden after the city was chartered in 1871. Before that time, a village government operated under the general code, and the mayor was known as an “intendant.”

Dr. Bevans maintained an office in a false-front wooden building located on the west side of Court Street, an area that featured shallow structures that housed several lawyers, a tailor and a Chinese laundry.

Police court trials were held in Dr. Bevans’ office. He was known to dispensed justice with a complete understanding of human nature and was never hard on the offending party. Dr. Bevans joined the Masons and was a lifelong member of the Baptist church.

In July of 1842, Dr. Bevans was married to Miss Temperance Gandy, daughter of Edward Gandy of Gandy’s Cove in Morgan County. The couple had six children: Mary E. (Mrs. Dr. M. R. Wright); John W. Bevans; James M. Bevans; Jennie (Mrs. D. A. Hughes); Edward L. Bevans and Idella (Mrs. Augustus Young).

Two of Dr. Bevans’ sons were physicians. Dr. M. R. Wright was his son-in-law and Dr. John B. Liddell married his granddaughter. All four doctors were practicing in Gadsden at one time or another.

In January of 1863, Dr. Bevans joined the Confederate Army as surgeon of the 31st Alabama Regiment. His command was under General John C. Pemberton at the Federal army’s siege of Vicksburg. He eventually surrendered and was paroled.

Dr. Bevans rejoined the 31st Alabama following September and remained with the regiment until March of 1865, when he resigned his commission and returned to Gadsden.

Dr. Bevans was a noted army surgeon who often spoke of his experiences on the battlefield. He was frequently called into consultation all over North Alabama due to of his wide knowledge of medicine and surgery.

Temperance Bevans died in 1870. In 1873, the doctor married Miss Nancy Petty.

In 1878, Dr. Bevans joined the Alabama State Medical Association, which recognized his talents and ability. He served several terms as president of the Etowah County Medical Association. While serving as Etowah County Health Officer, Dr. Bevins opposed the cutting of weeds on vacant lots since it exposed disease breeding spots. He also took the position that the sawmills on the banks of the Coosa River caused malaria due to piles of wet slabs and sawdust. At that time, it was not known that malaria was spread by mosquitos.

Contact The Vagabond at dkcrown@bellsouth.net.

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