Bardstown Slaves: Amputation and Louisiana Sugar Plantations
Dr. Walter Brashear, from Kentucky by way of Maryland, was owner of four sugar plantations in St. Mary Parish, Louisiana. Brashear was a Kentucky slave owner who had grown up in Bullitt County, KY, practiced medicine in Nelson County, KY, and served one term in the Kentucky Legislature in 1808. He performed the world's first successful amputation at the hip joint in 1806. The procedure was performed on a 17 year old mulatto slave of the St. Joseph monks in Bardstown, KY; the boy had a badly fractured leg. In spite of the medical notoriety Brashear received, he found that practicing medicine did not generate the profit he wanted. By 1822, Brashear had left medicine and moved his wife, Margaret Barr, their family, and most of their slaves to Louisiana, where Brashear developed sugar plantations. Eli, a brickmaker and distiller, was one of the 25 or so slaves who had arrived in advance of the Brashear family. Three of the slaves were sold shortly after they arrived in Louisiana; Brashear was short of money. The youngest and most skilled of his slaves in Nelson County had been taken to Louisiana, and added to the group were slaves he bought or bartered from family members and his Nelson County neighbors. The first group of slaves were transported by steamboat, and the remainder arrived by flatboat. Brashear would eventually become a wealthy man, but not before the death of his wife, most of his children, and some of the slaves, who died of fevers and cholera. For more see Sweet Chariot, by A. P. Malone; Brashear and Florence Family Papers at the Library of UNC at Chapel Hill; and a discussion of the hip joint surgery on page 646 of The Medical News, vol. LXIII (July-December 1893) [available full-text at Google Book Search].