Dr. Wilson Richard Bachelor

Wilson Bachelor 001Wilson Richard Bachelor was born November 29, 1827 in Lawrence County Tennessee to Wilson R. Bachelor, the elder, (abt. 1775-1858)) and Alcie Odom (1790-1848).  Both parents came from North Carolina and were of English heritage.  Children of the union were Moses B. (Jan. 11, 1808), William Skidmore (Apr. 1816), Hannah Delaney (abt. 1819), Sarah R. (abt. 1824) and Wilson, the younger.  The first three were born in North Carolina.  Sarah and Wilson were born after the family migrated to Tennessee.  Wilson, the subject of this discourse, spent his childhood in Hardin County, Tennessee.

Wilson was probably educated in the Hardin County schools.  As a very young man he began teaching school and continued for several years.  At the age of twenty, in December of 1847 Wilson married Sarah H. Tankersley of Hardin County.  Throughout this period he also was studying medicine.  In the 1860 census he was listed as a physician.

 resigned, possibly over a dispute about whether both Union and Confederate soldiers should be buried there.  In 1870 he moved his family to Arkansas settling on 250 acres in Franklin County south of the Arkansas River near the town of Ozark.  Some of his siblings had moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas previously.  At this time he and Sarah had borne eight children – one had died in infancy.  Two more children were born in Arkansas.

During his 33 years in Arkansas he practiced medicine with the resources available at that time.  He was a learned man, a “free thinker”, a family man, and a lover of music.  From the “Foreword” of Fiat Fluz, historian Thomas Bruce describes Dr. Bachelor: “What an incredible man emerges from the pages of his writings!  He was a keen observer and lover of nature, camping in the great outdoors on frequent visits to other communities–always attentive to the sounds of birds and insects around him.  He delighted in great literature and loved his time with learned friends.  He played violin and guitar and taught his children to join in his love of making music.  He treasured his family and the land on which he lived, but in his soul he was a physician, and in the quiet hours of reflection through the years he felt that his contribution through life was in that realm.  In 1874, at age forty-seven, he wrote, “when I look back…I think I have not been the cause of pain to any person, but have sympathized with Suffering, and endeavored to relieve corporeal pain and mental anguish…”  What more could any man desire?”*

Dr. Bachelor was a liberalist, a “free thinker” (emphasizing science and reason over supernatural – thus rejecting formal religion).  He helped found the Masonic Lodge in Ozark but was expelled for his beliefs, yet was later eulogized by the lodge at the time of his death.  His philosophy of living and thinking was published–often in near poetic language–in letters to editors, essays about women’s rights, evils of capital punishment, and his free thinking ideas.  He wrote one known monograph entitled, “Fiat Fluz” espousing free thought.

He kept a diary of his medical practice describing, among other medical problems, his obstetrical patients and the gunshot wounds in an undisciplined western Arkansas.  It included unusual patients: one with hydrocephalus and one with a hatchet wound to the skull.  Each entry was explicit with terms current to medicine as practiced at that time.  There were patients who came to Dr. Bachelor and stories of him going to patients’ homes.

Dr. Bachelor died on May 5, 1903 in the community of Pauline in Franklin County Arkansas.  He was in his 76th year.

*William D. Lindsey, ed., Fiat Fluz The Writings of Wilson R. Bachelor, Nineteenth Century Country Doctor and Philosopher (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2013), xix