Alexander Humphreys

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Alexander Humphreys was a pioneer physician in Staunton, Virginia.

He was born in County Armagh, Ireland, in 1757, the son of John Humphreys and Margaret Carlisle. He initially studied medicine under his uncle, Carlisle. After that, he attended the University of Edinburgh where he received his M.D. degree in 1782. At the time, the University of Edinburgh had the most famous medical school in the world.

In 1783 he emigrated to Augusta County, Virginia, and settled at Greenville near his brother, David Carlisle Humphreys. In 1787 he moved to Staunton and established a practice there. He became a Justice of Augusta County and a Trustee of the newly created Staunton Academy in 1792. In 1793 he became the President of the Board of Trustees of Staunton Academy. Humphreys had a large and busy medical practice and attracted many medical students who studied under him as a preceptor. His known students include William Wardlaw, James McPheeters, Andrew Kean, William Henry Harrison, Samuel Brown, and Ephraim McDowell. William Henry Harrison later became President of the United States. Ephraim McDowell was the most famous student of Humphreys who became a practicing physician. On April 8, 1788, Humphreys married Mary Brown, a daughter of Rev. John Brown of New Providence Church. They had seven children including Elizabeth L. Humphreys (1800–1874) who married Robert Smith Todd and became the stepmother of Mary Todd Lincoln.

Humphreys died May 23, 1802, at Staunton, Virginia, and was buried in the churchyard of Trinity Episcopal Church at Staunton. His widow, Mary, then moved to Frankfort, Kentucky, to be near her brother John Brown. She died January 28, 1836, at Frankfort, Kentucky, and is buried at Frankfort Cemetery.


The Prestons of Smithfield and Greenfield in Virginia by John Frederick Dorman, Louisville, KY, 1982.

Address delivered before the Augusta County Medical Association on the occasion of the dedication of a bronze tablet at the grave of Humphreys in Trinity Churchyard, Staunton, Virginia, April 15, 1951, by Richard P. Bell, Virginia Medical Monthly, Vol. 81, pages 13–16, January 1954.

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