An Exhibit of Memorable Austin Firsts
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- The first sale of lots in the newly laid-out capital city of Austin was held August 1, 1839, under an oak tree in what is now known as Republic Square. Advertisements had been placed in newspapers throughout Texas and in New Orleans. The sheriff auctioned 291 lots for a total of $182,585 revenue produced for the Republic of Texas. The highest price paid was $2,800 for the lot at the northeast corner of Congress and Cedar (4th Street) and the lowest price paid was $120 for a lot in the 700 block of West Walnut (14th Street).
- The first physician to settle in the area which was to become Austin was Dr. Thomas W. Anderson, who came to Hornsby Bend in 1835. By January 1840, when the first census was conducted, six doctors were listed in the city. Seven other residents practiced medicine on the side when they were not fulfilling duties in Congress or appointive offices. Several years later, historian Frank Brown noted that "Austin was an exceedingly healthy location, hence poor pickings for the medics," but even so, "old Dr. Anderson [was reliable] to fall back on in the critical cases."
"[Dr. Anderson's] office existed wherever his horse stopped. For most illnesses he would give quinine in horrid bitter powders. If the pulse was fast he would bleed the patient by incising a vein in the arm without benefit of anesthetic. If the tonsils were inflamed he might scarify them with a surgical rake. Many of his remedies were prepared in the home, using mustard for plasters and egg for poultices. If a tooth ached he pulled it or plugged it. Almost inevitably his treatment included the administration of calomel or senna and if cramping was notable, opium was given. He stayed at the patient's side during this process, ate at the family table and slept there if the illness was dangerous. He also kept everyone busy, for there were herbs to gather and decoctions to be simmered on the the stove. Patients were sponged and sweated and the doctor spent long periods studying the pulse and scrutinizing the tongue." Aesculapius on the Colorado: The story of medical practice in Travis County to 1899 by James M. Coleman. Published by Encino Press for the Friends of the Austin Public Library, 1971.
Mahala Murchison was the first Black person known to historians by name as a resident of Austin. Arriving in Austin in July 1839, she was 10 years old, the maid of Alexander and Mary Nicholson Murchison. By January 1840, 176 Blacks were listed as residents.