Stirman, Wilbur Fitzalan

Wilbur Fitzalan Stirman, M. D., one of the most popular and distinguished surgeons and physicians of Owensboro, son of Dr. William Doswell and Rachel (Wall) Stirman, was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, June 2, 1856. His father was also an eminent physician of Owensboro for more than thirty years. He was born in Washington County, Kentucky, December 12, 1820, and was educated in the schools of that county and, after reading medicine with Dr. Linton in St. Louis, was graduated from the medical department of the St. Louis University, February 29, 1844. He was elected Demonstrator of Anatomy in that institution the following year, and held that position for two years. In 1849 he resigned the professorship in the university and returned to Kentucky, and located in Rumsey, McLean County, remaining there but a short time, when he removed to Owensboro, where he continued to reside until his death, May 8, 1893.

In 1858 he was called to the chair of Professor of Anatomy in the Kentucky School of Medicine at Louisville, and spent the winter months in that city until 1861, when he resigned on account of the interruption of the school’s business upon the outbreak of the war. After this his whole time was given to the practice of his profession.

He was a dignified, scholarly gentleman, warm hearted, sympathetic and gentle; and his genial manner in the sickroom made him a favorite, but his great worth was as the true physician, in whom his patients trusted implicitly.

He was no less prominent as a citizen, for he was greatly interested in the progress and welfare of the community and was ever ready to help a good cause by word or deed. During the later years of his useful life he was regarded by his many friends and acquaintances as the “Grand Old Man” of Owensboro, while in medical circles he was acknowledged the mentor of the profession. He belonged to several local, state and national medical associations, and helped them along. He was not a politician, but as a good citizen he exercised the right of suffrage and voted the Democratic ticket. He was a true and faithful Christian in connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church; and in all spheres of life in which he was called to act, he was the same dignified scholar, the kind physician, the respected citizen and the beloved Christian gentleman.

He married Rachel Anne Wall, November 29, 1849. She was born in McLean County, Kentucky, April 29, 1829; and was educated at Mrs. Tevis’ Science Hill Academy, Shelbyville. She survives her husband, and is now living in Owensboro, greatly loved for her personal worth and lovely Christian character. She is the mother of five sons and one daughter: William Wall Stirman, deceased; Fannie Conway, wife of Joseph L. Lee of Owensboro; Dr. Wilbur F. Stirman, the subject of this sketch; Middleton Goldsmith Stirman, married Sarah D. Perkins; Joseph Scobee Stirman, married Martha Lumpkin, and Frederick Victor, married Susan Gilmour.

James H. Stirman (grandfather) was a native of Roanoke County, Virginia, where he was a merchant and planter for many years. He was a captain in the War of 1812, and received three gunshot wounds at the battle of Thames and fell within twenty-six feet of the spot where Tecumseh fell. He recovered from his wounds and subsequently removed to Memphis, Tennessee, where he died in 1820. His wife was Elizabeth L. Doswell, daughter of Thomas Doswell of Hanover County, Virginia, who removed to Washington County, Kentucky, where their marriage took place. The Doswells belonged to an old Virginia family, whose ancestors came to that state from England.

Bannister Wall (maternal grandfather), a tobacconist, was born in Pearson County, North Carolina, and married Sarah Tate Thompson, who was born in Nelson County, Kentucky, but

at the time of their marriage were living in McLean County.

Boyd Wall (great-grandfather) married Elizabeth Wade, and they were residents of North


Sarah Tate Thompson (grandmother), wife of Bannister Wall, was a daughter of Anthony Thompson, native of Pennsylvania, and Rachel Handley of Virginia.

Anthony Thompson (great-grandfather) was a son of James Thompson and Sarah Finley, both of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Wilbur F. Stirman received a good literary education in the Owensboro schools; at Hanover College, Indiana, in which he took the Sophomore and Junior courses; and then went to Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, from which he was graduated in the class of 1877. In the following autumn he went to the St. Louis Medical College, from which he graduated in medicine in 1879. He spent the three years following in hospital work in St. Louis, thereby gaining a valuable experience.

In 1881 he joined his father in Owensboro, under the firm name of Stirman & Stirman, and this partnership relation continued until the death of the senior member, May 8, 1893. After entering upon the duties of the profession with his father, Dr. Stirman took several post-graduate courses in the Polyclinic Institute, New York City. He succeeded to the large practice of his father and has taken his place in the hearts of the people, who have the same confidence in the son that they had so implicitly placed in the father.

Dr. Stirman is especially distinguished as a surgeon, and is acknowledged by the profession as the ablest surgeon in the county. His services are in demand in all cases in which important surgical skill is required, and other physicians rarely undertake serious work of that character without his assistance or consultation with him. Aside from this branch of work, for which he has especially prepared himself, he enjoys a very extensive general practice, for which he is naturally adapted, being kind, considerate and gentle in the sickroom, and having acquired a knowledge of medicine which few men of his age in the state have attained. He has inherited and cultivated many of the fine traits of character of his distinguished father and is quite as popular as a citizen as he is as a physician and surgeon.

In recognition of his ability as a surgeon, he is employed in that capacity by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company; the Louisville, St. Louis & Texas Railroad Company; the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad Company, and the Electric Street Railway Company of Owensboro.

He is a member of the McDowell Medical Society, and of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Stirman is faithful to the principles of the Democratic party, and his vote helps to swell the comfortable majority of the Democracy in his city and county.

Socially Dr. Stirman is a great favorite, being a companionable, genial and courteous gentleman of scholarly attainments, whose becoming dignity is lost sight of in the company of his friends and associates.

Source: Biographical Cyclopedia of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. John M. Gresham Company, Chicago, Philadelphia, 1896.