Dr. T. A. Son





The above article was published in the Lead Belt News on April 1, 1970 

Dr. Son is one of the best known, and best loved physicians who has ever served the people of this county and despite his age still serves many patients in his office where he may be found every day. Like many of the older professional men, he was forced to obtain his education the hard way and his active mind goes back over the four-fifths of a century which he clearly remembers to recall many experiences which the modern generation would consider almost too difficult to believe.

A son of James Monroe Son, he was born on a farm in the Eastern part of Morgan County on January 2, 1857. One of a large family of children, born and reared under pioneer conditions, he with his brothers and sisters learned to perform useful tasks at a very early age, for while the woods and fields provided plenty of game for the taking, the streams an abundance of fish and the tillable soil of the home farm an ample supply of food stuffs and forage, it was the job of parents and children to convert those products into usable articles there on the farm, and the spinning wheel, the loom and a shoemaker's outfit were as essentially a part of their home equipment as were the old fashioned plows, the heavy wheeled wagon and the home made sled.

With his brothers and sisters he attended rural schools in his home community, and during those first years he heard the roar of cannon during the battle of Bonneville and saw much of the bushwhacking warfare which marked the frontier phase of the Civil War. Despite those early hardships and the difficulty of every step upward, his thirst for education led him on, and as he forged through school, he studied higher mathematics and more difficult advanced subjects at every opportunity, often carrying his text books with him to the field to study while the oxen rested from their labors, and still more often sitting beneath the light of a home made candle until far into the night.

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Self-Portrait Penned by Dr.  Son


When little more than nineteen years of age he obtained his first teacher's certificate and started a career as instructor in Central Missouri rural schools. Though the salary he received was meager when considered in light of present day pay standards, he managed to get through on his earnings, $25.00 to $35.00 per month, and kept up his struggle to obtain more education. He attended college at Sedalia, Missouri, and graduated there in 1881. He joined the faculty as instructor of penmanship and mathematics, but liked the work of a country school instructor better and resigned after a brief period of service to return to that field. On February 10, 1884, he was married to Ida Leota Lee Carney in Moniteau County, near Enon, Missouri, and they raised a large family of six girls and three boys, losing two children in infancy and one daughter at the age of twelve. Each of the surviving children have families of their own and the Doctor now looks with pride upon sixteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren, in whose presence he finds solace for the loss of his beloved companion who died twenty-three years ago at Bonne Terre.

Always ambitious, he gave up school teaching to go into business at Enon in 1889, but found credit business unprofitable then, as it frequently is today, and after two years moved to Bates County, Missouri, where he accepted a position as telegraph operator on the Missouri Pacific Railroad at Passiac, where he served as station agent, postmaster and express agent and at the time conducted a general store. In this business venture he followed the example of the railroad and stuck to a cash basis, which proved to be far more profitable, and with the savings he accumulated in that way he took up the study of photography and equipped himself a gallery. This business was also successful and he managed to get ahead far enough to follow his ambition and take up the study of medicine. He traded the gallery for a small farm upon which he installed his family while he pursued his studies in St. Louis and graduated in 1899 with honorable mention at the commencement exercises.

Immediately after his graduation he selected Bonne Terre as the point where he would establish his practice, and for the past forty-one years he has been a familiar figure in that city, and in this county. In the early days he traveled the trails and bypaths on horseback, at all hours of the day and night, through sleet, or snow, or rain, often forging the turbulent Big River or some of the lesser streams when his horse was forced to swim against the roaring current and he was compelled to hold his precious saddle pockets high above his head to protect his medicines.

During the administration of Governor Elliott Major he was appointed to the State Board of Health, was reappointed by Governor Gardner and continued to serve during the administration of Governor Hyde, resigning during the early part of Governor Baker's term after having enjoyed the unique distinction of serving in this honored position under four governors, an honor which few others, if any, have had.

Alert, aggressive and keenly alive to all modern advancement, he has followed the practice of obtaining recreation from his professional studies by taking up various hobbies. Among these has been his love for pen sketching and beautiful penmanship, in which field has no superior. Still another hobby was radio, and during the early stages of its development in the home he studied the subject thoroughly and mastered it to the point where he constructed several receiving sets which rank with the very best assembled in this vicinity.

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Scan of Original Pen Drawing by Dr. Son owned by Robert White of Bonne Terre, Missouri.  This pen drawing was created in 1936 when Dr. Son was 80-years old.

Likable, lovable and always ready to serve those who come his way, the Doctor still steps briskly about his daily tasks and takes a keen interest in current events and politics. He is a devoted member of the Baptist Church, has been a Mason since early manhood and is a democrat of the old school. When urged by his children to retire, his answer is that the only way he would think of doing that would be to sell his home and office and leave town, and he has been a part of Bonne Terre so long, and has learned to know its people, and those of the county so thoroughly through the four decades he has been there, that he cannot bring himself to even think of doing that. No, he says, there will be no retiring for him. He intends to keep right on going to the end of the trail.

Published by THE LEAD BELT NEWS, Flat River, St. Francois Co. MO, Dec. 6, 1940.


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Dr. Son in later years

It's hard to imagine, but Dr. Thomas Alvin Son of Bonne Terre was born about the time James Buchanan succeeded Franklin Pierce as president of the United States - born before Abraham Lincoln's administration. In fact, Abe Lincoln was busy about that time engaging Stephen A. Douglas in debates over the slavery question and John Brown hadn't made his famous raid on Harper's Ferry. Dr. Son saw the light of day before Brigham Young's Mormon War in Utah and the historic Dred Scott decision.

The subject of this sketch was born to humble farmer folk 10 miles east of Versailles in Morgan County, Missouri January 2, 1857. His parents were James M. Son and Eliza J. (Harris) Son, his mother being born and reared in nearby Cooper County, Missouri. Thomas Alvin was the third son in a large family of seven boys and five girls. He went to school and worked on the farm during his boyhood and early manhood. After much hard studying, at 19, he was licensed to teach school, his salary $25.00 per month, $27.50 in the winter months. He taught in a country school about ten miles from his home and walked the distance every day. Extra curricular activities involved the janitorship of the school building. Wood fuel for the stove was furnished in poles and the teacher was given an axe to reduce them to the necessary size for burning.

He moved to Passaic, Bates County, in 1891 and bought a small stock of goods. He was appointed Postmaster and placed in charge of freight, tickets, and was express agent on the L & S Division of the Missouri Pacific. He served in that capacity four years and then sold out to a man by the name of Packer, resigning all positions in his favor and moved to Olean, Missouri.

He then enrolled at the old American Medical College in St. Louis to prepare himself for the medical profession. This college, no longer in existence, was operated along the eclectic school of thought. Medical dictionaries define eclecticism as, "a school of medicine treating diseases by application of single remedies to known pathologic conditions, special attention being given to indigenous (native) plant remedies". According to Dr. Son, "Eclectic is a Greek word meaning the right to choose from any and all sources that which meets the conditions found in the patient".

He graduated with honors May 9, 1899, and the next day he came to Bonne Terre to start his practice. His first office was in the Brokenshire Building on School Street, a few doors east of his present office at 43 W. School Street. When fire destroyed the building years ago, Dr. Son lost many of his valuable books and records.

Dr. Son responded to many sick calls during the 42 years he has been practicing here and he can relate many interesting experiences. However, the Doctor's reticence about talking of his own achievements and the limitations of space here for their recording necessitates the omission of much data which otherwise would have provided interesting reading material.

He has seen and treated much sickness in Bonne Terre and vicinity. He has seen epidemics come and go, including the dreaded smallpox epidemic of 1913 and 1914 and the wholesale influenza attacks during World War I. While the smallpox was raging here Dr. Son started to answer a frantic call in the country and had to cross Big River with his horse and buggy. The river was ice cold and swollen. He made it, but the swift current nearly turned the buggy over and Dr. Son came out soaking wet, after which he had 15 miles farther to drive to his destination. Three days later he contracted pneumonia, took his own medicine and recovered in two weeks.

Miss Ida L. Carney of Enon, Missouri became the bride of T. A. Son in a ceremony performed at Enon April 10, 1884.

Dr. Son was the father of 12 children, three of whom are dead. The nine living children (six girls and three boys) are as follows: Alvin, who is an electrician for the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company at Crystal City and operates a stock and dairy farm about 1-1/2 miles south of Festus on the DeSoto Road; John, who is also a farmer and lives near Etterville, Missouri on the Rock Island Railroad nine miles east of Eldon; Estella Blanch (Mrs. A. E. Moon) of Dodge City, Kansas where her husband is a foreman in the boiler-making department of the Santa Fe Railroad shop; James, a plumber of Columbia, Missouri; Goldie (Mrs. Bob Womack)of Washington D. C. her husband the personal secretary of Congressman Clyde Williams of this district; Maud (Mrs. Wyman Buckner)of Desloge, wife of the Ford Dealer; Leota (Mrs. Roy Buford) of Flat River, wife of an accountant in the Rivermines office of the St. Joseph Lead Co.; Rowena (Mrs. George Whitney) wife of a printer in St. Louis; and Emma (Mrs. Fred Boehm)wife of a worker in a dairy products company in St. Louis. One of the children, Della May -- a very bright girl, fell victim to meningitis at the age of 11 and passed away February 3, 1906.

In 1917 while Dr. Son was attending a meeting of the State Board of Health at Jefferson City, his wife suffered an acute attack of pleurisy. Not knowing of her illness, Dr. Son went from Jefferson City to St. Louis where a meeting of the State Medical society was being held and it was four days before he learned that his mate was at death's door. Her condition resulted in emphysema and she failed to recover following an operation at the local hospital. Mrs. Son died September 17, 1917 - 24 years ago. [Click HERE to view obituary of Mrs. Son]

Bringing distinction to himself and to his community, Dr. Son has served under four governors as a member of the State Board of Health. He was first appointed by Governor Major in 1914, being reappointed by Governor Gardner, Governor Hyde and Governor Baker. He resigned during the latter's administration, "because of politics", according to the Doctor. During his tenure of office on the State Board Dr. Son assisted in the examination of hundreds of applicants to practice medicine in the state and signed about 2000 license certificates. So, the flowerly, scriptlike signature of " T. A. Son, M.D." is neatly inscribed on licenses of many medical practitioners in Missouri today.

Besides serving on the State Board of Health, Dr. Son has held several other offices. He was president of the Eclectic Medical Society of Missouri four different years and its secretary one year.

As the result of three judges' decision one of the high-lights of Dr. Son's career came in 1904 when he was adjudged the best insurance medical examiner in the state of Missouri. The prize consisted of an all-expense paid trip to the World's Fair, held that year in St. Louis, including admission to all the exhibits, shows and other attractions. The reward was doubly pleasant for Dr. Son, because the National Eclectic Medical Society was holding its annual meeting in St. Louis at that time, and he, as a member, was privileged to attend the sessions.

One of Dr. Son's hobbies is penmanship and he employed the beautiful flowing Spencerian system, giving a distinctive touch to his writings. He is also adept at pen and ink drawings and produces them easily and seemingly without effort. In view of his advanced age his hand is amazingly steady.

Dr. Son is a regular attendant at the annual Son-Harris family reunion at Hopewell Church in Morgan County each August. He was elected chairman of the Son-Harris reunion and has served eight years as such. Frequent requests by him that the organization appoint a younger man have been promptly voted down.

He has been a member of the Baptist Church since the age of 15 and has been a member of the Masonic Lodge at Olean, Missouri (Olean No. 134) for 45 years. Incidentally, Dr. Son is a cousin of Major H. C. Johnston who was elected last week as the Grand Master of the Missouri Masonic Grand Lodge. Dr. Son and Major Johnston's father were first cousins.

Published by the BONNE TERRE BULLETIN, Bonne Terre, St. Francois Co. MO, Oct. 9, 1941.

Early in 1945, Dr. Son fell on the ice in front of his office and broke his hip. That was too much for his frail body to recover from and his health gradually declined until on July 10, 1945, this kindly and gentle minister to the sick, entered the body of those on the other side and was buried with Masonic honors in the Bonne Terre Cemetery. All business houses were closed that Friday of his burial in honor of a good man and a sincere Christian.

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Dr. George W. Son, who practiced medicine in Desloge for a number of years and left here with his family several years ago to settle in Wyoming, died at his home in that state Wednesday, December 24, 1924. Dr. Son suffered a stroke of paralysis some two years since shortly after the death of his wife, and his death was brought about from a second stroke. Interment took place in Wyoming.

Dr. Son was 72 years of age at the time of his death and will be remembered by many Desloge and Flat River people. He enjoyed a large practice in his profession, while located in this district, and was widely and favorably known. He was a native of Missouri, having been born and reared in Jefferson City. He was a brother of Dr. T. A. Son, who is still practicing in Bonne Terre, and leaves a large family of brothers and sisters who join with his immediate family, three children, Eva, James and Oliver, and his grandchildren, in mourning his death.

THE DESLOGE SUN, Desloge, St. Francois Co. MO, Tues. Jan. 6, 1925


At two o'clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, March 20, James Son died at the residence of his son, Dr. J. F. Son in this city, at the advanced age of 82 years.

Deceased was born on a farm near Sedalia, Cooper County, Mo. in 1830 and up until 11 years ago lived continuously in the state of his birth. He came from the hardy pioneer stock that wrested the middle-west from wilderness and by energy and indomnitable will-power cleared the path for the country's advancement.

At the early age of eighteen Mr. Son became a member of the Baptist church and for sixty-eight years was a devout and consistent member of that christian body.

He was united in marriage to Miss Eliza J. Harris of Pisgah, Mo., November 13, 1851. She together with eleven of the twelve children who were born to them survive his loss. For the five years immediately preceding his death Mr. Son and his wife had made their home with Dr. J. F. Son in Ardmore.

One child, Mrs. Rebecca Weiser of Durant preceded her father to the grave six years ago.

Dr. G. W. Son of Thayer, Mo.; J. W. Son of Aurora Springs, Mo.; Dr. T. A. Son of Bonne Terre [St. Francois County], Mo.; Mrs. Nannie Stark of Kennendale, Texas; J. H. Son of Granite City, Mo., Dr. J. F. Son of Ardmore, Ok.; D. W. Son of Milburn, Okla, Mrs. Jennie Corster of Mansfield, Tex.; Mrs. Maggie Bradford of Ardmore, Okla.; Mrs. Annie McGinus of Snyder, Okla., are the surviving children.

The remains were laid to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery. ---- Daily Ardmorite, Ardmore, Okla.

[Bonne Terre Star/Bonne Terre, St. Francois County, MO/April 5, 1912/ reprinted from the Daily Ardmorite, Ardmore, Okla.]