NATIONAL JOURNAL OF HOMOEOPATHY 1994 Mar / Apr Vol III No 2.
Holcombe M W H.
Dr. M. W. H. Holcombe
Dr. M. W. H. Holcombe was born in Lynchburg VA on 29th May 1825. His father Dr. W.J. Holcombe was a physician of high standing, endeared to the community by his spotless integrity and his noble and charitable life. His mother, a member of the Warwick family, was a woman of unusual mental and moral qualities. Although an invalid for 50 years, she trained a family of six sons in an exemplary manner and always exercised the most inspiring influence over them.
Dr. Holcombes childhood was spent in the quaint brown house, with its terraced garden sloping down to the placid waters of the James. Here he grew and expanded into an atmosphere of sincere and simple piety. His scholastic training was received at the hands of Peter Nelson and John Cary, two of the best known Greek and Latin scholars of that time.
When he reached the age of 17, his parents convinced of the evils and dangers of slavery, emancipated their own bondsman, refused to accept a valuable legacy of slave property and started on a long and wearisome journey to the west. Indiana was the new land of promise to which they directed their steps, and over the mountain routes and level plains the little cavalcade wound its way, only to find the pioneer life uncongenial, the surroundings wholly unsympathetic. The outdoor life led here by young Holcombes strengthened his physique and enabled him to return with increased ardor to his classical studies, which were pursued first at the Washington College, Lexington, VA and afterwards at the university of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in medicine with high honours in 1847. As his fathers partner he practiced in Madison, Ind., for some time, but subsequently moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. Here he became deeply interested in Homoeopathy, and with that freedom from prejudice which characterized him in every relation in life, he resolved to give a fair trial to the new remedies in the treatment of the then raging Asiatic Cholera. Surprised and delighted with his success, he devoted himself earnestly to the study of the new school, which he was destined to adorn so brilliantly. This period of Dr. Holcombes life was indeed an eventful one. In Cincinnati he became a convert to the doctrine of Swedenburg, the truth and beauty of which he exemplified in a long life of Christian charity and usefulness. Here, he met and married Miss Rebecca Palmer, his father and devoted companion through 41 years of wedded happiness. In 1852, he moved to Natchzing, Mass, where in conjunction with his partner, Dr. Davis he achieved such distinguished success in the treatment of yellow fever that they were appointed physicians and surgeons to the Mississippi State Hospital. In Natchez, Dr. Holcombe suffered the loss of two of his children, a bereavement which inspired his first religious work. "Our children in Heaven", characterized by an eminent critic as "the work of a genius", sanctified by sorrow.
Some years of Dr. Holcombes life were spent in Waterproof, LA, where he witnessed the outbreak of that struggle between the states in which his heart bled for his beloved South. Although by inheritance and conviction an ardent opponent of slavery, the Doctor was a firm believer in the doctrine of States Height a doctrine founded, he declared, on that bed-rock of civil liberty, the Constitution of the United States. In 1864 he moved with his family to New Orleans, where he speedily achieved a prominent position by his learning, ability and scientific skill. In this community for 30 years the Doctor was a familiar figure, tall and commanding in presence, but with all the sweetness and suavity of manner that sprang from a truly Christian heart. He went about literally doing goodever ready to assist, to console, to bless. The poor and the needy were always welcome at his door, he gave" without stint and without measure", asking for no reward, only striving to do his masters will. He bore with modesty the well merited professional honors that fell to his lot. As President of the American Institute of Homoeopathy in1875, as member of the Southern Homoeopathic Medical Association, above all, as Chairman of the Homoeopathic Yellow Fever Commission in 1878, he acquitted himself with distinguished ability. Of the report presented on that occasion by him to the Congress, the eminent Dr. Orme of Atlanta, says- in the Medical Century: "The array of incontrovertible statistics so fully marshaled in that report, has never been contested and stands as a monument at the same time to the author and to the system he loved so well and did so much to advance."
Dr. Holcombe was an able and graceful writer; the melody of his verse and the lucidity and brilliancy of his prose, placed him in the foremost ranks of Southern literature. Besides "Children in Heaven," mentioned above he was the author of "The Scientific basis of Homoeopathy", "the Sexes Here and Hereafter", "The Other Life", "In Both Worlds", "The Lost Truth of Christianity", "Poems", "Southern Voices", "The End of the World", "The New Life," "Helps to Spiritual Growth", "Condensed Thoughts on Christian Science" and "A Mystery of New Orleans". Of the last named Novel, Dr. Garth Wilkinson of London says "Dr. Holcombe has given us a masterpiece of fiction. This book is an achievement for the English speaking people and sooner or later must go round the world." The last literary effort of his life was in defence of the science he loved so well, a pamphlet titled "The Truth About Homoeopathy", completed only a few days before his death. The doctor was, for years, one of the editors of the North American Journal of Homoeopathy to which he contributed many valuable articles. He also wrote numerous medical brochures.
In the fullness of intellectual vigour, in the active exercise of professional and social duties. Dr. Holcombe was suddenly, and without warning called away from those who loved and revered him, to continue his career of noble usefulness in the highest sphere. He died on Tuesday morning November 28th 1893 at the residence of his son-in-law, Dr. Gayle Aiken. His widow and daughter his only child, survived him. The doctor often said "There is no death" and the bright legacy of faith and hope he left behind, must be their truest consolation.
The next day, Nov 29th he was laid to rest in the beautiful Metairie cemetery, where the sheen of the magnolia, the fragrance of the orange blossom, the glad paen of the mocking bird enshrine the tomb where sleeps his poetic heart.
To quote once more from Dr. Ormes graceful obituary notice of his deceased colleague "To live honorably and usefully and die bravely is the most and best that a man can do and so our friend, the tender, true and noble friend, has gone to try the realities of that future life of which he thought and wrote so much, about which we all wonder so much and know so little. No cannon boomed over his grave, for he stormed no cities, he slaughtered no thousand fellow-beings; but his is that better, dearer, loftier tribute, the tribute of sincere regret and genuine tears at the loss of a loved and valued citizen, physician and a friend.
Edited from "The truth about Homoeopathy and How I became a Homoeopath" by Dr. M.W.H. Holcombe.