Furman Chairs Whitaker

Life as a Turn of the Century Physician in Manatee County

Memories of Dr. Furman Chairs Whitaker - One Man's Family
by his son A.K. Whitaker

As a physician I truly believe his first objective was not to better himself but to help others. I believe two things influenced him to become a doctor: the experience with his bullet injured elbow when a boy and his contact with Dr. Shepherd in Chicago later on. From letters, I feel that at times he was doubtful of his own ability, especially when he was unable to save his son Stuart from diphtheria in 1896. I never saw his account books after his death (if in fact, he kept any in later years) but had he done so I am sure they would have reflected much work never paid for. These examples should serve to illustrate his philosophy as a physician.

When the family lived on Upham (3rd Avenue West) from 1898 to 1901, one upstairs bedroom at the back of the house was not always used. If Furman had a patient who could not receive proper care at home, in a few instances, he brought the patient to this room where he and Nellie could provide temporary care.

In the early days in Bradenton, times were rough. At one time he had a call from the Myakka district to an ill patient. It took him at least five hours in his horse and buggy to reach there, he remained the balance of the day and following night and, the Patient being better, drove home late the next day. Nellie asked him if they had paid him. He replied "No, they had no money." Nellie asked if they had some chickens or eggs she could use. He replied, "Yes, but they need them more than we do."

Another time a man came to the office and said frankly that he had been a patient of another doctor who was out of town. The man's wife was very ill and he hoped Dr. Whitaker would come. He did, but it was too late to save the wife who died while Furman was with her. The man, who had three children, then asked what he should do, for there was no money to bury her. Furman thereupon purchased lumber and called upon a carpenter cousin to construct a pine coffin. Then Nellie and daughter Grace purchased some cloth and lined the box coffin to receive the body for burial. After the funeral, Furman supplied money for train fare for the man and his children to [go to] relatives in Georgia. No mention of repayment was made - none was expected. But a number of years later there came a knock on the door of the home on the river. The man who stood there said "Doctor, you probably do not know me but I am the man whose family you helped several years ago. I am now established in Georgia and have come to repay you for your kindness."