Thomas A. Stevens, M. D. In the great majority of cases, heredity has no rights which the biographers of successful Americans, especially those of the West, feel called upon to respect. However, in shaping the course of some men it wields a distinct influence, and must be noted when the tendency born in a man is nurtured by an ever-present force in the same lines, crowding other avenues of thought and compelling devotion to a certain vocation or profession. Heredity, supplementing environment and training, has had much to do in shaping the career of Dr. Thomas A. Stevens, a leading physician and surgeon of Caney. Not only his father, but his maternal grandfather, were physicians before him, and the predilection for his calling that has contributed so greatly to his success is but his natural inheritance from men of professional skill and zeal.
Doctor Stevens was born at Corydon, the county seat of Harrison County, Indiana, March 14, 1856, a son of J. D. and Margaret A. (Johnson) Stevens. J. D. Stevens was born in 1835, at Corydon, of Scotch-Irish and French parents, was prepared for his profession at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and Miami Medical College, Cincinnati, Ohio, graduating from the latter with the class of 1867, and commenced practice at Vincennes, Indiana, whence he had removed in 1860. He successfully followed his profession for many years in Indiana, but in the evening of life came to Kansas, where his death occurred, at Peru, in 1913. He was married in 1855 to Margaret A. Johnson, who was born at Vincennes, Indiana, of Scotch and French descent, daughter of Dr. William Johnson, who was a medical practitioner at Vincennes for forty years and died there when seventy years of age. He was the son of a Revolutionary soldier, Gen. Richard Johnson, who became famous in what was then known as the Northwest. The children of Doctor and Mrs. Stevens were as follows: Thomas A., of this review; Nancy A., who is the wife of John H. Sams, connected with a gold smelter at Victor, Colorado; Dora K., the wife of R. I. Hillman, a republican ex-postmaster of Peru, Kansas; Dr. J. C., a graduate of Rush Medical College, Chicago, and now a successful practicing physician and surgeon of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Jemima, who is the wife of William Haberly, a farmer of Peru, Kansas; Maude, the wife of O. D. Hicks, a merchant of Las Vegas, Nevada; and Edgar M., a smelter worker residing at Caney, Kansas.
Thomas A. Stevens received his primary education in the schools of Vincennes, Indiana, being graduated from the high school when sixteen years old. At that early age he displayed industry and ability as a teacher in the schools of Indiana and continued as an educator for two years. In March, 1876, he came to Kansas, accepting the position of teacher in the school at Sedan, where he remained for two years more. His next employment was as clerk in a drug store, and it was here that his inherent talent made itself felt and he began the study of medicine. In 1880 he matriculated in the Missouri Medical College, and in 1881-2 attended a course of lectures at the Kansas City Medical College. However, he did not complete the course in the latter year, but began the practice of his calling at Cedarvale, Kansas, where he remained until January 1, 1885. At that time Doctor Stevens came to Caney, where he remained for a period of seven years, although he has been engaged in practice in Southeastern Kansas continuously since.
Being an undergraduate, the reputation and business of Doctor Stevens depended wholly upon his work when he entered upon his career, but so earnestly did he apply himself to the thorough study of every case brought to him for treatment that he soon was well on the way to success. In 1891 he returned to the Kansas City Medical College, now the medical department of the University of Kansas, and was graduated March 15, 1892, with the degree of Doctor of Medicine. In 1899 he took his first post-graduate work in the New York City Polyclinic, and in 1902 returned to New York City, where he did a few weeks’ work in the clinics of the various hospitals of the metropolis. In 1902 and 1905 he attended the Policlinic at Chicago. Doctor Stevens was appointed United States pension examining surgeon by President Cleveland in 1893, and retained that position for four years, during which time over 1,200 veterans of the Civil war appeared before him for examination. He was also appointed medical examiner for all the old line insurance companies doing business in the State of Kansas, and in the work of that office his attention was called to the urgent need of an organization of medical examiners in the United States. Accordingly, he addressed 100 letters to as many prominent physicians all over the country, calling their attention to the propriety of such an organization, with the result that June 2, 1900, at Vincennes, Indiana, there was completed the organization of the American Association of Life Insurance Examining Surgeons, which now bears the name of the American Medical Examiners’ Association, and which, in point of numbers, ranks second only to the American Medical Association. Doctor Stevens was secretary of the organization for three years. He is also a member of the Caney City Medical Society, the Montgomery County Medical Society, the Southeastern Kansas Medical Society, the Kansas State Medical Society, the American Medical Association and the Santa Fe Railroad Medical and Surgical Society, and is an ex-member of the International Association of Railway Surgeons. He has been local surgeon for the Missouri Pacific and Santa Fe railways, and throughout his work has been successful both professionally and financially. A great deal of his practice has extended to Oklahoma and the Indian Territory, where he has had among his clientele members of the Osage, Cherokee, Delaware, Choctaw, Munsee and Cheyenne Indian tribes. In 1900 Doctor Stevens built and equipped the Caney Sanitarium and Hospital, which, measured by the good it has accomplished, has been one of the most successful of the city’s institutions.
Doctor Stevens maintains well-appointed offices on State Street, opposite the postoffice, while his residence, which he owns, is a modern and handsome structure at the corner of Spring Street and Third Avenue. Formerly he was the owner of a large farm in Montgomery County and fifteen residence properties at Caney, but these he has traded comparatively recently for Kansas City property, which he still owns.
During his residence at Caney, Doctor Stevens has taken a prominent part in public affairs and an active interest in the growth and development of the town, a rapidly developing manufacturing city the growth of which is due to its being the center of one of the most extensive oil and gas fields in the world. For sixteen years he served as a member of the Caney Board of Education, being for nine years of this time its president. In both of President Cleveland’s administrations he acted as United States pension examining surgeon. A democrat in politics, he was elected on the ticket of that party to the office of mayor in 1900, and during that and the ensuing year gave Caney a most excellent and efficient administration, conserving its interests and getting the greatest value of good from the city’s finances. He was the candidate for county clerk in Chautauqua County on one occasion, and while there is a normal republican majority there of 2,000 votes, met defeat by only sixty-five votes. In February, 1916, Doctor Stevens was appointed postmaster of Caney, an office in which he is giving the satisfaction that only a man of his ability and executive force can grant. Fraternally, Doctor Stevens is prominent, being identified with Caney Lodge No. 324, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; Caney Chapter No. 90, Royal Arch Masons; Caney Camp No. 941, Modern Woodmen of America; Caney Lodge No. 1215, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; and an ex-member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen and the Anti-Horse Thief Association.
Doctor Stevens was married May 16, 1880, at Peru, Kansas, to Miss Luella Sams, daughter of W. C. and Lucy Sams. Mr. Sams was an early stockman of Kansas, and both he and his wife are now deceased. To Doctor and Mrs. Stevens the following children were born: O. V., member of the lumber firm which has several yards in Oklahoma, and manager of the branch at Nowata, that state, an ex-member of the Kansas Legislature, who was elected as representative by more than 1,000 majority on the democratic ticket in a district normally strong for the republican party, and the youngest member in the house during his session; Norene K., who is the wife of W. G. Longtoft, a glass worker of Caney; Mabel C., who is the wife of G. W. Connelly, president of the Connelly Glass Company and vice president of the Caney Pipe Line Company and the Owen Zinc Company, and with other large interests at and about Caney; Maude E., who resides with her parents; Frances, who is the wife of J. H. Wilson of Caney, proprietor of the Bon Ami Lumber Company; Leta B., who is the wife of C. I. Gause, a banker of Mound City, Kansas; and Thomas A., Jr., of Caney, who is connected with the chemical department of the American Zine, Lead and Smelter Company.