HUGH ALEXANDER KELSO, M. D., the oldest medical practitioner in continuous years of practice of Ford County, as well as one of the most successful physicians and surgeons of Eastern Illinois, first saw the light of day in Morgan County, Ind., on the 6th of December, 1829, and is a son of James B. and Malvina (Hudeburg) Kelso. His paternal ancestors were from Jamestown, Va., and the branch of the family from which the Doctor is descended removed, some time in the latter part of the last century, to North Carolina, and thence to Eastern Tennessee early in the present century.
Dr. Kelso's father was born in East Tennessee, in 1807, and was reared and educated in his native State, and was there married, about 1828, to Miss Hudeburg. The following year he removed with his wife to Morgan County, Ind. He entertained strong abolition principles and left Tennessee on account of his hostility to the institution of slavery. His wife died in Indiana in 1840, at the age of thirty-five. Mr. Kelso remained in that State until 1859, when he came to Illinois, locating in Cumberland County. Subsequently, he removed to Vernon, Ill., but afterward returned to Cumberland County, where his death occurred in 1882, at the age of seventy-five years.
Dr. Kelso, after attending preparatory schools, entered the State University at Bloomington, Ind., where he was a student during 1848 and 1849. He then went South and engaged in teaching school in Louisiana. In 1850, he began the study of medicine in Morehouse Parish, La., and attended lectures at the Ohio State Medical College, of Cincinnati. In 1855, he established himself in practice in Morgan County, Ind., where he continued with success until 1858, when he came to Illinois and located at Farmington, Coles County. There he soon built up a large practice, which he abandoned to enter the volunteer service for the late war.
The Doctor became First Assistant Surgeon of the One Hundred and Twenty-third Illinois Infantry in August, 1862. That regiment was under Gen. Buell at first, but was subsequently mounted and armed with Spencer rifles and assigned to Gen. Thomas' Division. They participated in the battles of Perryville, Ky., October 8, 1862; Chickamauga, September 19 and 20, 1863; Lookout Mountain, November 24; and Missionary Ridge the following day, together with the capture of Hoover's Gap. At the battle of Chickamauga, when the Union forces had fallen back. Dr. Kelso remained on the field, seeking the wounded who might need a surgeon's care, with the view of being admitted through the rebel lines with the privilege of serving our injured in the hands of the Confederates. After relieving the few wounded, finding in the woods a much less number than he expected, he saw approaching a train of twenty ambulances from Crawfish Springs Hospital, and saw a lot of straggling Union troops in squads about in the woods. An officer expressed the opinion that to escape capture was impossible, and that they might as well stay where they were and surrender. The idea of surrendering had not occurred to the Doctor who replied, "You can get out of here if you want to." The Captain then said, "If you can get us out, lead the way." Having by previous excursions become familiar with the country, and believing they might be led in safety to join their comrades, Dr. Kelso assumed command, directing orderlies to the various squads with instructions for all to fall in line and follow the ambulances, one of which he mounted, leading off across the country regardless of roads, over hills, through valleys and woods until, having covered a distance of two miles, they came up with the One Hundred and Twenty-third Illinois Mounted Infantry, cut off from the main army and ready to fall back. Very much to the surprise of the commanding officer, the Doctor proved to have a following nearly equal in number to the One Hundred and Twenty-third. He was then informed that he had been in demand to form one of a detail of Federal surgeons to go through the Confederate lines and aid in the care of the wounded, which opportunity he had missed, an event for which he was not sorry when he learned subsequently how the Union surgeons that did go were misused. This story is related as one of the peculiar experiences the Doctor met during his term of service, a curious feature of the affair being that the very means he took to get into the Confederate lines defeated his purpose, while, on the other hand, he was the means of saving a train of ambulances and a considerable body of troops from capture, and thus rendered the Government valuable service entirely outside his line of duty.
Following the battle of Chickamauga, Dr. Kelso was detailed under Surg.-Gen. Blair to establish a general hospital near the field of Chickamauga, which he did, devoting a month to that duty. He was then placed in charge of a long train of ambulances, conveying a body of partially convalescent troops from Chickamauga over the mountains to Stephenson Station, whence they were to be sent home on furlough. Having performed that duty, he was detailed to join a squad of cavalry that was sent out in search of guerrillas, but was recalled to take charge of a smallpox hospital at Paint Rock, Ala., where he spent some months. Later, he went down the river to Huntsville, rejoined his regiment and was detailed to establish a hospital near there for Stanley's Cavalry Division. He appropriated the elegant private residence of United States Senator Clement C. Clay for the purpose. The mansion was richly furnished and the cellars were stocked with choice wines and delicacies that proved a very valuable auxiliary to the usual hospital stores. He remained in charge at that hospital until the spring of 1864, when he resigned and returned to his home in Illinois. Perryville was the first regular battle in which the regiment was engaged, and Dr. Kelso tells a rather humorous anecdote in the first experience of his line of duty on that occasion. He had only been a month in the service and, as opportunity offered, he read the printed army regulations and the instructions in regard to the proper disposition of the ambulances and hospital force relative to the regiment. The surgeon's assistants were to take position ten paces to the rear of their respective companies and the ambulances were to be placed fifty paces in the rear of each company. When the regiment was drawn up in the line of battle at Perryville, he placed his force and the ambulances according to regulation directions, as he supposed, and about the time his arrangements were completed, Gen. Terry came riding by. The surgeon, after saluting, asked the General if the arrangement of the ambulance corps was all right, and was a little surprised that the General laughed as he said All right." A few minutes later a cannon ball knocked the front end of one ambulance to slivers. Later, the surgeon discovered that the regulations he had followed were intended for dress parade, and that in action the ambulances were safer more distant from the front and would be more apt to be in condition for service when needed than if placed in dress parade style. It was then plain to him why Gen. Terry had been so amused on the occasion mentioned. The event may have been the last to bring a smile to the General's lips, as he was killed within three hours afterward. The One Hundred and Twenty-third Illinois Mounted Infantry was in the hottest of the fight at Perryville and sustained a loss of thirty-seven killed on the field. Seven died soon afterward of their wounds and one hundred and seventeen were seriously injured. At the close of the engagement, Dr. Kelso was the only surgeon with his regiment able for duty, the others, with the exception of one at Louisville, being sick.
In July following his return from the army, the Doctor established practice at Paxton, which he has since pursued with marked success, covering a period of twenty-eight years. During the early years of his practice in Ford County, the country was but sparsely settled, the roads were few and bridges not often met with, and the Doctor, like his brethren of the profession throughout the country at that time, was forced to endure much hardship and sometimes danger of bodily injury. Blizzards, with the mercury at thirty degrees below zero, were encountered on open prairies where miles intervened between human habitations. The fording of swollen streams, which was not unusual, was not conducive to comfort or health, but, as time passed and the country became better settled, things improved and the Doctor's business became extended until he enjoyed a large and lucrative practice, which he has held to the present time.
Dr. Kelso has been twice married, first in early manhood in his native county to Miss Sarah Knox, who died in little less than a year from her wedding day. In September, 1858, at Charleston, Coles County, Ill., he married Miss Margaret Brashares, daughter of the Rev. Perry Brashares, who was a local minister and a near and intimate neighbor of the parents of Abraham Lincoln. The Doctor and his wife had three children: Perry, who died at the age of three years. Elmer Lincoln, who was born in Coles County in November, 1860, was educated at Champaign and studied for the medical profession in the Chicago Medical College, from which he was graduated March 27, 1883, with the degree of M. D. He married Miss Leota Keffner and entered upon the practice of his profession at Paxton, having secured a liberal patronage. Hugh A., the second surviving son, was born in Coles County and graduated from the Paxton Collegiate Institute. Possessing marked musical talent, he studied under the best masters in the country, and is now the leading pianist at the Conservatory of Music, in the Chicago Auditorium, under Prof. Sherwood. He has also been the pianist of the National Chautauqua, of New York, under the same leader.
Dr. Kelso is a Republican and a Knight Templar Mason. He belongs to Paxton Lodge No. 416, A. F. & A. M.; Ford Chapter No. 113, R.A.M; and Mt. Olivet Commandery No. 38, K. T., all of Paxton. He is a member of the Illinois State Medical Society, the Central Illinois Medical Society and an honorary graduate of the Chicago Medical College of Chicago. Dr. Kelso has won an enviable reputation throughout Eastern Illinois, both as a physician and surgeon, and his well-known ability, skill and experience have placed him in the front rank of his profession. He has been a thorough student and careful reader of the best current literature of the profession, so that he has kept himself well abreast of the medical and scientific discoveries of the day from year to year. His acquaintance is extensive throughout Eastern and Central Illinois, where he has made many friends who hold him in high esteem.

Extracted 14 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Portrait and Biographical Record of Ford County, Illinois, published in 1892, pages 212-217.

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