Dr. William H. Felton

The Cartersville News
Cartersville, Georgia
September 30, 1909, Page 1
Transcribed by:  

Dr. William H. Felton Claimed By Death
Distinguished Statesman, Doctor, Preacher, Citizen, Passes Away Last Saturday.

Dr. William H. Felton died at his home on South Avenue, in this city last Saturday morning at 6:30 o’clock.  His going away was calm and peaceful.  At his bedside when death came were his wife, his son, Dr. Howard Felton, and his family, Capt. L. S. Munford, Dr. R. I. Battle and a number of friends.  From Arkansas came his daughter, Mrs. John R. Gibbons, and her husband, who had been notified of his death, and a number of friends came from other points, and were present at the funeral.

Dr. Felton had been on the decline for about eighteen months, chiefly from the infirmities of age, and several months ago he had an attack from which he rallied with difficulty.  He was able to sit up after this attack and finally was strong enough to regularly go out to his farm in a vehicle.  Last Thursday morning he suffered an attack of acute indigestion and he seemed to weaken under the severity of the attack. He fell to the floor on rising from his bed, being seized with a fit of vertigo and weakness and had to be assisted back to bed.  His decline was then gradual until the end.

He was never paralyzed, as has been stated, but has maintained his faculties, mental and physical. His feeble condition being due alone to weakness.

The funeral took place from the Sam Jones Memorial Church Sunday at 2 o’clock.  One of the largest gatherings ever seen at a funeral was present to do honors to Cartersville’s loved and distinguished citizen.  The funeral services were conducted by Rev. H. B. Mays, pastor of the Methodist church; Rev. Sam Dean, pastor of the Baptist church and Rev. Fletcher Walton.

Touching eulogies were pronounced by Hon. W. H. Lumpkin, Judge L. W. Milner, Judge A. M. Foute, Mr. C. T. Jones and Capt. T. J. Lyon.

The remains were interred at Oak Hill.


Sketch of His Life.

Dr. Felton was born in Oglethorpe county, June 19, 1822, and was therefore, in his 87th year.  He was the only child of John and Mary D. Felton.  His father was born and reared in Oglethorpe county, where he lived until 1835, when he moved to Athens for the purpose of educating his son.  In 1847 John Felton, his wife and son, Dr. William H. Felton, moved into Cass, now Bartow county, where John Felton died in 1850.

William H. Felton was reared on a farm and received his preparatory education in the “old field” schools.  When he was 12 years old he entered the grammar school under the preceptorship of Ebenezer Newton.  He matriculated in Franklin college in 1838 and graduated from the State University in 1842.  He became known as a speaker in the society debates in which he took part.  He was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society.  After leaving college Dr. Felton took up the study of medicine under Dr. Richard D. Moore, a famous practitioner of Athens.  He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta, in 1844, the valedictorian of a large class of students.

Dr. Felton was twice married: first to Miss Ann Carlton, daughter of J. R. Carlton, of Athens, whom he married in 1844.  She died in 1851, leaving one daughter, now Mrs. Ann Gibbons, of Arkansas.

His second wife, who is now living, was Miss Rebecca Latimer, daughter of Major Charles Latimer, late of DeKalb county.  Mrs. Felton is no less famed than her husband, for she has long been known as a writer and lecturer through the southern states.  It is said that there has perhaps not lived a couple in Georgia who have independent of each other, gained so much fame for themselves as Dr. Felton and his wife.

Dr. Felton joined the Methodist church in 1839, when only 16 years of age, and was made superintendent of the Sunday school by his pastor, Rev. W. J. Parks.  Upon moving to this county Dr. Felton entered upon the practice of medicine, but the strain of the work was too much for his nervous system, and he was forced to give it up.  He pursued his literary studies, however, and entered upon an agricultural life.

In 1848 he was licensed as a local preacher by the Methodist church.  For than 40 years he filled preaching appointments in this and other counties.  He preached the first sermon that was ever delivered in a Methodist church in this city, and for nearly half a century he filled his appointments without ever receiving one cent of salary.  It is said that Dr. Felton performed more marriages ceremonies than any man of his generation.  He was made a deacon of the Methodist church by Bishop Andrew, this section of Georgia.  He later was ordained an elder by Bishop George F. Pierce.

The political career of Dr. Felton has been most remarkable.  He joined the Whig party in early life, and his first vote for president was cast for Henry Clay.  He made his first political speech in Watkinsville, Ga.  He went from Cass county as a Whig representative to the legislature in 1851.  He became a democrat after the civil war.  He was in sympathy with the cause of the south, and served as a volunteer surgeon at Macon, Ga.

In 1874 Dr. Felton made the race for congress from the Seventh district as an independent candidate.  His campaign lasted over a period of more than six months.  The fight was so picturesque and stirring that it gave the cognomen, “the Bloody Seventh,” to this district.  Dr. Felton had perhaps no superior as a political speaker, and his campaign over several counties in this campaign is remembered as one of the most notable events in the history [of this county.  He was] elected to the Forty-fifth congress by 82 votes.

In congress he soon distinguished himself by his matchless oratory, and gained the reputation of a national character as a statesman.  He was appointed by the speaker on the committee of commerce, with the rivers and harbors improvements.  He succeeded in placing the Coosa river upon the list of federal understandings.

Perhaps the most distinguished feature of his career in this congress was his skillful diagnosis of the financial depression then afflicting the country.  He brilliantly advocated the remonitization of the silver dollar.  His speeches read like prophecy in the light of present financial disasters.  Hon. Alexander H. Stephens pronounced his famous “wrecker speech” to be the equal of the finest efforts of the early statesmen of this republic, when orators were giants in debate.  He stood for equal valuation of treasury notes, gold and silver coin, and maintained his position that each should have equal purchasing power, and that they should be interchangeable at the treasury of the United States: that they should all be legal tender for the payment of public and private debts.  It is said that his idea presented the clearest system of practical finance ever known to this government.

He introduced a bill which passed making national quarantine effective.

Dr. Felton was placed upon the ways and means committee of the fifty-sixth congress by Speaker Randall.  His colleagues were such men as Garfield, afterwards president of the United States; Kelly, Fernando Wood and Carlisle.

Dr. Felton secured a revision of the tariff which admitted the much needed drug, quinine, on the free list.  He stood for the tariff for revenue, raised from the luxuries of life.

In 1880, Dr. Felton was defeated for congress.

In 1884, he was elected as representative from Bartow county.  While there he earnestly advocated the passage of the local option law, introduced in that session by Hon. A. W. Fite.  The measure was passed.

He opposed the sale of the Western and Atlantic railroad, and through his efforts largely, it is said, the lease of the road was made to the Louisville and Nashville road at a rental of $35,000 per month.

It will be seen that the honest work of the “Grand Old Man of Bartow” will have caused more than $12,000,000 to roll into the treasury of the state within the twenty-nine years, the term of the lease, one-half of which sum is devoted to the schools of the state.

While in the general assembly, Dr. Felton was the author of two bills seeking to establish reformatories for juvenile convicts.  He advocated his measures through a storm of personal abuse and criticism, but, as history has proven, the seeds that he then cast upon the ground have brought forth good fruit.

Dr. Felton was behind a number of reforms that were brought about in the convict system of Georgia.

The defense of the railroad commission, when that body was threatened by the legislature, will go down in history as one of the grandest achievements in the life of Dr. Felton.

Dr. Felton has always been a thinker upon financial questions, and, in 1894, on account of his belief in free coinage of silver, and the issuance of treasury notes by the government, he joined the People’s party and allowed his name to go before the convention.  He led the populist forces through a heated campaign.

About fifteen years ago he retired to private life and settled on his farm about three miles from the city. [Article continues with multiple telegrams sent to Mrs. Felton from around the State.]


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