Dr. Mordecai Alfred Worsham lived from July 8, 1857 to April 6, 1947. The son of Alfred Jackson Worsham and Marth T. Pittman Worsham, he was born and reared in Macon, Mississippi.
Following completion of the required two years of medical school at Louisville Medical College, Louisville, Kentucky in 1881, he moved to Yell County, Arkansas where he was to practice for the remainder of his long career – office locations changing a few times to meet the needs of the developing communities extending outward from the Arkansas River Valley. Arriving by steamboat at Dardanelle in 1881 he opened an office in the nearby village of Chickalah (sha-kee-la). A short while later he moved to Kenzie (which later became Centerville) to practice with his preceptor, Dr. Alexander H. McKenzie. In 1883 he received his M.D. degree from the Memphis Tennessee Hospital Medical College.
Married to Nancy Ann Hovis of Yell County in 1884, they were to raise one daughter, Ora and four sons, Lester, Elbert, Ray and Aubrey. A fifth son, Erby, died in early childhood. For a while he shared offices with another pioneer Yell County physician, Dr. M.C.L. Kirksey in Neely in the Carden’s Bottom area of the Arkansas River Valley. For the major portion of his career, his home and primary office was in Centerville, a crossroads community between Dardanelle and Ola North-South and Carden’s Bottom and Danville East-West. He became a member of the American Medical Association in 1912. Travel in his earliest days was primarily horseback, and though later supplemented by buggy as trails developed into roads, was often during rain and snow the only means of reaching some of his patients particularly home deliveries. His black Kentucky saddle horse, Duke, partially replaced by buggy and later by a Model T Ford remained for a while longer as the best means of reaching some patients in less developed areas.
What we now know as Obstetrics and Pediatrics were of course an essential part of the country doctors’ practice. In time, a sizable number of the younger citizens of that section of Yell County had arrived in this world with his assistance. Some were occasionally in receipt of more than his professional services; as when following the delivery of twin girls to a family of very modest circumstances, he subsequently drove to Dardanelle (“Town” as he termed it) to obtain and deliver to the family a “proper” twin bassinet. A granddaughter recalls another occasion when he was called to see one of his very special patients – a young girl with heart disease since infancy now approaching her terminal hours. After tending to her needs as best he could, he asked what else he might get for her. She requested a Bible. Off he drove to “Town” returning shortly with the Bible. This granddaughter relates another incident she recalls with great clarity wherein he reattached her younger brother’s severed toe (described as “dangling by a thread”). After advising the anxious father (his own son) that it “would not likely stay on”. To his own surprise, it did and some sixty-seven (67) years later continues to function well.
A devout Christian, he served for over thirty years as Sunday School Superintendent and teacher at the Centerville Methodist Church. He was for many years a member of the Masonic Order.
Dr. Worsham continued to practice into his mid-eighties then announced his retirement. However, many of his patients were slow in getting the news or sometimes slow to accept it. One expectant mother came to request his services for the upcoming event and upon hearing that he had retired the previous year, tearfully reminded him that he had delivered her other nine children and that she would not accept other care for the new baby. He agreed to be available and later unpacked his instruments and successfully delivered her tenth child. On other occasions, former patients, though aware of his retirement, would present themselves at his home with assorted problems ranging from dislocation of a shoulder to lacerations. He continued to administer to their needs usually on a gratis basis until his late eighties then moved to Russellville in Pope County to live with his grandchildren and daughter-in-law. A few years later, in failing health, he moved to his son’s home in Wichita, Kansas. He died shortly thereafter, April 6, 1947, just short of his ninetieth birthday.
He was buried in the family plot at New Hope Cemetery in Yell County located between Centerville and Dardanelle, not far from the Village of Chickalah where he had begun his practice of medicine almost three-quarters of a century earlier. During these years he had seen medical science evolve from its post-Civil War emphasis on Surgery and purging to the beginning of the antibiotic era and his means of transportation from horseback through horse and buggy to exclusively automobile.
Descendants who have pursued medical careers include Aubrey Gordon Worsham, M.D. of Dallas, Texas, Stephen Allan Worsham, M.D. of Salinas, California and Richard Worsham Emmert, D.D.S. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Written by grandson, Aubrey Gordon Worsham, M.D.