Biographical Sketch of Dr. John Chrisenberry Howell

May 11, 1867 – November 23, 1931

Dr. John Chrisenbery Howell was born at Conns Creek, near Ball Ground, Cherokee County, Georgia, on 11 May 1867. He was the only child of Joshua A Howell and Virginia A. (Jane) Hallford. He was named after his grandfathers John Howell (1812-1876) and Alfred Christenberry Hallford (1826-1856).

Dr. Howell received his early medical training at the Atlanta Medical College. He may have been encouraged to go into medicine by his two young uncles, Dr. Alfred Webb Howell (1859-1936) and Dr. Moses Sylvester Howell (1862-1940), who attended the Georgia Medical College in Augusta.1 The Atlanta Medical College, founded in 1855, was private and proprietary, as were most medical schools of that time. By 1879 the school was a member of the American Medical College Association and the term length was extended from sixteen to twenty weeks. In 1915 the Atlanta Medical College became the Medical Department of Emory University.2

Dr. Howell married Octavia Caroline Cantrell (1869-1918) on February 2, 1888, in Cherokee County, Georgia.3 Soon after, in 1891 or 1892, Dr. Howell attended or perhaps did a brief residency at the Memphis Hospital Medical College in Memphis, Tennessee. He received a medical degree from the Memphis Hospital Medical College in 1909.

4 This medical college merged in 1913 with University of Tennessee College of Medicine. The University of Tennessee College of Medicine originated in 1850, then merged with other institutions. The first merger was when the Nashville Medical College, founded in 1876, was acquired by the University of Tennessee in 1879. The modern era of the college began when the Nashville Medical College was moved to Memphis in 1911and merged with the College of Physicians and Surgeons to become the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.5

Between 1892 and 1894 Dr. Howell and his wife, Octavia Caroline Cantrell, and young sons Charles Homer Howell and Roy Edwin Howell, moved from Cherokee County, Georgia, or perhaps Memphis, Tennessee to Apt, in southern Craighead County, Arkansas, then to nearby Gibson Switch, near Greenfield, in northern Poinsett County, Arkansas. While there they had three daughters: Monte Arie Howell (1894-1960); Vera Inez Howell (1896-1982); and Jessie Caroline Howell (1901-1935). In 1906 Dr. Howell was practicing in the little town of Dee Post Office (otherwise known as Ridge), in Greenfield Township, southern Craighead County, Arkansas.6 Dr Howell’s practice straddled the two counties of Craighead and Poinsett; each county had a bordering township called Greenfield. The Howell family lived near Dee, in Greenfield Township, Craighead County, Arkansas, until about 1911, when they moved about 8 miles north to Nettleton, in Craighead County, near Jonesboro.7

Dr. Howell passed the Arkansas State Medical Board examination in 1903. Five out of six practicing physicians in Arkansas did not.8 For 39 years, Dr. Howell had a country practice in northern Poinsett County (Greenfield) and Nettleton (Craighead County) near Jonesboro. He and Dr. Walker, also of Nettleton, amputated a 10-year-old boy’s foot after an accident “while playing around a mower.”9

In 1918, while treating victims of the influenza epidemic, Dr. Howell himself became ill, along with his wife Octavia. He recovered; she did not. She died 5 November, 1918 in Nettleton, age 48. At the time both their sons were in the army. their son, Homer Howell was at Camp Pike, near Little Rock. Roy Howell was somewhere in France. Octavia Howell was a Methodist, a member of Kellar’s Chapel, near Jonesboro.10

Dr. Howell’s father, Joshua A. Howell (1839-1920), a Civil War veteran and former prisoner of war, traveled to the Howell home in Nettleton in mid-September 1920, to receive medical treatment from his son. He died October 23, 1920, in Dr. Howell’s home.11

Dr. John Chrisenberry Howell died at home the morning of November 23, 1931, after suffering a stroke several months previously. He is buried in Kellers Chapel Cemetery, Jonesboro, Craighead County, Arkansas. At the time of his death by stroke in 1931 he had practiced medicine in Nettleton for 20 years. His obituary describes him as “a leader in his profession and a former president of the county medical society. He was one of the county’s most substantial and best citizens and his loss is mourned by all who knew him. He was a devout member of the Nettleton Baptist Church. An obituary declared that “One of the largest crowds to ever attend a funeral service at Nettleton was present to pay their last respects to the deceased.”12

Endnotes1 American Medical Association. American Medical Directory 1906. Chicago: American Medical Asso-ciation, pp. 101, 146-147, 977, & 1242; Emory Libraries and Information Technologies,; Georgia Marriage Records from Select Counties, 1828-1978, American Medical Association. American Medical Directory 1912. Chicago: American Medical Asso-ciation, of Tennessee College of Medicine,; List of Defunct Medical Schools in the United States, American Medical Association. American Medical Directory. Chicago: American Medical Association, p. 1242; 1900 United States Federal Census for Greenfield, Poinsett, Arkansas; 1910 United States Federal Census for Greenfield, Craighead, Arkansas; 1920 United Federal Census for Nettleton, Craighead, Arkansas; Quackery to Qualification: Arkansas Medical and Drug Legislation, 1881-1909,” ; , Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring, 1976), pp. 3-26; Standard Medical Directory of North America, 1903-1904 Breaks Leg by Playing on Mower,” Jonesboro Daily Tribune, October 18, 1913, p. 4.10Jonesboro Evening Sun, November 5, 1918; Jonesboro Weekly Sun, November 6, 1918. 11Jonesboro Weekly Sun, October 2, 1920.12 Jonesboro Evening Sun, November 23, 1931; Jonesboro Evening Sun, November 24, 1931; Jones-boro Weekly Sun, December 2, 1931.


Biography Furnished by Ginger Terry

March, 2020