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Wills, Letters & Legends

From Reminisces of a Long Life; by William R. Smith

The Medical Fraternity
pages 143-145

Dr. John R. Drish

came to Tuskaloosa in 1822.  He was not long in getting into a fine practice.  he was able and successful, and commanded a very extensive business.  His repute was such as to make his presence at the sick bed eagerly sought from the furthest corner of the county, and even from other counties.  it is said by his professional friends who knew him well that he seldom opened a medical book.  His popularity as a practitioner with the people was kept alive by his unmistakable successes, which were attributable more to his strength of native intellect than his scientific knowledge.
    Dr. Drish never lost his high popularity as a physician, but withdrew from the practice voluntarily and almost forcibly, to the great regret of his friends.
    Dr. Drish was several times elected to the State legislature, and was considered a man of fine sense, and patriotically devoted to the public interest.  In the community he had many friends and many enemies.  As a citizen his popularity decayed in proportion as he grew rich, and covetousness was charged upon him as one of his sins; but the world is not always right or just in its judgment of men.
    Dr. Drish was a man of sorrows.  He encountered great family afflictions; and in the latter part of his life he was retired in his habits and of sad and melancholy appearance.  He had accumulated a vast fortune.  Before the war he estimated his property at nearly half a million.  He died in 1869' in the seventy-first year of his age; and, to the astonishment of all persons, his estate proved to be insolvent --such had been the ravages of war.
    In the way of city improvements Dr. Drish deserves to be remembered.  He built a beautiful house on the eastern margin of the city, known now as the methodist Female College, in which he resided for many years.  He afterward built a more splendid mansion at the edge of the corporation, on the Greensboro road.
    In his habits Dr. Drish was energetic and untiring.  His business was diversified, and his pursuits ran in many channels.  he invested extensively in lands and negroes, but was not exclusively a farmer.  Many of his slaves were first-rate mechanics--masons, carpenters, plasterers, and blacksmiths.  He had liberal and enlightened views on the subject of internal improvements, and invested largely--to the extent of thirty thousand dollars--in the N.E. & S.W.R.R.  He also, with others, made some vigorous efforts to build up a cotton-mill in Tuskaloosa; but this establishment languished until it fell into the hands of more practical men, whose experience and personal attention made it a success.
    In appearance, when a young man, Dr. Drish was fine looking, with a handsome face and graceful figure.  His manner in society was at once bold and deferential; but in the practice of medicine his will was indomitable.  There his positiveness amounted to austerity.
    On the street he was always pleasant.  In his manner of greeting a friend he was extremely cordial, and nobody while grasping his hand, could have had the faintest idea of the amount of ice that lay beneath the summer surface of his bland and genial smiles.
                            Note:  Please compare this Dr. Drish with the one you read about in the Legend of the Drish House. "The more we learn the less we know."