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John Josephus McAlmont was one of the eight founders of the Arkansas Industrial University Medical Department, now the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS).
John McAlmont was born on December 22, 1821, in Hornellsville, New York, the son of Daniel and Samantha Donham McAlmont and the youngest of seven siblings. McAlmont left home at age seventeen, earning money by teaching school. At twenty-one, he entered Geneva Medical College in New York for its one-semester course in medicine; there, he completed a course of lectures in medicine in April 1843. (A course of lectures was all that was required to practice medicine at the time.)
McAlmont established his practice in April 1844 in Kendall Creek, Pennsylvania. The community was a company-owned lumber town that offered little future for McAlmont, so in 1845, he moved to Weymouth, Ohio. His practice thrived, and McAlmont returned to New York for his promised wife, former pupil Martha Jane Gregg, whom he married on October 1, 1845. The couple had two daughters, Myra and Cresida, the latter of whom died in infancy.
In the winter of 1848, McAlmont attended lectures at Western Reserve Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated in 1849 with an MD. McAlmont and his family spent the winter of 1849–50 in Cincinnati, Ohio, and considered staying there, although the climate did not agree with him. However, McAlmont was intrigued by mapmaker Caleb Langtree’s enthusiastic descriptions of the advantages of living in Arkansas, including its pleasant climate, and the family left for the pioneer West. After an eight-day steamboat trip, the family arrived in Little Rock (Pulaski County) in March 1850.
McAlmont and his family went to Benton (Saline County), where he practiced medicine for two years before returning to Little Rock to practice for another two years. At the time McAlmont settled in Little Rock, only seven physicians were in practice there. McAlmont had a special interest in materia medica, or therapeutics. In 1854, he acquired a drugstore on the northeast corner of Markham and Main streets in Little Rock with former U.S. Senator Solon Borland. He continued in the drugstore business intermittently until 1883, when he returned to the full-time practice of medicine.
Though born in the North, McAlmont sided with the South in the Civil War. He joined the local militia and received the rank of major, in which capacity he participated in the surrender of Federal facilities at the Little Rock Barracks and at Fort Smith (Sebastian County). During the war, McAlmont remained in Little Rock, tending to his drugstore and medical practice, but he moved his family to the northeast of town on the Old Military Road to a railroad stop that today is known as McAlmont (Pulaski County). The family returned to Little Rock at the end of the war.
In the late 1870s, McAlmont became associated with a group of physicians dedicated to the establishment of a medical school in Arkansas. The opening session of the Medical Department of Arkansas Industrial University was held on October 8, 1879. McAlmont was made professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at the school and served as treasurer.
McAlmont was active in many professional organizations in pharmacy and medicine, along with a number of civic duties. He was a trustee of St. Johns' College in Little Rock, a Mason, an alderman, and, in 1866, was elected mayor of Little Rock.
McAlmont died on September 24, 1896, after a brief illness and was buried at Mount Holly Cemetery. The street before the MacArthur Park location of the medical school was named for him.
For additional information:Baird, W. David. Medical Education in Arkansas, 1879–1978. Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1979.
Henker, Fred O. “John J. McAlmont, Physician, Druggist, Benefactor.” Pulaski County Historical Review 46 (Winter 1998): 83–86.
Max L. Baker and Fred O. Henker
University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
Last Updated 6/16/2009
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