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LINCECUM, GIDEON

LINCECUM, GIDEON (1793–1874). Gideon Lincecum, physician, philosopher, and naturalist, son of Hezekiah and Sally (Hickman) Lincecum, was born in Warren County, Georgia, on April 22, 1793. After successive moves he and his wife, the former Sarah Bryan, moved in 1818 with his parents and siblings to the Tombigbee River above the site of present Columbus, Mississippi. From there in January 1835 Lincecum joined an exploring expedition to Texas. In 1848, after years of practicing medicine with herbal remedies learned from Indians and trading with the Indians on the Tombigbee, he moved to Texas. He purchased 1,828 acres of the fertile prairie land he had seen on his Texas visit thirteen years before. Lincecum, Sarah, and their surviving ten children, a number of grandchildren, and ten slaves arrived in Long Point on his fifty-fifth birthday.

In Texas Lincecum continued to practice medicine, made geological explorations, assembled a plant collection including 500 species with medicinal properties, kept a meteorological journal that charted drought cycles, and observed and recorded the daily activities of insect life. He became recognized as an astute naturalist, corresponded with internationally known scientists, and contributed valuable collections to the Philadelphia Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institution. He was elected a corresponding member of the Philadelphia Academy, a rare honor for an amateur. His writings appeared in such national publications as the American Naturalist, the American Sportsman, and the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences, and his views on a variety of subjects, including politics, appeared in the Texas Almanac and in newspapers. Charles Darwin sponsored the publication of Lincecum's controversial paper on the agricultural ant in the Journal of the Linnaean Society of London in 1862.

Lincecum was self-educated and spent his boyhood principally in the company of Muskogees. While living among the Choctaws in Mississippi he recorded their legends and traditions in Choctaw and after moving to Texas translated it as the "Chahta Tradition." Some of these were published by the Mississippi Historical Society in 1904. His manuscripts, particularly those of his Choctaw notes and his study of agricultural ants, and his plant collection have been examined and used by a number of later scholars. Lincecum was opposed to organized religion and considered himself an atheist and free-thinker. He was an ardent advocate of castration for criminals and mental misfits and led a vigorous campaign to legalize castration as the only method of improving the human race.

He sought a new frontier in 1868 and, at the age of seventy-six, with a widowed daughter and her seven children, joined a Confederate colony in Tuxpan, Vera Cruz, Mexico. He spent five years there working his banana plantation, exploring Indian ruins, and continuing his natural history collection and correspondence. He returned to Texas in 1873 and devoted his remaining years to writing his autobiography in a series of letters printed in the American Sportsman. After a long illness he died on November 28, 1874, at his Long Point home. He was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery, between Burton and Long Point, and his remains were moved to the State Cemetery in Austin in 1936.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Lois Wood Burkhalter, Gideon Lincecum, 1793–1874: A Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965). Jerry Bryan Lincecum and Edward Hake Phillips, eds. Adventures of a Frontier Naturalist: The Life and Times of Dr. Gideon Lincecum (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994).

Lois Wood Burkhalter

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Lois Wood Burkhalter, "LINCECUM, GIDEON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fli03), accessed July 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.