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Cupples, George (1816–1895)

Robert Read Nixon Biography

George Cupples, pioneer surgeon and civic leader, son of Robert and Camilla (Campbell) Cupples, was born in Berwick County, Scotland, on October 13, 1816. After two years as assistant surgeon with the British Auxiliary Legion in the Spanish service, he returned to Scotland and graduated in medicine at the University of Edinburgh in August 1838. From 1839 to 1843 he studied at the University of Paris. On the advice of Dr. Ashbel Smith, Cupples moved to Texas in 1844 in search of health for his wife, Alexia (Bourland), whom he had married in 1843. He settled in San Antonio as a member of Castro's colony. He was surgeon for the Second Regiment under John C. (Jack) Hays during the Mexican War. As first surgeon of the Seventh Regiment of Texas Mounted Volunteers, he served in the Confederate Army in 1861 and 1862, became medical director of the Eastern Military District of Texas in December 1862 and in June 1864 became medical director and inspector of the cavalry corps in the Trans-Mississippi Department.

Cupples was a notary public in Bexar County in 1847. In 1851 he was elected county commissioner and alderman at San Antonio. He was president of the Bexar County Medical Society in 1853, became city health physician in 1854, and was president of the San Antonio board of health in 1866 and again in 1873. He served as the second president of the Texas Medical Association in 1853 and served as president again in 1878. In 1876 he helped found the West Texas Medical Association. As chairman of the association's section on state medicine and public hygiene in 1886, he headed the committee on legislation and advocated regulation and licensing of physicians. He was a member of the American Medical Association and Texas delegate to its national meetings in 1853, 1881, and 1884. He was also delegate to the International Medical congresses in 1876 and 1887 and in 1893 represented Texas at the Pan-American Medical Congress at Washington. Cupples was noted as an innovative surgeon and is thought to have been the first doctor in Texas to use anesthetics. After the death of his first wife in 1860, he married Mrs. Laura L. Sheaban in 1871. He was an Odd Fellow, a Democrat, and a Presbyterian. He died at his home in San Antonio on April 19, 1895.

Biographical Encyclopedia of Texas (New York: Southern, 1880). Frederick Charles Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio (Yanaguana Society Publications 4, San Antonio, 1937). Pat Ireland Nixon, The Medical Story of Early Texas, 1528–1853 (Lancaster, Pennsylvania: Lupe Memorial Fund, 1946). William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Surgeons
  • Peoples
  • Scots

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

Robert Read Nixon, “Cupples, George,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 20, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.