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Ghent, Henry Clay (1831–1912)

Aragorn Storm Miller Biography

Henry Clay Ghent, physician, Confederate surgeon, and state representative, was born in Laurens County, South Carolina, on December 6, 1831, the son of Daniel and Nancy (Wilson) Ghent. The Ghent family relocated to Talladega County, Alabama, in 1834, and here Ghent received a basic education. In 1853 Ghent moved to Alexandria, Calhoun County, and began the study of medicine under a local doctor. He continued his studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ghent graduated with a degree in medicine from the latter institution in March 1856. Following a brief stay in Washington, D.C., Ghent returned to Alabama and began practicing medicine in Randolph County.

At the outbreak of the Civil War he volunteered for service in the Confederate Army, enlisting in the Thirteenth Alabama Infantry Regiment and winning election as first lieutenant for Company D. However Ghent was reassigned as a surgeon after the First Battle of Manassas. During the winter of 1861–1862 Ghent suffered a severe bout of pneumonia and was relegated to hospital duties in Richmond, Virginia. He remained in Virginia throughout the remainder of the war, receiving a degree from the Medical College of Virginia in 1863 and serving with the Richmond City Battalion and the Fifteenth Virginia Regiment, Pickett's Division. On October 6, 1864, Ghent married Sarah Jane Pearce. This couple had two sons and five daughters.

Ghent immigrated with his family to Texas in January 1866, settling at Port Sullivan, Milam County. Here Ghent resumed his practice and assumed a leading role in community affairs. In January 1869 he was an incorporator of the Port Sullivan, Belton, and Northwestern Railroad though the railroad was never built. In 1872 he won election on the Democratic ticket as representative for District Seventeen—comprised of Brazos, Burleson, and Milam counties—to the Thirteenth Texas Legislature. Following his turn at public service Ghent and his family relocated to Belton, Bell County. During the 1870s and 1880s Ghent achieved distinction within his profession, winning election as president of the Texas State Medical Association (now Texas Medical Association) in 1884 and as vice president of the American Medical Association in 1885. He was also a member of the Central Texas Medical Association. Ghent died in Belton in February 1912. Sources differ as to whether he died on the 12th or 13th of the month. An obituary in the Texas State Journal of Medicine gave the day as the 13th. He was a Methodist, a Mason, and a member of the Knights of Honor.

Lelia M. Batte, History of Milam County, Texas (San Antonio: Naylor, 1956). Members of the Legislature of the State of Texas from 1846 to 1939 (Austin: Texas Legislature, 1939). A Memorial and Biographical History of McLennan, Falls, Bell, and Coryell Counties (Chicago: Lewis, 1893; rpt., St. Louis: Ingmire, 1984). George Plunkett [Mrs. S. C.] Red, The Medicine Man in Texas (Houston: 1930).


  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners
  • Thirteenth Legislature (1873)
  • House

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

Aragorn Storm Miller, “Ghent, Henry Clay,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 22, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.