1906 – Biographical sketch of Dr. John Apperson from Men of Mark in Virginia, Volume III, by Lyon G. Tyler


Apperson, John Samuel, M. D., was born August 21, 1837, in Orange County, Virginia, and his parents were Alfred Apperson and Malinda Jones, his wife. The Apperson family came to Virginia at a very early period and dwelt for many years in New Kent County, from which it scattered its branches over Virginia and the South. Dr. Apperson’s grandfather was Peter Apperson, who married Miss Lobb, of Caroline County, Virginia. His father, Alfred Apperson, was in the early part of his life an overseer on a plantation, and afterward a small farmer on his own accord. He was a man of industry and economy and very loyal to his convictions.

Dr. Apperson was in his childhood and youth of slender physique and attained his growth slowly. He was brought up in the country, however, and had plenty of exercise. His father was the owner of a small farm in the woods, and Dr. Apperson, as his oldest child, cut wood, made rails, and plowed with oxen. He had a fine example in his mother, who was industrious, devoted to her husband and threw a charm of love about the home. He attended an old field school until twelve years of age, after which he had no school opportunities except one month’s stay at a grammar school. At his home books were few and he had little time to devote to them. Nevertheless, by application, chiefly at night, with the light of a tallow dip, and often with a pine torch burning on the hearth, he read, “Peter Parsley’s Tales,” Goldsmith’s “History of Rome, “ and a few other books. The “Saturday Evening Post” was received weekly for a time, and the “Religious Herald,” a religious paper of the Baptist denomination, was now and then lent them by a neighbor.

At about the age of seventeen he was made a clerk in a store, but owing to his limited education he had great difficulty in filling the place, though he wrote a fairly good hand. While there he purchased a “Davies’ Arithmetic and Key,” and from this obtained most of what he acquired in mathematics. After two years he determined to try a new field of operations, and in 1859 removed to Smyth County. He walked part of the way and when he reached his destination, being without money, he had to work at cutting railroad ties and wood at $8.00 per month.

Not long after, he met with Dr. Faris, of Tennessee, who struck with his abilities, advised him to take up the study of medicine. Dr. Apperson adopted this advice, and worked two days in the week to pay his board, while he studied the rest of the time. In the year 1860, he was employed by the census taker to prepare his books, and for his work he received $47.50, with which he supplied himself with clothes. By due application, he got along fairly well with his medical studies, but when the war broke out he enlisted in Company D, 4th Virginia infantry, and was attached to Stonewall Jackson’s command at Harper’s Ferry. Then his work in the past began to show its fruits; Private Apperson was detached for the surgeon’s office, and was afterwards appointed hospital steward in the field infirmary, 2nd corps, Army of Northern Virginia, the first organized traveling infirmary of the War between the States. It was a thoroughly equipped field hospital, acting intermediary to the field and general hospitals. IN the course of his valued and faithful service, Dr. Apperson was present at every engagement of the armies of Lee and Jackson, except the fight at Seven Pines. He was with Jackson at Kernstown, Bull Pasture Mountain and McDowell, Front Royal, Winchester, Cross Keys and Port Republic; then in all the battles of Jackson’s corps through 1862, from the Chickahominy to Fredericksburg. He passed the winter at Guiney’s Station, and in the following year served upon the battle fields of Chancellorsville, Winchester, Gettysburg, and Payne’s Farm, and during the return from Pennsylvania was actively engaged in a skirmish at Williamsport, in command of a small body of Confederates, driving off a party of the enemy. After wintering at Orange Court House, he was present in all the battles from the Wilderness to Richmond, then in the Lynchburg campaign, the pursuit of the enemy down the valley, the expedition through Maryland, including the battle of Monocacy, and the skirmishes before Washington, closing the busy year with the campaign of Early against Sheridan. After wintering at Fishersville, and witnessing the disastrous fight at Waynesboro, he rejoined them at Richmond, March 25, 1965, and soon afterward participated in the movement toward Lynchburg, which closed at Appomattox. He came home with a mule, the only pay received for his services, which he disposed of to obtain drugs, and then began the practice of medicine. Afterward he contrived to attend the University of Virginia for a year. He was graduated Doctor of Medicine in 1867, and soon established himself for professional work at Chilhowie, Smyth County, where he remained for twenty years, “astride a horse,” practicing medicine among the hills of SW Virginia. At this time he became a member of the building committee of the Eastern Asylum for the Insane, at Marion, and upon the completion of this institution served for two years as assistant physician. He settled in Marion, and in 1890 practically gave up the practice of medicine, and organized the Staley’s Creek Manganese and Iron Company, of which he is still (1906) secretary and treasurer. In 892, he was appointed business executive commissioner of Virginia to the World’s Exposition, and spent one year in Chicago. From 1894 to 1904 he was connected, as Vice president, secretary, and treasurer, with the Marion & Rye Valley railway, and had charge if its construction.

Dr. Apperson has served as a member of the board of trustees of Emory and Henry College, and he is a Democrat, though he did not support William J. Bryan when he was nominated by the party on a free silver platform. He is a Protestant, but not a member of any church. He finds his principal diversion in fishing, which he regards as entertaining and restful, and gives him all the amusement he cares for or has time to enjoy. He is popular, has a handsome home, and enjoys the confidence of his friends and constituents. The details of Dr. Apperson’s life are worthy of record, because they show what a young man of resolution and ambition may accomplish in the face of the most appalling difficulties. Such a man as Dr. Apperson cannot be said to have made a failure, but we wonder what he might have accomplished if he had had a better education and it had been possible for him to have concentrated his energies on one line of thought. His wide range of effort and experience entitles his opinion as to the methods and principles of life to more than ordinary respect. He finds the open sesame to the treasures of this world in “persistent work, loyalty to duty, singleness of purpose, modest demeanor, economy in all things, and sobriety and honesty. “Look,” he says, “to self-help and depend on no one else but yourself.”

He has been married, first, on February 20, 1868, to Ellen V. Hull, and second, on February 5, 1889, to Lizzie A. Black and he has eleven children, of whom ten are now living.