Biography of James Scott Cummings, M. D.

James Scott Cummings, M. D. A former president of the State Board of Health, a member of the Legislature, and otherwise prominent in local and state affairs, Doctor Cummings is a pioneer physician of Bronson in Bourbon County, and both through his profession and as a citizen he had found many ways in which to make his career count for benefit to his community.

Doctor Cummings represents a pioneer family in Southeastern Kansas. He was born in Parke County, Indiana, June 8, 1851. His Cummings ancestors were emigrants from the North of Ireland to Virginia in colonial times. Doctor Cummings is a grandson of Samuel Cummings, who was born in 1784 in Greenbrier County in that portion of Virginia now the State of West Virginia. He was both a tanner and a farmer. He brought his family west during the ’30s and settled in Parke County, Indiana, where he died in 1858, seven years after Doctor Cummings was born. Samuel Cummings married Rachel McClung.

John M. Cummings, father of Doctor Cummings, was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, September 13, 1820, and spent the first sixteen years of his life in his native locality until his parents moved west to Parke County, Indiana. In Parke County he found employment in his father’s tannery until he was thirty years of age, was married at that time in life, and afterwards gave his activities to farming. His attention was early attracted to Kansas. In 1867 he visited in this state in Allen County, and in 1869 came to that county as a permanent settler. He bought a farm in the vicinity of what is now Carlyle, and remained there a prosperous and substantial citizen until his death on April 22, 1876. John M. Cummings was a republican and a very active member and supporter of the Methodist Episeopal Churcch, serving on its official board for a period of years.

In 1850 John M. Cummings married Catherine Ann Beadle. She was a member of a prominent family. Her brother, Gen. William H. Beadle, who died at San Francisco in 1915, was sent out to the Dakotas in 1867 as surveyor of the territory, and subsequently became author of the school laws of South Dakota, a body of laws especially noteworthy because they assure every child an education. In one of the prominent locations in the City of Pierre, South Dakota, stands a handsome statute to this notable citizen. Mrs. Cummings’ brother John H. Beadle was also a man of more than ordinary note. He was author of “The Crimes and Mysteries of Mormonism,” “The Danites,” and other works, and for many years held the position of editor for the Associated Press in New York City. Catherine Ann Beadle was born in Clark County, Kentucky, in 1832, and died at Bronson, Kansas, in 1898. Dr. James S. Cummings is the oldest of their nine children. Nannie is the wife of William Linebarger, a retired farmer living at Chrisman, Illinois. Laura V., whose home is at Uniontown, Kansas, had been twice a widow, her first husband having been Thomas Jobe, a minister of the Hardshell Baptist Church, and her second was Benson Dark, a farmer. William A. Cummings entered the legal profession and died quite early in his career in 1884 at Iola, Kansas. Lizzie is the wife of C. H. Sater, a retired farmer at Golden City, Missouri. Charles M. is a rancher at Standish, California. Rachel, who lives at Bois D’Are, Missouri, is the widow of John New, who was a farmer in Linn County, Kansas. Mattie married C. C. Pavey, a real estate and insurance man at Muncie, Indiana. Edmond Beadle Cummings, who was born in Carlyle, Kansas, in 1872 and died at Bronson in 1914, practiced medicine and surgery with notable success for many years and is a graduate of the Kansas Medical College of Topeka.

James Scott Cummings was eighteen years of age when his parents came to Kansas. In the meantime he had made the best of such advantages as were afforded by the public schools of Parke County, Indiana. He also had two years of private instruction under D. M. Smith, later a prominent Kansan. At the age of twenty-one he entered the ranks of the teaching profession, and taught school in the country districts of Allen County until 1879. In the meantime as opportunity offered he had diligently pursued the study of medicine in the office of Dr. G. D. Whittaker of Carlyle, now of Kansas City, Kansas. In 1876 he took his first course in the College of Medicine and Surgery at Cincinnati, Ohio, following which he resumed teaching, and was finally graduated from the Cincinnati institution in 1880 with the degree M. D. Doctor Cummings is as much a student today as he was thirty-five years ago, and keeps in close touch with advanced medical and surgical knowledge. The spring of 1908 he spent in the Chicago Policlinic and the fall of the same year he took a course in the New York Post-Graduate School.

In 1880 Doctor Cummings began practice at what is now called Rocklow in Allen County, but in the spring of 1882 came to Bronson when that townsite was first laid out. The choice of a home and professional location which he made then he had never recalled nor regretted, and he had remained steadily with the community, at first doing largely a country practice and undergoing the hardships of riding and driving in all sorts of weather and over all sorts of roads. In later years the hardships of practice have been largely mitigated by telephones, automobiles, improved highways, and many other facilities which the doctor of thirty-five years ago could not command. In 1882 Doctor Cummings built a home on Randolph Street, but he now owned and occupies another residence on Clay Street, a thoroughly modern home. He had two business buildings on Clay Street and had a well improved farm of 160 acres four miles west of Fort Scott. He is a stockholder and director in the Bank of Bronson.

Doctor Cummings is a member of the County and State Medical societies, the Southeast Kansas Medical Society and the American Medical Association. He had served as health officer of Bronson, was for five years coroner of Bourbon County during the ’90s, had been a member of the town council of Bronson, and is now secretary of the Board of Education. In politics he is affiliated with the democrats. In 1912 the Nineteenth District of Bourbon County sent him to the Legislature and during the session of 1913 he was chairman of the health and hygiene committee and a member of the state library and other committees. In 1913 Doctor Cummings was appointed a member of the State Board of Health, and he served in that organization three years, one year as president. With all his many other interests Doctor Cummings does much for church and charitable causes and is a firm believer in the benefits of fraternalism. He is chairman of the board of trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church and president of the Church Brotherhood. For two terms he filled the office of Master in Bourbon Lodge No. 268, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons at Bronson, belongs to Fort Scott Consistory No. 4 of the Scottish Rite, to Abdallah Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Leavenworth, is past chancellor commander of Granite Lodge No. 88, Knights of Pythias at Bronson, and a member of Bois D’Are Camp No. 1010, Modern Woodmen of America at Bronson.

Doctor Cummings had an unquestioned reputation as an orator of very effective and persuasive eloquence. As a public speaker his services have been much in demand, particularly for making addresses on public health questions and as a speaker at Masonic reunions and at various gatherings under the auspices of his church. His presence and active part have been considered almost essential to the success of any public occasion in his part of the state for over thirty years. Doctor Cummings is a man of wide travel, and had thus a culture derived not only from books but also from varied associations with men and affairs. He had traveled over the United States from coast to coast, and south to Old Mexico.

On September 22, 1881, the year before he came to Bronson to take up practice, Doctor Cummings was married in Allen County to Miss Libbie Ray. Her parents A. J. and Parmelia (Hovey) Ray are both now deceased. Her father was for a number of years a merchant at Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Doctor and Mrs. Cummings have one child, Mabel. She married G. R. Hughes, a clothing merchant at Fort Scott, where they reside. Mr. and Mrs. Hughes have two children: Elizabeth, born September 28, 1904; and Kathryn, born in 1907.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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