He served as physician to St. Philip’s Parish hospital (part of the city’s poorhouse) and as a quarantine officer for the province. He was also president of the Faculty of Physic, a body established in May 1755 to advance the professional standing, interests, and income of Charleston’s medical men.

Physician. Moultrie was born in Culross, Fifeshire, Scotland, a member of the family of Moultrie lairds (landowners) of Roscobie near Dunfermline. He apparently studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but it is not clear whether he received the M.D. degree. He spent some time as a surgeon in the British navy before coming in 1728 to Charleston, where he combined his medical practice with planting interests. That same year he married Lucretia Cooper. The couple had five sons. Lucretia died in 1747, and on July 6, 1748, Moultrie married Elizabeth Mathews. His second marriage produced one son.

Moultrie soon established a successful practice. He served as physician to St. Philip’s Parish hospital (part of the city’s poorhouse) and as a quarantine officer for the province. He was also president of the Faculty of Physic, a body established in May 1755 to advance the professional standing, interests, and income of Charleston’s medical men. In particular, and much to the consternation of many local residents, the faculty hoped to increase their fees and secure more prompt payment of them. The announcement of the creation of this body in the South-Carolina Gazette was followed by several letters and poems to the newspaper that ridiculed the doctors as greedy and incompetent. The subsequent history and duration of the Faculty of Physic is obscure.

Over time Moultrie’s practice increasingly emphasized male midwifery, and he may have focused on it exclusively in his later years. In the eighteenth century, first in Britain and then in its colonies, medical men began to encroach on the traditional female preserve of midwifery. This development was spurred by increased knowledge of the use of forceps delivery taught by men such as William Smellie and William Hunter in Britain and William Shippen (a pupil of Hunter) in America. Moultrie was apparently one of the first American physicians to specialize in obstetrics, along with James Lloyd of Boston. Moultrie seems to have been a popular and highly sought after physician, especially among expectant women. He was also active in the life of the Charleston community. He was president of the St. Andrew’s Society, a member of the Charleston Library Society, a justice of the peace, and vestryman of both St. Philip’s and St. Michael’s Churches. He also served in the Commons House of Assembly from 1760 to 1761. He died in Charleston on December 10, 1771.

Edgar, Walter, and N. Louise Bailey, eds. Biographical Directory of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Vol. 2, The Commons House of Assembly, 1692–1775. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977.

Leavitt, Judith Walzer. Brought to Bed: Childbearing in America, 1750 to 1950. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.

“Letters from a Colonial Student of Medicine in Edinburgh to His Parents in South Carolina, 1746–1749.” University of Edinburgh Journal 4 (1930–1931): 270–74.

Waring, Joseph I. A History of Medicine in South Carolina. 3 vols. Columbia: South Carolina Medical Association, 1964–1971.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Moultrie, John
  • Author Peter McCandless
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • URL http://www.scencyclopedia.org/sce/entries/moultrie-john/
  • Access Date December 12, 2019
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • Original Published Date June 8, 2016
  • Date of Last Update March 20, 2017