Dr. Thomas Worthington was born in Anderson County, Tennessee on June 11, 1808. He was the son of James and Lettice Tunnell Worthington. He first came west to Pike County in 1833. That same year he enrolled in the Medical College of Ohio located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Upon his graduation Worthington returned to Pike County where he remained the rest of his life. He was a fine physician well liked for his bedside manners and caring of his patients. He was one of the first doctors that encouraged other doctors to stop the practice of bleeding their patients to treat them for illness. Worthington was one of the earliest physicians to develop and use traction on patients with severe broken limbs. One of his most famous cases involved a young boy by the name of Jefferson Kinman who was run over by a loaded wagon causing a severe crushing injury to his arm and leg on one side of his body.
After examining young Kinman’s injuries Worthington wanted to amputate but the boy’s father refused. Worthington dressed the wounds and left. Checking in on the boy the next day he discovered that both the leg and arm were drawn up in an unnatural way. Rigging up a series of weights attached to the boy’s limbs Worthington was able to extend the limbs to their normal lengths. In time the boy healed with little or no effect of the injuries. As an adult Thomas Jefferson Kinman would enlist and rise to the rank of Lieutenant in the 99th Illinois Infantry were he would be killed in the charge on May 22, 1863, at Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Worthington had apprentices that worked with him like John Thompson Hodgen. After completing his medical training Hodgen became an assistant resident physician at St Louis City Hospital. Later he worked as demonstrator of anatomy at the University of Missouri. During the Civil War Hodgen worked as a surgeon and as Surgeon General of Missouri.
Worthington’s knowledge and inventiveness must have influenced Hodgen. In his lifetime and career Hodgen is credited with inventing traction devices, splints, a double-action syringe, and a stomach pump. He invented the Hodgen brace, a splint used to set broken femur bones. This device is still in use today.
Worthington’s practice continued to grow he began to purchase tracts of land throughout Pike County. To supplement his income, he became a stockman raising cattle, horses, hogs, and all other types of stock.
Thomas Worthington was a strong Whig in his political views. In 1842 he ran for state senate and won. It was said that his stump speeches were delivered with force, vigor and to the point. While serving in the state senate he is credited with helping pass the Two Mill Tax and the Free School Tax bills. Worthington ran for reelection in 1846 but was defeated by 203 votes.
Worthington was even allowed to come before the Illinois Supreme Court to argue that the taxation of land and the note given in payment was unjust taxation. His argument was heard and raised much commendation. In the end the court found against Worthington.
At the age of forty Worthington found himself feeling ill to the point that he had to pass his daily affairs and practice to others. Within a few years his health had improved but he chose not to return to his past interests. Instead, he became interested in geology and the glacial period. Worthington became so involved in his new interest that he traveled all over the country in its pursuit. He took extensive notes on his findings.
Along with geology Worthington was a devout Christian and spent hours studying the Bible. He died after suffering from illness for only two days on November 14, 1888, and was laid to rest in West Cemetery, Pittsfield, Pike, Illinois.