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Daniel W. Roberts

 

Hundreds of tourists each year include in their visit to America's oldest city a trip to the little African Methodist church. Here in St. Augustine may be seen one of the most unique monuments in the entire State: the memorial fountain to a doctor who almost single-handily fought one of the city's worst epidemics.

 

Dr. Daniel W. Roberts, born in Indiana one year after emancipation, was the only Negro physician among the several thousand residents of St. Augustine and vicinity when the country's worst recorded epidemics of influenza broke out in 1918.

 

St. Augustine suffered heavily; cases were reported by the dozen each day. The white doctors who normally cared for most of the Negro sick in St. Augustine found their hands full with other cases. The outlying areas, covering territory that stretched as far as Bayard on the north and Flagler County on the south, made heavy demands on medical service.

 

Into this picture of suffering and chaos, Dr. Roberts steeped. Day and night he worked, finally reaching every patient who called him. His contemporaries said of him at the time that he was visiting three times as many victims as any other physician. This, however, was not the most remarkable feature of his work. During the entire epidemic he did not lose a single patient!

 

Other physicians became interested in his methods. Much of the time, after the first few weeks of the epidemic, was spent assisting others doctors from Jacksonville, Daytona, and nearby cities in preparing prescriptions and remedies for their own practices. At one point the number of prescriptions written for his St. Augustine patients alone reached 60 a day.

 

While Roberts saved every one of his patients, he could not save himself from the natural consequences of the heroic overexertion to which he subjected himself. In February of the following year he died.

 

His memory did not die, however. A few years later a group of his former colleagues, white and Negro, banded together to erect a monument to him. They began a campaign to raise $1,000 for this purpose and the fund was shortly over-subscribed. Among those who quickly added heir donations to the fund were several bishops in Negro churches, doctors, the president of the St. Augustine bank, and hundreds of white and colored residents. The fund was completed early in 1925.

 

A Jacksonville sculptor, George Leapheart, was given the commission of creating a fitting monument to Dr. Robert's memory. The result of his work was unveiled at the St. Paul's A.M.E. Church on November 8th of that year -- a beautiful hand-carved, two-color marble monument baptism fount, said to be the only one dedicated to a doctor in the country.

 

It is about four feet high, of white and Vermont marble. Inscribed in its base are tributes to the dead humanitarian and his work, his date of birth and death, and the names of the donors of the monument.

 

At the top of the fount are several insignia:" one of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal order assisted in obtaining the memorial and of which Dr. Roberts had been a member; the official medical symbol; the usual church insignia and others. The fount was placed near the altar of the church of the physician had attended during his life.

 

There is usually a guide for the visitors to explain about the monument. Frequent references to it are made in the church services.

 


Feb 19 1919 p4 St Augustine Evening Record

Dr. D. W. Roberts Died Last Night

 

Dr. D. W. Roberts, colored, died last night at 7:45 o'clock of pneumonia contracted through exposed in attending patients. The deceased practiced his profession in St. Augustine and vicinity for many years and numbered many white people among his patients. He had a large practice among the country people, covering territory that the white physicians were unable to attend to owing to their practice in the city. He frequently made trips to remote parts of the county late at night, carrying medicine to patients who otherwise would have been able to obtain it in time. He was generous and self-sacrificing also a very successful doctor. His death will be a great loss in this section, especially to the residents of the rural districts, who depended largely upon his services. His valuable services have been generally recognized and scores of white people are expressing deep regret over his death.

 

Feb 21 1919 St. Augustine Evening Record

Funeral services for the late Dr. D. W. Roberts will be held Sunday afternoon at 1 o'clock at St. Paul A. M. E. church, on Central Avenue. From the church the cortege will proceed to the railroad station and the body will be taken to Charlottesville, Ind., for interment. Dr. Roberts was born and reared at Charlottesville and he came to St. Augustine after graduating from medical college. He had been practicing here about 21 years. He was injured in an auto accident last August, his chest being partly crushed. The injuries received at that time, with continual exposure to weather during the 'flu' epidemic, were responsible for the development of pneumonia, from which he died. He was 52 years of age.

 

Feb 24 1919 St. Augustine Record

Funeral services for the late Dr. D. W. Roberts were held at St. Paul's A. M. E. church yesterday afternoon, Rev S. G. Baker of Jacksonville preaching the funeral sermon. The church was packed, the colored people of the city turning out en masse. This was the largest colored funeral ever held in this city. The Knights of Pythas attended in a body and marched as an escort of honor to the train from the church. The body was placed aboard the afternoon train and will be taken to Charlottesville, Ind., for interment. A brother of Doctor Roberts accompanied the remains.

 

Feb 24 1919 St. Augustine Record

In Memoriam

Doctor Daniel W Roberts

 

On Tuesday, Feb 18, 1919, Dr. Daniel W. Roberts, aged 52, medical practitioner, whose headquarters were in St. Augustine, Fla., passed away at his residence.

 

Death demanded a priceless hostage, a benign hand, a large heart, and a useful life.

 

Best medical care and attendance did their all to save him, but proved pensive in averting Death's determined hand. So with unavailing regrets his many friends have to accept the one alternative.

 

Dr. Roberts has been practicing in St. Augustine for 22 years, and his efficiency and reliability have so widened his sphere of labor that it became virtually the whole of St. Johns county and quite often he served in adjoining counties. The patient felt a relief at the doctor's footfall on the breeze. He would attend anybody anywhere and at any time. Neither individuality, place nor time seemed to have been a consideration with him.. Nor was he known to hesitate whenever he could make a way of relief. He sought cures for the indigent and easy liver alike. This seems to have been the joy and climax of his ceaseless endeavors.

 

Happy to say, he always found time for religious duties. He was an invaluable member and year-long worker of the St. Paul A. M. E. church and was accustomed to take part in the church's important activities.

 

We have cause to believe that there reared in him a truly religious soul.

 

Awe-stricken! Grief-stricken!

 

He tried and true, has left us with hearts of love for him.

 


There remain his wife, one brother and two sisters with a large number of friends, all of whom will never cease to miss him.

 

The initial funeral services took place at the St. Paul A. M. E. church on Sunday Feb 23, at 1 p.m. After this, the remains were shipped at 4 o'clock to his native town, Charlottesville, Ind., where final obsequies and interment will take place.

 

His good deeds are his best epitaph.

 

We may say of him ETAOIN He will rise, rise again.

 

Tribute by Rev R. Z. Johnstone, B. D.