Lannie, Donna Dean. Folk traditions in medical care of a German-Texan community, Gillespie County, Texas. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • Two medical care traditions are found among German-Americans in the Texas Hill Country: folk or traditional medicine and cosmopolitan medicine. German-Texan traditional medicine reflects the German societies from which the immigrants came and those valus, behavior, and practices which the German-Texan society incorporated from other traditional medicines in Texas. It represents the knowledge and practices in use, and relies on past experience and observation handed down from generation to generation. Traditional folk medicine may be divided into three categories: home remedies which the client generally administers on his own behalf, the traditional practitioner, and faith healing. Cosmopolitan medicine, often referred to as "modern" or "scientific", originated in Western Europe. With each succeeding decade new elements are contributed to the medical system. Cosmopolitan medicine may be divided into five categories: hydropathy, pharmacy, chiropractic, medicine, and for the lack or any other term, media sources. A number of changes in medical care of a German-Texan community have been witnessed in Gillespie County since 1846. Home remedies, patent medicines, and medicine as practiced by physicians have been consistently important health care practices in Gillespie County. Traditional practitioners, hexen, and hydropathy have decreased in importance over time. Chiropractic and herbal remedies (in the cosmopolitan mode) are relatively recent introductions to the county. Folk traditions persist in the total medical system for many reasons. First, folk treatments are often effective, either physiologically or psychologically. Second, many ailments are self-limiting; relief can be expected if nature is allowed to run its course. Folk treatments may be credited with success even if they aren't effective. Third, the successes tend to be remembered while unsatisfactory results are forgotten. Fourth, the individual client's beliefs and cultural factors are means for preserving the use of folk medicine. The concentration of acceptance of folk remedies and faith healing in the older German-American natives of rural Gillespie County may be directly attributable to the common beliefs and values of those individuals and the social and cultural factors which are less prevalant among those who have been more intensely assimilated into the American metropolitan mainstream.