Born near Lake City, Columbia County, Florida on August 8, 1868, Thomas Maximus Rivers was the fourth of nine children born to Susan Amanda Walston and Lewis William Rivers. After a general education, he attended the Medical College of South Carolina and graduated in the class of 1900. While attending medical school, Thomas and Rosalie Clare Godfrey married on September 4, 1895 in Lake Park, Georgia. Thomas began his medical profession in Lake Park where he and Rosalie had three sons, but by 1902 only their third son remained. It appears Thomas and Rosalie’s marriage ended shortly afterwards and Thomas married Roberta Peterson about 1903. They added two daughters to the family and in January of 1906 the family arrived in Kissimmee, Florida where Thomas embarked on a thirty-seven year practice.
Roberta passed away on September 23, 1934 and Thomas, now in his late sixties married again, to Josie Amy Prouty. Josie was 33 years younger than Thomas and was an attendant in his office following their marriage.
Dr. Rivers died on June 27, 1943; his obituary in the “Kissimmee Valley Gazette” gave a detailed account of his life in Kissimmee – “Dr. Rivers proved himself to be not only one of the best ‘horse and buggy’ doctors, but also a scholarly and scientific one. The old county trails from Fort Drum to Kissimmee, and from Lake Hart to Davenport, were well traveled by the doctor and his horse and buggy, ministering to the sick and unfortunate, way back in the early days of the county, and long before the era of the automobile had dawned.
In 1913, he pioneered with the first hospital in Osceola County, his practice extending over the entire Kissimmee valley territory.
In addition to his private professional accomplishments he also contributed his talents in an official capacity. He served as health officer of Kissimmee and of Osceola County for many years. He was a member and former president of the Orange County Medical Society, a member of the Florida Midland Medical Society and also belonged to the Florida State Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the Florida Railway Surgeons Association, and the Society of the Atlantic Coast Line.
He had read numerous papers before the Florida Medical Association and Southern Medical Association, as well as being the author of a book entitled ‘The Atonomic Diseases or the Rheumatic Syndrome.’
Throughout his career Dr. Rivers was a most public-spirited citizen, contributing generously of his time and talents to the welfare of the community. In his civic activities he was a member of the city council, member of the Kissimmee Chamber of Commerce, Orange Blossom Blue Lodge No. 80, the Free and Accepted Masons, and of the First Christian Church of Kissimmee. He had served for several months as health and housing unit chairman under the Osceola County Defense Council.”
Dr. Rivers is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery with his second wife Roberta and two of his children, Gerald and Eunice. Josie eventually returned to her home state of Massachusetts where she passed away in 1983.
Sources: “Kissimmee Valley Gazette”, Ancestry.com
Photo Courtesy: OCHS, Kissimmee Valley Gazette