Dr. John Slavens was born Aug 15th, 1791, in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in what is now Rockingham county, but then known as Augusta county. His grandfather, John Slavins, came from the North of Ireland and settled in the above named valley and county. Here his children were born. When the youngest was five years old he removed to near the headwaters of Jackson river where he lived the rest of his days. From that old Virginia farm the grandfather and three of his sons, William, John and Isaiah went into the Revolutionary war. Isaiah, the father of Dr. John Slavins, was only eighteen years old when he enlisted, serving two years.
When his sons, Stewart, Thomas and John (the subject of this sketch) enlisted at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky in the War of 1812, he also joined saying that he had to go along to take care of the boys. Dr. Slavens was married April 18th, 1821, to Miss Sophia A. Graham, of Bath County, Kentucky.
For the benefit of those young ladies who believe in dreams or the encouragement of those who are interested in the study of psychology it will be interesting to relate the curious fact that Miss Graham dreamed of Dr. Slavins, as yet unknown to her, as her future husband and in so vivid a manner that she was enabled to recognize him at first sight.
Seeing the man of her dream accidently one day on a crowded street of Mt. Sterling, she told her mother on her return home that she had seen the man whom she would marry.
He never forgot his army life and was always drawn toward the soldier. He and Col. Anderson, afterwards of Fort Sumter fame, were congenial friends during the latter’s residence here as Commandant of the Government Home for Soldiers. He was a Mason of high attainments and warm zeal, and always stood a faithful guard over the secrets of the order. During his last illness his mind, from suffering and weakness, often wandered and at times he did not recognize his surroundings. During one of these periods his daughter-in-law who was looking after his wants said, “Doctor, what are the secrets of Masonry?” Instantly his wandering mind returned, and he replied that the secrets of Masonry are “to fear God and keep his commandments for this is the whole duty of man.”
Dr. Slavins received his medical degree from the University of Transylvania in March, 1821. He located in Mt. Sterling where he practiced his profession for fifteen years; he then removed to Greencastle, Indiana, where he remained for a little more than one year. His wife often guyed him by saying that his short stay in Indiana was due to the fact that he could not live without having a negro boy to shine his shoes. Returning to Kentucky he located at Harrodsburg where he practiced his profession till the end came. He is said to have done considerable surgical work and availed himself of the opportunities, few and far between during those days, to report the results in medical journals. He at one time was associated with Dr. J. A. Tomlinson and at another with Dr. Hunt, but these partnerships were not congenial and continued only a short time.
While making a charity call one stormy night in August he was thrown from his horse and suffered a dislocation of the right hip. The nature of the injury was not recognized till four weeks afterwards, when he went to Lexington, Kentucky, and had the dislocation reduced by Dr. Benj. Dudley. Being told that he had one chance in a thousand to survive the operation he replied that he would take that chance. He was crippled the remainder of his days, but was enabled to continue professional labors for ten years. He died Feb. 5th, 1863, in Harrodsburg, and was buried in its beautiful cemetery.
Register of the Kentucky State Historical Society, Vol. 9, 1911.