Physician, poet, and horticulturist, Francis Orray Ticknor wrote memorable Civil War (1861-65) poetry and earned a lasting literary reputation on the merit of a single poem, “Little Giffen,” a ballad about a young Tennessee soldier named Isaac Newton Giffen. The poem describes how during the war Ticknor treated and befriended the wounded Confederate lad, only to see him return to the ranks and presumably to his battlefield death.
Francis “Frank” Orray Ticknor, the youngest of Harriot Coolidge and Orray Ticknor’s three children, was born on November 13, 1822, in Fortville, in Jones County. He earned a medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Medicine, in Pennsylvania, in 1842 and began his practice in rural Shell Creek, Georgia. He married Rosalie “Rosa” Nelson in 1847 and settled at Torch Hill, their home in Columbus. They had eight children.
The country doctor published poetry and horticultural articles in numerous periodicals, especially the Southern Cultivator. “Little Giffen” first appeared in November 1867 in The Land We Love, a Charlotte, North Carolina, magazine. Two collections of his poetry were published posthumously. In 1879 Kate Mason Rowland edited and southern poet Paul Hamilton Hayne wrote the introduction for The Poems of Frank O. Ticknor, M. D. An expanded edition, The Poems of Francis Orray Ticknor, edited by Ticknor’s granddaughter, Michelle Cutliff Ticknor, appeared in 1911. In addition to his popular southern martial poetry, the collections include memorial and religious poems, humorous verses, and songs about home and nature.
Ticknor died on December 18, 1874, in Columbus and was buried in Linwood Cemetery. The Georgia Historical Commission has placed a marker at the site of Torch Hill.