Medicine

There was something unusual in that green-looking country boy.

In which the Indianapolis Freeman enlightens us regarding Joseph H. Ward‘s journey from Wilson to Naptown:

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Indianapolis Freeman, 22 July 1899.

A few notes:

  • Joseph Ward’s mother was Mittie Ward Vaughn. His father Napoleon Hagans was a prosperous free-born farmer in Wayne County near Fremont.
  • The school in LaGrange at which Ward worked was most likely Davis Military Academy:  “By 1880 a second school for boys … Davis Military Academy, was founded by Colonel Adam C. Davis. “School Town” became La Grange’s nickname as the military school would eventually have an enrollment of 300 students from every state and even some foreign countries. The school also had a band, the only cadet orchestra in the country during that time. The school prospered, but an outbreak of meningitis closed it in 1889.”
  • Dr. George Hasty was a founder of the Physio-Medical College of Indianapolis, which Joseph Ward later attended.

Physio-Medical College of Indiana, undated. IUPUI Image Collection.

Dr. Mitchner’s ordeal.

Wilson Daily Times, 21 April 1938.

In late March or early April 1938, white newborn baby was found abandoned under a tree on Hines Street in Wilson, and died a short time later. The police quickly identified Mittie E. Lucas, reported as a 43 year-old widowed seamstress in the 1940 census of Wilson, as the child’s mother and Jesse Hamilton, also 43 and a married former policeman, as its father. Lucas and Mary Fuller, an African-American midwife, were charged with the baby’s homicide, and Hamilton was charged with abortion along with black physician William A. Mitchner. The four criminal cases were consolidated.

It is not difficult to imagine Mitchner’s terror. He testified that Lucas called on him on February 2 and, in 30 years of medical practice, he had never before examined a white woman. He denied attempting an abortion, asserting that he told Lucas he didn’t “do that kind of work and not to let anyone else do it.” He admitted referring Lucas to Dr. Clarence Dillard Jr., an African-American doctor in Goldsboro, but claimed he did not know whether Dillard were an abortionist, he just “wanted to get rid of them and stop them from coming to me.” [In fact, just four months later, newspapers would breathlessly cover a trial in which Dillard was accused of performing an abortion on a young white woman pregnant by her black boyfriend.] More than a dozen character witnesses stood for Mitchner, including “prominent negro undertaker” Camillus L. Darden and “prominent local druggist” Doane Herring, who was white.

On 26 April 1938, the Daily Times reported that Recorder McLean had dismissed charges against Mitchner, concluding that the other defendants’ actions after visiting Mitchner suggested that he “would do nothing for them.”

The charges against Lucas, Hamilton and Fuller dragged on. Lucas’ brother, U.R. Moore, posted her bond at the end of April, but Fuller and Hamilton remained in jail. After several court continuances, startling news broke on 8 February 1939 after the state rested its case. Witnesses testified that Hamilton admitted that he was the baby’s father; that Hamilton went to a Negro doctor for “medicine” and that the doctor had refused to do what was “intimated”; that Lucas had given the infant to Fuller to place with “some rich person or some hospital”; and that Fuller had placed the child under a tree and called a neighbor to the scene. However, the solicitor conceded that he could not establish if the baby had died of exposure [or, presumably, died of natural causes]. Thus, he could not establish homicide. (And as Lucas seemingly delivered a full-term child, nor could he show that Lucas had obtained an abortion.) With this failure, he proferred a nolle prosequi, i.e. dropped charges, against Lucas and suspended five-year sentences to Hamilton and Fuller if they pleaded no contest.

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Perhaps, in the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: widow Mary Fuller, 56, laundress; daughter Mildred, 22; and boarder Texanna Whitley, 23, and her children Cleo, 7, and Charlie, 2.

The obituary of Dr. Rolland T. Winstead.

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Wilson Daily Times, 29 May 1934.

In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: assistant postmaster Braswell Winstead, 39, wife Ada, 25, and children Arnold, 13, George, 12, Rolland, 11, and Christine, 8. [Note: Ada Davis and Braswell Winstead were married in 1899, and the children were his by his first wife.]

On 14 September 1905, Rolland T. Winstead, 26, of Wilson County, son of B.R. and Eliza Winstead, married Julia B. Daves, 25, of Nash County, daughter of Charles Hamlin and Julia A. Daves, in Happy Hill, Rocky Mount, Nash County. Episcopal priest Robert Nathaniel Perry performed the ceremony in the presence of Harvey G. Barnes of Wilson and H.W. Bullock and George W. Daves of Rocky Mount.

Rolland Tyson Winstead registered for the World War I draft in June 1917 in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 16 June 1889 in Wilson; resided at 603 Green Street, Wilson; and worked as a barber for John Bradsher, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

On 28 October 1917, the Greensboro Daily News published the “names of negro officers given commissions in the army after training with seventeenth provisional training regiment at Fort Des Moines, Iowa ….” The list included Rolland T. Winstead, second lieutenant, officers reserve corps, Rocky Mount, N.C.

In the 1920 census of Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee: R.T. Winstead, 29, and wife Julia, 28, cook, both natives of North Carolina, were roomers in the household of Robert M. and Kate S. Hall. Two years later, Winstead was still enrolled at Meharry Medical College.

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Nashville, Tennessee, city directory (1922).

When he completed his medical studies, the Winsteads returned to Rocky Mount.

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Rocky Mount, N.C., city directory (1928).

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Baltimore Afro-American, 28 April 1928.

In March 1933, Rolland T. Winstead executed his last will and testament. He was a relatively young man, but suffering ill health. His friends, physician Leonard P. Armstrong and insurance agent Orin A. Whitted, witnessed.

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Rolland Tyson Winstead died 28 May 1934 at Duke Hospital in Durham, North Carolina. Per his death certificate, he had suffered from heart disease for twenty years.

Rocky Mount Herald, 1 June 1934.

Julia Daves Winstead lived another 50 years, passing 20 August 1986 in Rocky Mount.

 

Practicing midwifery without a license.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1938.

Mariah Battle Gaston‘s plight was a common one for midwives in the early twentieth century. As the practice of medicine professionalized, and backed by the twin pressures of sexism and racism, doctors began to usurp the traditional role of granny midwives and to criminalize their practice of their vocation.

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In the 1870 census of Joyners township, Wilson County: Frank Battle, 48; wife Martha, 49; and children Dolly, 25, Patsey, 17, and Mariah, 14.

On 16 July 1874, William Gaston, 22, married Mariah Battle, 20, in Toisnot township.

In the 1880 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farm laborer William Gaston, 28; wife Maria, 21; and children Willie, 7, Lola E., 5, Clara, 4, and Nannie, 2; plus schoolteacher George Harrison, 35.

In the 1900 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: washerwoman Mirah Gaston, 35, widow; children Lola, 22, Nancy, 19, Lula, 16, Eddie, 15, Cora, 13, Fredrick, 8, and Elma, 6; and “orphans” Eva, 11, and Mary Barnes, 20.

On 23 October 1906, Ed Gaston, 22, son of Mariah Gaston, married Stella Williams, 22, in Elm City.

In the 1910 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on East Main Street, widow Maria Gaston, 49, washer woman, and sons Eddie, 24, lumber mill laborer, Fred, 21, Elma, 17, odd jobs laborer, Arma, 15, and Willie, 12.

Fred Gaston died 17 November 1916 in Wilson township, Wilson County. Per his death certificate, he was 27 years old; was born in Elm City to William Gaston of Virginia and Marriah Battle of North Carolina; and worked as a farm hand.

On 19 October 1920, Ed Gaston, 40, of Toisnot, married Ida Price, 39, in Elm City. Jesse Wynn applied for the license.

In the 1940 census of Town of Elm City, Toisnot township, Wilson County: on Nash Street, widow Mariah Gaston, 79, and son Ed, 53, a laborer at Williams Lumber.

Myria Gaston died 18 March 1947 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 December 1880 in Wilson County to Frank and Martha Battle of Wilson County and was the widow of William Gaston. She was buried in Elm City cemetery, and Lula Dawson of Elm City was informant.

Eddie Gaston died 10 November 1951 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 12 February 1886 in Wilson County to William Gaston and Mariah Battle; was a widower; worked as a laborer; and was buried in Elm City cemetery. Lula Lawson was informant.

Cora Gaston Latham died 9 January 1964 at Mercy Hospital. Per her death certificate, she was born 27 August 1891 in Wilson County to William Gaston and Mariah Battle; was widowed; and resided in Elm City. Maxine Kelly of Elm City was informant.

Financial report.

As a publicly funded institution, Mercy Hospital was required to disclose its revenues and expenditures. In December 1935, the Times published secretary-treasurer William Hines‘ account of the previous month’s financial operations.

As is unsurprising for any institution during the depth of the Great Depression, Mercy Hospital was operating in the red. It began the month with just over $702 in the bank and ended with $367. Only $678 came through the door. At $300, payroll comprised more than a quarter of the month’s expenditures, which also included major payments for groceries, laundry service, utilities and supplies.  Mercy owed $3000 to a local bank and hundreds more to vendors (and employees.) Fewer than 1 in 12 of its patients had paid full-rate, nearly half paid nothing at all, and the hospital carried more than $3000 in unpaid patient bills on its books.

Wilson Daily Times, 13 December 1935.

Our new president.

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Journal of the National Medical Association, volume 6, number 4 (1914).

  • Dr. Frank S. Hargrave
  • Bessie Parker Hargrave — In the 1900 census of Wilson, Wilson County: postmaster Samuel H. Vick, 37; wife Annie M., 28; and children Elba L., 17, and Daniel L., 3; plus cousin Bessie Parker, 15. On 19 September 1907, F.S. Hargrave, 33, of Wilson, son of Henry and Laura Hargrave, married Bessie Parker, 20, of Wilson, in Wilson. Presbyterian minister Charles E. Tucker performed the ceremony at Calvary Presbyterian Church in the presence of J.D. Reid, Fred M. Davis, and Lena N. Harris. In the 1910 census of Wilson, Wilson County: medical doctor Frank Hargrave, 32; wife Bessie, 23; and boarder Lena Harris, 26, an insurance bookkeeper. Bessie Hargrave reported that she borne two children, but had none living. In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 625 Green Street, doctor Frank S. Hargrave, 40, and wife Bessie, 30. In the 1930 census of Orange, Essex County, New Jersey: at 83 Kenilworth Place, valued at $10000, doctor Frank Hargrave, 50; wife Bessie E., 38; and South Carolina-born lodger Alexander Wilson, commercial dry goods salesman. In the 1940 census of Orange, Essex County, New Jersey: at 83 Kenilworth Place, doctor Frank S. Hargrave, 58, and wife Bessie, 50. [83 Kenilworth Place has disappeared under the construction of the Essex Freeway, Interstate 280.]

Registered nurses.

Early African American Registered Nurses in NC lists all known African-American nurses in the state to 1935, including two in Wilson:

(The number presumably refers to the nurse’s license and the date to the date she was certified or registered to practice.)

Ada Artis died 31 December 1950 at her home at 611 East Green Street. Per her death certificate, she was born 18 June 1891 in Brooks County, Georgia, to William Adams and Elizabeth Troup; was married [to Columbus E. Artis]; and worked as a “R.N. nurse.” Katie Creigh of Waycross, Georgia, was informant and her husband’s firm handled her burial.

Henrietta Colvert was from Statesville, North Carolina, and trained at Raleigh’s Saint Agnes Hospital, prior to Good Samaritan, a large African-American hospital in Charlotte.

Many thanks to Renate Yarbrough Sanders for bringing this article to my attention.

First Lieutenant Ruth C. Speight Russell, Tuskegee Army Nurse.

In the spring of 1942, seventeen African-American registered nurses reported to the station hospital at Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama to provide care for the famed Tuskegee Airmen. Ruth C. Speight, born in Wilson County, reared in Greene County, and educated at Saint Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina, was among them.

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Undated issue of Pittsburgh Courier, probably early 1942.

This bio of Ruth C. Speight appears in the website of the Tuskegee Army Nurses Project:

Captioned “Nurses Abbie Voorhies (Ross), Ruth Speight, Della Rainey (in cockpit) and Mencie Trotter during their flight orientation, a special part of their important duties at Tuskegee Army Air Field. U.S. Air Force Museum,” this photograph appears in Charlie and Ann Cooper’s Tuskegee’s Heroes (1996).

Pittsburgh Courier, 8 July 1944.

Ruth Speight Russell died 14 December 2016 in Albany, New York, at the age of 98. This simple obituary gives no hint of her extraordinary life.