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This was the room before its fresh coat of paint and thorough reorganization in the latter part of 2010.

In the Summer of 2010,  Museum's volunteer Mary Gay Hickman "adopted" this room. In that role, she organizes, labels, updates, and makes displays more attractive as well as making recommendations to the Museum Director and/or the Board of Directors regarding needs. She played an important role in the room's renovations.




          The Caldwell County medical history room is on the Museum's second floor. It displays equipment from several one-time Lenoir physicians, along with a range of other related items, some of which are pictured below. Come see all of it for yourself!

All of the pictures below are thumbnails, that is, clicking on them will bring up larger versions.

A portrait of Dr. Caroline McNairy is one of the focal points of the back wall of the room.  "Dr. Caroline" was the second formally trained woman doctor to practice in Lenoir, starting in 1917; and she did so for over 50 years. -- The lettering was used on the hospital walls.

Nancy Alexander's A Medical History of Caldwell County (1981) is available for purchase in the Museum's gift shop. The primary focus of her text is the many known doctors and other medical practitioners  who have served in the area over the past 200 years. The mini-history below is derived from this pamphlet.

(Scroll below the text for more pictures.)

Even into the early 1900's, "[m]erely by deciding to do so, a [white] man could declare himself a doctor"; although by the late 1800's, the man would "read" with another doctor before setting out on his own. One of the first doctors in Caldwell County to have formal medical training (at the first medical school in the country, Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA) was Dr. Andrew Scroggs, who began practicing in Lenoir in 1860.

Women, though usually more experienced in treating family illnesses, attending childbirth, and mixing medications, were not allowed to call themselves "doctor", and had great difficulties being admitted to any medical schools until the early 1900's. Dr. Margaret Sturgis was the first formally trained woman to practice medicine in Caldwell County, starting in 1916. Dr. Arthur G. Dula (Lincoln University 1907) was the first, and for a long time the only, formally trained African-American doctor in the county. (Note: Dr. Dula's degree was dated by the 1907/08 Catalogue of Lincoln University.)

The first hospital in Caldwell County was established in 1899 in Lenoir, but it did not succeed because people were used to being sick at home and having doctors come to them. The second was opened in 1910. It listed nine doctors on the medical staff along with the county's first registered (that is, formally trained) nurses.  This second Lenoir hospital closed right after the first world war, during the 1918 flu epidemic. A third county hospital, named Caldwell Hospital, opened in Lenoir in 1926. It was renamed Lenoir Hospital in 1945, but closed in 1951. In the 1930's, two hospitals opened in downtown Lenoir: Blackwelder Hospital in 1931 and Dula Hospital in 1935. However, presently (2010) there is only one hospital  remaining in the county, Caldwell Memorial Hospital, which opened in 1954.

Exterior sign from Dula Hospital, and photo of its founder Dr. Fred Dula. Dula Hospital sat on the corner of Boundary Street & Ashe Avenue in Lenoir from 1935 to the early 1970's.

Medical bag with stethoscope, and picture of a 1914 operating theatre.

Fever thermometers in case, along with various medications.

Wheel chair (1920) and bed pan.

1918 x-ray machine.

Artificial leg of poplar wood, one of several made for himself by Rufus Lynn Coffey throughout the first half of the 1900's.

1940's Red Cross volunteer uniform (above) and "Early household remedies" (below).

Barber's chair. In early days, the barber would also perform what would now be considered surgical procedures. However, the sign at right is from later (1926).

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Photos and text by Karin Borei, Museum volunteer

112 Vaiden St. SW 
Lenoir, NC 28645

(828) 758-4004
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Page updated 11/13/2010

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