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Scott County Historical Society
Scott County, Virginia

Historical Sketches

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Dr. Nathan Stallard
By Col. Dale Honeycutt

During the last part of tile 1800s and the first half of the 1900s there was a group of Scott Countians who stood alone in their achievements and profession, as well as service to the citizens of the county. They were the country doctors, of which our rural county had several of them. They were so located over the county that practically everyone has an access to them. Their devotion to their patients and practice of medicine extended over a half century or more.

The South had just lost the Civil War and its future, and that of its people, was uncertain. However, some young men from the county saw a brighter side to the future. They were either born during the war or in the post-war years. They sought a higher education, and as if some unseen hand had directed them, they chose the field of medicine as their goal.

The one with whom I was most familiar was Dr. Nathan W. Stallard of Dungannon. He was born during the Civil War in 1864 and died in 1945 at the age of  81. He had faithfully served the people of northeast­ern Scott County for 59 years. During those six decades he covered every path, road, hill and valley to care for his patients. Even though he was capable enough to have served the elite of more affluent areas, he seemed to be at home among the country and mountain people.

Dr. Stallard was descended from one of the first settlers to come to Clinch Valley. When the area beyond the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee was opened for settlements around 1770, migrants began their adventure along the Clinch from Tazewell County to Lee County. A choice place for some was at the river crossing, Hunter's Ford, later Osborne's Ford and now Dungannon. Among them were three settlers from Culpepper County in north central Virginia. They were the Duncan brothers, Raleigh and John, with their brother-in­-law, Samuel Stallard. Raleigh chose land down the river on the north side, while John got the land at the river crossing, which is now Dungannon. A decade later the tract of land was bought by my ancestor, Stephen Osborne, and thus followed the name Osborne's Ford. He bought the land from Martin Duncan, son of John, who had been killed by the Indians. For his homesite, Stallard crossed the river, settling on the south side below where the old river bridge stood. In due time he would become the progenitor or father of all the Stallard family of Southwest Virginia.

After completing his preliminary education in Southwest Virginia, Nathan Stallard went to Baltimore to enroll in the University of Maryland Medical School. He graduated as a young doctor in 1886 and returned to his home community to set up practice. His mode of travel for a few decades was horseback. When automobiles came into use in Scott County he became the owner of one, that went whenever and wherever the roads were passable. When they were not, it was on horseback again.

Meantime he had met and married Amny Gose from Russell County.  Their children were Hobart, who became a Latin Professor at Emory & Henry College; Sam, a Druggist at Gate City for several years; Mary Banner and Cecil were county teachers; Charles, who lived in the old home until his death, and Helen, the only living family members, who lives in Kingsport, Tenn.

Dr. Stallard had hardly begun his practice of medicine, when he was called to deliver a baby, his first as a practicing young doctor. That baby was Bart Osborne. His daughters, Ruth, Helen and Evelyn said when their grandfather, Uncle Lem, brought young Dr. Stallard into their home, his wife, Aunt Ellen said, "Where in the world did you get that boy?" Being only 22, he probably looked quite young to be a doctor.

Roy Wolfe, Sr., writing several years ago, told a humorous story about how Dr. Stallard was introduced to methods used by midwives in the delivery of babies. In his encounter with them, he was perplexed by some of their "professional" expressions, yet never let them know that he did not understand what they were saying. He was wise for going along with what they were doing and saying, rather than start a controversy by showing how much he knew about "birthing" a baby.

When the patient began to have labor pains and they were on the increase, the older midwife would say, "It's about time to flute her." This was confusing to him, yet he did not let on. When the labor pains began to come, one after the other, and the patient was in much pain, one of the midwives, respecting him as the Doctor in charge, turned to him and said, "Now Doctor, what do we do?" He immediately replied, ' "Flute her!" At that moment, two midwives, each took a goose quill and filled it with pepper. Then they inserted a quill in each nostril blowing the pepper into her nose. It goes without saying what the results were-the baby was born in short order!

Wolfe went a bit further by giving this description of Dr. Stallard.

"He was a student all his life of medicine, history, philosophy, biogra­phy and the classics." I could add another-of human nature. Then he described Dr. Stallard exactly, by saying, "His biggest asset was his uncommon supply of common sense, being a good judge of both medicine and men!"

He was an unusual man. By nature he was smart, which combined with his education, made him a shrewd individual. He was at home in any situation, in any atmosphere. He could deal with either a prince or pauper. Medical practice came to him as if he was a born doctor. He was a master of his profession, unexcelled as a physician. He was an excellent diagnostician, who seldom missed. The medicine he "dosed out" was very effective if his instructions were followed. It was pre­pared on the spot. He would take pills from his black medicine bag, grind them into powder with his small, brass mortar and pestle set, then wrap the powder, with small pieces of white paper, into individual doses, giving verbal instructions how the medicine should be taken.

This knowledge came to me as one of his patients at the very young age of eight, when he treated me for a severe case of pneumonia. Due to his care, I was progressing nicely, when I took a back set and was a very sick lad. There was some question as to whether I would make it through. Dr. Stallard was quite loyal and attentive, coming to see me regularly when I was so low. Even though his mere presence made me feel lots better, one thing he said has stuck with me more than a half century.

One day, while preparing my medicine, he said, "Dale, this medicine will not cure you. It only acts as a crutch. When anyone breaks a leg, they use a crutch" until the leg can heal itself. In the same way this medicine is a crutch to relax and rest your body until it heals itself. Remember, medicine will not heal you alone. You must want to be healed. Some patients simply give up and let their bodies waste away and die."

I knew he was speaking for my benefit. I have always thought that he saved my life, with his medicine, common sense and positive thinking, making me to want to live!

Since that time, long ago, I have thought of those precious moments when my life was hanging in balance and what Dr. Stallard did and said to get me well. His philosophy of life and thinking were my best medicine then, as they have been with other serious illnesses I have had. I have learned that there is no substitute for positive thinking during sickness. It is by far the best medicine! Dr. Stallard's methods were as modern as today. He knew that lots of people's ailments were as much, if not more, mental than physical. I heard another doctor say some years ago, "All that some of my patients need is a 'sugar pill' and they would feel lots better, right away."

Dr. Stallard had a wonderful bedside manner. The moment he entered the room, the whole atmosphere changed. His personality, mannerisms, talking and storytelling were almost sufficient, in them­selves, to get a patient well. Seldom, if ever, did he lose a case, provided they were curable and followed his instructions. My father had a unique way of evaluating his effectiveness as a doctor. I have heard him say, "When Dr. Stallard says a sick person is going to die, you can bet on what he says." He was an apostle of the Biblical thought that "a merry heart is a good medicine."

While studying medicine in Baltimore, he became a Catholic, and remained so the rest of his life. However, his spiritual life was handicapped as there were no Catholic churches in northeastern Scott County, for many years, where he could attend Mass and Confessions.

During his long period of service to the county, he was active in its medical organizations. Off and on, he served in the capacities of President of the Scott County Medical Society; President of the Clinch Valley Society, which included parts of Lee and Wise County; and Secretary of the Scott County Public Health Service.

With the passing of Dr. Stallard and his peers, went the great profession they so well represented. The country doctor had gone with the winds of progress, where specialization had changed the course of medicine. When I was growing up in Scott County, Dungannon had two doctors, Dr. Stallard and younger Dr. Bevins. After they passed away, citizens of that area had to go to Coeburn, Norton, Gate City or Kingsport, Tenn. for treatment. Specialization got off fast, brought on partially by the many advances made in medicine during WW II and has never slowed down. Doctors no longer settle in the rural areas, at least the great majority of them don't, as they go to the cities to "seek their fortunes." To show how far specialization of the ear problems has gone, I read sometime ago that there was a specialty of each ear, the left and the right ear separately.

Not long after Dr. Stallard began his practice, he was involved in an unusual service that was associated with Southwest Virginia history. Around the turn of the century, the border between Kentucky and Virginia and especially eastern Kentucky was a "no man's land." Killing was the order of the day! Will Rogers once wrote, before counting its ballots. I heard my grandfather Adams, my mother's father, tell of seeing four men shot to death on a street of a Letcher County, Kentucky community in the 1890s on an election day.

I also remember a story told by my father of how he and "little" Pat Hagan, son of Patrick Hagan, went to eastern Kentucky to buy cattle about the time we entered World War I. Pat was known for his drinking as he was all his life. Father said one Saturday afternoon they came to a building at the forks of the road, with several mules tied up around it. They stopped to investigate, hoping to get some leads on where cattle might be bought. There were several mountaineers there, each one having a gun strapped to his hip and a drink in his hand, as it was a saloon, among other things. They were fussing and fuming over President Wilson getting the United States into the war, and with cursing, swore they would never go to France to fight the Germans.

Pat Hagan had also been having a few drinks. After listening to those Kentuckians talking, as they were against the war, Pat blurted out, "What in the hell are you damn men talking about? You are well known for your desire to kill people, so why not join up and go over there and clean up those Germans in short order?"

Father said a still­ness came over the place where he could almost hear them breathe. He said he wouldn't have been sur­prised if one of them had taken out his pistol and blown them to pieces. Thankfully, be­fore long things re­turned to normal. They became more friendly and nothing more be­came of that incident.

Outlaws roamed the scenes of eastern Ken­tucky at will. Many of them were Civil War

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005

John Wright, also known as Devil John, Is mounted on one of his fine horses with his favorite gun In hand that he lifted off a dead soldier in the Civil War.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2005

Dr. M.B. Taylor or Red Fox pictured three days before his execution.

veterans, having ridden with General John Hunt Morgan in his rabble­rousing, guerrilla warfare in the mountains of East Tennessee, South­western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky. When the war was over, those men continued their rowdiness, riding and killing. One of their targets may have been those citizens who had been pro-North during the war and moved to eastern Kentucky to avoid the conflict. It took several decades before law and order came to the Cumberlands. One man who was instrumental in bringing it to the Kentucky-Virginia border and to Wise County was Devil John Wright, who became high sheriff of that county. In order to do so, he had to kill quite a few outlaws.

A case where Dr. Stallard was involved was one that became such a famous one, that it was told by John Fox, Jr. in "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine." Incidentally, that story was made into the first talking movie around 1930. It involved the waylaying and murder of the family of Big Sam Mullins by Dr. M.B. Taylor, on the mountain passage between Wise, Virginia and Jenkins, Kentucky. In the book, he was Red Fox and Devil John Wright was Judd Toliver. Taylor, after a good deal of evading the law, was apprehended, tried and sentenced to hang at Wise Court House. The execution was car­ried out on September 2, 1892.

A few years ago, Dr. Stallard's daugh­ter, Helen, told me that her father attended the hanging of Dr. Taylor. While visiting with Edwin and Ruth Watts in Portsmouth, Virginia not so long ago, Edwin said that Charles Stallard, the son of Dr. Stallard, once told him that it was his father who pronounced Dr. Taylor dead, after he was cut down from the scaffold.

In writing about this great doctor, I would be remiss, if I did not relate another fine quality of his -- hospitality. An example of it came to my father, whose friendship between the two was quite mutual. They were close in every way except politics. Father was a staunch Democrat, while Dr. Stallard was an ardent Republican. Yet they did not allow this to interfere with their friendship.

For many years, Father was an Election Judge, year-after-year. We lived a mile from the polling place, so he could not come home for lunch as we had no car. Dr. Stallard realizing this, was most gracious in handling this problem. Father always told this with much pride and admiration for the Stallard family. Father said just after he began this long successive tenure as Election Judge, Dr. Stallard came rather early to vote. On his way he invited father to eat dinner (lunch) with them. Year-after-year this continued, as each election day, the Doctor came early to vote and on leaving would say, "George, we’ll see you at dinner time." In discussing this with Helen, his daughter, a few years ago, she said she well remembered those days and, as father left, her mother would say, "George, we'll see you next year," and they did.

This article has been written in fond memories of my yesteryears in Scott County and our family doctor. The mere thoughts of those years long ago are still quite refreshing to my mind and soul. By no means would I want to turn back the clock, yet we sorely need today such dedicated family doctors as was Dr. Stallard, whose interest, care and love for his patients always came first in his life.

Note: This article is reprinted with permission from the November 18, 1987 edition of the Scott County Virginia Star.


Home ] Up ] 5-Confederates ] Kilgore Ft. House ] Catholicism ] Rafting ] Long Hunters ] Dr. McConnell ] Spartan Band ] Hanging Sheriffs ] W.D. Smith ] Frontier Forts ] Chief Benge ] James Boone ] Old Mills ] Whites Forge ] Whiteforge Post Office ] Samuel Smith ] James Shoemaker ] Jane and Polly ] Indian Missionary ] Patrick Porter ] Phillips Killing ] Boone Trail ] Stoney Creek Baptist ] Methodism ] Daniel Boone ] Estil Cemetery ] Scott Co. Names ] Confederate Soldiers ] Drayton Hale ] Reids Normal School ] [ Dr. N. Stallard ] Indian Forays ]