Scott County Historical
Scott County, Virginia
Dr. Nathan Stallard
By Col. Dale Honeycutt
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
he had met and married Amny Gose from Russell County.
Their children were Hobart, who became a Latin Professor at Emory
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
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.
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.
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!
went a bit further by giving this description of Dr. Stallard.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?"
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.
roamed the scenes of eastern Kentucky at will. Many of them were Civil
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
M.B. Taylor or Red Fox pictured three days before his execution.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.