Since the beginning of DeSoto County’s origins as a civilized, growing region, DeSoto County has been blessed with several esteemed physicians who have contributed greatly to the health and general welfare of the community.
The early 19th century was no different than the 21st. Quality healthcare mattered then as now.
At the DeSoto County Museum, we were blessed recently with a donation by longtime physician Dr. Henry Wadsworth of several items belonging to his late father, Dr. Henry Manley Wadsworth. The senior Wadsworth was a fixture in the DeSoto County community from the 1930s onward, as is his son Dr. Henry Wadsworth, Jr. and Dr. William Wadsworth, the third-generation physician in the DeSoto County seat.
A native of Ripley, Tennessee, Dr. Wadsworth began practicing in DeSoto County in the 1930s and was an active member of the community in the decades following the opening of his practice, also serving as a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Hernando, of which he was a charter member.
Born on the 30th day of June in 1911, Dr. Wadsworth, Sr., was a 1935 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine.
The clinic was and is still adjacent to the old Wadsworth home on U.S. Highway 51, about three blocks from the historic county courthouse square.
Another renowned physician, Dr. Angus Leslie Emerson was born on May 7, 1865, around the time of the surrender of Southern forces at Appomattox and just after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The Emersons came from England before the Revolutionary War into Pennsylvania and migrated to Virginia and North Carolina. Dr. Emerson’s nickname was “Dee Doc.” He had three brothers and two sisters. Dr. Angus Emerson married Harriet (Hattie) Whitley in 1900 at the Hernando Baptist Church. Dr. Emerson first practiced medicine in Eudora and Oak Grove and then built his clinic in Hernando. The Emerson Clinic was located on the second floor of Leigh’s Drugstore, above the drugstore and corner barbershop, operated by barber Wayne Lee, father of DeSoto County Supervisor Michael Lee and the late Harvey Lee.
The sprawling building burned to the ground in 1986. But memories live on of Dr. Emerson, who often paid house calls in his horse and buggy. His 1909 leather doctor’s bag is now on display in the DeSoto County Museum, which will soon be joined by Dr. Wadsworth’s medical diplomas and other memorabilia.
His son Dr. Charles Whitley Emerson, called “Dr. Whit,” joined his father’s practice in 1930. Like his father, Dr. Whit Emerson made house calls, often with his beloved canines Dopey and Spot, who slept all day under a bench in his office. Family rides often ended with supper at Spencer’s Café, across from the family practice.
Medical practice in the DeSoto County seat in the 1870s was put to the test with the terrible yellow fever epidemic of August, September, and October of 1878.
More than 20,000 residents of the Mid-South, including larger cities like Memphis, Horn Lake, and Hernando battled the dreaded disease.
Dr. Thomas Meriweather Jones, who graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1869, would obtain his medical degree from a medical college in Baltimore, Maryland. He was DeSoto County’s first official health officer. He was one of the rare doctors who treated and cared for yellow fever victims at the yellow fever hospital, set up inside the old First Presbyterian Church, erected the same year as the epidemic, 1878. The old church is located on the campus of the DeSoto County Museum.
Another legendary doctor by the name of “Dr. Jones,” was Dr. Julian Foy Jones, who was a longtime practicing physician in Olive Branch, practicing for more than 62 years. Born in 1928, he died in 2007.
Countless residents of Olive Branch and the surrounding area were treated by this “Dr. Jones,” known for his caring bedside manner.
In next week’s column, The Time Traveler will pay a house call to noted physicians in Horn Lake and Walls.
The Traveler wanted to end this week’s column with a special prescription for the common cold and a special bad weather prognostication:
Polecat grease, smeared on the chest, will clear up a cold. Wintergreen tea will also do the trick. If smoke comes out of the chimney and goes to the ground, it’s a sign of bad weather. Be on the lookout for some upward drifting smoke!