Learn more about the history of nursing in Buncombe County
Quick Fact about Buncombe County
- 238,319 citizens (2010 Census)
- 657 sq. miles; 363 people per sq. mile
- For more information, see the Buncombe County website and Services for Your Health.
People and Biographies
- Alexander, S. (1921). Emergency Experiences of a private duty nurse. The American Journal of Nursing. 22(2), 84-88.
- Alexander, S. (1921). Emergency Experiences of a private duty nurse (continued). The American Journal of Nursing. 22(3), pp 178-181.
- Mary Rose Batterham - long thought to be the first Registered Nurse in the United States. Active in early nursing organizations and events.
- Harris, M, Tenney, J & McCafe, G (n.d.) "School health: Pearl Weaver, 1st School nurse in Asheville". Paper found in the files of Pack Library in Asheville, NC.
- Pearl Weaver - Early Public Health Nurse in Buncombe County.
- Information about Nurse Ernest J. Grant ,RN, MSN, from Swannanoa, burn care nurse and first African American male President of the NC Nurse Association.
- Nurse Anne O'Connell owned and ran a Tuberculosis Sanitarium and a boarding house for the patients' families and friends. During the 1920s, O'Connell constructed another important building in Chestnut Hill - the Princess Ann Hotel at 301 E. Chestnut, which served families of patients at the sanitarium.
- Ramsey, G. (July, 1948). Miss Jane Brown. The Health Bulletin, 13-14. This is an article about one of Buncombe County's early public health nurses. Miss Brown approaches 29th year as a public health nurse
- Neufeld, Rob, (2007, June 7). Polio hits Asheville hard in 1948. Asheville Citizen-Times, p. D-1.
About nurse Dorothy Bazemore Holland.
- Read about Madelon "Glory" Battle Hancock, the most decorated nurse from any country in WWI in the biographies section of this website.
- The 1922 Asheville City Directory lists 253 nurses practicing in Asheville in a variety of practice settings.
Schools of Nursing
- "Mission School of Nursing - Class of 1913 All alive and lively!" Tar Heel Nurse. September 1963, 21.
- Remembering Mission Hospitals' Schools of Nursing.
Health Care Institutions
Article about the Blue Ridge Hosptial (African American) and nursing school from 1922.
- Green, L. (1961, March 2). Service, healing, hardship. Asheville Citizen-Times.
About nurses at the Oteen VA hospital.
- (2000, October 23). A century of healing. Asheville Citizen-Times, p. C-1.
About St. Joseph's Hospital.
- Batterham, M.R. (n.d.) "History of nursing in western North Carolina" Speech presented to the Asheville Nurses Association in Asheville, NC. Found in Pack Memorial Library, Asheville, NC.
- Duke University Library finding aid to Highland Hospital (a private psychiatric hospital) located in Buncombe County. There is a section of materials about nursing at Highland Hospital.
- History of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville.
- "St. Joseph's Hospital -celebrating 90 years of service, 1900-1990" Supplement to the Asheville Citizen Times 11-18-1990
- "If you ask me" (1954). American Journal of Nursing 54 (12) p. 1476. (An African American Nurse at Oteen discussing Christmas at the Hospital)
- Information about the Asheville Colored Hospital (1943-1950s)
- Article about a nurse's continuing education program about TB held at Oteen/Charles George VA Hospital in 1921 (page 121).
- Information and photographs about Blue Ridge Hospital, an early hospital and School of Nursing for African Americans in Asheville.
- Marlowe, N. (2004) The Legacy of Mission Hospitals: 120 Years of Caring. Asheville, NC: Mission Hospitals.
- McFee, M. "History of the Buncombe County Health Department-Asheville" Found in the files at the Buncombe County public library, Asheville, NC
- One hundred years of service: Memorial Mission Hospital, 1885-1985. Asheville: Memorial MIssion Hospital.
- 1910 Report from the NC Board of Public Charities has information about Dr. Carroll's Sanitarium for inebriates and the insane (see page 34), the Flower Mission (a group that was important in the beginnings of Mission Hospital (page 58), the Clarence Baker Memorial Hospital (page 62-63), Mission Hospital (page 64-65)
- Stewart, A. (1922). A determining factor in the suppression of Tuberculosis. American Journal of Nursing 22(7). 544-547. (article about the treatment of tuberculosis patients at Oteen Hospital)
- Tenney, J. McCatee, G. McFee, M (n.d.) Buncombe County Health Department History. An unpublished manuscript found in the Asheville public library.
- Information about Clarence Barker/Biltmore Hospital from the National Register of Historic places.
- Information about many hospitals in Asheville up to 1950 from the Department of the Interior.
- 1940-42 report from the Western State Sanitarium (TB) in Black Mountain.
- 1907-1908 City Directory Listing of Nurses
- 1921 Diary of Fanny Midgett, patient at Craigmont Sanatarium in Black Mountain, NC who mentions several nurses by name
- Article in VERVE about Asheville area nurses Lynette Mitchel (WWII), Wendy Larkin (VietNam) and Terri trimble (Iraq)
- Article about Blue Ridge Hospital in the newspaper The New York Age on Oct 7, 1922 pg 2
- Great student paper about the founding of St. Josephs Sanitarium/St. Joseph's Hosptial
- Oral History of Marilyn Takaro, an Asheville Nurse, 1940s-1990s found in the UNC-A library.
- Oral History of Dr. Mary Frances (Polly) Shuford, an Asheville female physician who describes her experiences with nurses.
- Early public health nursing timeline for Asheville, North Carolina
- History of the Family Nurse Practitioner program 1975-1990 run through Mt. AHEC
- Excerpts from an oral history interview from the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-CH about Weaverville:
- KELLY ELAINE NAVIES:
- Did you go to the doctor?
- GERALDINE RAY:
- Oh, yeah. Well, see back then they sent you to the Health Department where we had a Health Nurse. It wasn't so much a health department, it was a Health Nurse that went around and she was located up here in the town hall in Weaverville. And you would go up there and they'd dress your knee, give you your shots you had to have for school and all that. So, that's how that was done. Children at the Weaverville Colored School played ball and jumped rope during recreation time, but they sometimes hurt themselves by falling on the cinders from the school's heating source -- a potbellied stove. They visited a health nurse rather than a doctor. Children at the Weaverville Colored School visited a local health nurse when they suffered injuries during recreation time.
- From the Pittsburgh Courier Dec 5 1942 page 11. An article about the first African American nurses working at Oteen - the VA hospital near Asheville:
Nine Nurses Assigned To Oteen, N.C. Hospital
Oteen, N.C., Dec. 3--- For the first time in history, Negro nurses have been assigned to war duties at the U.S. Veterans’ hospital here. All are graduate nurses of Tuskegee institute and were transferred Nov. 16.
Entering the new field of duty under the competent leadership of Miss Elsie V. Davis, the “women in white” began their work here on Nov. 18 to become the first Negro nurses ever assigned to ward duty at this hospital.
They will care for the 162 Negro patients at the Veterans’ hospital.
The transferred nurses are Miss Elsie V. Davis, head nurse, graduate of Battle Creek Sanitarium, Battle Creek, Mich.; Miss Carrie Flake Walker, graduate of Lincoln School of Nursing, New York City; Miss Magnolia Woolridge from Freedman’s Hospital, Washington, D.C.; Miss Harriet Brooks, Scridder General Hospital, Alcorn, Mississippi; Miss Hanna Wallace, Miss Paulina McDowell from Good Samaritan Hospital and Mrs. Emily H. Ford, Miss Carrie R. Smith and Miss Annie Barber, all of Grady Hospital, Atlanta, Ga.
Photographs of nurses in Buncombe County
- Photographs of Oteen Hospital during WWI.
- Photograph of the Clarence Barker Hospital.
- Photograph of the Mission Hospital School of Nursing- Class of 1913.
- Jessie Morris photograph album of Oteen Hospital and nurses during WWI.
- Large Photograph collection of Buncombe county health care facilities and nurses in the Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, NC.
- Youtube about the history of Mission Hospital.
- Photographs of Dunnwyche the home for tubercular nurses in Black Mountain and a picture of nurses and others at the Western Sanitarium enjoying a Labor Day picnic in 1939.
- Photograph of a neonatal nurse at Asheville Colored Hospital.
- Articles about nursing from the Asheville Citizen Times:
9-19-1922 -"Colored Hospital Formally Opens" an article about Blue Ridge Hospital
9-24-22 "Formal opening of Colored Hospital"
9-5-1926 "Special edition about nursing in Buncombe County"
11-10-1929 "Nurses center is established in Asheville"
8-9-1930 "Close doors of Negro Hospital"
7-17-1960 "Weaver, Brown and Batterham were pioneers in public health nursing"
- Photograph of a neonatal nurse at Asheville Colored Hospital.
- Further materials about Blue Ridge Hospital and School of Nursing can be found in files at the Special Collections areas in both UNCA's Library and Pack Library in Asheville.
"A group of African American citizens in Buncombe County, with few health care resources available to them in the community, established the Blue Ridge Hospital and School of Nursing in Asheville in 1922. It was located at 186 Fayetteville St in west Asheville. The hospital opened in 1922 with Nurse Sadie Woods as its first Superintendent. Other Superintendent's included Nurse Jeanette May(1924-25), Nurse Lula long (1926) Nurse Mattie Sears (1927), Nurse Ruby Woodbury (1928 and Nurse Flossie Metz (1929-1930). Nurse Idell Tate was the night superintendent. The first 2 graduates were Flossie Metz and Kathleen Wills."
- Sumner, L. (1918) Errors in Mental and Nervous nursing. American Journal of Nursing. pp 449-454.
- Digitized picture of a WW1 London ration card of Elizabeth E. Jones, an American Red Cross nurse from Asheville, NC stationed in London during that war.
- Information about Dunnwyche a Sanitarium for NC nurses owned and operated by the NC State Nurse Association. It was named in honor of nurses Birdie Dunn and Mary L. Wyche.
In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, most nurses worked as private duty nurses and lived in the homes of their patients. As their patient recovered or died the nurse would find temporary housing until she was hired for her next case. Few private duty nurses maintained their own homes. Nurses in some cities, including Asheville, established “Nurse’s Clubs”, where nurses could rent rooms between cases. In the days before immunizations, antibiotics and other effective treatments for disease, patients often took to bed for weeks and months at a time. Unfortunately, nurses often contracted the diseases of their patient. Because tuberculosis was one of the leading causes of death at this time, many nurses became afflicted with this disease. Most nurses were single women and had limited means. Without a permanent home and unable to stay in Nurses Clubs, local YWCAs or other temporary housing, tubercular nurses were often in desperate straights.
At the 1911 annual meeting of the North Carolina State Nurses Association (NCSNA), the professional organization for white nurses in the state, Nurse Birdie Dunn proposed the construction of a home for sick and disabled nurses to be supported by the NCSNA. It was to be a place where nurses who became ill while treating others could find care and respite. The attendees enthusiastically agreed to support this effort. A site was found near the town of Black Mountain in eastern Buncombe County near two other operating sanatoria. Nurses across the state held bake sales, tag sales and sold dolls created in the likeness of student nurses to raise money to support their new institution, Dunnwyche (named in honor of nurses Birdie Dunn and Mary Wyche).
Dunnwyche accepted its first patients in 1913. The Home offered fresh spring water, electricity, a furnace and sleeping porches. Dr, Archer, who owned and managed the nearby Craigmont Sanitarium, volunteered his services to the nurses. Each of the seven districts comprising the state organization furnished and equipped one room. Nurses across the state sent homemade crafts to brighten the rooms. While the prescribed treatment for TB was rest and breathing fresh, clean air, patients wrote about automobile trips, playing the piano, listening to the Victrola, card parties and visits from friends and family to help break up the monotony of “taking the cure”.
Dunnwyche was a success until 1919. During the years of World War One (WWI) the costs of food and fuel escalated, and it became increasingly difficult to find suitable employees. The U.S. Army built a 1,500 bed sanatorium at nearby Oteen to care for soldiers with tuberculosis and those whose lungs had been harmed by poison gasses used as weapons in WWI. The Army pay scale for nurses and attendants was higher than the NCSNA could afford to meet. The Dunnwyche Board of Directors voted to sell the building and invest the proceeds in Liberty Bonds. Interest from the Bonds was then used to establish NCSNA Relief Fund. Nurses who acquired disease or disability while providing care could apply for monies to offset treatment costs through the Relief Fund.
There is an extensive clippings file and photograph collection related to nursing and local hospitals at the Pack Library in Asheville. Here are excerpts from an unpublished manuscript about the history of the Buncombe County Health Department. Here are more excerpts from another unpublished manuscript about public health in Buncombe County
III. Maternal and Child Health
- School Health
Important steps were taken by the City Health Department in its first fifteen years to improve the health of city school children. In 1911, a Hookworm Campaign, in cooperation with the Rockefeller Hookworm Commission, was conducted in the Asheville schools. One thousand five hundred and eighty-four children were examined, with one hundred and ten cases of hookworm and two hundred and fifteen cases of other parasitic infections found. In 1916 Pearl Weaver became the first School of Nurse in Asheville. Her salary was paid by Mrs. Reuben Robertson, President of the Orange Street Mothers Group, or forerunner of the Parent Teacher Association. It was Miss Weaver’s responsibility to help carry out the immunization programs which were begun in the city schools as early as 1916.
In the Buncombe County Health Department, the Health Officer, and later the Public Health Nurse, were held responsible for the examination and immunization of county school children. From October 1 to December 30, 1914, Dr. Sevier, County Health Officer, examined 553 school children. Of those examined, twenty-seven per cent had defective hearing and thirty-seven percent had defective vision.
- Public Health Nursing
Significant progress was made in the area of maternal and child health by the Asheville Health Department in its first fifteen years. First, Public Health Nursing began to function as a unit in the city in 1919. At this time, it was not a division of the Health Department as it is now. It was placed under the supervision of a Public Health Nursing Committee with Pearl Weaver as Supervisor. Jane Brown, the first Publci Health Nurse in Asheville, Mrs. I.C. Hanna, and Mrs. Edna Jenkins were pioneer leaders of Public Health Nursing in its early years. Funds were supplied by Associated Charities, the Asheville School System, the City of Asheville, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, and interested citizens. Public Health Nursing became an integral part of the Health Department.
Second, important primary care clinics were set up in 1922 which were staffed in part by Public Health Nurses. The following clinics were set up in Asheville: Maternity, Sick Children, Orthopedic, Tuberculosis, and General. In this same year, Mrs. Maggie McAdams Greenlee became the first black Public Health Nurse in the Asheville Health Department, and Mrs. I.C. Hanna replaced Pearl Weaver as Supervisor of the Public Health Nursing Committee.
May Stockton was appointed part-time Public Health Nurse for the Buncombe County Health Department in 1923. A year later, she was replaced by Maude Setzer, the county’s first full-time Public Health Nurse. Miss Setzer married the County
Photo of City and County School physician Dr. Irma Smathers with Public Health Nurse Ruth Martin inspecting a school girls throat in the 1950s.
- First municipal sewer lines were laid.
- Anti-spitting law passed.
- Dr. M.H. Fletcher – First City Health Officer.
- Pest House constructed near French Broad River.
- Dr. Carl Reynolds succeeded Dr. Fletcher as City Health Officer.
- “Swat the Fly” campaign.
- First City Milk Ordinance passed.
- Asheville Board of Health became City Health Department. Dr. L.B. McBrayer succeeded Dr. Reynolds as City Health Officer.
- Dr. McBrayer began publication of Asheville Health Bulletin.
- Ordinance passed requiring building of surface toilets for all residences and buildings not accessible to sewer and water lines.
- Hookworm Campaign, in cooperation with the Rockefeller Hookworm Commission, was conducted in city schools.
- Meat Ordinance passed requiring ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection and condemnation and disposal of animals and meat unfit for human consumption.
- First Garbage Removal Ordinance passed.
- Certified Milk Commission established. Members: Dr. A. W. Calloway, Carl V. Reynolds, Joseph B. Green, Lewis W. Elias, and L.B. McBrayer.
- First pasteurized milk in city produced by Carolina Creamery.
- First certified milk in the South produced by Biltmore Dairies.
- Jane Brown employed by Associated Charities as visiting nurse, the first Public Health Nurse in Asheville.
- State Vital Statistics Law Passed, requiring registration of all births and deaths.
- Quarantine Law passed, requiring reporting and quarantining of infectious and contagious diseases, and disinfection of premises after recovery.
- An incinerator for the burning of trash and dead animals begun.
- Dr. D.E. Sevier – First County Health Officer.
- Dr. Carl Reynolds again became City Health Officer upon resignation of Dr. McBrayer.
- City Health Department budget was $10,000. Asheville population was 20,000.
- From October 1 to December 30, 553 school children examined: 405 found to be defective. 27% defective hearing, 37% defective vision.
- Buncombe County began registration of births and deaths.
- First rules and regulations regarding sanitation passed.
- City Health Department moved to another wing of City Hall.
- Dock Ledbetter employed to inspect city dairies and food handling establishments.
- Inoculation against typhoid begun on voluntary basis.
- T.P. Bishop hired to quarantine communicable diseases.
- Pearl Weaver appointed First School Nurse in Asheville. Her salary was paid by Mrs. Reuben Robertson, President of Orange Street Mothers Group, a forerunner of PTA.
- City ordinance passed regulating the sale of milk.
- City acquired 16,000 acres of watershed, which included all the lands drained by the headwaters of the Bee Tree, Sugar Fork, and North Fork Creeks.
- Dr. Margery Lord named part-time School Physician for Asheville.
- First City Venereal Disease Clinic established. Dr. A.F. Toole, Clinician.
- Dr. W.H. Scruggs appointed County Health Officer upon resignation of Dr. Sevier.
- First attempt at Rabies control made. Dog tax enacted; all dog-owners identified and money raised to meet expenses of rabies treatment.
- New Housing Law for tuberculosis patients enacted.
- Dr. Eugene Cocke appointed School Physician.
- Dr. Robert G. Wilson succeeded Dr. Scruggs as County Health Officer.
- City-County Venereal Disease Clinic established. Dr. A.F. Toole, Chairman.
- Two veterinarians hired for Meat and Milk Inspection.
- The following clinics were set up for the City: Maternity, Sick Children, Orthopedic, Tuberculosis, and General.
- Mrs. Maggie Greenlee, first black Public Health Nurse, added to City nursing staff. Mrs. I.C. Hanna replaced Pearl Weaver as Supervisor of Nursing.
- Public Health Nursing became integral part of City Health Department.
- Asheville began chlorination of its water supply.
- Dr. D.E. Sevier became first full-time City Health Officer upon resignation of Dr. Reynolds. City Health Department had fifteen employees – full-time and part-time. City Health Department budget was $23,050. City population was 28,000.
- Buncombe County Commissioners appropriated $6,800 toward a budget for public health work. State Board of Health added another $1,000.
- First full-time County Health Officer appointed, Dr. M.P. Moorer.
- First full-time Public Health Nurse for Buncombe County, Mrs. Maud Morgan, hired.
- First County Health Department office set up in old County Court House.
- City ordinance passed requiring physical examination of foodhandlers.
- First State Dental Clinic was held.
- Dr. S.B. Till, a qualified veterinarian, appointed City Milk Inspector, Mr. C.L. Boyte employed as a Restaurant Inspector for Asheville.
- Following death of Dr. Moorer, Dr. Grady Morgan appointed County Health Officer.
- First county sanitarian appointed, Karl L. Jones.
- Inoculation against diphtheria begun on voluntary basis.
- The first diphtheria toxin anti-toxin was used in the city schools.
- Dr. Lord again appointed School Physician upon resignation of Dr. Cocke.
- Jane Brown named Dr. Lord’s assistant. Mrs. Edna P. Jenkins named Supervisor of Nursing.
- The first sewer lines in the county laid in the Swannanoa Valley.
- A legislative act was passed creating twelve utility districts in the county to provide water and sewage service.
- County Board of Health passed special rules regulating plumbing; initiating a purity inspection of wells and springs used by the public on highways; and requiring all persons handling milk to have a Certificate of Health.
- Mrs. Beatrice Crowell appointed as County Public Health Nurse. Buncombe County thus became First County in the state to have two fulltime Public Health Nurses.
- Pre-natal and Well-Baby Clinics started.
- Mrs. Mary Louise Clay joined the County Health Department as Health Educator.
- Weekly Health Program on radio begun, sponsored by the City and County Departments.
- Law passed making it compulsory for all County Foodhandlers to have x-rays.
- The Moore Wing for Negroes of the Western Carolina Tuberculosis Sanatorium completed.
- Animal Shelter constructed on the northern part of the County Home property. J.L. Parris was made Chief Warden.
- Mrs. Lilliyn Woodford was hired as Public Health Nurse by the City Health Department, the second black Public Health Nurse in Buncombe County.
- The United States Public Health Service made an educational film on Foodhandling in Asheville for national distribution.
- Dr. Henderson-Smathers named School Physician replacing Dr. Catherine Carr.
- Dr. Grady Morgan brought in once again as acting Health Officer of County upon resignation of Dr. Whims.
- Greater Asheville Council appointed a committee to study the matter of consolidation and come up with recommendations.
- The Asheville City Council voted to abandon the City Health Department as a city service as of June 30.
- The personnel of the two departments were combined to form the new Buncombe County Health Department. Dr. Margery Lord named acting Health Officer.
- Classes in Planned Parenthood started.
- First Salk vaccine for Polio received and vaccination clinics opened. 5,573 received their first shots.
- Mass Chest X-Ray Survey for ages fifteen years and over carried out. 24,297 persons were x-rayed. A Blood-Testing Program carried on simultaneously with X-Ray Survey.
- Frank Nelson received the first annual Award for Meritorious Service in the Field of Sanitation from the Sanitarians Section of the N.C.P.H.A.
- Alcoholism Information Center of Alcohol Beverage Control established by Dr. Margery Lord with the assistance of Mae McFee,
- The Health Department received the Merit Award for Outstanding Publci Health Performance for 1955 from the N.C.P.H.A.
- Second Mass Polio inoculation was carried out.
- Dr. Margery Lord resigned as Assistant Director of Health Department. Donald Dancy resigned as Health Educator.
- School Health Council for Buncombe County organized to look at ways of dealing with school health problems.
- Mrs. Maud Morgan resigned as Public Health Nurse after forty years of service.
- C.C. Demaree, Director of the Laboratory, received the Rankin Award for outstanding health service over a long period of time from the N.C.P.H.A.
- Paul Lyday was appointed Chief of Milk Division upon retirement of Henry Bealmear.
- Five Air Sampling Stations and one Mechanical Air Supply Station set up in Asheville for experimental purposes. This was the only station of its kind in the state, set up in cooperation with the United States Public Health Service Pollution Center.
Nurses with Buncombe County connections listed on the “List of Negro Nurses Registered in North Carolina from 1903- September 1, 1935” found in the North Carolina State Nurses Association files at the NC State Archives in Raleigh, NC
School of Nursing
Ethel Minor Bigham
Lois Rice Cunningham
Blue Ridge Hospital
Geneva Sitrena Collins
Blue Ridge Hospital
Maude Beulah DuPont
Blue Ridge Hospital
Ann M. Foley
St. Agnes Hospital – (Maryland)
Lula R. Long
Blue Ridge Hospital
West Asheville, NC
Flossie Mae Metz
Blue Ridge Hospital
Mattie Sampson Sears
Dixie Hospital (Virginia)
Edith Collins Steele
St. Agnes Hospital
Mary Kathleen Wills
Blue Ridge Hospital
West Asheville, NC
Ruby A.F. Woodbury Scarlette
3rd Nursing Director of the Blue Ridge Hospital Training School for Nurses
Training School for Nurses (Charleston, SC)