Hyde County

Region: 
Coastal
Learn more about nursing in Hyde County 

Elsie Ballance Garrish. born in Ocracoke, was a registered nurse, having graduated in 1938 from Rex Hospital Nursing School.   (The Coastland Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003; pg. 7A)

Ethnographic study of the Department of Interior offers a little information about Nurses Elsie Garrish and Kathleen Bragg, 2 nurses from Ocracoke.

Ocracoke by  Carl Goerch  (1956) has a little information about Nurses Garrish and Bragg.

Ballance, A (1989).  Ocracokers. UNC Press Chapel Hill, NC has some information about Nurses Bragg and Garrish.

Article about midwifery on Ocracoke Island

Photograph of Nurse Bragg in 1957.

Photograph of Nurse Bragg surrounded by children she helped birth.

More information about nurses Gragg and Garrett.

Transcript of an oral hsitory with Nurse Elsie Garrish, Ocracoke Island Nurse 1960s-1970s.

Article  about Sally Messick, RN FNP and primary care provider in Hyde County.

1958 article about Nurse Kathleen Bragg and the flu on Ocracoke from the Times Daily newspaper.


Nurse Kathleen Bragg of Ocracoke

While many nurses were earning a living with the New Deal programs, many others probably shared experiences similar to nurse Kathleen Bragg on Ocracoke Island in Hyde County.  Bragg was born on Ocracoke, a small isolated island community of about 500 people, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Until the 1950s, there were no paved roads, electricity, or physicians on the island.  People made a living primarily through farming, fishing and in the small port.  Kathleen decided to become a nurse.  She graduated from Park View Hospital School of Nursing in Rocky Mount in 1923.  A few years after she graduated her father had a heart attack, and she returned to Ocracoke to take care of him and help the family.  She was the only trained health care professional on the island.  Hyde County had no hospital, health department, or other health care agencies in the 1930s.  Bragg’s neighbors called on her to nurse them when they were ill, to deliver their babies, and to help them get to the nearest hospitals on the mainland when it was necessary.  Because she had no mortgage or utility bills, no car, and few grocery bills because most food was grown in the garden, raised on the farms or caught from the sea, she supported herself as an independent nurse, without physician supervision for decades.  Once Nurse Bragg returned to Ocracoke, she never received a salary.  When Ocracoke became a tourist destination after WWII, the town map designated her home with the word Nurse to show visitors where they should go if they became injured or ill.  Nurse Bragg lived quietly, rendering valuable nursing care to those in need for 40 years.

Kathleen Bragg was born on Ocracoke, on July 5, 1897 to Hallas and Laura Bragg.  When Kathleen was born, Ocracoke was a small isolated island community of about 500 people, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Until the 1950s, there were no paved roads, electricity, or physicians on the island.  People made a living primarily through farming, fishing and in the small port.  Kathleen decided to become a nurse.  She graduated from Park View Hospital School of Nursing in Rocky Mount in 1923.  A few years after she graduated her father had a heart attack, and she returned to Ocracoke to take care of him and help the family.  She was the only trained health care professional on the island.  Hyde County had no hospital, health department, or other health care agencies in the 1930s.  Bragg’s neighbors called on her to nurse them when they were ill, to deliver their babies, and to help them get to the nearest hospitals on the mainland when it was necessary.  Because she had no mortgage or utility bills, no car, and few grocery bills because most food was grown in the garden, raised on the farms or caught from the sea, she supported herself as an independent nurse, without physician supervision for decades.  In addition to providing home health services and working as the school nurse, Bragg delivered more than one hundred babies in her long career.  When Ocracoke became a tourist destination after WWII, the town map designated her home with the word Nurse to show visitors where they should go if they became injured or ill.  Nurse Bragg lived quietly, rendering valuable nursing care to those in need for 40 years.  After her death in 1975, islanders had these words engraved on her tombstone:

Well done thy good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joys of the Lord.