Swain County


Learn more about the nursing history of Swain County


  • Lula Owl Gloyne was the first Eastern Band Cherokee Registered Nurse. (See biographies in this website)
  • In the 1920s, she served her tribe and community as a US Indian Health Service nurse providing home health and midwifery services. She was often seen walking, riding a horse or using an ox cart to get to laboring women and ill families living in the most rural sections of the Qualla Boundary. In the 1930s Gloyne was instrumental in the founding of the first hospital for the Cherokee tribe. Nurse Gloyne went to Washington, DC in 1934 and addressed the US Congress on the need for a hospital for the Eastern Band Cherokee. Her testimony helped secure a hospital which provided the first inpatient care in Cherokee, NC. Nurse Gloyne became the head nurse of the hospital while continuing in her capacity as “field nurse” for the reservation. After her official resignation in 1969 at age 77, Gloyne continued to be active in a variety of community health related activities.
    • Pollitt, P.A. (2010). Public Spirit  Minority Nurse.
    • Photograph of Nurse Gloyne from a 1959 "Unto these hills" playbill (page 13 lower right)
  • Ernestine Walkingstick, RN, Community Volunteer, and Civic Leader.
  • Like most registered nurses, Ernestine Walkingstick had worked in several capacities before settling into the position of the Director of Community Health Nursing for the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  She was an ideal community health nurse. She knew the reservation well – she knew the families from the babies to the elderly. She was instrumental in establishing and assisting in the clinic for the Indian population in the Robbinsville area. She also initiated, coordinated and operated the eye clinics and ENT clinics at the Cherokee Indian Hospital.  She was a “nurse” in the purest sense – dedicated to the health and welfare of “her people.  Her volunteer activities were legendary. She raised countless dollars for the Cherokee Children’s Home and was an active member of the North American Indian Women’s Association, Eastern Band of Cherokee Community Foundation, Western North Carolina Community Development and the Qualla SAFE House.

Mary Ann Lambert Luff (1916-2013) was an EBCI Registered Nurse.  She graduated from the Knoxville General Hospital nursing school and served in France during WWII with the US Army nurse corps.

The Proceedings of the Continental Congress of the Daughters of the American
Revolution Volumes 51-52, dated 1942, contain the following news:
An outstanding Indian girl has been chosen to be the war nurse from this
state, and she is going into training in the Knoxville General Hospital.
A few years later, the DAR journal reports that Gertrude Bradley
,aided by DAR, graduated at the Knoxville General Hospital. She is married, and lives in Johnson City. She has done a good bit of private nursing since her marriage. Gertrude (now Mrs. Fann, Class of 1945), still lives in Johnson City. Two other confirmed members of the Cherokee Tribe — both of whom are still living — are Mary Ann Lambert Luff (1940) and Virginia Rosebud Sneed Jackson Dixon
Sarah Margaret Orr, born in 1916, graduated from Fort Sanders Hospital School of Nursing (Knoxville) in 1937.  She was the daughter of Dr. Claudius Vincent Orr, who may have gotten his medical training at Emory.  He worked for a lumber company in Western NC, and his family lived in a train car.

When Sarah was a little girl, she rode horses up into the mountains to help her father "doctor" people.  After training, she worked as a nurse until her untimely death from post-op complications in 1962.

Sarah married Noble Ferguson and lived out her life in Haywood County.
She was one of the founders of an air ambulance service from Swain County up to a hospital in Kentucky.