Stella McCartney Hagaman

Stella McCartney Hagaman
Carol Lefler
                On March 4, 1920 the Watauga Democrat announced the arrival of Watauga County’s first Public Health Nurse, Stella McCartney, who would help the Red Cross provide a variety of free services to Watauga County. This arrival was the result of a chain of events which started in 1915.
                In 1915, the North Carolina State Board of Health had made a thorough survey of several thousand children enrolled in schools of widely separated counties, to find the actual physical conditions of children of all classes and ages. The results were appalling. The survey showed that seventy-five percent had never visited a dentist—place of residency did not matter. In remote sections 1,918 children needed surgical operations badly. One of these remote sections was Watauga County. The state chose to take action. Specialists were requested to hold clinics in school buildings, courthouses, or any available place. Nurses employed by the state were in charge of organizing every possible care for these children. The nurse placed in Watauga County was Stella McCartney.
                Stella McCartney, daughter of Bernard and Alvina LeDuck McCartney, was born in Bath, New Brunswick, Canada on July 1, 1881. Her father was an immigrant from Donegal, Ireland and her mother was originally from Quebec. She graduated from Eastern Maine General Hospital at Bangor. After spending eleven preliminary years in a Canadian School, she received special training in public health nursing at Simmon’s College and the Boston Visiting Nurse Association. McCartney found her way to Watauga County after reading a brochure about the Red Cross and its work in the South and a little poem:
Here’s to the lan of the long-leaf pine;
The summer land where the sun doth shine.
As a teller of stories, Stella McCartney had one about her arrival to Watauga County. She had bought a big black straw hat to shield herself from all that southern sunshine. “I must not have gone far enough south yet,” she remarked, after stepping off the train during a typical Boone snowstorm.
                By the end of the month, after her arrival, McCartney was in the middle of a flu epidemic while also in the process of organizing a Public Health Committee. Since there were no public health facilities, this new committee worked to get a room for the nurse in the courthouse. Smith Hagaman, future husband to McCartney, was a member of this committee and also worked in the courthouse as Superintendent of Watauga County schools.
                By June, the first clinic of Watauga County was conducted. Dr. George Cooper held this clinic along with a surgeon, a nose and throat specialist, and several nurses, with the addition of a dental clinic. McCartney was to receive the names of the county’s children for early listening. At the same time the clinic was being organized, McCartney lectured at the Appalachian Training School every Saturday during the summer session. These sessions on health and sanitation were for those going into the public school settings. Because of her concern on sanitation, on one occasion McCartney wrote a letter of thanks to the Sanitary Inspector of Boone for his inspection of the county’s facilities and the results that were achieved. She even requested another visit to “drive the lesson home” to the county’s citizens.
                With the fall of the year came another nurse, Miss Williams, and a school dentist, Dr. L. R. Bingham, both placed by the State Board of Health. McCartney, with the aid of Williams, visited the schools of Watauga County and examined 1,010 children. Of the 1,010, 441 had bad tonsils, with 1,000 needing treatment, and 780 were malnourished. If they were able to pay for their removal of tonsils, the fee was $12.50 per child. The two nurses received $936.50 and after expenses, $69.07 was left for the Watauga County Clinic Fund. The clinics that were held took much effort on the part of many people, including volunteers. Since McCartney acted as organizer and advocate of these events, she took the time to thank people personally. Once she gave a special thanks to the students at the Training School for their participation and help during a Tonsil and Adenoid Clinic. Because of all the work accomplished by the efforts of McCartney, on January 20, 1921, I.G. Greer, representing the Chamber of Commerce, recognized her in a public letter. He thanked her for her work and efficiency, remarking that “makes it a point to discover the most needful conditions in the county and to give these things her first attention....We are fortunate in having secured the service of one of the most capable public health nurses to be found anywhere.”
                McCartney’s first year in the county had been very productive, and very busy. She spent twenty-eight days in nursing work in families where it was necessary to stay twenty-four hours or more and made 102 visits to homes for nursing requiring less than one-half a day. A total of $72 was received as pay in homes for the Watauga County Public Health Fund. She made 301 visits to mothers and young children, advised 138 mothers in the care of their children, thirty mothers in care of themselves, and referred five babies and six mothers to a physician for advice. Literature from the State Board of Health was requested for 143 babies and mothers and four birth certificates were obtained and sent to the local registrar. In less than a year, McCartney made 229 sanitary visits, sixty school visits to talk about good health, examined 23,030 children and of those examined 913 had enlarged tonsils, 1,827 had defective teeth, 690 had defective vision, and 406 had defective hearing. Ninety-nine children had tonsils and adenoids removed. As a result of these efforts teeth were given more attention with the help of Bingham, the school dentist, and parents began purchasing glasses for their children.
                McCartney was involved seriously with the elderly and their care. On December 16, 1920 the “spunk” of this county nurse was revealed in the Watauga Democrats when she found the county home to be appalling and accused the keeper, publicly, of holding back the funds issued to him for the home. She even suggested that the keeper’s expense bill be demanded and if he were not doing his part by the people then “put him out!” Brown, the keeper, responded in the following issue. He explained that that the grand jury inspected him and did not see what she saw. Brown stated that if she wanted the job she could have it. He placed the blame on the local merchants for high expenses.
                McCartney’s experience was also very personal. She spent a great deal of time with the sick and dying. Once she spent two weeks with some elderly neighbors. Because of the care that was required she was only able to sleep about fifteen minutes at the time.
                Watauga County did not see this nurse as an official sent by the state but as a helper and friend. Since the roads’ projects were in their infancy, McCartney rode from school to school, and house to house, on her black horse named Midnight. On several occasions, because of the distances traveled, she would love her even though she was usually a nurse with a needle. The stories she told of “Teddy Blink,” her original character, would ease the pain of injections. Often the children ran up to her and asked to hear the stories. Once she acted as midwife and prepared some of her friends for delivery of their own children. She held periodic sessions to inform pregnant women of prenatal or postnatal care as well as delivery procedures. She even acted as an undertaker if the situation called for one. McCartney generally went beyond her responsibilities of the job and cared for the people as well as taking care of them.
                On October 4, 1921, taking the public by surprise, McCartney wed Superintendent Smith Hagaman in Mountain City, Tennessee. One year earlier Hagaman had been widowed. Mrs. Stella Hagaman joyfully accepted her instant family of Mamie, Ruth, Jewell, Elsie, Crete and Len as her own. In early June of that year the family moved to East Boone. Their new home, which is no longer standing, was located near the present entrance of Appalachian State University.
                Along with this brand new family came a conflict. The Hagaman family was Baptist and Smith Hagaman was active in the First Baptist Church of Boone, McCartney, now Mrs. Stella Hagaman was Catholic. The decisions to be made were not taken lightly. She read materials concerning the Baptist denomination and studied them carefully. After much thought, consideration, and prayer, she was baptized and was accepted into the First Baptist Church of Boone on May 14, 1922. McCartney was happy and content with her decision except for the strife it caused between her and her family in the north. They disowned her and cut off all contact with her. This strudge lasted for many years. It was not until late in her life that all was forgiven. 
                In the early twenties, McCartney helped organize the Worth While Womens’ Club of Boone. The first meeting was held on April 1923, with twenty people attending, at the First Baptist Church. The club’s primary purpose was to promote social ability and to help new residents of Boone feel at home.  The first president was Mrs. Alta Hartzog; the second was Mrs. Cora Bingham, both good friends of McCartney. She was the third president but still let everyone else have the chance to organize the meetings. The Worth While Women’s Club is still very active today with approximately seventy members and their own club house. 
                After public health nursing, marriage, club organization, civic contributions, and especially two new additions to the household, Mack and Hugh, respectively, it was time to move on. Smith Hagaman became the Superintendent of the Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. The Hagamans moved to Winston-Salem but never forgot the mountains which they quite often visited. There they both continued to work hard within the community and church. Even after the death of her husband in 1957 and her failing health, McCartney still did the best she could. Her children opened their homes to her but she chose to stay in a nursing home until her death in 1962.
                The young women who left her family in the north to come to the “slow” south had great courage just to make such a move by herself. Stella McCartney Hagaman was involved with her community and friends for the entire fourteen years she resided in Watauga County and continued to do so after the move to Winston-Salem. She was “loveable and brilliant,” with a “wonderful disposition.” She was loved by both the young and old, being able to be a jovial and playful with the children and yet the perfect hostess at formal parties. The rider of the black horse named Midnight, who was the first Public Health Nurse of Watauga County, simply “worked for the love of serving others.”
1.       Samuel A’Court Ashe, History of North Carolina, volume II, (Greensboro: C. L. Noppen, 1925), 1230,     hereinafter citied as History of North Carolina.
2.       F. C. Monroe, The Organizing and Administration of a Public Health Nursing Service, The American Red Cross Instruction for Chapters, March 1, 1919.
3.       Author’s Interview with Hugh Hagaman, Son of Stella Hagaman, July 15, 1984 (notes on interview in possession of author), hereinafter citied as Hagaman Interview.
4.       Watauga Democrat, March 4, 1920, hereinafter cited as Watauga Democrat.
5.       The Public Health Nurse, The National Organization for Public Health Nursing, New York City.
6.       Watauga Democrat, Clipping.
7.       Watauga Democrat, Clipping.
8.       Watauga Democrat, April 8, 1920.
9.       Watauga Democrat, March 29, 1920.
10.   Watauga Democrat, June 10, 1920.
11.   Watauga Democrat, June 17, 1920.
12.   M. Stella McCartney to H.E. Miller, July 17, 1920.
13.   Watauga Democrat, August 12, 1920.
14.   Watauga Democrat, September 9, 1920.
15.   Watauga Democrat, September 16, 1920.
16.   Watauga Democrat, January 20, 1921.
17.   Watauga Democrat, January 20, 1921.
18.   Author’s Interview with Jewell Mast, Step-daughter of Stella Hagaman, July 29, 1984 (notes on interview in possession of author) hereinafter citied as Mast Interview.
19.   Hagaman Interview.
20.   Mast Interview.
21.   Author’s Interview with Alta Hartzog, friend of Stella Hagaman, August 2, 1984, hereinafter cited as Hartzog Interview.
22.   Private collection of Jewell Mast, in possession of Jewell Mast, hereinafter cited as Mast Collection.
23.   Hagaman Interview; Watauga Democrat, October 13, 1921.
24.   Census of Watauga County: Population Schedule: 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, (Boone: Appalachian State University); Mast Interview
25.   Hagaman Interview
26.   Baptismal Record, First Baptist Church, Boone, North Carolina.
27.   Mast Interview; Hagaman Interview
28.   History of North Carolina, 1312.
29.   Author’s Interview with Cora Bingham, friend of Stella Hagaman, August 1, 1984, hereinafter citied as Bingham Interview.
30.   Watauga Democrat, April 12, 1923.
31.   Hartzog Interview.
32.   Mast Interview.
33.   Bingham Interview; Hartzog Interview.
34.   Mast Interview.
35.   Mast Interview.
                The W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, now housed in University Hall behind the Scotchman on the Blowing Rock Road, is adding the reprint of the Confederate Veteran to its Civil War materials. When complete it will include 40 volumes and a new 2 volume index. The Confederate Veteran is the largest and best source of information concerning the Confederate soldier ever published. Issued as a monthly magazine from 1893 to 1932, it contains thousands of personal reminiscences, biographical sketches and obituaries.
                The Appalachian Collection also houses the following reference works pertinent to Civil War research:
                Lillian Henderson, Roster of Confederate Soldiers of Georgia, 1861-1865, Atlanta: Georgia State Division of Confederate Pensions and Records, 1964 (7 vols. with index).
                Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky: Confederate Kentucky Veterans, reprint of the 1918 ed, Owensboro: Cook & McDowell, 1980 (2 vols. with index).
                Weymouth T. Jordan, Jr., North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865, Raleigh; North Carolina Division of Archives & History, 1966- (9 vols. each volume indexed).