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EVER since Dr. Ephraim Brevard assisted in writing the resolutions which were unanimously adopted as the Mecklenburg declaration of independence, physicians have taken the initiative in maintaining a high state of health and happiness in Charlotte and vicinity. The active lists of members and officers of Charlotte, churches, civic clubs, welfare organizations, and country clubs for any period includes a high percentage of doctors and dentists. In his very readable History of Mecklenburg County Medicine(1929) Dr. C. M. Strong, with the able assistance of others, mentions the professional achievements of some.
When Dr. Brevard died in 1782, his effects were sold at public auction. Purchasers were Drs. Isaac Alexander, Thomas Henderson, and one Dysart, probably the only three doctors in the county at that time. Since then there has seldom been a period in Mecklenburg when there was no doctor by the name of Alexander.
Among the many points of interest let us consider a few. There was a virulent epidemic of smallpox in Mecklenburg in 1770. Dr. Alexander's charge for vaccinating a patient with scabs was one pound ($5). Transportation was on horseback or by buggy, over roads that were all but impassable much of the time. Obstetrical cases were handled by midwives or any woman who happened to be available when needed. All surgery was done on tables in the home, frequently by candlelight, with no further assistance to the doctor than could be given by members of the family or neighbors. Most common relief for pain after an operation was provided by doses of whiskey.
In Mecklenburg, as elsewhere, medicine greatly advanced between 1840 and 1865, especially in surgery. Antiseptic methods were by then well established. Ether was discovered; the Civil War compelled surgery on a scale never before experienced in the United States. It was during this period, according to Dr. Strong's history, that medicine emerged form the dark age of suspicion and assumed a more enlightened position among the learned professions. In Charlotte the number of physicians increased rapidly, though even then each was still known as "Physician and Surgeon." A vivid account of Mecklenburg Medicine of the Nineties is given in a chapter of Dr. Strong's book written by Dr. G. W. Pressly. Samplings from this chapter follow:
"Doctors began to move to Charlotte along with a lot of other folks. It soon became a not uncommon sight to see a perfect stranger cross the square. . . . There were three drug stores on this historic spot. Around each of these a galaxy of doctors revolved in a more or less regular orbit . . . In these halcyon days the specialists began to get their milk teeth . . . Among the many gifts vouchsafed to the men of medicine in this period and possibly the greatest of all was the trained nurse . . . The operations in vogue were amputations, circumcisions, hemorrhoids, strangulated hernia, D and C, and tonsillectomy . . . Few had ever looked an appendix right in the eye . . . no one suspected that a gold mine lay in the right quadrant . . . The colored hospital was noted, even then, as a very interesting museum of pathological anatomy . . . If Dr. Charlie Strong couldn't be located anywhere else, you would likely find him at Good Samaritan surrounded by a 40 pound multiple fibroid. . . . We must pause to shed a tear for the passing of dear old Dobbin and the saddle bags . . . In 1899 thirty manufacturers made and sold 600 motor cars. It was thought this output would last 30 years . . . Just how many lives the automobiles have saved we do not know, but at present they are killing 25,000 people every year."
Dr. Strong's book contains a valuable chapter, Medicine Among Negroes in Mecklenburg County, written by Dr. French Tyson. Dr. Tyson says, "Mecklenburg County first offered sanctuary to the black physician in 1886 . . . As we look back to the era when Negro professional men sprang into being over night, as it were from the barber's chair to the bishop's bench, and from plow handle to the medical profession, one is inclined to remark that nature was surely in her best humor when she produced such Negroes as J. T. Williams and A. A. Wyche, two real men destined to become Mecklenburg County's outstanding representatives of the Negro medical profession."
Others who followed these pioneer Negro medical men in Mecklenburg maintained the high professional standards and in 1953 membership in the Mecklenburg Medical Society was opened to qualified Negro doctors. This was the first local society in the state with courage sufficient to take this unprecedented and, in some other sections, unpopular step.
This Medical Society was organized October 7, 1903, following a call issued by Dr. E. C. Register, district organizer for the state society. The first officers were Dr. H. Q. Alexander, president; Dr. Annie L. Alexander (first woman to practice medicine in the South), vice president; Dr. Parks M. King, secretary. For more than half a century this society has been instrumental in maintaining the highest medical standards for Charlotte and in encouraging all measures pertaining to the improved well-being of the community.
Though started somewhat later, the practice of dentistry in Mecklenburg has paralleled that of medicine in technique, ethics, and number of practitioners. The first dentist to make this headquarters in Charlotte was Dr. E. H. Andrews, above 1846. "In this time," records Dr. J. B. Alexander, "there was not much dental work to do . . . he kept his home office here but traveled over several counties." By 1875, however, the profession of dentistry had made considerable progress and there were in Charlotte, four dentists: Dr. M. A. Bland and Dr. Isaiah Simpson, who practiced together; Dr. A. W. Alexander; and Dr. W. H. Hoffman.
Today, there are some ninety members in the Charlotte Dental Society. Among major accomplishments of the Dental Society have been the establishment of an out-patient department at Memorial Hospital with provisions for an internship; sponsorship for the movement for fluoridation of Charlotte water supply, the wisdom of which is now clearly demonstrable; and the introduction, locally, of a time-payment plan for dental service.
Wives of members of the Charlotte Dental Society formed a local chapter of the North Carolina Dental Auxiliary on May 9, 1952 with 35 members and the following officers: Mrs. Grady Ross, president; Mrs. Ralph Jarrett, president elect; Mrs. James Graham, vice president; Mrs. T. N. Hamer, secretary; Mrs. John Pharr, treasurer; Mrs. Horace Reeves, parliamentarian; and Mrs. L. V. Grady, historian.
"Hospitals," to again quote Dr. Strong, "are the visible expression of the heart of philanthropy, Christianity, and medicine. History furnishes no evidence of their existence prior to the advent of the Great Physician who furnished, in the parable of the Good Samaritan on the Jericho Road, the call for and the duty humanity owed to the unfortunate sick."
The first hospital to be established in Charlotte occupied the building vacated by North Carolina Military Institute when the cadets entered service in the Civil War. It was here the Confederate wounded were treated. Perhaps, due to the awful conditions existing at the time, a strong prejudice against hospitals arose and persisted to such an extent that when the Home and Hospital of St. Peter's Episcopal Church opened in 1876, it was necessary to secure police protection.
Commenting on conditions at the time, Mrs. Hamilton C. Jones, Sr., in 1905, said: "The first few patients were brought under resistance so fierce one of the two or three policemen of which the town boasted had always to walk beside the patient, and at times to hang around the premises to intimidate the rioters who threatened to shoot into the building."
St. Peter's Hospital
Beginning with two rooms on East Seventh Street, the Home and Hospital of St. Peter's Episcopal Church evolved into St. Peter's Hospital, a general hospital of 75 beds. The original suggestion for Charlotte's first hospital for serving the community came from Mrs. John Wilkes, nee Jane Renwick Smedburg, a native New Yorker, who came to Charlotte at the time of her marriage.
Shortly after arriving in Charlotte, Mrs. Wilkes was called on to assist in caring for the Confederate wounded in the Military Institute building. Despite this discouraging experience, she had visions of a future hospital. Eventually she secured enough support to found the institution, and much later to become known as the "Godmother of Charlotte hospitals." Familiar names of many present day Charlotte people are on the original list of 36 members of St. Peter's Church Aid Society, the organization formed and headed by Mrs. Wilkes. In addition to Mrs. Wilkes, Mrs. W. M. Shipp, Mrs. B. R. Smith, Miss Laura Orr, Mrs. Hamilton C. Jones, Sr., Mrs. C. I. Fox, and Mrs. John Van Landingham, Mrs. F. Cox, and Miss Hattie Moore were named when the North Carolina general assembly ratified the incorporation of the hospital on February 11, 1879.
St. Peter's Hospital ended its long and useful career on October 7, 1940 when remaining patients where removed to Charlotte Memorial Hospital, toward which institution the assets of St. Peter's Hospital were applied.
Good Samaritan Hospital
The Good Samaritan Hospital of Charlotte has the unique distinction of being the first hospital in the United States, and possibly in the world, to be built and operated exclusively for Negroes. Responsibility and credit for this institution belongs to the same group of people who made possible St. Peter's Hospital for white people. The cornerstone of the original building for Good Samaritan Hospital was laid December 18, 1888. The building was officially dedicated September 23, 1891. For seventy years this hospital has served the purpose for which it was created, expanding in both size and scope of services form time to time until now its capacity is 137 beds, for use by Negro patients of both white and Negro doctors.
In the spring of 1960 the Episcopal church voluntarily donated Good Samaritan Hospital to the City of Charlotte. In an election held May 28, 1960 the citizens authorized bonds in the sum of $900,000 for improving the plant of the hospital which, at about the same time, came under the supervision of the Memorial Hospital Authority.
The imposing 400 bed, modern Presbyterian Hospital of today had its beginning in 1898 when Drs. John R. Irwin, C. A. Misenheimer, Robert Gibbon, and William Haines Wakefield formed the Charlotte Private Hospital. In January, 1903, the equipment and goodwill of this hospital was purchased by Dr. John Peter Munroe, president, and other members of the faculty of the North Carolina Medical College, because a hospital was necessary if the medical college was to carry out its plan for offering a complete medical education. The faculty then presented the hospital to the Presbyterian churches of the city. It has since been known as Presbyterian Hospital Cooperating with Dr. Munroe in this transaction were the other members of the faculty at that time: Drs. A. J. Crowell, I. W. Faison, E. R. Russell, C. H. C. Mills, C. M. Strong, W. O. Nisber, and the four original owners of the hospital.
The first location of Presbyterian Hospital was on the corner of Trade and Mint Streets, in a building formerly occupied by the Arlington Hotel. Here, the North Carolina Medical College used space on the first floor, leaving room on other floors for about 45 hospital beds. When the Medical College opened October 2, 1907, all departments had been moved from Davidson to Charlotte and together with those that had been housed with the hospital, relocated in a three-story, brick building on the southwest corner of Church and Sixth Streets, later identified for many years as the Churchill Apartments.
Dr. J. B. Alexander, first active manager of Presbyterian Hospital, served from 1905 until 1923. During his administration, the property formerly belonging to Elizabeth College was acquired and remodeled for hospital purposes. Patients were removed to the new location February 28, 1917. A new building was erected in 1940, a new wing in 1946, and two additional wings in 1958. Large and attractive dormitory space is provided for the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing which, since 1903, has graduated more than 1,100 trained nurses.
The Sisters of Mercy of Belmont, North Carolina, organized and opened Mercy Hospital, with a capacity of 25 beds, February 1906, in a wooden building on East First Street, behind St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church. The hospital was located at this address until 1916 when the first unit of its modern, fireproof plant was erected on East Fifth Street, and the word, "General," dropped from the original name. Several additions increased the capacity in 1960 to nearly 300 beds, with unsurpassed radiology, pathological, obstetrical, and diagnostic facilities.
In founding Mercy Hospital the Sisters of Mercy was aided by Right Rev. Leo Haid, O.S.B., Abbot of Belmont Abbey, and by the Pastor of St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, Rev. Father Joseph Mueller. Notable names in the development and management of the hospital include Sister Mary Dolores, Mother Mary Bride, Mother Mary Raphael, Sister Mary Alphonse, to mention only a few of the many.
Currently, thirty beds of Mercy Hospital are assigned to Negro patients. This hospital was first primarily white hospital in Charlotte to admit patients of the Negro race. It is also of more than passing interest that in so strong a Masonic city as Charlotte, Mercy Hospital has had the financing support and general good will of highest ranking Masonic officials and personnel.
From 1907 until 1942 the Charlotte Sanatorium, a general hospital, privately owned by a group of about thirty leading physicians and surgeons, provided space for 100 patients and enjoyed a splendid reputation. During its entire existence this hospital was located in a five story, fireproof building on the southeast corner of Seventh and Church Streets.
Charlotte Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital
This privately owned institution, opened in 1923, was the fulfillment of a dream of Dr. J. P. Matheson, who realized the great need in Charlotte for a specialized hospital. Dr. Matheson, Dr. Henry L. Sloan, Sr., and Dr. C. N. Peeler financed the building of a modern four-story hospital with a present capacity of nearly 40 beds.
Dr. Matheson was head of the hospital until his death, August 5, 1937. He was succeeded by Dr. Sloan, who continued as chief of staff until 1958. Upon his resignation Dr. V. K. Hart became head of the hospital, all assets of which are the property of Matheson Associates, Inc. The present staff of the Charlotte Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital consists of specialists, most of whom have won high professional distinction in their respective fields. Among these are Dr. Fred E. Motley, Dr. W. E. Roberts, Dr. Frank C. Smith and Dr. Henry L. Sloan, Jr., son and worthy successor to one of the founders. A notable contribution of the Charlotte Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital to civic affairs has been its operation of the Variety Club Eye Clinic.
An excellent example of man's remarkable progress in medical science is found in the case of Mecklenburg Sanatorium. Built with funds from a bond issue and supported by a tax levy, this 120 bed hospital, near Huntersville, was opened in September 1926 to segregate and treat tubercular patients. By 1960 the "great white plague" had been so nearly conquered as to constitute no major health problem. In the spring of that year the citizens of Mecklenburg voted to convert the property into a hospital for the treatment of the chronically ill.
Charlotte Memorial Hospital
Charlotte Memorial Hospital typifies, more than any of the other laudable projects of which the city is proud, the unselfish cooperative spirit with which business and professional men and women have merged their time and talents for the common good. These few words inadequately condense the thoughts contained in a factual, fourteen-page article entitled, "A Dream Come True - Charlotte Medical Center - Its Inception" by Hamilton Witherspoon McKay, M.D., in the Bulletin of the Mecklenburg Medical Society, October 1940. To Dr. McKay, though he would be the first to disclaim the honor, belongs the credit for first conceiving the idea of a metropolitan medical center for Charlotte and for his sustained faith in the face of many early discouragements. Eventually some ninety physicians, led by Dr. Thomas D. Sparrow and Dr. W. Z. Bradford, raised the sum of $1,500 with which they engaged Dr. William Henry Walsh, hospital authority and counselor, to make a survey, Hospital Situation in Charlotte, published 1938.
Very great emphasis was given to the hospital movement by the trustees of St. Peter's Hospital who were instrumental in having their institution consolidated with the new hospital. Among the more active trustees in this important transaction were Dr. Brodie C. Nalle, Dr. John Hill Tucker, John H. Cutter, Francis Clarkson (later Judge Clarkson), Mel M. Murphy, Hamilton C. Jones, Jr., and Albert Boyle, Sr.
The greatest single aid was the acquiring of nearly half a million dollars in federal funds through the efforts of Morgan B. Speir, J. B. Marshall, Paul Whitlock, and others. Following this step and through the efforts of Dr. William Allan, Dr. Watson Rankin of the Duke Endowment, Postmaster Paul Younts, and Mr. Word H. Wood, banker, a week-long campaign raised $135,000 in voluntary contributions in Charlotte, about $25,000 of which was supplied by medical men. Then came a successful $350,000 bond election to insure the building of Charlotte Memorial Hospital. In all of these efforts, a Women's Division, headed by Miss Carrie McLean, was a great help, as was the Junior League which, as an organization, took over the Medical Social Service Department of the hospital.
The $1,250,000 Medical Center was dedicated in 1940. In 1943 the entire property was deeded to the Charlotte Memorial Hospital Authority, by which legal entity it has since been operated and expanded far beyond the expectations of those responsible for its inception and completion.
Of the many facilities provided by Charlotte Memorial Hospital there is space here to mention only one, the chapel. Funds for this beautiful room were provided by the Women's Auxiliary of St. Peter's Episcopal Church of Charlotte. This chapel is for the use of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Greek Orthodox patients. The organ in the chapel was installed by members of her family as a memorial to Mrs. Ralph Van Landinham, former member of the board of St. Peter's Hospital through whose efforts the original Chapel Fund was started.
Charlotte Rehabilitation Hospital
Adjacent to Memorial Hospital and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department, and working in close harmony with both, is another important unit in the Medical Center of Charlotte, the Charlotte Rehabilitation Hospital for the treatment of the physically handicapped. The program of service is for the Southeastern area with the majority of admissions from the Carolinas.
This hospital is supported in part by the United Appeal, by contributions from those interested by "Helping the Handicapped" and by the private patient.
The usefulness of Presbyterian, Mercy and Memorial Hospitals has been greatly enhanced through the various activities of Women's Auxiliaries. These organizations, made up of wives of staff members and employees, and other friends of each hospital, contribute to the successful administration of the hospitals in many ways, including student nurse tuition loans, operation of hospital refreshment concessions, devising student nurse and intern recreational programs, and many similar ventures.
The Women's Auxiliary of Memorial Hospital, typical of all three, was organized with 14 members shortly after the hospital started and now has on its active list 675 members. The most recent accomplishment was the construction and furnishing of a recreational facility for student nurses at cost of $35,000.
Charlotte Medical Library
The library, a major adjunct to the medical profession in Charlotte, was begun in 1909 as an exchange of professional literature among Drs. William Allan, C. N. Peeler, Robert H. Lafferty, Thomas H. Wright, and W. B. Witherbee. Within a few months the membership had jumped to thirty and the project came to be known as the Physicians' Library. The library moved into the Professional Building in 1922, when the Medical Society offered the library space in its meeting hall. At that time the name was changed to Charlotte Medical Library. In 1931 the library was reorganized, and in 1951 occupied space in the newly completed Doctors' Building. Since its reorganization, Mrs. John S. Monahan (nee Helen Sherrill) has been the professional librarian in charge.
Public Welfare in Charlotte and Mecklenburg
Probably the least understood aspect of Charlotte's history is the way in which public humanitarian measures have advanced from the simple care of the destitute to the complex organizations of today. From the year 1772 the Superintendent of the Destitute in Mecklenburg reported expenses of $80. Disbursements of the Mecklenburg County Department of Public Welfare for the year 1957-1958 were $3,870,885.16. During the same year, the United Community Services provided another million dollars in aid to needy persons and organizations.
Development of Public Welfare as a county responsibility began in Mecklenburg about 1917 when the General Assembly of North Carolina required that a Public Welfare Department be established in all counties having a population of more than 25,000. Prior to that time, the burden of relief and counseling to the distressed had fallen largely on churches, civic groups, the family doctor, sympathetic landlords, and public-spirited citizens.
In the beginning the only financial assistance available to the Department of welfare was small accounts provided by the city and county governments. As late as 1925 the Department had only two staff members, the superintendent and his secretary. However, the depression of 1929 taught Americans that conditions could arise in a society such as ours over which individuals had no control. The result was the Social Security Act of 1935, embracing financial assistance through state and municipal agencies, to the aged, dependent children, the blind, and other categories in the field of human need.
Mecklenburg differed from most other counties in North Carolina during the depression years in that the emergency relief program was handled by the United Welfare Federation, rather than the county Department of Public Welfare. Within a few years, when the emergency subsided and the United Welfare Fund became the Community Chest, the distribution in 1937 of both local and government relief funds began and has since been administered by the Department of Public Welfare.
Presently this Department requires a staff of more than 100 persons, many of whom are professionally trained. In addition to public assistance programs in which the federal, state, and county governments all participate, and leadership in broad community social planning, local social services handled by the Department include: admission to Greenacres, the county home for the indigent; social service to families and children; special services to unwed mothers, their babies, and adoptive applications; issuance of child labor certificates; supervision of adult parolees for the county; admissions to state training schools and state institutions for the blind, deaf, epileptic, and spastic; processing sterilization papers; and cooperating with the state Medical Care Commission in its program formed under the supervision of the superintendent of public welfare who is appointed by a County Welfare Board, with the approval of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners and the North Carolina Department of Public Welfare.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department
Public Health Service in Meckenburg County dates back to the early 1890's when the office of County Physician became an elective office. Dr. S. W. Bratton was elected by the County Commissioners as the first physician to fill this post. Prior to this the sheriff coroner would call upon any physician to act in county matters at a specified rate per day. In 1896, due to a severe smallpox epidemic, the office of city physician was created. Dr. F. O. Hawley was elected and served until his death in 1915.
The Health Department was organized in the summer of 1917 and located in rooms beneath the City Auditorium. The opening of Camp Greene demanded a standard Health Department and Major Benjamin Brown was sent here by the United States Public Health Service to perfect the organization.
Dr. C. C. Hudson was secured as the first Health Officer in October 1917. The staff consisted of one stenographer, one part-time milk inspector, one part-time clinician, one sanitary inspector, and two nurses who were doing generalized nursing. The Red Cross sent a unit of four nurses and one supervising nurse to assist in the work.
By 1960, Charlotte and Mecklenburg Health Department had been placed under one health director; the staff expanded to 128 for servicing the needs of the city and 36 for the county; and services enlarged.
Under the guidance of Dr. Millard B. Bethel, director for many years of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department, many modern methods of safeguarding the health of the community were adopted, including provisions for the fluoridation of the city's water, and the fogging of city streets for insect control.
In the fall of 1959 the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Department occupied its new Health Center on the grounds of Charlotte Memorial Hospital.
United Community Services
Out of the financial depression which began in the fall of 1929 and lasted well into the 1930's, there came a number of new and valuable ideas. Confronted with the necessity of doing something drastic to combat the ravages of the depression in 1931, citizens formed in Charlotte a United Welfare Federation of Mecklenburg County. Under the leadership of David Ovens, a fund of $131,028 was raised locally for "emergency relief." This, with much larger federal funds, was distributed effectively by the new organization.
Credit for organizing the United Welfare Organization belongs to the Council of Social Agencies (later Community Council, and now Social Planning Council), an organization composed of representatives of public and private health, welfare, recreation, and similar services. Guiding the affairs of the Council of Social Agencies, as president during this critical period, was Mrs. Andrew Blair. The charter members of the Council were the Family Service Agency; Salvation Army; American Red Cross; Travelers' Aid Society, and Young Women's Christian Association. Shortly thereafter the Young Men's Christian Association and Charlotte Day Nursery were admitted to membership.
In 1937 the scope of the Welfare Federation was enlarged by the addition of several new services and the name changed to Community Chest. In 1942 the Community Chest became the War and Community Chest of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and campaigns for funds include 22 war relief agencies along with 16 local services in one annual appeal. This arrangement lasted until 1946 when the war appeals were discontinued.
The Community chest campaigns were replaced by United Appeal campaigns which offered a new approach to unified giving in that it encompassed not only local agencies, but those with state and national affiliations.
American Red Cross
The impending crisis in the spring of 1917 brought home to Charlotte citizens the necessity for organizing a chapter of the American Red Cross. This they did on March 9, 1917 at the home of Mrs. Vinton Liddell. Three days before the United States went to war, a mass meeting was held in the Academy of Music for the solicitation of members. More than 2,000 volunteers raised about $4,000 and the chapter received its charter on May 21, 1917.
Mecklenburg County Chapter of the American Red Cross has been continuously active since its organization and now provides services in the fields of family case work, health, and youth in accordance with its national charter through volunteers and professional staff. One of the most important of these is the Blood Program, established in 1948, which provides blood to residents of the county through voluntary blood donors. In December 1942 the Chapter acquired its home at 510 East Morehead Street where many activities are now housed pending selection of a larger site and construction of more modern facilities.
Boy Scouts of America; Girl Scouts of America
Members of the first Boy Scout troop in Charlotte, organized 1910 by members of the Church of the Holy Comforter (Protestant Episcopal), and among Charlotte's "Senior Citizens" in 1960. None of the four men who founded the troop (William A. Reynolds, Jesse M. Oldham, Frank Wilkes, and Fred Glover) are alive to observe the growth of their original small group of boys into Mecklenburg County Council Boy Scouts of America with a membership of more than 7,000 white and Negro youths.
Camp Steere, established in 1926 for white boys and named for James E. Steere, Mecklenburg Scout Executive (1917-1941), and Camp Oak for Negro boys, established in 1950, have been among the more important Scout activities.
The history of girl scouting in Charlotte parallels, in a general way, that of boy scouting, and the results have been equally gratifying. Early pioneers in the movement included Mrs. Julian M. Metz, Mrs. Theodore M. Abbot, and Miss Helen Hodge (Mrs. S. S. Koszewski).
Facilities for camping and other girl scout activities were improved from time to time, culminating in 1955 with establishment of Camp Occoneechee at Lake Lure, North Carolina. Since then an excellent camping and outdoor program has been offered with time allotted for both white and Negro Girl Scouts.
In 1960, with a combined membership of about 3,500 Brownie, Intermediate, and Senior Girl Scouts, the Mecklenburg County Girl Scout Council, Inc., is serving its purpose well.
Charlotte Day Nursery
The need for day nursery care of small children was first impressed on Charlotte about 1900 with the tragic burning to death of a two-year old boy who had been left by his mother with a young guardian while she was at work. On March 1, 1901 the first Charlotte Day Nursery Association began to function and shortly thereafter operated two cottages caring for 25 children. The first official board was composed of Mrs. Willard G. Rogers, Mrs. A. H. Washburn, Mrs. R. C. Holland, Mrs. E. C. Register, and Miss Julia J. Robertson. The splendid work of this Association continued for about eight years, "until because of lack of funds the buildings became so needful of repairs and maintenance that they were reluctantly closed."
Meanwhile the need for nursery care continued and grew until about 1928 a small group of civic minded women convinced the state director of public welfare and the local chairman of the council of social agencies of a need, unmet by any other organization for the day care of small children of unemployed mothers. Out of this suggestion came the opening on January 16, 1929 of the first day nursery, with five children enrolled. There are now more than 300 day nurseries in the state and more than 50 in Charlotte. The hardships and triumphs of the Charlotte Day Nursery Association are vividly described in a pamphlet by Mrs. J. H. Parks, organizer and first president of the association. Highlights in the Growth of Charlotte Day Nursery, issued in 1954 as a part of the 25th anniversary observance.
Mecklenburg County Association for the Blind
On June 18, 1934, the Mecklenburg County Association for the Blind was organized with Dr. Edgar Gammon, president; J. Marshall Parham, executive secretary; E. J. Hanson, vice president; Mrs. Robert A. Moore, secretary; and H. H. Everett, treasurer. This non-sectarian, interracial agency has moved steadily forward. It currently occupies executive offices at 704 Louise Avenue, where guidance, counseling, financial, teaching, and other services are offered. This Lions Club of Charlotte has, for many years, contributed heavily toward the financial and moral support of this important association.
Charlotte Mental Health Association
Charlotte Mental Health Clinic
Early in 1933 the Charlotte Mental Hygiene Society was formed and the Charlotte Mental Hygiene Clinic started. The original group which founded the organization included City Health Officer Dr. G. L. Rea; County Health Officer Dr. E. H. Hand; the supervisor of Charlotte's Health Department nurses, Miss Clara Ross. These were ably assisted by Drs. Allyn B. Choate, Archie A. Barron, William Allan, and others.
For more than a quarter of a century, with several slight changes in name and location, the Charlotte Mental Health Association and Clinic have served Mecklenburg and surrounding counties with conspicuous success. This city has the distinction of being the birthplace of the North Carolina Mental Hygiene Society as well as the home of the first Mental Hygiene Clinic in the state. Housed in converted residences during most of its existence, the Mental Hygiene Clinic found a comfortable, permanent home among surrounding congenial to its purposes when the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Health Center was opened in the fall of 1959.
About 40 years after William Booth founded the Salvation Army in England, and 24 years after the first Salvation Army "open-air" meeting in the United States, there came to Charlotte, Captain McAlpine (a woman) who opened the Temple Corps of the Salvation Army, Inc., in 1904. The Charlotte City Directories from 1904 to date will provide a good picture of the gradual growth from one small corps to the following units, fully manned by trained workers in 1960: Charlotte headquarters; Welfare Department for dispensing emergency relief services to white and Negro families; Woman's Emergency Lodge; Transient Lodge for Men; Red Shield Boys Club; Belmont Corps; Temple Corps; Men's Social Service Department, where "the salvage of men through the salvage of material" is a daily procedure.
Social Planning Council
The Council of Social Agencies, forerunner of the present Social Planning Council, is mentioned earlier as having organized the United Welfare Federation which evolved into today's Community Services. The Social Planning Council is now and has been for many years among the most influential agencies receiving its principal support from United Appeal Funds. Now, as on June 10, 1925 when it was organized as a "Welfare Organization" its aims are, "To provide the medium whereby both tax-supported and privately supported agencies may join in developing and maintaining the most effective program in the fields of health, welfare, recreation and education."
Incidental services toward accomplishing these aims include a Christmas Bureau, operated during the month of December to prevent duplication of Christmas giving by individuals, churches, civic, and welfare organizations; a Social Service Index, a confidential clearing-house for use by all accredited social welfare agencies; and a Volunteer Bureau where citizens may volunteer for community programs.
Privately Supported Welfare Institutions
Many of the most pressing welfare needs of Charlotte and vicinity have been met by institutions which depend upon neither tax funds nor money raised for Community Services. Most of these needs are taken care of by church groups, though recipients of the services are seldom limited to those of their own faiths. A brief description of the more important of these institutions existing as Mecklenburg celebrates its two hundredth birthday follows:
Thompson Orphanage and Training School
For nearly three quarters of a century this venerable institution has quietly and efficiently supplied a need, previously unfilled in Charlotte by other institutions. Thompson Orphanage takes its name from Lewis Thompson who lived in Bertie County, North Carolina, donor in 1873 of funds to help maintain a private school which had been established by the rector of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Rev. Benjamin S. Bronson. When the school failed, Mr. Bronson donated the property to the church, stipulating that it was to be used as an orphanage and that Rev. Edwin A. Osborne be selected as its first superintendent. St. Peter's church accepted the offer and organized the orphanage in 1887. This was the first orphanage established in North Carolina by a religious body, the only other orphanage in the state being the Masonic Orphanage at Oxford.
The property deeded to St. Peter's Church for the orphanage consisted of more than 80 acres, then on the edge of Charlotte. This property is now only a short distance from the principal business section of the city and so valuable that in 1955 some 40 acres, used as a pasture for the orphanage's herd of cows, was leased for 99 years to be used as a mammoth shopping center, Charlottetown Mall.
A history of Thompson Orphanage is contained in the Golden Jubilee issue of The Messenger of Hope of Thompson Orphanage, May 7, 1930. The institution provides home and educational facilities for upward of 100 boys and girls regularly.
The Alexander Home began as a "Home and Hospital" founded by the First and Second Presbyterian Churches of Charlotte in 1888. Its original purpose was to give custodial care to dependent, neglected, and orphan children, and it was operated and managed by women of the churches, who devoted a day a week to caring for the children. In 1895 the women, having raised enough money to construct a new two-story building for their project, renamed it "Alexander Rescue Home" in honor of R. B. Alexander, who had contributed a site with buildings already standing on it.
Except for the construction, in 1917, of the building on East Boulevard still occupied by the Alexander Home program, no significant changes were made until 1947 when, upon recommendation of the Child Welfare League of America, the objectives were changed to provide facilities for the effective treatment of emotionally disturbed children.
The present program is constructed to give therapy and formal counseling and psychotherapy to 15 boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 12. Children accepted are severely disturbed, but not psychotic, mentally retarded, nor brain-damaged. Services include 24-hour-a-day-care, and casework for parents. The average length of stay of children is 18 months.
Charity League of Charlotte, Inc.
The Charity League is one of the very few welfare organizations purely indigenous to Charlotte. It is operated and financed independently of outside assistance and is not a member of the United Community Services nor obligated by membership in state or national organizations. The League was organized by Mrs. James L. Staten as the Junior Hospital auxiliary work. As charitable demands increased, young women of other denominations were accepted as members and in 1926 the name was changed to Charity League.
By 1928 the League had in operation a Sunshine School offering an educational haven for maladjusted children. Licensed by the Department of Public Welfare, chartered by the State of North Carolina, and approved by all local agencies, the Sunshine Day Nursery has a capacity of about 30 preschool children who follow a daily schedule planned to provide educational and social development, proper nutrition, rest and relaxation, as well as emotional security.
Membership in the Charity League is by invitation, and there are now about 150 members and 39 past presidents, drawn from among Charlotte women. The first president was Mrs. E. J. Wannamaker. In 1960 it is Mrs. F. W. Littlefield.
Good Fellows Club
The Good Fellows Club has been described as "The most unusual organization in the world," and belongs to Charlotte alone. This unusual club had its beginning in the Men's Benevolent Association which was sponsored by Dr. Archibald A. McGeachy, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church and one of the most popular men in Charlotte. The first meeting was held in the backyard of the McGeachy home, probably in the summer of 1917. Its purpose was to interest a group of "good fellows" to give a helping hand with certain charities not covered by other organizations. Dr. McGeachy remarked, at the organizational meeting: "If you walk down the path the Master has trod, you are bound to meet Him." The club is non-sectarian.
There was a reorganization of the original group in the fall of 1919 with a change of name to the Good Fellows Club. David Ovens, one of Charlotte's outstanding business men was named as president. Mr. Ovens presided at all meetings in his inimitable way and continued as president until his death in September 1957. It has always been a loose-knit organization with no by-laws and no minutes.
The following are some of the men who have served as Directors and given much of their time to carrying out the work of the Good Fellows: A. Jackson Beall; Claude A. Cochran; E. McA. Currie; W. Carey Dowd, Jr.; John C. Erwin; Dr. Edgar Gammon; Thomas M. Glasgow; Mark P. Johnson; Dr. James A. Jones; Robert A. Mayer; Dr. Oren Moore; Carl G. McCraw; Colonel J. Notman Pease; Victor Shaw; and Paul C. Whitlock.
The one meeting each year is held just before Christmas, and there is always an outstanding musical program. The heart of the program is three talks limited to three minutes each by members of the club who present needs of a destitute family or someone in distress. After these speakers have presented their cases, a vote by all present is taken and the case considered the most needy is given an extra amount of money.
The directors of the club then "take the floor" with an appeal from the president as to who wants to help which. Because of the depressing nature of the cases presented, a good bit of levity is purposely entered into by the directors. As much as $6,000 has been donated at a single meeting. This money, together with the $20 annual dues from an average of 500 members, constitutes the club's budget to carry on its work with needy cases during the entire year. The club works closely with the Welfare Department.
The club's overhead is low, its only expense being the salary for a part-time secretary and rent for a small office. Col. J. Norman Pease succeeded Mr. Ovens as president and new directors are added from time to time. Membership is open at all times to any who want to be "good fellows" by giving a helping hand.
James Buchanan Duke, native of Durham County, North Carolina, amassed a fortune from tobacco and from harnessing the Catawba River. On June 11, 1924, by Trust Indenture, he established the Duke Endowment, to which he conveyed stocks and bonds of various corporations. On the same day he signed his will in which he greatly augmented the Duke Endowment. The will was executed and its terms carried out shortly after the death of Mr. Duke, October 24, 1925.
The beneficiaries of the Duke Endowment are: (1) Duke University, (2) non-profit hospitals in North and South Carolina, (3) non-profit child-caring institutions in North and South Carolina, (4) Davidson College, (5) Furman University, (6) Johnson C. Smith University, (7) rural Methodist churches in North Carolina, and (8) superannuated Methodist ministers, their widows and orphans in North Carolina.
From its inception through December 31, 1959 distributions and allocations amounting to 156 million dollars have been made by Duke Endowment. From the 1959 season there were 175 hospitals and 43 child-caring agencies among the beneficiaries, including all those in Charlotte and Mecklenburg qualifying under terms of Endowment.
Other Endowed Foundations
In addition to the Duke Endowment, the Presbyterian Foundation, and the Belk Foundation, Charlotte is the home of a growing list of similar institutions. The following are listed in the American Foundation Information Service:
Alwinell Foundation: Grants in the fields of Protestant hospitals and religion
Thomas Milburn Belk Foundation: Grants for religious and educational purposes
The Blumenthal Foundation: Grants principally for improvement in interfaith relationships
Martin Cannon Family Foundation: Fields of interest: elementary and secondary education, hospitals, libraries, religion (Protestant), and welfare
The Celanese Foundation: Major grants in the fields of handicapped, hospitals, intercultural relations, and medical research
Charlotte College Foundation
Charlotte Foundation: A community trust
Eugene M. Cole Foundation: Superannuate Methodist ministers
Rush H. Dickson Family Foundation: Grants for religious, scientific, and educational purposes
The Dillard Foundation: Major grants in the fields of secondary and higher Protestant education
Dowd Foundation: Grants in the field of established charities
Efird Foundation: Grants in the fields of higher education and intercultural relations
Alex Hemby Foundation: Grants to local causes
Curtis B. Johnson Benevolent Association: General charitable, benevolent, and eleemosynary purposes
Lance-VanEvery Foundation: Major grants in the fields of local philanthropy for social welfare of children and youth
The Marsh Foundation: Formed to use income and principal for religious, charitable, scientific, and educational purposes
Nalle Clinic Foundation: Grants in the fields of hospitals and education
North Carolina Foundation, Inc.: Construction of community buildings
The J. L. Presman Foundation: Grants in the field of philanthropic giving, principally to Jewish causes
Saint Peter's Foundation
The Alice Speizman Charitable Foundation
United Community Foundation
The Methodist Home for the Aged, Inc.
One contemporary old gentleman has remarked, "In building hospitals to put more life into aging bodies, they thought of just about everything. They did so well that a new emergency was created by rehabilitating old people without providing a place for them to go."
In Charlotte, the emergency is far from completely solved, but a long forward step was taken in June 1948 with the opening of the first unit of the Methodist Home for the Aged, on Shamrock Drive. The Methodist Home, chartered in 1945 as a non-profit church-related institution, was the dream of Rev. E. O. Cole, widely known Methodist minister. Initial impetus to a realization of this dream came in the form of a huge gift from his brother, Eugene M. Cole, wealthy layman. These farsighted men were assisted in carrying out their plan by a number of Methodist laymen and clergy, including: Dr. L. B. Abernethy, Jackson Beall, W. Reynolds Cuthbertson, Joseph Benjamin Ivey, George F. Ivey, Edwin L. Jones, H. I. McDougle, Frank Odell Sherrill, and J. Luther Snyder.
From an original capacity of about 30 members, the facilities of the Methodist Home have been expanded from time to time by additions to the main building and building of apartments and cottages to a capacity of approximately three hundred.
The Methodist Home in Charlotte ranks with the best in quality of service, type of living accommodations, recreational, occupational, and religious facilities available to all members. Outstanding among these conveniences is the Ivey Memorial Chapel, a memorial to Rev. George Washington Ivey, who served as a Methodist itinerant minister for more than 49 years. On display are the saddle bags used by this minister as he journeyed with his Bible, hymn book, and Methodist literature to remote sections of the Confederence. The Home has a staff of nearly 100 full time members, including professionally trained nurses who serve on a 24 hour basis in a modern infirmary and trained dietitians who plan and supervise the preparation of both regular meals and special diets.
No person can be "placed" in the Methodist Home. Membership, not limited to Methodists though they are given preference, is by formal application and all applications are considered on the merits of the individual case after weighing such factors as actual need, along with a true desire to become a resident member of a large Christian family. The Methodist Home is the property of the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church and is governed by a large board of managers drawn from churches throughout the Conference. Superintendents who have served the home to date are: Dr. C. M. Pickens, Rev. B. Reid Wall, Rev. C. W. Kirby, and Mr. Willard Farrow, now serving as administrator.
Founded in January 1941 and supported by the Woman's Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, the Bethlehem Center for Negroes has provided, for the last two decades, a variety of activities for individuals and groups of all ages. The original building was a converted hotel, but the center occupied a substantial brick building at 2705 Baltimore Avenue in 1957. A staff of trained and volunteer workers supervises leisure time activities of boys and girls and conducts classes in workshop practices, arts and crafts, sewing, modern dancing and camping, with a kindergarten for preschool children.
Blythe, LeGette and Brockmann, Charles Raven. Hornets’ Nest: The Story of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. Charlotte, N.C.: Public Library of Mecklenburg County, 1961.