Athens' Doctors

(Continued from Community)

Stephen Trinkle Vermillion (1844 – 1942) was a farmer and the last surviving Civil War veteran in Mercer County. He married Rhoda Amanda Bird, daughter of Reverend Benjamin Taylor Bird, and five of their sons entered the medical or dental professions.  Dr. Benjamin Taylor Vermillion (1872 – 1920) was a dentist;  Dr. James Reason Vermillion (1872 – 1948) was an ophthalmologist who spent most of his career practicing in Princeton;  Dr. Elbert Vermillion (1875 – 1957), another ophthalmologist, spent most of his career practicing in Welch before returning to Athens in 1950 to continue his practice in semi-retirement while living in the old Vermillion home place;  Dr. Levi Houston Vermillion (1879 – 1949), was a dentist who practiced in Princeton;  and Dr. Uriah Vermillion (1880 – 1962) was a physician who practiced in Athens.

Dr. Elbert Vermillion and his wife, India Rose Cook (1878 – 1954), had a son, Dr. James Stephen Vermillion (1909 – 1989), who was an ophthalmologist in Kingsport, Tenn.

Dr. Uriah Vermillion registered his practice in the “Register of Physicians and Accoucheurs of the Mercer County Court” on July 15, 1909.   After practicing medicine in Athens, partnered with Dr. Holroyd, he moved his practice to Oakvale and later returned home to Athens in 1917, where he had the longest continuous service by a physician to the people of the Athens area from 1917 to 1962.  He was also physician to Concord College athletic teams while attending all of the home athletic events for many years, and county health officer as well.  Dr. Uriah Vermillion and his wife, the former Adelia Marguerite Shumate (1888 – 1967), had a son, Dr. Thomas Uriah Vermillion (1911 – 1970), who was an ophthalmologist and otolaryngologist in Beckley before moving his practice to Hampton, Va.  He and his wife, Emily Rebecca Hogge (1907 – 1968), were the parents of two sons who entered medicine:  Dr. Stephen Trinkle Vermillion II was a periodontist who practiced in Norfolk, Va. before his retirement, and his brother, Dr. Robert Lee Vermillion, was a physician who practiced in Roanoke, Va. before retiring.

Dr. Uriah Vermillion’s father-in-law, Dr. Gaston Anderson Shumate (1850 – 1914), had been a practicing physician in Athens (Concord Church), where he and two brothers had a local store, before he moved his family and practice to the Shumate family farm on New River below Glen Lyn in Giles County, Va. in 1887.

Irene Elizabeth Vermillion (1870 – 1909), daughter of Stephen T. and Rhoda A. Vermillion, married E. Freely Cooper (1867 – 1952), and had a son, Fred Vermillion Cooper (1895 – 1975), a former president of the Bank of Athens.  Fred and his wife, Virginia Pearl Preston (1897 – 1970) had a son, Dr. Harry Fred Cooper (1919 – 1999), who was a surgeon who practiced in Beckley.

Two sons of Rev. Benjamin T. Bird, already mentioned above as the father of Rhoda A. (Bird) Vermillion, were Bluford W. Bird, a farmer in the Elgood area of Mercer County, and John S. H. Bird, a local farmer.  Each had sons who entered the medical professions.

Bluford Washington Bird (1841 – 1919) and his wife, Letha A. Hatcher (1848 – 1908), had a son, Dr. Benjamin Washington Bird (1878 – 1937), a physician who practiced in Princeton.  Dr. Benjamin’s son, Dr. Benjamin Washington Bird, Jr. (1906 – 1955), practiced ophthalmology and otolaryngology in Princeton, and was married to the former Lucille Dunlap (1907 – 1984), Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Concord College.  Dr. Ben, Jr. and his wife Lucille had a son, Dr. Charles Benjamin Bird, an orthopedic surgeon who taught at the University of Oregon Medical School.

John Sanford Hopkins Bird (1843 – 1917) married Elizabeth Sarah Vermillion (1849 – 1934), who was a daughter of Dr. James Reason Vermillion (and a sister of Stephen Trinkle Vermillion).  Three of their sons became doctors.  Dr. John Henry Bird (1878 – 1941) was a physician who practiced in and around Rock, W. Va.;  Dr. Stephen Trinkle Bird (1883 – 1946) was a dentist in Princeton;  and Dr. Keith Stanley Bird (1893 – 1977), also a dentist, retired to Gary, W. Va.

Another Athens family, the Holroyds, has also contributed to the medical professions since the 19th century.

William Holroyd (1824 – 1895) was born in England where he married Sarah Caulkin (1828 – 1896) on January 11, 1848.  Soon after their marriage, they came to the United States, where, about 1850, they were living near the Coulter place near Athens (Concord Church).  Reverend Holroyd was a preacher and a hotel keeper.  After the Civil War, the Holroyds moved to what is now Athens where he built the “Mountain House”, which was the scene of much activity when courts were being held.  Two sons of William and Sarah Holroyd who became physicians were Dr. William H. and Dr. Samuel R.

Dr. William Henderson Holroyd (1860 – 1906) was a physician who practiced in Athens (then Concord Church) after registering his practice in the “Register of Physicians and Accoucheurs of the Mercer Court” on December 6, 1887.   He and his wife, Bettie B. Johnson (1863 – 1929), had a son, Dr. Frederick Fairfax Holroyd (1885 – 1943), who, after being registered to practice in Mercer County on August 23, 1910, began his practice in Athens and then moved to Princeton.  Dr. Fred married Hattie Lee Shumate (1867 – 1953), and their son, Dr. Frank Jackson Holroyd (1907 – 1993), who, after being registered to practice on July 2, 1930, practiced medicine in Princeton.  Dr. Frank’s three sons, Robert, Fred and Frank became attorneys.

Dr. Samuel Reynolds Holroyd (1868 – 1942) was a physician who spent most of his career practicing in Athens, although he was superintendent of Spencer State Hospital during 1919 and 1920.  He was registered to practice on May 24, 1890 when Athens was Concord Church.  He married Blanche Appling, and their son, Dr. Trevor R. Holroyd (1896 – 1968), was a dentist who practiced in Athens.  Dr. Trevor married Evelyn Weaver, and their son, Dr. Samuel Vernon Holroyd (1931 – 1999), a dentist with a clinical practice in Periodontics, was a Navy Captain at the Bethesda National Graduate Navy Dental School.

Two Lilly families in Athens, those of Dr. Donzie Lilly, Sr. and of John Lilly, were associated with physicians and dentists with ties to Athens.

Dr. Donzie Lilly, Sr. (1887 – 1964) was born in Dunns and came to Athens in 1913 where he practiced dentistry until 1961.  He was the dentist who practiced the longest in Athens, and he was the last dentist to practice in Athens.  Records show that he is registered to practice in the “Register of Physicians and Accoucheurs of the Mercer County Court” on August 6, 1917, and in Athens. He and his wife, the former Lena Caldwell (1890 – 1976), had three sons who all became dentists:  Dr. Scott Henderson Lilly (1917 – 1977), who practiced dentistry in Princeton until his retirement;  Dr. Donzie Lilly, Jr. (1922 – 1993), who practiced in Charleston;  and Dr. Richard Vernon Lilly (1924 – 2010), who also practiced in Princeton.

John B. Lilly (1854 – 1941) was a teacher and administrator in the Mercer County Schools.  He married Victoria E. Thompson (1859 – 1940) and eventually relocated his family to Athens.  His Athens residence, formerly at 401 Vermillion Street, became the site of the new Athens Medical Center in 1975.  Two of his sons, both born in Flat Top, graduated from Concord Normal School and eventually entered the medical profession.  Dr. John Preston Lilly (1896 – 1974) was a physician who practiced in Charleston, and Dr. Adlai Ewing Stevenson Lilly was a physician who practiced in Richmond, Va.

An Athens family of Robert S. Gatherum also contributed three physicians to the profession.  Robert Storrar Gatherum (1878 – 1954) was born in Leven, Scotland.  He joined the faculty at Concord Normal School (later Concord College) about 1908 and served as Head of the Department of Mathematics and Physics until his retirement at the beginning of the spring semester, 1945.  During the years 1923 – 1933, he served as Dean of the College.  In 1908, Robert S. Gatherum first married Maude M. Martin (1886 – 1909), who died two days after giving birth to the couple’s first child, Thomas A. Gatherum (1909 – 1961).  After Maude’s death, Thomas was raised by his grandfather, Dr. Louis Allen Martin (1858 – 1940), a native of Concord Church (now Athens), who practiced dentistry in Athens before moving his practice to Beckley about 1916 or 1917.  Robert’s second marriage was to Nancy V. Dangerfield (1882 – 1957) in 1912, and to this union was born three sons who became physicians.  Dr. James Riley Gatherum (1913 – 1973) was a physician who practiced in Richwood, W. Va. before returning to Athens in 1958 to practice until his sudden death in 1973.  He was the school physician at Concord College from 1958 to 1970.  Dr. Robert Storrar Gatherum, Jr. (1915 – 1972) was a surgeon at the Bluefield Sanitarium and popular sports enthusiast in Bluefield, W. Va.  Dr. David Hoge Gatherum (1917 – 1995) was a physician at the Bluefield Sanitarium.

Edward Bane Carr (1855 – 1933), a teacher, eventually relocated his family to Athens.  He lived in a dwelling which was located on land now occupied by Concord College’s Centennial Hall.  He and his wife, Eva May Ellison (1862 – 1952), had three sons, Dr. Walter A., Dr. Edward S. and Dr. Arthur B., who were doctors.  Dr. Walter Allen Carr (1882 – 1967) was a physician who practiced in War, W. Va.  He and his first wife, Hettie A. Altizer (1889 – 1913), had a son Dr. Walter Hatfield Carr (1910 – 1999) who practiced dentistry before his retirement in Tenn.  Dr. Edward Shannon Carr (1885 – 1970) was a physician who practiced in Narrows, Va.  He and his wife, Esther Pearl Lilly (1890 – 1978), had a son Dr. John Alda Carr (1917 – 1966) who practiced dentistry also in Narrows.  Dr. Arthur Bryan Carr (1897 – 1974) was a physician who practiced in War, W. Va.  He married Annie Armstrong (1898 – 1983), and a son of theirs was Dr. Arthur Allen Carr (1925 – 2003), a practicing pediatrician in Welch, W. Va. before his retirement to Florida.

Physicians who practiced in Athens and the Athens area at the turn of the 19th century and into the first or second decade of the 20th century who have not already been mentioned include:

Dr. David H. Thornton MD, (1865 – 1941), was a practicing physician in Athens.  He registered to practice in the “Register of Physicians and Accoucheurs of the Mercer County Court” on May 1, 1893.  He married Mary Jennings (1872 – 1923) and is said to have been the first person to own an automobile in the town of Athens.

Dr. Charles William Holdren MD, (1867 – 1956), practiced his profession in the Athens area and later moved into the town of Athens.  He was born in Elgood and was the son of Samuel Lacy Holdren (1830 – 1915) and Dorcas Blankenship (1833 – 1908).

Dr. Wilson I. Gautier MD (1861 – 1933), was another physician that practiced in the Athens area and later moved into the town of Athens.  His parents were Joseph Gautier ( ? – 1862) and Lucy Shrewsbury (1834 – 1899), both of whom are buried in Athens Cemetery.

Other sons with ties to Athens who entered the medical or dentistry professions may include the following. Among the physicians not previously mentioned are:

Dr. John R. Shumate, MD, (1873 – 1964), Athens resident and son of Rufus A. Shumate (1838 – 1920)

Dr. Mason Blake Caldwell, MD, (1884 – 1953), who practiced in Matoaka before moving to California, and was a son of Joseph Caldwell (1848 – 1930)

Dr. Welch M. England, MD, (1902 – 1946), who practiced ophthalmology and otolaryngology, and was the son of James Madison England (1865 – 1944)

Dr. Gilbert A. Daniel, MD, (1903 – 1945), son of Athens resident Chas. T. Daniel (1873 – 1948)

Dr. Paul L. Daniel, MD, (1906 - ?), son of Athens resident Chas. T. Daniel (1873 – 1948)

Dr. Harvey A. Martin, MD, (1911 – 1996), who practiced in the White Sulphur Springs area and was a son of Henderson E. Martin (1855 – 1933) of Athens

Dr. Hayes Woodrow Caldwell, MD, (1914 – 1996), who practiced surgery in Phoenix, Ariz. and was a former resident of Athens with his widowed mother Annie (1892 – 1959)

Dr. Benjamin Harrison Reed, Jr., MD, (1922 – 2002), practiced medicine in the Jenkinjones and Pageton areas of McDowell County until moving his practice to Delta, Ohio in 1954.  He was a son of Benjamin Harrison Reed, Sr. (1887 – 1963) and Violet Mae Gautier (1900 – 1942), and was a grandson of Dr. Wilson I. Gautier previously mentioned.

Dr. Joseph Emmett Walthall III, MD, (1922 – 1976), son of former Athens resident Joseph Emmett Walthall, Jr. (1896 – 1975)

Dr. Walter E. Klingensmith, MD, a practicing surgeon in Beckley before his retirement and son of the late Dr. Ralph Ernest Klingensmith (1896 – 1965), Professor Emeritus of Education at Concord College

Dr. Hawey Adolphus Wells, Jr., MD, once a practicing pathologist in Princeton, and son of Professor Hawey A. Wells, Sr., (1899 – 1989), Professor Emeritus of Biology at Concord College

Dr. Philip B. Robertson, MD, a practicing psychiatrist and son of the late Dr. William B. Robertson (1904 – 1966), former Chairman of the Department of Languages and Literature at Concord College

Dr. Kenneth J. Robertson, MD, a practicing physician and son of the late Dr. William B. Robertson (1904 – 1966), former Chairman of the Department of Languages and Literature at Concord College

Dr. James Morgan Kyle, MD, a practicing physician and son of former Concord College Coach and Athletic Director Robert Kyle (1913 – 2010)

Dr. David K. Ofsa, DO, board-certified in emergency medicine and son of Dr. William J. Ofsa, Professor of English, Concord College

Dr. Kevin Scott Oxley, MD, graduated from West Virginia University School of Medicine.  His practice is at United Health Hospital located in Bridgeport, West Virginia.  His specially is Ear, Nose, and Throat or ENT.  He is the son of William M. and Brenda (Law) Oxley.  His grandparents are Charles J. and Noami (Bird) Oxley with his great-grandparents being Robert G. and Mary C. ( Barberie) Oxley, as well as James B. and Margaret (Cox) Law.

Among the dentists not previously mentioned are:

Dr. Benjamin Butler Caldwell, DDS, (1898 – 1951), son of teacher Wm. H. Caldwell (1860 – 1949) and brother of Mrs. Donzie Lilly previously mentioned

Dr. Daniel Harvey Maupin, DDS, (1898 – 1930), son of Athens merchant Ambrose Tillman Maupin (1852 – 1922)

Dr. Carl Lee Dove, DDS, (1900 – 1972), who practiced in Iaeger and who was a son of Athens native and resident Robert Lynn Dove (1871 – 1938)

Dr. Randolph “Cotton” Walthall, DDS, (1924 – 2011), who established his practice in the Sacramento area in 1957 and who was a son of former Athens resident Joseph Emmett Walthall, Jr. (1896 – 1975)

Dr. John David Vachon, DDS, (1930 – 2001), who practiced in Frederick, MD, and who was the son of the late AHS Principal and Coach Joseph Thomas Vachon (1904 – 1970)

Dr. Charles Harvey Mann, DDS, currently practicing in Princeton, son of the late Otis Ray Mann (1917 – 2010) of Athens

Dr. Richard Bolen, DDS, who practiced in Norfolk, Va.  He is the son of the late Horace Harman Bolen (1903 – 2000), Professor Emeritus of General Physical Science at Concord College

Dr. Charles Edward Lane, Jr., DDS, son of Athens resident Dr. Charles Edward Lane, Sr., DDS, (1922 – 2008)

Dr. Leon Perkins, DDS, dentist at Huntington (in 1953)

The names Dr. Frank Shumate, Dr. Bob Crawford, Dr. Bridges and Dr. Joe Smith have also been identified as possibly those of Athenians who entered the two professions and who were deceased as of 1953.

Among the daughters of Athens families who have entered the nursing profession are:

Miss Verlie White (1901 – 1966), daughter of Horace Greeley White (1874 – 1959)
Miss Joan Vermillion, granddaughter of Dr. Levi Houston Vermillion, DDS
Mrs. Gladys (Shumate) Mahood (1903 – 1977), daughter of H. P. “Bud” Shumate (1873 – 1962)
Mrs. Ruth (Shumate) Inge (1902 – 1979), daughter of H. P. “Bud” Shumate (1873 – 1962)
Maude Oxley, daughter of Robert Green Oxley (1869 – 1948)
Julia Weeks

The story continues.

In 1974, after nearly 130 years of continuous medical services, the small town of Athens found itself without any medical or dental professionals to treat even the most common ailments and conditions.  While it unfortunately is not uncommon these days for a community, small or large, to suddenly find itself without medical services, the following question was raised:  How can a community that has given so many of her sons to serve others in the medical professions, now lack practitioners to serve her own need?

With the spirit of previous residents who worked together for the benefit all residents, a committee of interested citizens began working to determine the possibility of obtaining medical services once again for the citizens of Athens, Concord College, and the surrounding area.  The following course of action was taken:

This committee approached the Mayor of Athens and the President of Concord College and voiced concern that the Town of Athens and the College were without a physician or dentist.

The Mayor and the President took action by appointing a committee consisting of college employees and outstanding citizens of the community.

This committee secured the services of the Athens Lions Club whose members made a survey to determine the health needs of the Athens area.

The results of this survey were interpreted as indicating that such a project would be supported by an overwhelming majority of citizens who live in Athens as well as in the surrounding area.

The Athens Town Council, on recommendation of the committee, formed a non-profit corporation, the Athens Medical Center, Inc., on December 19, 1974.

A Board of Directors for the Corporation was appointed “to actively promote the development of a medical center that would provide medical services for the town and the surrounding community”.

A Steering Committee was appointed to plan and conduct a fundraising campaign to obtain the necessary amount of money to make the Center a reality.

The Steering Committee, with the help of many volunteer workers and because of the generosity of many donors to the campaign, carried out its assignment and raised the targeted amount.

The former residence of John B. Lilly, located at 401 Vermillion Street near the College, was acquired, and in 1975, the Athens Medical Center opened for business with Dr. William D. Hawley, Jr. as its physician.

« Back