In the earliest of days of Norcross, folks addressed medical issues with a hot vinegar pumpkin poultice to draw out infection, a sewing needle and thread to close a deep cut, and a shot of corn mash whiskey soothing both a bad cough or the sting of a snake bite.
When the South became more settled during the years of reconstruction, Atlanta Medical College (merged into Emory in 1915) began accepting students in 1854, and many of the surgeons produced there were thrown into the fire of traumatic triage behind the lines of the Civil War. Learning to amputate a limb in just a short, yet excruciating, four minutes. Much was learned in the trenches of battle, improving care for many after the fighting ceased in 1863. Dr. Moses Richardson was one of those who returned to tend to the fine folks of Norcross. Dr. Richardson was known for his professionalism and excellent skills and is one the earliest to gain the trust of his patients. He died March 15, 1905, and is buried in the city cemetery.
Another fine physician in town was Dr. Olive Oglethorpe Simpson, born in 1860 to W.R. and Susan Mitchell Simpson on the Simpson farm, attended the Atlanta Medical College in the early 1880s practicing in Norcross from a downtown office, traveling the county in a horse and buggy, and finally seeing people in his home, a house he built in 1895 that still stands at 297 North Peachtree Street. Dr. Simpson also served twice as mayor, was a founder of the Bank of Norcross, as well as fathering eight children. He and his wife both died in that home, the home were both his children and grandchildren were born. His great–great grandson, Jim Nesbit still owns the home today.
Dr. Sylvester Cain grew up in the dry goods store his mother ran at 7 Jones Street, now restaurant. He attended Emory until graduation in 1925 then practicing in Norcross from 1936 until he passed away in 1955. A well-known story of Cain reflects the love his patients had for him. During an eight-week period of recuperation from a stomach ulcer, locals, including school children who donated their pennies, spruced up his examination room, surprising him upon his return.
Recently, while directing a History Walk of Norcross, this author heard a story about Dr. W.W. Puett who practiced out of the upstairs rooms of the Kent Building and then out of his home at 441 North Peachtree Street for 35 years. One of my guests grew up here in Norcross and recalled to me this tale.
“I was walking on Buford Highway when I was struck from behind by a car,” she said. She amazed us further by saying, “I was knocked out, but I heard later that the folks who hit me put me in their car and carried me to Dr. Puett’s office where he cleaned my abrasions with mercurochrome, then sent me home with the folks where I woke up eight hours later and was able to share who I was and where I lived!”
It was shocking to hear that, although she was still unconscious, she was sent on to basically sleep off her injuries. She does give Puett credit as, although she would not share her age, her admission of attending the old brick school house and a few gray hairs gave her away.
Along with doctors, naturally, is a need for pharmacists. Norcross had several drug stores and apothecaries in town including the Norcross drug store and Keady’s drugs. Dr. Archibald Lietch scooped and poured the chemical concoctions of the day from the Norcross Drug Store on South Peachtree Street, now a beauty parlor, until he purchased a home on Thrasher Street where the current owners, while digging a garden in the backyard, found many multi-colored bottles that once held lethal mixtures of ‘medicinal’ drugs.
Thankfully, modern medicine continues to break through with new treatments and medicines, although a spoonful of honey chased by a shot of whiskey is still an effective cough syrup.