Article 4: Gastonia's Medical Community
Gaston County’s distinguished medical profession had its beginning in the South Point community following the American Revolution, when Dr. WilliamMcLean returned from medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1787 to set up a practice near his home on the lower South Fork River in the “Point” section. In 1820 his son, Dr. John Davidson McLean, joined him. Together, these two country doctors served the citizens of the county, near and far, for a period covering 93 years, until the son’s death in 1880. Gaston’s next professionally trained physician was Dr. Ephraim B. Holland, who set up a practice at the new county seat in Dallas about 1858. Then came Dr. William Junius Torrence, who opened a practice in the Crowders Creek section immediately after the War Between the States.
But it was to be in Gastonia, the fast-growing railroad and soon-to-become cotton manufacturing town, that most physicians would find the best opportunity and medicine made its greatest contributions. Dr. Robert Harris Adams, having completed the prescribed regimen of professional study at Louisville Medical College in Kentucky in 1875, became the town’s first doctor as well as its first druggist (1). A native of the Bethel section of adjacent York County, he came in the fall of 1876 and served the town and surrounding community until his death twelve years later. His office was said to be in a little brick building on West Airline Avenue that was also thought to serve as the town’s first post office, its first newspaper office and its first lawyers’ office.
The next physician to arrive in Gastonia was 1878 University of Maryland graduate Dr. Charles Edward Adams. Also a York County native, he came in 1883 to assist his cousin. When Dr. Robert Adams died unexpectedly in 1888, Dr. Charles Adams succeeded to his practice and dutifully served the community for a total of fifty years, becoming one of the town’s most outstanding citizens. The third man of medicine was Dr. William H. Wilson, a Gaston County native, who came in 1887 to join in associated with Dr. Charles Adams and share with the town his talents and high professional standards as both a physician and druggist. He remained until 1900, when he left for a practice of his own in Lenoir. Another early physician who was reported to be practicing in Gastonia in late 1886 and in 1887 was Dr. J. L. McKay, of whom little is known, except that he was a partner in the pioneer Gastonia drugstore of Torrence & McKay.
By 1890, Gastonia’s two resident physicians had become greatly overworked and needed assistance in caring for the townspeople and others who lived in rural areas. This need was filled in 1890 when Dr. James Marshall Sloan, a Mecklenburg County native recently graduated from Louisville Medical College, arrived in Gastonia at the age of twenty (2). He soon developed a sizable practice and began administering his skills to patients all over the county, traveling, as one did in those days, on horseback or doctor’s buggy. His work in surgery, some of it pioneering, continued until his death 36 years later. Six years after Sloan’s arrival, in 1896, Gastonia’s medical community was given another boost, when the much-respected Dr. Robert McDowell Reid, also from Mecklenburg County, began his practice. He continued until his death, 21 years later.
That same year, 1896, also saw another skilled physician, Dr. Frank G. Wilson, arrive from the medical school of the University of Maryland to set up his practice. He served faithfully until his death in 1920 at age 48. Outspoken and independent-minded Dr. Lucius Newton Glenn of the Crowders Creek section, who had begun his outstanding career at McAdenville in 1897, arrived in Gastonia in 1903. “Luch” Glenn became one of the region’s most outstanding surgeons, and, along with Drs. J. M. Sloan and H. M. Eddleman, would found Gastonia’s first hospital in 1908, known as City Hospital in the early days and later as Gaston Memorial. Thus, by the turn of the twentieth century, five pioneering physicians – Drs. Adams, Sloan, Reid, Wilson and Glenn, were serving Gastonia.
Gastonia’s explosive growth in the first decades of the twentieth century, brought about primarily by the expansion of the cotton textile industry and a general advancement of the “American Age”, resulted in the need for yet more trained doctors and a far greater sophistication of talent in all areas of medical service. Some of the city’s most prominent physicians and surgeons began their practices during that period.
Foremost among them was Dr. Henry Franklin Glenn, another highly regarded York County native and a graduate of Emory University in Atlanta. He arrived in 1900 and immediately commanded a large Gastonia patronage. Then, from nearby Bessemer City in 1908, came Dr. David Allen Garrison who, like Dr. Glenn, specialized in surgery. Along with Drs. H. F. Glenn and L. N. Patrick, they founded Gastonia’s second hospital, Gaston Sanitarium, later known as Garrison General, in 1917. Drs. Hall M. Eddleman and McTyeire G. Anders, familiar names in the early days, came to join the Gastonia medical profession around 1903 from earlier practices elsewhere. In 1909, hard-working York County native Dr. Lyle Neale Patrick followed them.
After World War I, another group of pioneering physicians found their way to booming Gastonia. The admired Dr. Roland Smith Clinton, born in the Bethel community of York County but reared in Gastonia, returned from the war in 1919 as a highly decorated major to set up his well-known practice. Coming at the same time to assist Dr. Henry Glenn was the inimitable Dr. James Luther Blair, another York County native. He succeeded to Dr. Glenn’s practice, became a partner and chief of staff at Garrison General Hospital and served faithfully from the 1920s until his death in 1951.
To provide a diversity of quality medical care, Gastonia’s first eye, ear, nose and throat specialist arrived in 1910. Dr. Thomas Crouse Quickle, born on a farm in Lincoln County, operated his clinic until his death in 1936, at which time his son, John Cephus Quickle, who had interned in New York, succeeded him. Henry M. Van Sleen, a native of Holland who came to Gastonia in 1910 to open a jewelry store, became the first optometrist in the city, opening another new area of specialization.
Others doctors came as the city grew during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s: Drs. James Meek Caldwell, William Henry Patrick, William Augustus Anthony, Charles E. Lyday, William E. Jones, W. Wallace McChesney, H. Russell McConnell, Robert C. Miller, William M. Roberts, Charles H. Pugh, J. S. Norman, Henry F. Glenn, Jr., G. W. Belk, O. Douglas Boyce, J. Lee Robinson, Jr., W. M. Patrick, H. M. Van Sleen, Jr., E. C. Pierce, A. V. Suggs, Charles A Glenn, Dorothy Norman Glenn, H. Keith Herrin, L. L. Anthony, Leslie M. Morris, Simeon Adams, and many more since.
Through the years, these men and women have made penetrating contributions to their professions. Gaston County has benefited as the profession advanced from country doctors to dedicated specialists in today’s highly technical and demanding health care industry. [INDEX]