Healthcare Before There Was A Hospital
In the early 1900s, Moultrie and Colquitt County were on the fast-track toward becoming a bustling community. The naval stores, begun in the late 1800s, set the stage for prosperity and a new rail line into Colquitt County delivered it.
Development companies cleared the land and began dividing the one-time forested areas into farm tracts. Colquitt County became a farmer’s paradise. Industry came too in the form of a cotton mill and a packing plant. The population of the community soared from only 65 residents in 1890 to more than 3,000 just after the turn of the century. New brick buildings sprung up around a brand new courthouse to form the town square that exists today. Moultrie became the smallest town in the nation to have a daily newspaper. Prosperity had certainly arrived.
Despite all of that, it would be nearly four decades later – on Oct. 17, 1939 – before the community would have its own hospital, Vereen Memorial Hospital. There had been at least three attempts to build a hospital, beginning as early as 1914, but each of those had failed.
Although there wasn’t a hospital, the community did have medical care because a number of physicians had came to Colquitt County along with the growth the community enjoyed in the late 1800s and into the new century. In fact, several of those pioneer physicians established the Colquitt County Medical Society in 1893. Later, in 1905, local physicians formed the first local branch of the State Medical Society.
Being a Colquitt County doctor in the early 1900s was not for the faint-hearted. In the early days, there were no medical facilities in which to practice. Some people were living in remote areas and rounds were done on horseback and later along rutty dirt roads in model Ts. Payment was sometimes in the form of goods instead of cash.
In 1910, however, Colquitt County’s first medical facility opened as a sanitarium on North Main Street in the present location of Harper-McCall Insurance Co. and five years later relocated to West Central Blvd. in a portion of the building that was for years the Kelly-Reeves Furniture Center. The community’s only other facility before Vereen Memorial was a sanitarium located on North Main Street in the facility of the present Post Office.
Some of the physicians who served Colquitt County prior to there being a hospital gained a reputation that extended beyond the county lines. For example, Dr. W.L Jenkins, who practiced here around the turn of the century, created a product called “eye water” which he sold nationally He also invented a spoon shaped somewhat like a funnel for administering medicine to uncooperative children.
And then there was Dr. Julius C. Stone of Doerun who was credited in 1914 by The American Medical Journal with having completed the nation’s third post-mortem birth.
From those early days, even before there was a hospital, the community has benefitted from many competent physicians. Over the years, the physicians have not only provided exceptional medical care to the community but have play a key leadership role in its hospital. Today’s Medical Staff includes 46 physicians.