Bits of Stone
Two doctors from Cades Cove leaders in Blount medical care
During my work in producing “Blount Memorial Hospital History,” a just-published book which is available at The Daily Times, we realized that two early doctors born in Cades Cove, a generation apart, were key leaders in the early local medical care effort.
We doubt that any resident does not know about Cades Cove.
This 6,853-acre (below 1,700 feet elevation) mountain valley, now part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is in the southeast section of Blount County. The Cove alone attracts more visitors than all but 10 of the nation’s 58 national parks.
Using the power of eminent domain the federal government took the land for the park which was established June 15, 1934. While they were paid for their land few wanted to leave at any price. It wasn’t an easy life in Cades Cove by any means but few had hopes of finding an equal home with what they were paid.
First settlers reached the Cove about 1819. Its peak populations were 132 families and 685 people about 1850 and 125 households and 700 people in 1900.
Cove had its own telephone system
Though isolated from the outside world, in the 1890s it had its own telephone system connecting residents within the Cove. With four churches, it was a very religious community. For many years some residents chose to convert their corn crop to moonshine whiskey because it was much easier to transport to the market outside the cove. Cades Cove had several elementary schools and produced many of the early leaders in Blount County.
Dr. Ben Morton and Dr. G. D. LeQuire, were both leaders in local medical care in Blount County and were both natives of Cades Cove. Both had sons who followed in their steps.
Dr. Benjamin A. Morton (1830-1891) was the father of twice-elected Knoxville Mayor Ben Morton, whose influence and Knoxville effort was very important in the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Dr. Morton’s other children were Dr. John H. Morton of Knoxville, James F. Morton of Knoxville, Naomi Morton, Sarah who married Dr. A. B. McTeer (1857-1933) of Maryville, and Mollie who married H. T. Hackney Jr., founder of the wholesale grocery company.
Life unusually frugal for Dr. Morton
Dr. Morton’s life was unusually frugal and filled with achievement. He was the sixth son in a family of 15 children which was poor but industrious. He was crippled but attended a school near his home.
At 21, he began studies at Maryville College. Too poor to buy candles, he hauled pine from the country to provide light for studying. His diet consisted mostly of corn bread and water sweetened with molasses.
To supplement his income, he often taught a term in local schools.
He attended medical school in Nashville after which he began his practice at Gamble’s Station on Little River, near the present Heritage High area. He married Martha McCamy and was in easy circumstances when the Civil War broke out.
His intense loyalty to the Union caused him to leave the state, spending the war years in Illinois, as related in Volume I of the Daily Times’ “Snapshots of Blount County History.”
When the war ended, Dr. Morton was left with little but his home. He worked hard and was getting well established when the Little River flood of 1868 carried away his office, medical library, implements and medicine. Most of his household goods were also destroyed.
Again, Dr. Morton started over but soon moved to Maryville where a fire broke out in his home and, again destroying everything needed for his medical practice.
He also lost most of his household furnishings. He narrowly escaped with his life, being seriously injured by smoke inhalation. These reverses did not conquer his indomitable will and he rose above the losses.
Founded Maryville First Baptist Church
He had joined Six Mile Baptist Church as a young man. When he moved to Maryville and found there was no Baptist Church, he taught a Sunday school class in his home then as it grew it met in the courthouse until rowdies in the town ran him out.
At his own expense, he provided New Testaments for those attending and resumed teaching at his home on Sundays. This group led to the founding of First Baptist Church of Maryville in 1871.
Dr. Morton obviously had provided a lot of medical care to Cades Cove residents. When his son, Knoxville Mayor Ben Morton, came to Cades Cove in the early 1930s seeking to encourage residents to accept the offers for their homes and land in order to establish a park, he found a welcome audience when he was introduced as “Doc Morton’s son.”
One resident warmly welcoming him, said “The bees swarmed eight times at our house, and Dr. Morton was there every time.”
The term “bees swarming” was commonly used in referring to the birth of a child. He was able to convince many residents to accept offers for their property.
In 1878, the Blount County Medical Society was organized in the office of Dr. Ben A. Morton. Dr. John P. Blankenship was elected president and Dr. Morton vice president.
Two of the initial members, Dr. A. B. McTeer and Dr. J. D. Singleton, became 50-year members in 1927.
Two LeQuires served as Chief of Staff at Blount Memorial Hospital
Dr. Granville Dexter LeQuire (1879-1960), better known as Dr. G. D. LeQuire, was a native of Cades Cove as was his son, Dr. Chester Brickey LeQuire (1907-1966), a surgeon better remembered as “Dr. Brickey” LeQuire. Dr. Brickey’s nephew, the late Dr. David McCroskey, was a local ophthalmologist.
Both Dr. G. D. and Dr. Brickey LeQuire served as chief of staff at Blount Memorial Hospital.
Dr. G. D.’s son Virgil was a physician at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine and was director of admissions at the Medical School.
A general practitioner, Dr. G. D. LeQuire was the first chief of staff at Fort Craig Hospital, was chief of staff the entire time Doctors’ Hospital was in operation, was chief of staff at Mountain View Sanitarium and served the first two terms as chief of staff at Blount Memorial Hospital.
Dr. G. D. LeQuire gets state honor
In 1952, Dr. G. D. LeQuire was named General Practitioner of the Year in Tennessee. But his struggle to get an education had been difficult. Born in Cades Cove, when he reached age 18 he and three other Cades Cove boys hiked out to the Little River Railroad and came to the Preparatory Department at Maryville College. Carrying food supplies from home, there they found cheap housing and cooked what food they had over a wood-burning stove.
In the following years he had tough sledding economically, teaching school, working in a lumber camp and on railroad construction.
He entered Tennessee Medical College in Knoxville, working in his spare time and studying late. After the first year in medical school, he returned home and married Eleanor Brickey of Townsend.
At the end of his second year, he took the state board and was granted a temporary license to practice for one year.
He returned to Cades Cove. In the fall, his brother-in-law again came to his financial aid and he returned to medical school, leaving his wife and their eight-month-old baby with her family in Townsend.
Following graduation, he chose to locate in rural Grainger County where much of his pay was by barter, and there was no other physician. He volunteered to serve in the Army in World War I and helped fight the influenza epidemic among the troops. Upon discharge, they moved to Maryville.
A strong community leader, Dr. G. D. was active in New Providence Presbyterian Church, serving as both elder and deacon.
Dr. Brickey’s concentration great
Dr. Brickey LeQuire, who was chief of staff at Blount Memorial Hospital (1951-52), recalled to fellow physicians his memory of having his tonsils removed while seated on the front porch in Cades Cove where more light was available.
He is remembered as a highly respected surgeon who was generally a quiet man but a great story teller.
He was known for his ability to take “power naps.” He could drop off to sleep in a few seconds and sleep for 10 minutes or so, a skill that came in handy for a physician who was required to work long hours.
Friends related his strong concentration. As a boy he would play marbles for hours without saying a word.
About 1963 he began to see double and a check up revealed he had a brain tumor. He underwent brain surgery at Vanderbilt.
In his rehabilitation he worked on regaining his dexterity by making a quilt at his home. Eventually he performed a few surgical cases but the fatal tumor recurred.
Dean Stone is editor of The Daily Times.