Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dr. William Thomas Meeks Sr. Town and country doctor

Continuing the stories of outstanding doctors who practiced medicine in Union County in the past (Dr. Edge and Dr. Rogers), we turn our attention this week to Dr. William Thomas Meeks, Sr. He might be labeled both a "town and country" doctor, having an office in his home just west of town toward Blue Ridge, and also making house calls throughout the county.

William Thomas Meeks was born August 26, 1874. He was twelve years of age when his father, John Wellborn Meeks, moved to Union County in 1886. The family farmed. The elder Mr. Meeks wanted as good an education as possible for his sons, Jesse and William, so after finishing the local school, they went to the Hiawassee Academy founded by the noted Baptist preacher cousins, Dr. George W. Truett and Dr. Fernando Coello McConnell. There the brothers would have "batched,"- that is, found a place to board and provide their own meals as they attended classes.

When William Thomas Meeks was in his early twenties, he went out to Arizona to find a job so that he could earn enough money to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. It is assumed that he reached this goal, for he returned to Blairsville and worked for awhile as a carpenter, helping to build the "old" court house on the square.

William Meeks and Dollie Adeline Colwell (1885-1987) began their courtship which culminated in their marriage in 1908. Meeks had long harbored a dream to become a doctor. In 1912, with his wife and young son, John Jacob (who was born prematurely October 23, 1908 weighing 2 pounds, 8 ounces, and was kept "incubated" in a shoe box, watched carefully and warmed by a wood stove), the family moved to Atlanta and he began studies at the old Atlanta School of Physicians and Surgeons.

Life was hard as they lived on Highland Avenue in Atlanta. Mrs. Meeks kept a cow and sold milk to neighbors. The cow also provided milk for the Meeks family, which had increased by another son, William Thomas, Jr., born October 1, 1914.

While not in classes at the medical college (which became Emory University School of Medicine the year Dr. Meeks graduated in 1915), he cut trees for the Coca Cola Company, and the couple sold Bibles for a publishing company.

Dr. Meeks had a desire to serve among his own people in Union County, so they returned to set up his practice. He made house calls, riding a black horse in all sorts of weather to see his patients over a wide area of the county. The story is told that at times the weather was so cold Mrs. Meeks had to use hot water or a hammer to melt or break up the ice formed on the stirrups so that Dr. Meeks could dismount from his horse upon his return from calls.

The third Meeks son was born in Blairsville March 23, 1918 and named Jack Littleton.

A major flu epidemic struck in 1918. It was just prior to this period that the Meeks family moved from Union County to Hall County and set up his practice in the mill village of New Holland. Several people from Union County had already moved there seeking employment in the cotton mills. He delivered babies and tended the sick. On his house calls, especially during the flu epidemic, he went from house to house up and down the streets trying to help the desperately ill people. It was reported that he delivered more babies than any doctor in Hall County, Georgia between the years of 1918 and 1935 when he practiced there.

As she did while they were in Atlanta, Dollie Meeks made sure her family had what they needed to eat. She had a chicken lot and kept fryers and hens that provided meat and eggs for her family.

The fourth Meeks son, Charles Edward, was born October 2, 1921 while the family lived in Hall County.

In 1935, Dr. Meeks moved his family back to Union County. He maintained an office in his home where he saw patients. He continued house calls, using a Model A Ford for transportation on the poor roads. Only one paved road went through the county at that time, what is now Highway 129 from Neel Gap to the North Carolina line (opened in 1925). Other roads were dirt, and often impassable in winter weather. Many a time, Dr. Meeks had to get a farmer with his team to pull his Model A through the mud. He often parked it and walked a distance to the house where he went to deliver a baby or to attend the sick.

The good doctor suffered a stroke in 1944. He did not recover, and died July 10, 1944. He was interred at the new Blairsville Cemetery. Mrs. Dollie Adeline Colwell Meeks lived until January 23, 1987.

The sons had distinguished careers but none of them followed their father into medical practice. John lived in Charleston, SC where he owned a furniture and moving business. He died in 1988. William T. Meeks, Jr., better known as Bill, graduated from the University of Georgia and returned to Union County where he became a farmer, merchant and legislator. Jack Littleton graduated from Georgia School of Technology with a chemical engineering degree. After a stint with the US Navy in which he reached the rank of Commander, he got a job with the Clorox Company and worked as chemist, plant manager, and regional manager. Charles Edward graduated from Georgia Tech in chemical engineering and held positions with various chemical manufacturing companies, the latest being in Lock Haven, PA with Quantum Chemicals until his retirement in 1988.

Today, Meeks Park in Union County stands as a monument to this family who were honorable and productive citizens.

[The major resource for this article was the "Dr. William Thomas Meeks, Sr." story in The Heritage of Union County, 1994, page 236.]

c 2007 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Feb. 8, 2007 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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