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

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dr. Frank J. Erwin, country doctor and entrepreneur

Dr. Frank J. Erwin was a country doctor of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Union County, Georgia.

It has been somewhat difficult to trace his history, but several facts are known about him and the contributions he made to Union County as a doctor, homeowner, solid citizen and entrepreneur.

The 1880 census of Union County shows Frank Erwin in the family of Calvin and Rosetta (Hughes) Erwin on their farm in Arkaquah District. Frank was the oldest of nine children: Frank, Laura, George, Henry, Lena, Nancy, John, Robert and Emma. The children ranged in age in that census from Frank, 22, down to little Emma who was 2.

Dr. J. M. Nicholson, writing of Dr. Erwin in his column "Yesterday and Today," which was published in the 1960's, states that Dr. Erwin had "several brothers and sisters, or perhaps half-brothers and sisters." Noting the date of marriage of James C. (Calvin) Erwin to Rosetta Hughes, recorded in Union County Marriages as occurring August 19, 1861, we can surmise that Frank J. Erwin, born September 15, 1857, was a child by James Calvin Erwin's first marriage. He would then have been reared by his father and step-mother, Rosetta Hughes Erwin.

The Erwin family evidently wanted the best for their children, as was typical of concerned parents. The eldest, Frank, made a doctor, and two of the sons made ministers.

Rosetta Hughes Erwin was a sister of the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes. This stalwart Methodist minister had a strong influence on Rosetta and James Calvin Erwin's children.

Two of their sons, George and John, became Methodist Ministers with significant charges in the North Georgia Conference.

Frank Erwin married Alice England on October 16, 1884, with the Rev. Thomas Coke Hughes, Rosetta's brother, officiating. It seems that later, after his marriage to Alice, Frank Erwin decided to become a doctor. He entered the Atlanta Medical College in the late 1880's or early 1890's. This college was a precursor to the present Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Frank Erwin came back to Union County to practice medicine, and was known throughout the county as an astute and caring doctor.

As an entrepreneur, he established a drug store in Blairsville. He hired his sister-in-law, Bonnie England Jones, to manage the store. His doctor's office was in the rear of the store, and there, around the pot-bellied stove that gave heat in the cold winter months, he saw patients. We are told that it was also a favorite gathering place for men of the town who often just dropped in to have a chat with the friendly doctor and talk about the state of affairs in the county, state, nation and world. Parts of their discussions, no doubt, were on the gathering war clouds that preceded World War I.

He was a "house call" doctor and rode his buggy or faithful horse into the country to see patients. His means of diagnosis was listening carefully to symptoms his patients told him. No x-rays or scans pinpointed problems in his days of doctoring. If records were available of babies born while he was the attending physician, we might be surprised at the number.

It is said that through prudent management, Dr. Erwin acquired much property in Union County. He built a lovely house in Blairsville for his family which was later bought by Pharmacist Hubert Butt and Mrs. Louise Butt, noted teacher.

The graves of Dr. Frank J. Erwin and his wife, Alice M. England Erwin, may be seen in the new Blairsville cemetery. Birth and death dates for him read September 15, 1857 - March 13, 1924, and for her, November 14, 1865 - November 27, 1920. The Erwins had two daughters and one son. Bessie Erwin (1893- 1955) married C. W. Beacham. They lived in Blairsville and each is buried in the new Blairsville Cemetery.

The other daughter married Sidney Chandler and they lived in Athens, GA. and also in a lovely house they built on their farm along the Nottely River going west toward Blue Ridge. The son, Frank, Jr., moved to California where he was a businessman.

The last name Erwin is spelled in various ways: Erwin, as most Union County Erwins spell it; Ervin, and Irvin or Irving. It is Scottish or English in origin, and means "sea friend," one who lived near the sea, or "green river," from Irvine, the name of the "green river" in England.

c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 1, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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