Health and Family

Prior to 1920, the year the Pi Beta Phi Settlement School first acquired the services of a full-time resident nurse, Gatlinburg residents suffered from a near complete lack of professional health care services. Herb doctors and “Granny Women” did their best to cure the sick, care for expectant mothers, and ensure that children grew up to be strong and healthy adults; but their methods were based more on superstition than on science, and so were relatively ineffective against the onslaught of disease and injury so common to mountain life. Pi Beta Phi’s mission was to break Gatlinburg residents’ dependence on traditional healers, and then convince them to adopt modern “preventative” solutions when addressing their health care needs. The fraternity accomplished this over the course of the next forty-five years (1920-1965), albeit more slowly than members might have wished.

In the essays that follow, we will explore the many facets of the Pi Beta Phi Health Care Program, including the medical problems faced by Gatlinburg residents; the history of the Jennie Nicol Memorial Hospital (Gatlinburg’s first fully-modern health care facility); and the challenges of the settlement school nurses.


Health & Family in Southern Appalachia: HTML | PDF

Jennie Nicol Memorial Health Center: HTML | PDF

Pi Beta Phi Health Care Program: HTML | PDF



Edith Bales and the demonstration doll, circa 1920

Baby on scales at Health Care Center, circa 1920

Allie Reagan Ownby with baby Phyllis, circa 1920

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 Digital Collections |  Contemporary Galleries Scrapbooks