- [S74] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume IV, 1987-1999, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 12 Oct 1997.
Alma Delle Montgomery Watson obituary
- [S106] The Mountain Press, 19 Feb 2012.
Upland Chronicles: Dr. Montgomery treated many aches, ailments in the mountains
Dr. Bruce Montgomery sits with his wife, Lenora Whaley Montgomery. He is holding their oldest daughter, Kate, and Mrs. Montgomery is holding their second daughter, Mae. Photos courtesy Kathy Pittman
Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Montgomery stand with their children and grandchildren. Dr. Montgomery is holding his grandson Bruce Reece Montgomery, the future Sevier County sheriff.
Dr. Bruce Montgomery in the Spanish-American War where he received his medical training. He is seated on the floor in the center.
By THERESA WILLIAMS
By the turn of the 20th century the “timber rush” was on in the Smoky Mountains, bringing with it lumber companies and their physicians.
The Little River Lumber Co. employed Dr. Bruce Montgomery for its timber towns of Elkmont, Tremont and Townsend, establishing one of the first organized health care programs in the area.
Dr. Montgomery was a perfect choice for the folk who called the hills and hollows of the Smokies home. They were used to facing their everyday ailments with self-doctoring, folk remedies and treatment by herb doctors and “grannywomen.” Many viewed doctors with suspicion and only called them as a last resort, choosing instead to risk complications of illness rather than calling in a “furriner carrying a little black bag.”
Because he was one of them and understood their way of life, Montgomery immediately gained their trust.
For a flat fee of $1.70 per employee, Dr. Montgomery treated illness, injury and birthed his share of babies. He swore the babies always came with the blowing of the daily 5 a.m. “wake-up whistle,” saying that the sound of it signaled not only the beginning of the workday, but the beginning of life itself!
Born Aug. 24, 1870, to William Winton and Susanne Katherine Mullendore Montgomery, Benjamin Bruce Montgomery would lead an extraordinary life of service to Sevier County before his death on Oct. 15, 1954.
Doctor Bruce, as he was called by his friends and neighbors, grew up on his parents’ farm in the Pine Grove community with four brothers and three sisters. He was the third oldest. His brothers and sisters: Otis L., Mary Amanda, Alice Dialtha, Nannie K. John Verner, Leon and William Wallace.
His father, William Winton Montgomery, served as a captain in Company K, Second Tennessee Cavalry in the Union Army during the Civil War.
In his 20s Dr. Montgomery joined the medics and treated soldiers in the Spanish American War. When the war ended he returned home to Sevier County, where he set up his practice. Having seen so much pain in the war he believed in administering the pain killer quinine when needed.
He treated this writer’s grandfather, Jim Williams, who lived at the Forks of the River in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Jim had colon cancer, which consumed his body.
Bruce visited Jim twice a week as he went to and from his job as doctor for the Little River Lumber Co. in Elkmont. Jim’s family never received a bill for Dr. Montgomery’s home visits or medicine. The family remembers fondly his long visits with Jim to which the good doctor gave the name, “My good friend Jim.”
Montgomery married Lenora Whaley on April 18, 1898, in Sevier County. Their children were Bill, Wallace, Lon, Ted, Mae, Kate, Delle, Maude, Grace, Nell, Georgia, and Irene.
Cathy Montgomery Pittman, great-granddaughter of Doctor Bruce and daughter of Sheriff Bruce Reece Montgomery, relates the following story: “When my dad was a boy of 10 or 11 years old he drove his grandfather (Doctor Bruce) to pick up medical supplies and to take care of people.
“At some point after picking up medicine for distribute my dad commented to him that he was not charging enough. He should be asking people for more money for the medicine, and that Papaw Montgomery got very upset, and slammed his hand on the dash of the car and told my dad to listen to him.
“He went on to tell him that people of that time were doing all they could to get by and could not afford to pay for medicine at a higher price. He would charge what he had always charged.”
Doctor Bruce also treated his neighbor, William Alson Ogle, who had cancer and was living on the next farm in the home of his son-in-law Thomas Brazelton “Braz” Ownby. It is believed by the family that the last baby he delivered was the daughter of Braz Ownby, Cora Ethel Ownby in 1941.
Being taken to Dr. Bruce for childhood ailments, this writer became a fourth generation to be treated by him, as the above named persons was my great-grandfather, grandfather and aunt.
Montgomery was known not only as a physician and farmer, but he was also a justice of the peace. It is believed that his role as a politician came about as another way he could serve the citizens of Sevier County.
He served in the House from 1933 to 1939, representing Sevier County as a Republican. Montgomery also served his community as a member of the Sevier County Board of Education, Free and Accepted Masons, Order of Odd Fellows, Woodmen of the World and a member of the Baptist Church. Dr. Montgomery will long be remembered as a friend to his Sevier County neighbors.
— Theresa Williams is a genealogist for the Sevier County Library System. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a story or have comments please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to email@example.com.
- [S78] Atchley Funeral Home Records, Volume I, 1930-1954, Larry D. Fox, (Smoky Mountain Historical Society), 15 Oct 1954.
- [S34] In the Shadow of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Historical Society, (1993), 21-S.