Firefighters preserve country doctor’s legacy

Bradshaw mended wounds, delivered babies and sometimes worked for barter

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The Rock Ridge Fire Department held an open house with an estimated 200 people in attendance May 7. A historical marker was unveiled for the actress Ava Gardner. It was very nice. Gov. Jim Hunt and brother and sister Dewey Baine and Mary Sheffield were there to help with the presentation. Ava stayed in Rock Ridge for a brief time.

The fire department also purchased the home of Dr. Thomas Gavin Bradshaw. It will be used for both the Rock Ridge Fire Department and EMS. Firefighters had done some renovations.

My name is Anna Gavin Bradshaw, the granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Gavin Bradshaw, and on behalf of the Bradshaw family, I’d like to reflect on the many countless hours of service he gave to the Rock Ridge community and surrounding area.

Dr. Bradshaw was born in Franklin, Virginia om July 22, 1883 to Joel and Minnie Alberta Bradshaw. He went to the Franklin Academy and on to the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, where he graduated in 1904. He did his internship at Norfolk General Hospital.

He got a late start in the medical field — his mother died and he was close to her. Dr. Claude J. Bradshaw, my grandfather’s cousin, steered him into the medical field.

Dr. Gavin Bradshaw was known throughout Windsor and Walters, Virginia, where he practiced. He married Julia Southall Reynolds from Smithfield, Virginia, on Feb. 8, 1911. They had four children born in Virginia, Lillie, Mary Reynolds, Thomas Jr. and Julia. William was the only child born in North Carolina.

Dr. Bradshaw came to North Carolina because my grandmother, “big sister” and her husband Willie M. Wiggins had opened a plumbing business here and my grandmother wanted to be near her sister.

Dr. Bradshaw and family made the journey from Virginia to North Carolina in 1924 to take the practice from Dr. Grady, who moved to Wilson. The first house they moved into burned down. My parents told me some of the high school boys helped save some of the furniture.

My daddy was Thomas Gavin Bradshaw Jr. and he and my mama told me about my grandfather when I was a young child. My grandfather took his medical oath seriously and helped everyone whether they paid or not. Dr. Bradshaw’s office was in a building beside the J.W. Barnes store and Nichols Drug Store in Sims.

His field of medicine ranged from delivering babies and looking back in on them at home after he delivered them to surgery on people to mending broken bones to the measles and mumps. He had fixed some medicine to help a lady walk. No one ever knew his formula because he was so busy he never wrote it down.

Dr. Bradshaw delivered David and George M. Flowers, who were twins born to Rome and Ella Flowers. When George was delivered, they built a fire in the wood cookstove and used it like an incubator and gave George one drop of whiskey diluted in water to get him going. Today, George Flowers owns Flowers Slaughterhouse.

My parents told me about a bad snowstorm when a man fetched my grandfather on a horse and wagon to deliver his wife’s baby — she was having a hard labor. He only charged $25, but during the Depression, money was short. After the snow was gone, my grandfather returned to check on the mom and baby and they were fine.

The man had two milk cows and offered one to my grandfather as payment, so my grandfather drove home in the car with a cow tied to the back bumper.

Dr. Bradshaw was called to a cabin back up in the woods on the creek. The man passed before he got there. So my grandfather signed the death certificate and they had a viewing at the home. It was a small house with one door and two windows. During the viewing, the man came loose and raised up in his box.

That family tore the windows out and the screen door completely off the hinges and went to my granddaddy’s house to get him. My grandfather went back to the house. None of the family would go in.

Dr. Bradshaw came out and chuckled and told them they didn’t have him tied down tight enough. He stayed there to assist them and then went home.

My parents told me sometimes he was paid in money and other times it was bartered out with ham, sausage, butter, eggs, chickens and vegetables. He enjoyed serving the people of Rock Ridge and the surrounding area.

Dr. Bradshaw loved his home state of Virginia and visited family when he could. His brother Clinton’s father-in-law gave my grandfather some instruments to help him in his practice to remove limbs. These instruments were returned to Dr. Joseph Duck’s heirs.

Dr. Bradshaw came from a long line of hard workers, including doctors, lawyers, judges, farmers, schoolteachers and loggers. He was a member of Buckhorn Methodist Church and also attended Marsh Swamp Free Will Baptist, where he was buried.

His memberships included the North Carolina Medical Association, Wilson County Medical Society, Fourth District Medical Society, Woodmen of the World Camp 425 of Rock Ridge and a school committee he served on for many years.

When my parents first got married, they lived with my grandparents, and that was my sister Mary Etta Bradshaw Bryd’s homeplace. My uncle Bill and aunt Marie bought it and my cousin Billy and Kathy Bradshaw’s homeplace, along with some other family members.

My cousin Joseph Bradshaw “Brad” Batten got his Eagle Scout badge doing some landscaping around the house since the fire department bought it. Wes Barnes helped Brad with the project.

All five of my grandfather’s children received a college education. He said education was important. My uncle Bill Bradshaw was planning to become a doctor but changed his major.

I’m proud to be his granddaughter even though I never met him — I was born in 1961. My parents made sure we knew about him.

I have several cousins who followed in the medical field, including Rachel Bradshaw, who is in the U.S. Navy and in nursing with a master’s degree; Dr. Linda Bradshaw-Jones in the U.S. Air Force; and Dr. Wilber V. Bradshaw Jr. of Texas, who is deceased. I’m glad to know that his legacy has lived on in our family.

I have some of his books and instruments. I wish I could have met him. I’m glad my parents told me about him and I’m proud of his accomplishments to serve Rock Ridge and his homeplace, the great state of Virginia.

I’m proud of his countless hours of dedication by being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to serve the public and their needs. And I’m proud to call him my “Daddy Doc” even though he died April 11, 1955.

We thank the Rock Ridge Fire Department for preserving a part of his history. Some of the family still lives in Rock Ridge.

Anna Gavin Bradshaw is a resident of the Rock Ridge community of Wilson County and a granddaughter of Dr. Thomas Gavin Bradshaw.