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Chronicling country doctors: Local couple pens history of Bailey museum

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For James and Margaret Bailey, sharing their research on various nuggets of southern Nash County history has become a way of life.

The couple hopes their latest offering, a book about the history of Bailey’s Country Doctor Museum, will provide a greater understanding of how the museum came into existence and provide context of life for medical workers who practiced in rural settings.

“The museum has been a part of our lives,” said Margaret Bailey, whose late grandfather, a Bailey druggist, has his apothecary cabinet on prominent display at the museum. “You don’t think about what we have and how it’s important in the medical community and the early days of medicine that are right around us.”

“The Country Doctor Museum: Early Medical Practices, Treatments and Medicines” includes almost 250 pages of the museum’s history, its founders and donations of medical equipment as well as early advertisements and testimonials for patented medications, color photographs and diagrams.

“It was going to just be an article, but it just blossomed and turned into a book,” said Margaret Bailey.

“No one had written very much about the museum itself. There were a lot of articles when it got started about people making contributions and people donating different things. Now it has a fairly long history,” James Bailey said. “There’s a variety of things in it that we thought would be interesting to different people.”

Margaret Bailey said Dr. Josephine E. Newell, one of the museum’s founders and the first female president of the North Carolina Medical Society, came to her family’s aid after a car accident nearly 60 years ago.

“I remember her coming out with her satchel. I remember her examining me,” Margaret Bailey said. “That’s what country doctors did. They went out to wherever. They didn’t take you to her. There weren’t emergency services to take you. That was a country doctor experience for me as a child.”

James Bailey said he was fascinated by the medical treatments, many of which he said were more harmful than beneficial.

“One of the laxatives contained mercury. It’s alarming to think that you’d be better off to not go to the doctor.”

The advances that nurses from North Carolina made in the medical field captivated Margaret Bailey’s attention.

“I wrote about as many of these nurses as I could who were avant-garde, ahead of their time,” she said.

The Baileys, both retired educators, hope that in addition to educating the public about the treasures contained in the Country Doctor Museum, the book will also serve as a fundraising vehicle. All book sale proceeds will benefit the museum.

A book-signing will be held from 1-3 p.m. Saturday, July 20 at the Country Doctor Museum, 7089 Peele Road in Bailey. For more information, call 252-235-4165 or visit www.countrydoctormuseum.org.

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