Sep 28 2009
05:57 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Hello Readers, While "rambling" through some old newspapers recently I came across an article about a local doctor from the past. Rockwood has certainly had many fine doctors and one that I remember very well was Dr. Thomas Phillips. My parents took me to him a few times and I was his newspaper carrier for a while.
Dr. Tom Phillips came to the United States from Masteg, South Wales with his mother and father in 1882 when he was only three months old. It was in Rockwood that he grew up and graduated from the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. He began his practice in Briceville, Tn., but later moved to Rockwood to make his home.
Few people knew that in his younger days, he dabbled in oil painting and played the piano. He was so skillful with his hands that it is no wonder he became an excellent surgeon. Dr. Phillips married the former Elizabeth Regester and they had three sons.
Dr. May C. Wharton, a pioneer doctor in Pleasant Hill has this to say about Dr. Phillips in her autobiography, "Doctor Woman of the Cumberlands." "Almost as soon as the highway unlocked the way to the outside world, I drove to Rockwood to see Dr. Thomas H. Phillips who, we hoped, would act as our staff surgeon. It was arranged, much to our satisfaction."
"Dr. Phillips was one of the old-fashioned general practioners born with the urge for doctoring in his blood. Educated at Vanderbilt Medical School under several outstanding professors, he made of himself a peerless diagnostician by combining education, a vast and varied experience, and a sympathetic imagination. He carried his patients' medical history in his head, and often those of their whole families, too.
"We once had a patient of his who lived near Rockwood, and had doctored with him for many years. "Law me,", she said to me one day. "You can't tell me nothing about Dr. Phillips, ma'am. If Dr. Phillips said to me, "I got to cut off your head and turn it round the other way, I just say to him, "O.K. Doc, if that's what you got to do, go ahead and do it."
He came with us regularly on Thursday, his "day off", but he would come up at any call in those strenuous days, through snow or storm, over 35 miles of winding and often dangerous mountain road, bringing with him a breeziness and unfailing good humor that lightened many a heart-breaking task. Full of teasing as a school boy, he would be sought when instruments were boiled and ready, and be foud deep in argument with "Preacher" White, who likely as not had come over to act as an orderly for the operation.
"Sometimes we had to operate in some rooms of the Academy where everything was makeshift. " Why not? " he would have said, for he began his own practice as a country doctor in a mining community. Many an appendectomy he performed on a kitchen table by the light of one or two oil lamps."
"He was a deft and skillful hand at a tonsillectomy and many a tonsil clinic of fifteen to twenty patients have we held on a Thursday morning."
Dr. Wharton goes on to say that the surgical clinics had a way of "thickening up" and one case brought on another. She tells of emergency operations for ruptured appendix, gall bladder, ets., which were done in low-ceilinged rooms, unhandy places which were cramped and hard to clean.
Dr. Phillips was a great humanitarian. When he was called, there was never a question of money. Many times he was paid with eggs and farm produce and often nothing at all. In the middle of the night, he was known to slip his suit on over his pajamas and hasten to the bedside of a sick person. Often he sat the whoe night through with a sick patient.
He was a Bible student and quoted from the Bible freely. He was a Sunday School teacher at the Kingston Avenue Methodist Church for many years and usually had over a hundred or more in his class. A friend of his said one day, "Just talking to him made you feel better and he would take time to draw pictures to illustrate where the trouble was."
With his many duties he found time to serve his community. For many years he served as school commissioner and later as Mayor of Rockwood.
He was so small in size that he had to stand on a box in the hospital to perform his operations, but there was nothing short about his heart and his ability.
Just a short story about one of Rockwood's citizens from my childhood and I am sure most of you readers will remember Dr. Thomas Phillips. Keep the emails coming, and my books "Rockwood Memories" Volumes One and Two are available at "Shack's" ( now the home of Rockwood's best pizza), "Yonder Hollow", (best live music in East Tn.) Gail Score's Western Apparel ( Everything to make the horsewoman look her best) O'Those Were The Days Antiques, ( For a real trip down Memory Lane) and David Webb's Rocky Top General Store, ( Items that are one of a kind, that you can NEVER find elsewhere.)
Until next week, Ray

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