Bernice Historical Society
People and Places
Physicians in the Earliest Years of Bernice
Introduction: A 1939 article on the history of Union Parish states “Dr. George Carroll was the first physician to take up residence in Bernice. He was shortly followed by Doctors Dendy and Garland.”
The census of 1900 ( the first taken in Bernice) lists only two doctors – Dr. Carrol and Dr. Dendy. The only druggist is J.B. McLaurin. A 1903 list of Louisiana physicians listed D.B. Garland, James L. Dendy and George Carrol as physicians in Bernice. Carroll left Bernice in 1907 and was shortly followed by Dr. C.C. Colvin.
A 1909 list of Louisiana physicians gave the following physicians in Bernice: Robert P. Thaxton with an office over the drugstore (a 1907 graduate of Tennessee Medical School); John Jackson Bennett (a 1906 graduate of Louisiana Medical School); C.C. Colvin, D.B. Garland and G.P. Smith (previously practicing in Shiloh). It was about 1909 when Dr. O.E. Glover moved his office from Claiborne parish to Bernice where he practiced until his death in 1937.
It has been said that L. G. Talbot was the first Doctor of Dental Surgery but I can find no evidence as to his actually practicing in Bernice even though he was reared in town. Around 1908 Dr. M.W. Laurence Senior began practice in Bernice and he would be followed by his son Dr. M.W. Laurence Junior.
The remainder of this series will go into some detail on these doctors but will not be in chronological order as to their arrivals in Bernice.
Dr. George Reed Carroll
Dr. George Reed Carroll was born in Spearsville in 1871 and received his medical training at Tulane Medical. Before coming to Bernice he had been associated with the Charity Hospital in New Orleans. From the summer of 1898 until the summer of 1899 Dr. Carroll maintained an office on Cooper Street in Shreveport and held a position on the staff of Shreveport Sanitarium. He is known to have been practicing in Bernice in 1900 for it is recorded in a Gazette news item that he set the broken arm of a boy living in Pisgah.
Dr. Carroll married Annie Talbot, daughter of M.A. Talbot, a prominent Bernice businessman. In 1907 he moved his family to New Orleans and it was here in 1941 that he died at the age of 69. Doctors M.W. Laurence Senior and Dr. M.W. Laurence Junior were pallbearers at his funeral. He is buried in Spearsville.
Dr. James Larkin Dendy
Dr. James Larkin Dendy was born in Pisgah in 1860. He was an 1894 graduate of the Memphis Hospital Medical College and according to printed advertisements appearing in the Bernice High school catalog “Specialized in diseases of women and children.”
He married Vera Barrett in 1888 and by 1902 is listed as a licensed physician living in Pisgah. He spent 1904 in New Orleans performing post graduate work in medicine and obtaining the specialty of which he advertised. In the 1910 census he and his family are living in Jackson Parish and at the 1920 census he is living in Beauregard Parish. He died in 1926 and is buried in the Pisgah Cemetery.
Dr. David B. Garland
David Beauregard Garland was born in Claiborne Parish in 1861 and was a Graduate of Tulane School of Medicine in 1895. He first practiced medicine in Claiborne Parish where his brother ran a successful mercantile. In 1879 he maintained an office in Homer. Around 1903 he came to Bernice and the next year built a large home for him and his second wife, Daisy Dawson and their large family. Their home is listed on the National Register as “The Garland House”.
For 25 years Dr. Garland was the physician for the Rock Island Railroad and his office was located on the second floor of the Robinson Building. He attended the convention of Railway Surgeons and in 1906 at the national meeting held in Hot Springs, Arkansas he presided over a discussion of “medico-legal problems” within the profession.
Garland was a “colorful” character around town and was associated with civic organizations and the Bernice School District. In 1905 Dr. Garland and the former town marshal, W.J. Thaxton participated in a fight which occurred in Dr. Garland’s office located in the second story of The Robinson Building. The fight was publicized as a duel but it was more fisticuffs involving both knives and pistols. In the middle of the fight the men rolled out of the Doctor’s office and over the veranda to a concrete pavement below. The Times Picayune mistakenly reported the injuries as fatal. The horse trader was arrested as an accessory and taken off to the parish jail.
Garland’s wife Daisey taught in the Bernice schools for over 45 years. In 1932 when Bernice held its first Homecoming and 25 year celebration of being declared a High School, she was the only member of the faculty that had been there when the high school began in 1907. Dr. Garland died in 1931 after a long illness.
Carroll’s family came from Spearsville to Bernice in the earliest years of the town’s history. His sister, Sudie Carroll was one of the best liked teachers at BHS in early to mid 1920’s.
His advertisement appears with those of Dr. Glover, Colvin and Laurence offering his services as a Veterinarian with an office over the Miller Drug Store. Throughout the 1930’s the Union Parish Police Jury paid Dr. Carroll to provide rabies vaccinations for the parish. The service was provided at each local school and along the roads he traveled to and from those locations.
By the early 1940’s Dr. Carroll was living in the Lillie/Spearsville area. He died in 1968 at the age of 86 and is buried in Spearsville.
Dr. Oscar E. Glover
Dr. Oscar E. Glover of the Weldon community practiced in Claiborne parish for several years before moving his practice to Bernice in 1909. His office was adjacent to that of Dr. Garland in the second story of the E.B. Robinson Building. He served on the town council and on the Bernice school Board of Trustees. In 1927 the Masonic Building was built in Bernice and Glover moved his offices to the second story of that building. Glover died in 1937 from heart failure after suffering a bout of influenza. At the time of his death he was considered “one of the leading physicians in this part of the state” and served as the Health Officer for the town of Bernice.
Dr. Asher M. Edwards
Dr. Asher M. Edwards entered the practice of medicine in Bernice with Dr. Colvin about 1937. Edwards, a native of Ohio was married to Fredda Voss from Dubach. They built a two-story home on Highway Two West which later became the home of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Colvin. Edwards was a charter member of the Bernice Lions Club in 1940 and in 1946 was a resident of Farmerville.
Dr. Jesse Tanner
Dr. Jesse Tanner also of the Weldon Community attended Tulane University and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1909. He then went to the University of California in Los Angeles and received special training in Eye, Ears, Nose and Throat. He established an office in the Bernhart building in Monroe where he met and married Annie Stuckey. They moved to Weldon Community and lived with his parents until the death of his mother.
Dr. Tanner practiced in the area of Hebron and Weldon and there delivered Irene and Inez Foust, his first twin deliveries. It was said that Dr. Tanner told the father to hold on there was another one coming; a statement which led to the father’s rapid exit out the back door!
In 1937 he moved into an office in the second story of the Masonic building in Bernice where Dr. Glover, Dr. Colvin and Dr. Laurence all had established offices. Dr. Tanner practiced for a total of 63 years, nine years of which he was coroner for Union Parish. He died October 24, 1972 from cancer of the stomach and is buried in the Hebron Cemetery. His wife will be remembered by many of us as our Business Teacher at Bernice High, Annie Tanner.
The census of 1900 lists Miller Simmons as a dentist however no record exists of his practice. He could have been a dentist for the railroad and moved on as the railroad was constructed south of Bernice.
According to some newspaper accounts on local history, Dr. Green Lyle Talbot, the son of M.A. Talbot was considered the first dentist in Bernice. A biography of Talbot written in 1925 gave no mention of his ever practicing in Bernice. He was the fifth of a family of ten children and was born February 2, 1887 near Summerfield. His father moved his mercantile business to Bernice in 1899 and Talbot’s earliest education was acquired in the schools at Bernice.
From 1907 – 1909 he was a student at Louisiana State University and in 1911 graduated from the Atlanta Dental College with a degree as Doctor of Dental Surgery and spent one year at the Georgia Institute of Technology returning to Louisiana in 1912 where he set up practice at Fullerton.
In 1914 he practiced in Leesville and then moved to Texas where he practiced four years before setting up practice in De Ridder in 1919. In the census of 1930 he is living in Lake Charles, Louisiana and it was there in January of 1932 that Dr. Talbot died from a self inflicted gunshot. He is buried in Bernice.
To most of us when the word Dentist is spoken in Bernice the name Laurence immediately comes to mind. The reason lies in the father/son combination who served the Bernice area for over 90 years.
Dr. M. W. Lawrence, Sr.
Dr. M. W. Lawrence, Sr. called “Daddy Doc” by his grandchildren was born in Downsville in 1884. He attended and graduated from Atlanta Dental College and was married to Marjorie Heard, daughter of J.W. Heard and Rosanna Pleasant Heard and niece of Governor William Wright Heard. J.W. Heard had moved his family from Shiloh to Bernice in 1900 and Marjorie was the Music teacher at the Bernice School.
Dr. Laurence came to Bernice and began his practice of Dentistry in 1907. Initially his office was upstairs in the Robinson building, then over Miller’s Drug Store and finally in 1927 moved over the Hicks store in the Masonic building. At that time Dr. C. C. Colvin and Dr. O. E. Glover had offices there.
Dr. Laurence retired in 1960 after a 53 year practice in Bernice and died in 1967 at the age of 83. Throughout his years in Bernice he was active in all aspects of civic and community life. He was a past president of the Bank of Bernice and at the time of his death was President Emeritus.
(Note: His brother C. H. Laurence practiced dentistry in Ruston for 52 years, his death occurring in 1959 at the age of 85. Two other brothers also became dentists one of which was Dr. W. M. Laurence who practiced in Farmerville for just a few years before his death in 1911 at the young age of 30 due to lingering effects of malaria.)
Dr. Miller Wycliffe (Wick) Laurence, Junior
Dr. Miller Wycliffe (Wick) Laurence, Junior was born in Bernice in 1912. His education was acquired in the schools at Bernice and Louisiana Tech University. While in school at Bernice young Laurence was active in athletics and in music. While at Louisiana Tech he was a member of the Bulldog Baseball team and in 1975 was still considered by many to be the best infielder the Tech team had ever placed on the field.
After his graduation from Tech his desire was to pursue a career in dentistry but his dental education was delayed because his father wanted to make sure Wick was serious about the choice. Wick took a job as chemistry teacher at Bernice where he also coached the baseball team and in 1934 enrolled in the Atlanta Southern Dental College. In 1936 Dr. Wick returned to Bernice and married Cortez Hicks in an 8 AM wedding on the first day of squirrel season; to the dismay of most of the males in attendance. After graduation the two returned to Bernice where he established a practice that would last for over 40 years.
During the war Wick served in the United States Army Dental Corps a position he held until his honorable discharge in 1946 with the rank of Major. Dr. Wick was active in many professional organizations and served on the Bernice Town Council for 24 years. He was on the Board of Directors of the Bank of Bernice and served on the Advisory Board of Community Trust Bank for several years. He was one of the founding members of the Bernice Volunteer Fire Department and was a supporter of many youth programs in Bernice. As a former Boy Scout he realized the importance such an organization could have on the boys in Bernice and supported Troop 48 as well as Troop 59 in Ruston. He was also a supporter of Dixie Youth Baseball in Bernice.
He valued the power of education and Wick and Cortez provided financial assistance to many young students who wanted to attend college or technical school. He allowed young dental graduates to practice in his office until they were secure enough to set up practices for themselves.
The name Laurence had been associated with dentistry in Bernice for almost 95 years when Dr. Wick passed away in 1999 at the age of 87.
Cathy Buckley is a native of Union Parish and lifelong citizen of Shiloh. She served as Principal of Spearsville High School for many years until her retirement. Cathy is now the director of the Bernice Depot Museum and a active member of the Bernice Historical Society.