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Remembering Dr. Gwathmey

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Dr. William R. Gwathmey, standing by his hunting dogs above, was the local physician at Ruark in Deltaville from 1905 to 1933. A two-story home that once belonged to him burned in December 2012 and was razed last week. His doctor’s office (above) once stood on Fishing Bay Road, but was moved closer to Jackson Creek several years ago. The office still stands today.

by Larry S. Chowning

The Deltaville historical home once owned by Dr. William R. Gwathmey and his wife Ora (Vaughan) Gwathmey was gutted by fire in December, 2012 and was razed last week.

Lower Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department chief Jimmy Walden said no one was living in the home at the time of the fire.

The home and property on Jackson Creek brings back memories for those who lived in the Deltaville community prior to 1933. In 1905, Dr. Gwathmey moved his medical practice from King and Queen County to serve the community of Ruark and the other areas of Deltaville.

Dr. Gwathmey was there the day Norman Hall came into this world. “He brought me into this world,” said Hall, who lives in Deltaville. “When I was a little fellow, I’d row over to his home in my skiff. He had a whole field of muscadine grapes, an ice house and a pond.

“In the wintertime, he’d take ice out of the pond and he’d put the ice in the ice house. He put down ice and sawdust, layer by layer. He had big chunks of ice and plenty of sawdust. I I guess he sold the ice. There was ice in that hole all summer long, no matter how hot it got,” said Hall.

Dr. Gwathmey was a lover of muscadine wine. Older patients recall when they went in for treatment it didn’t take the good doctor long to go into his basement for two glasses of wine to share. When coming back into the office, he would ask, “Now tell me again what you came to see me for?”

He owned a log canoe that he used to visit patients in Mathews and Gloucester counties. In a 1990s interview his niece, Caroline (Gwathmey) Jones, recalled that she had told her father she wanted to be a doctor. In response, her father exclaimed, “Women don’t become doctors.”

“Everybody in Deltaville knew Dr. Gwathmey and over his life he brought a many a one of us into this world,” said Hall. “I hated seeing that old home burn down. It’s a reminder of old Deltaville. Now it’s gone.”

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 01.30.2013

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