Turbervilles and the Hospital
Margaret Collier

Today’s article is from our friend, Elizabeth Vickers, of
Pensacola. Betty and Dr. Marylou Ruud, UWF History
Professor, are currently working on a study of women's
experiences in Escambia County during the Great
Depression. An exhibit entitled “Collard Greens and
Artistic Scenes: Stories of Pensacola Women of the
1930s,” is currently on exhibit at the Wentworth Museum
and will run through March 2006.
When Doctors Made House Calls
Circa 1930, Dr. Turberville and Century, Florida
by Elizabeth D. Vickers

Century is a small town of about 1,700 population in the northern part of Escambia County. In the 1930s, it was probably half that size. The Alger-Sullivan Lumber Company was its primary economic support, and Dr. Samuel Turberville-affectionately known as Dr. Sam-was its medical support. Dr. Turberville served as president of the Florida Medical Association in 1940.

There are few extant records that tell the story of Dr. Sam and his devotion to the sick in that area and his legacy to Century. Thanks to the memories of some of his former nurses and the efforts of Margaret Collier to collect them, a touching story begins to emerge. Mrs. Collier and others have also carefully displayed medical artifacts in the Leach House Museum, artifacts that provide tangible evidence of Dr. Sam's presence in the community.

Dr. Turberville was born in Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama Medical School in 1902. In 1907, he acquired the small hospital in Century and later renamed it "Turberville Hospital" in honor of his parents. A few physicians came and left Century over the next few decades, but he was the mainstay. Mrs. Turberville ran the hospital business, and "dropped ether" in the OR when called upon. In the 1940s, Dr. Sam's two physician sons, Drs. Joe and John, joined their father at the 35-bed hospital. Dr. Sam died in an automobile accident in 1946, as did Dr. Joe in 1951. Dr. John died of a heart attack a few weeks later.

Mrs. Ossie Streit recalls that Dr. Sam started a nursing school in the 1930s, but it was never accredited. She was one of the nurses who was "trained on the job." They worked twelve-hour shifts and had some night classes. They attended home deliveries with Dr. Sam and made some follow-up house calls for him. Most patients had no money so payment would be made in kind - bushels of corn or maybe a calf for his farm in Alabama. The "OJT" must have been of acceptable quality because Mrs. Streit qualified for a practical nurse's license after WWII and went to work in the operating room at Escambia General Hospital.

Mrs. Ruth Paige was born in Century and remembers going to the Turberville Hospital where her mother was the cook. Dr. Sam's daughter would baby-sit Ruth until her mother finished work During WWII, Mrs. Paige went to work at the hospital where Drs. Joe and John trained her to scrub in the operating room. Her performance was obviously impressive because they also trained her to deliver babies. Her training continued after the arrival of Dr. Stewart and she became a licensed midwife. When Lakeview Center opened in Pensacola in the 1960s, she was hired as a midwife and performed deliveries throughout the county. This was a commendable accomplishment for an African-American woman in this era.

Dorothy Weaver Ptomey came to Century after she graduated from nursing school at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi in 1946. Drs. Joe and John taught her and another nurse operating room procedures and how to administer ether and oxygen. Nursing school had taught them the basics, but Turberville Hospital provided their real education in surgical nursing. The physicians performed a broad range of surgical procedures - hysterectomies, cholecystectomies, hip reductions, tonsillectomies - and attended to the accident cases from Alger Sullivan and the railroad. Mrs. Ptomey eventually studied to become a nurse anesthetist and returned to work in Century until the hospital closed in 1971.

The deaths of the Turberville brothers in 1951 had left a significant hiatus in the medical care of Century and a facility was desperately needed. Mrs. Ptomey courageously became a part owner and helped keep the hospital open for several years. That's a story for another time.

Don’t forget to look at the Christmas gifts we have available. The outstanding one, we think, is the beautiful collectible ornament, a 3-D representation of Old 100. At only $15.00, we think your gift selection isn’t complete until you check out this deluxe gift suggestion. Of course, the Sawmill Scrapbooks and Pictorial History books make wonderful gift ideas for the local history buffs on your list! Make the Alger-Sullivan Historical Society the first stop on your Christmas shopping schedule! Call 850-256-2029, 850-256-2661, or 850-256-3980 for ordering information.

This page last modified on Sunday, December 25, 2005

Betty Vickers