After writing two columns about Dr. Joseph Leonard Gardner, I thought I had exhausted that subject. Then an article that offers a new slant came my way. While I was discussing Dr. Gardner with Ted Rumley, Ted told me that he had a scrapbook that had an article in it about the Gardners that focused mostly on Mrs. Gertrude Gardner. He sent it to me and what follows is that article, written on the occasion of Mrs. Gardner’s death in 1942.
To give a kind of timeline, the Gardners came to Sulphur Springs, Georgia (the community is known now as Cloverdale) in 1915. Mrs. Gardner died in 1942. Dr. Gardner was killed in 1955. So the couple played a big role in this community for many years.
The author of this article, which appeared alongside Mrs. Gardner’s obituary in the newspaper, was Fred Forester, a minister who grew up at Head River. I came to know Fred Forester when he retired from the full-time ministry and settled in Rising Fawn. Many of our readers will remember Fred. I wanted to be sure and give him credit for the remainder of this article, because my students know how I feel about plagiarism.
It’s obvious that my writing style and Brother Fred’s are quite different. I would describe his as “flowery.” –Linda Wilson
Article by Fred Forester
The romance of the Gardners work at Sulphur Springs, GA, featured some pioneer work for that section. A quarter of a century and two years this April 1, a young doctor, well equipped, ready to practice with a willing heart, not afraid to face the future, started from Crossville, AL, with his young bride, from the old place on Sand Mountain, to make his home at Sulphur Springs, GA.
On that important day, two wagons bore the household goods. The young doctor and his bride were riding in a buggy pulled by an old faithful black horse whose name was Mac. They pitched camp at Valley Head, AL, sheltered by a small forest with the stars for their roof. The second day of April, 1915, they arrived at Sulphur Springs, rented a house for $4.00 monthly and set up their household furniture.
Gertrude, the young bride of a year, prepared a little supper, one oil lamp furnishing the light. After they had settled comfortably, a loud knock was heard at the door. The gentlemanly doctor said, “Who is there?” A troubled voice on the outside replied, “I am looking for the new doctor. My wife needs his assistance.”
Within 45 minutes they were riding over the ridge into a small farm house where his skilled medical assistance proved truly efficient. About daylight a tiny baby was born. Immediately the doctor’s patient wife began her service to northwest Georgia and northeastern Alabama by faithfully holding the fort for the youthful physician, making every effort to promote his usefulness to the needy field about Sulphur Springs.
Two months before faithful Mac had delivered this couple to Sulphur Springs, the old depot agent said: “Young man, the field is wide open to some good doctor.” A.J. Brown said: “The only encouragement I can offer is plenty of hard work.” With these words and other encouragement, plus discouraging remarks by the citizens, it was decided that the adventure was needed to be made.
Old Mac was faithful; the Spring was wet, and roads were muddy, but always the doctor was ready to assist suffering humanity whether the remuneration was realized or not. Gertrude did all the home work, the office work and much of the gardening. This lady endeared herself to the citizens of the mountains, ridges and valley. She made many trips with the doctor. She gave medical advice when the doctor was away on a call. She read every medical journal, many physicians’ textbooks that she might keep abreast with the doctor.
Very soon Gertrude and the doctor had found themselves in the hearts of the best citizens. The doctor’s vastly growing practice did not permit him to take an active part in the local Sunday school, but the community can never forget the faithfulness of his wife. She taught a class and molded many lives. The doctor attended the church at his every chance.
This vast territory of two states can never forget the blessings of Mrs. Gardner. Her cheerfulness was like a medicine. Her philosophy of life was perfect; based on the New Testament. She wanted to bring comfort to the suffering, joy to the bereaved, and medical aid when needed. Our people will forever remember the sunshine she spread.
We all know that she has gone to her reward. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Barksdale of Crossville, AL. This noble, Christian woman, was laid to rest in the old family cemetery on March 30, 1942. She was baptized at the old Baptist church in Crossville, about thirty years ago. Our dear friends, the Barksdales, and Dr. Gardner may rest assured that we think of them in terms of prayer and sympathy.
--By Rev. Fred Forester of Head River, GA. Present address: Drexel, NC
P.S. I noted their faithful service from my early boyhood days and can truly say the Gardners helped to mold my life for Christ. Many times Mrs. Gardner showed her interest in my suffering loved ones. She never forgot my faithful mother’s birthday. Once when I came from Texas to conduct a revival meeting at Cloverdale, Mrs. Gardner threw her life into the revival. I watched her as she and a neighbor woman brought parties to shake hands who had been at outs.
Mrs. Gardner talked, prayed, and pled with some of the neighbor young people to come to Christ. She tried to win souls. As the revival closed on Friday night, I told my dear Head River mother goodbye and went to the Gardners for a 1:30 AM breakfast that was prepared by lovely Mrs. Gardner before the Dr. and Grady Forester took me to the fast train to be flagged at Fort Payne. We paused that morning at the table and prayed a parting prayer of thanks for the revival and for our friends. I am glad the Gardners lived to serve and served to live on.