In the Spotlight This Week!




“Chuckatuck was blessed with two doctors who had long careers: Dr. Leslie Eley practiced medicine 62 years and Dr. Philip Thomas for 60.” – Dr. Eley’s office, 1920

Physicians affiliated with the Chuckatuck Area

The Virginia Gazetteer, published in 1835, stated that Chuckatuck had a population of about 300 persons of which one was a physician. According to records from the University of Pennsylvania, there is an entry for Edward A. Butts of Virginia who attended the Medical Department during the 1828/1829 session but did not receive a Doctor of Medicine degree. Medical College of Virginia records indicate Dr. Edward A. Butts attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated in 1829. It is not known where he obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree. The 1840 U.S. Census shows Edward A. Butts, age between 20 and 30 and therefore being born between 1810 and 1820, living in Nansemond, Virginia. It is possible that the physician mentioned in the Virginia Gazetteer is Dr. E.A. Butts who had a son in 1843, George Washington Butts. George Washington Butts became a physician and farmer and lived in Chuckatuck.

Dr. Robert H. Tynes once owned the “Spady” house and farm. According to the 1870 U.S. Census, Robert H. Tynes whose occupation was listed as a physician, lived in the Chuckatuck Township in the County of Nansemond. He was 43 at the time of the census giving him a birth date of approximately 1827. It is not known if he was a practicing physician in the Chuckatuck area.

Dr. George Washington Briggs attended the University of Virginia from 1845-1849. His residence was listed as Nansemond for the first three years and Albemarle for the fourth year. According to the 1870 census, he was age 42 which would have made his year of birth approximately 1828. He was listed as living in Chuckatuck and a farmer. According to records from the University of Virginia it appears that he completed courses in general education and then completed two full years of medical training. It was unusual to see students take two full years of general studies at the University before completing two full years of medical study and it indicates an inordinate amount of education and medical training for the period. This was a time when many medical schools did not have any real requirements for entrance and consisted of only one year.

Dr. George Washington Butts was the son of Dr. Edward A. Butts and Mary Mills Corbell Butts, the daughter of Col. Samuel Corbell of the War of 1812. He was born February 22, 1843 in Chuckatuck and died September 6, 1912. In March, 1862, he enlisted in the old Petersburg Cavalry which was afterwards Company B, 13th Virginia Cavalry, Chalmers’ Brigade. He served with that company until the close of the Civil War unharmed. Before the war he attended the University of Virginia and graduated in 1860 with degrees in chemistry and math. After the war he studied medicine at the Medical College of Virginia and graduated in 1868. He became a physician in Chuckatuck and a farmer. In the Virginia State Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1897-98, he was listed as a supervisor of Chuckatuck and he also served as the County Treasurer. At the time of his death he was president of the Board of Visitors of the Deaf, Dumb and Blind Institute at Staunton. One of Dr. Butts’ daughters married Z.H. Powell who rebuilt the house in Chuckatuck. It is thought that one of the small houses behind the main house was built by Mr. Powell and used as an office by Dr. Butts. If it was an office, it is not known if it was for personal or professional use. Dr. Butts is buried in the cemetery at Wesley Chapel Methodist Church.

Dr. Isaac W. Coston, according to the 1920 U.S. Census, was 50 years old at that time making his year of birth approximately 1870. A resident of Nansemond County, his occupation was listed as a doctor and he rented rather than owned a house. According to recollections of Mildred Godwin Knight from a few years ago, a Dr. Coston lived in the small two room house between Gwaltney’s Store and Moore’s Store. It is not known if he was a practicing physician and the preparer of this information is not sure about the accuracy.

Dr. Isaac W. Coston, according to the 1920 U.S. Census, was 50 years old at that time making his year of birth approximately 1870. A resident of Nansemond County, his occupation was listed as a doctor and he rented rather than owned a house. According to recollections of Mildred Godwin Knight from a few years ago, a Dr. Coston lived in the small two room house between Gwaltney’s Store and Moore’s Store. It is not known if he was a practicing physician and the preparer of this information is not sure about the accuracy.

Dr. Euclid Clarence Wills was born in 1885 and died June 6, 1948. He graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1906 and licensed to practice medicine in 1908. The 1900 census shows him as a resident of the Chuckatuck District of Nansemond County. The 1910 census lists him as a physician in the Chuckatuck District. A 1919 passport application indicates that he was living in Castle Hot Springs, Arizona where he was a physician. The 1920 census shows him living in California.

Dr. Frank Jordan Morrison was born May 14, 1882 in Smithfield and died July 14, 1949. He was the son of Capt. Edward A. Morrison and Etta Watkins Morrison. He graduated from medical school at University of the South in Sewanee, Tn. in 1902 and began practicing medicine in Chuckatuck. Dr. Morrison married Grace Ramsey of Chuckatuck and it is thought that he may have practiced out of the Ramsey house in Chuckatuck or the small house that was located between Gwaltney’s Store and Moore’s Store. In 1906 he moved his office to Suffolk and practiced there until shortly before his death. In March, 1904, while practicing in Chuckatuck, he performed the first appendectomy in Nansemond County. During his 43 years in Suffolk he was resident surgeon of the Norfolk and Western Railway, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and for 10 years was physician for Planters Nut and Chocolate Co. In 1911 Dr. Morrison and another physician built St. Andrews Hospital in Suffolk. Later it was renamed the Virginia Hospital. He was chief surgeon for the Virginia and Community Hospitals.

Dr._Leslie_L._and_Mrs._Laura_Eley_c._1948Dr. Rea Parker Sr. was born October 23, 1881 and died on August 2, 1948. Although he practiced medicine in Smithfield, he came to Chuckatuck in his early years of practice by horse and buggy to make house calls.

Dr. Lemuel Leslie Eley was born on May 25, 1871 in Chuckatuck. He was one of six children born to Benjamin Claudius and Eugenia Cowling Eley. He graduated from the Suffolk Military Academy School and graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School in1892. He practiced medicine for 62 years before his death on August 20, 1954 at the age of 83. He practiced for two years in rural Maryland before returning to the Crittenden – Chuckatuck areas. He practiced medicine in Crittenden from the mid 1890s until 1921 when he moved with his family to the rebuilt family home in Chuckatuck just three doors south of Gwaltney’s store on what is now known as Highway 10. This site proved to be convenient for

his office which was a two room structure built in the front yard near the road. The front room was a waiting room and the second room was where patients were seen. Although he was not a dentist, Dr. Eley supposedly had a metal chair in this room that he used for extracting teeth. During the later years of his practice the office was moved beside the house so he could walk to it from the front porch.

Although Dr. Eley practiced from his office, the majority of his appointments were house calls. In 1900 many of his patients as well as much of the nation were diagnosed with an ailment known as the flu or influenza. A compound of quinine, camphor, belladonna and another unpronounceable ingredient was administered. As fast as one patient was diagnosed, the doctor was beckoned elsewhere. Sometimes he would be called for two or more visits simultaneously. Often while visiting with one patient, the neighbor would come over to be diagnosed with influenza also. Medicine was administered and afterwards, the doctor would collect his usual fee, $3, including the cost of the medication. This went on for a period of three weeks.

Dr._Eley_1952_articleDuring this time, the doctor gave little thought of his own health but only that of others. More than half or the population had come down with influenza and more were getting sick each hour. Those in fair health offered Dr. Eley help in any way possible. Because so many were sick, he no longer used his treasured horse, Nancy Hanks, but accepted rides, used other horses, or walked. Then the deaths began and lasted until May of 1900. The worst of the epidemic had passed.

During the winter of 1918, influenza struck again. This time Dr. Eley was not spared but became a victim. Before his temperature was elevated to 102 degrees, his wife had to drive for him. When he collapsed, a St. Vincent’s nurse was called upon to help. Dr. Eley’s wife, Laura, assisted and only lost one patient. The St. Vincent’s nurse gave her the last rights. She would wear a red coat sweater to make house calls and would take the wrap off when she came home and empty the pockets to see how much money had been taken in. The house calls were still only $3, including medicine. The flu epidemic was all over the Chuckatuck, Crittenden, Driver, and Bennett’s Creek areas. Mrs. Eley made quite an impressionable doctor also. (Kelly) (pic of Dr. Eley’s office)

Dr. Eley was devoted to his patients. An example of this is reported by Gene Corson, the brother of Maynard Corson. Maynard was shot in the foot at close range with a shotgun in a hunting accident when he was fifteen years old. The accident occurred in an area between Sandy Bottom and Hobson. Two people who were with him carried him to the main road between Crittenden and Chuckatuck. It just so happened that the second car that came along was Dr. Eley. He carried Maynard to the Virginia Hospital in Suffolk. His foot was treated the best they could at the time without removing it. Dr. Eley had the foot put into a cast and he went to Maynard’s house almost every day during the winter to treat the wound. Maynard went to Richmond two times to have his foot treated and Dr. Eley told Maynard’s mother to absolutely not give permission to have his foot amputated. Dr. Eley knew that Maynard would have a difficult time with prosthesis because he had treated Maynard a few years previously for polio and the same leg had been affected. After recovery, Maynard played basketball and baseball in high school. He will be 91 in June, 2011 and is still using the foot.

The doctor estimated that he had delivered approximately 1800 babies. Of that number three of the mothers died and a few of the babies were born dead. He had one case of triplets. The first one came along all right but the other two had to be taken. The three of them weighed a little over 19 pounds at birth and 14 months later were still husky and thriving. He delivered many twins and presented no problems. The problem that beset him in the baby end of doctoring came when two women made up their minds to have their babies at the same time. The two lived a little more than half a mile apart. He dropped in at the first place to see how far the pains had advanced, then went to the second place and made a similar check. Then he checked both places all over again to see how they were progressing. From then on he was back and forth, back and forth, sort of timing them as in a race, until finally one of them headed into the home stretch and “went to work.” He stuck around and delivered that baby, clipped the umbilical cord, tied it, then rushed to the other place and arrived just in time to deliver the other. (Annas)

Dr. Eley vowed to keep working as long as he lived. He kept that vow and was administering medicine on Tuesday when fatal seizures began approaching. He died on Friday, August 24, 1954 at the age of 83. He was the father of three children, Edith from his 1st marriage and Eugenia and Leslie from his 2nd.

Dr._Phlip_ThomasDr. Phillip R. Thomas was born in Richmond, Virginia on January 29, 1921. He grew up with three sisters after losing his only brother in the flu epidemic during World War I. After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1939, he attended the College of William & Mary on an athletic scholarship (track) where he studied pre-med until 1943. World War II began so his education was interrupted when he was called to serve. He had aspirations of becoming a doctor so he got into the medical corps. He was stationed in England after basic training. When D-day came he was a ward manager in a hospital built in Worcestershire, England and took care of forty patients. Many of the wounded were in body casts and could not take care of themselves. Dr. Thomas said that most were appreciative of the work he did. In 1945 he was transferred to Combat Company Aid in Germany as a combat medic. The Germans attacked a convoy line that he was in with high-explosive shrapnel fire and he was wounded on his left foot. He says that he has had a problem with the foot ever since the injury. He was awarded the Purple Heart. He was hospitalized in Europe, being sent from one hospital to another. He was transported back

to the U.S. on a luxury liner. He was discharged from the Army in 1945, finishing up his tour of duty in a hospital near Boston.

He married Mary Lou Holyfield in September, 1945, returned to the College of William & Mary and graduated in 1947. He then entered medical school at the Medical College of Virginia and graduated in 1951 with a Doctor of Medicine degree. After doing an internship at DePaul Hospital in Norfolk, Va. he worked for about three months with a physician in Whaleyville, Va. The physician’s wife was a problem so Dr. Thomas decided that the situation was not going to work. In the meantime, some people from

the Crittenden area wanted him to set up practice there but he was reluctant due to the distance from the newly established Obici Hospital. He went to Dr. Eley, who was 81 at the time, and asked him if he minded if he came to Chuckatuck. Dr. Eley responded by saying “It is okay with me if you want to kill yourself.” In November, 1952, Dr. Thomas lived in a small house on Everets Road and set up practice there. Later he moved to the house to the right of Wesley Chapel Methodist Church and had his office in a garage behind the house. In 1953 he moved his office to its current location at 112 Kings Highway.

Philip_R._ThomasDr. Thomas describes one of his earliest memorable events was helping to save a young African American boy at Ferry Point Farm when a tractor overturned and trapped the boy in the lake. He tried to keep the boy warm by giving him heavily sugared hot coffee. The young boy was rescued and recovered uneventfully. Mildred Rippey was his first nurse. Like Dr. Eley, a majority of his practice was house calls in the early years. His fee was $5. He dispensed his own medicines until the Village Drugs drugstore open next to his office in 1961. He was the medical examiner from 1970 until September 1997 deciding that one job was enough. In March 2001, he was selected as recipient of Obici Hospital’s “Outstanding Contributions to the Medical Profession” award.

Dr. Thomas semi-retired in 1999, working only three days a week. Another physicians’ group was seeing patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays while he had office hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In an interview in May, 2010, Dr. Thomas says that he wanted to work into his mid 90s. At that time he was working Monday through Friday for one half day each day. Dr. Thomas has five children, one of which (Katherine) worked with him daily and worked with him for many years until his retirement on July 29, 2011. His wife, Mary Lou died on September 4, 1999 after a brief illness. Dr. Thomas’s oldest son, Geoffrey is a practicing physician in Gloucester, Virginia.

Dr. Arthur A. Kirk was born in Portsmouth, VA in 1916. He is the son of John Russell and Merle Abbitt Kirk. He moved to Everets at the age of nine and spent most of his young life in the community of Everets, graduating from Chuckatuck High School in 1933. In 1937 he graduated from Virginia Polytechnic Institute where he was on the swim team, polishing his diving skills learned as a teenager in the marl holes around Chuckatuck. After he graduated from the Medical College of Virginia with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1941, he did his internship at Walter Reed Army Hospital and then entered the U.S. Army in 1942. He served with the 7th Army and supported the 82nd Airborne in Europe. He treated many survivors from the Ludwiglust concentration camp at the end of World War II.

Following the war he continued his education at MCV and in 1951 he started his practice in Portsmouth, Va. Dr. Kirk was the first orthopedic surgeon to open a practice in Portsmouth. For many years he was the only orthopedic surgeon on the Obici Memorial Hospital staff serving many Chuckatuck residents there as well as in Portsmouth. He retired from practice in 1994, but continues with his many hobbies including travel, playing golf, plant propagation and gem cutting.

His service to his community and the medical profession has been exemplary. He was co-founder of the Kirk-Cone Rehabilitation Center for Children in 1954. This center served children who were unable to attend school due to various limitations. It still serves children in need through the public schools. Dr. Kirk has served on medical missions in Afghanistan. At age 95 he still volunteers his time as team physician to a number of Portsmouth area high school football teams as well as the annual Portsmouth Invitational Basketball Tournament. In 1982 he was named Sportsman of the Year by the Portsmouth Sports Club. In 1995 he and his wife, Marie, were named Conservationists of the Year by the Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservatory. He has served on many medical boards including EVMS in its formative years. In 2003 EVMS bestowed on him an honorary doctor of science degree.

Dr. Arthur L. Chambers III graduated from Duke University and received his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina. He then did an emergency medicine residency at Michigan State University. He is a lifetime Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and is board certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Chambers, his wife Virginia and their three daughters moved to Suffolk in 1988 and lived in the Saunders/Russell home at Everets. They were members of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Chuckatuck where Art and Virginia served in many capacities. He served as Medical Director of the Emergency Physicians of Tidewater serving hospitals in Suffolk, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach. Dr. Chambers was on the clinical faculty of the Eastern Virginia Medical School and served as operational medical director for Suffolk rescue and volunteer fire departments and the rescue squads of Windsor and Ivor. Being an Eagle Scout himself, he served as camp medical director for the Boy Scout Camp outside of Surry. His dedication to the Chuckatuck area was exhibited through his service to his church, the Chuckatuck Ruritan Club, the Chuckatuck Volunteer Fire Department and his fellow man. In addition to his many life saving measures in area hospitals, he once performed an emergency tracheotomy saving a man’s life following a serious automobile accident within sight of his home.

In 2008 Dr. Chambers was named medical director of the North Mississippi Medical Center Emergency Department in Tupelo, MS where he continues to serve his fellow man.



Philadelphia – Bernard Whitehead Godwin, Jr., a physician, died Feb. 21, 1989. He was 62.

Dr. Godwin, a native of Chuckatuck, Va., attended Virginia Military Institute and graduated from Randolph-Macon college with a degree in biology. He began his medical study at St. Thomas Hospital Medical School in London and graduated from Thomas Jefferson University Medical college in Philadelphia, where he also served as an intern.

Dr. Godwin began a private practice in Philadelphia in 1957, and later opened an office in Pennsauken, N.J., where he practiced until his retirement in 1987. He had served on the faculty of Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as a clinical associate professor.

He was a member of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church in Suffolk.

He is survived by a sister, Ann G. Moore of Virginia Beach.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday in Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens Mausoleum, Suffolk. Entombment will follow the service. R.W. Baker & Co. Funeral Home, Suffolk, is handling arrangements. Friends may join the family at the home of Ann Moore, 1009 Colonial Meadows Way, Virginia Beach.

Memorial donations may be made to the Dr. Bernard W. Godwin, Jr., Memorial Fund for Cancer Research of the Prostate, Department of Planned Giving, 618 Scott Building, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pa. 19107.


In the early days it was common practice for midwives to help women with childbirth. Some of the known midwives who served the greater Chuckatuck area were: Mary Thomas (Mama Mary) and Lillian Brinkley from Hobson, Carrie Bush from the Oakland community, Mag Joyner from Moore Farm Lane, Patsy Scott from Sandy Bottom and Mary Johnson from near the Isle of Wight courthouse.

When Lillie Scott Wellons and her cousin Margaret (Jennie) were about six years old, they were going to church on Sunday and saw “Mama Mary’ Thomas coming to their house. Jennie said “Look, there is Mama Mary.” Lillie remembers saying “She’s got that black bag bringing a baby to our house.” When they returned from church there was a baby in the bed with her mother, Louvenia Diggs Scott. Lillie remembers seeing “Mama Mary” at other times when she would be going to school. When she returned there would be a baby.

Palm Reader

Mr. Frank Hall, from the Oakland area, was born on December 31, 1876 and died on February 19, 1956. He had been in the ministry at one time but later became a “farmer of means”. He raised cotton, peanuts and grain for livestock. He was supposedly very “well off” and accumulated a sizeable amount of land. However, he was perhaps better known for his ability to read palms. It is reported that people came for as far away as New York to see him to have their palms read.


(1) Watson, Marion. Interview: Lynn Rose – September 30, 1995

(2) History of Suffolk and Southampton Counties

(3) Obituary – Suffolk News Herald — Dr. Frank Jordan Morrison

(4) Boin, Jerry. “Dr. Eley Made Good Vow to Keep Working As Long as He Lived”

(5) Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society newsletter

(6) Kelly, Emma Spady. The Chuckatuck People

(7) Annas, Harold. “1800 Babies Brought Here by ‘Doc’ Eley.” Norfolk Virginian-

Pilot, June 15, 1952

(8) Brinkley, Shirley. “Honored by Suffolk Police” Sun, March 29, 2007

(9) Coleman, Barbara. “Doctor recalls his war efforts” Suffolk News Herald

July 26, 1995

(10) McNatt, Linda. “Chuckatuck doctor honored for service” Virginian-Pilot

April 8, 2001

(11) Williams, Allison T. “Doctor plans to stay busy” Suffolk News Herald

April 2001

(12) Stoughton, Susie. “Just a Country Doctor” Sun, March 7, 1993

(13) Thomas, Dr. Phillip. Interview: Drexel Bradshaw – May 25, 2010

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