Remembering Dr. Lesesne Smith’s Baby Hospital

Published 3:04 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Dr. Smith’s granddaughter Clara Smith Carter invited me to the Church of the Transfiguration to hear The Rev. William Shand tell of Saluda’s famous Baby Hospital and something of its founder, Dr. Lesesne Smith. Of course I went to Saluda, was admitted to that lovely little wooden church, and was soon joined by Clara herself on the pew next to me. 


Rev. Shand began by detailing Dr. Smith’s medical training in which the student developed an early interest in the special needs of small children. There was no such thing as pediatrics then, but Dr. Smith intensified his studies and gathered other young doctors into the fold to attend seminars etc.

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Dr. Smith began his medical practice in Spartanburg, but soon relocated to Saluda where he established his now famous “Baby Hospital.” When neither Dr. Jervey nor Dr. Palmer could figure out how to treat my younger brother Bill, they advised taking him to Saluda. 


Clara says that her grandfather was an outstanding diagnostician. I can believe that, because he successfully treated Bill so that they could soon bring him back home as a healthy baby boy. Dr. Smith advised Mother to give Bill two ounces of Coca-Cola every day, which she did. I guess she drank the rest, because it became her favorite beverage, which she called “Co-Cola.”


The church was started some 30 years before the Washington National Cathedral. Being carefully crafted of wood (except for the long steel rods which take the tension load in the roof trusses), the church was soon completed. Many local people helped build this church building, and care for it lovingly today.


The cathedral, still being crafted from Indiana limestone, was significantly enlarged in the 1980s. We visited about twice a year and watched with interest as it grew. Once the stones were assembled, artisans set to work carving the machined surfaces into the decorative shapes of the master design. The tradition is that a cathedral is never finished; this one is certainly living proof!


 Clois Jackson was one of Aunt Mildred’s friends that we inherited. She was also one of our Lions Club’s visually impaired persons (our VIPs), so I had two reasons to visit her fairly often. She always asked me to pray when we left, and I was happy to oblige. 


I used to see Bob and Mary Martlock at PRO Physical Therapy; then we all moved to White Oak. Bob seemed to me to be a fine physical specimen, so I was shocked when Mary said he “would not be back” when we saw him transported by ambulance from here.


Obviously, I am no judge as to when someone is nearing the end of their life. I have been visiting friends in the White Oak medical facility for maybe twenty years. They seem fine to me and a week later I discover that they have gone to their reward.


I always wake up to some sort of music playing in my head, usually a hymn or song, sometimes a concerto or symphony. Today it was “Yankee Doodle.” The line “. . . along with Captain Good’in” to rhyme with “hasty puddin’” suddenly made me realize that I have another illustrious ancestor, memorialized in a song known to all. 


Another bit of trivia that comes to mind, is that the songs “Yankee Doodle” and “Dixie” can be played together, making a nice counterpoint. Pam McNeil did not know this, but she tried playing them and agreed that they work together musically just fine! 

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