The Transylvania Times -

Picturing The Past: 'Mountain Doctor' Is The Story Of Dr. Gaine Cannon, His Medical Work And Reverence For Life


September 24, 2018

Cannon prepares medication in the hospital pharmacy.

"Mountain Doctor" by LeGette Blythe is the biography of Dr. Gaine Cannon and his work to provide medical care for the people of the more isolated areas of Transylvania and Jackson counties in the mid-1900s.

Cannon was born in Rosman and raised in Pickens, S.C. His father, Dr. James Cannon, was a physician in Pickens but often returned to Rosman to provided medical care for the people in Western Transylvania County.

Blythe briefly covers the years of Cannon's youth, his education, time in the Army and early private practice. As a young man, Cannon came to be a great admirer of Dr. Albert Schweitzer. He had stumbled onto an article about Schweitzer's work in Africa during a time when he was questioning his personal religious beliefs. This led to a lifelong study of Schweitzer and a shared philosophy for life that would affect Cannon and his patients.

Years later, when Cannon's hectic life demanded he slow down he came home to the mountains to recuperate-"to think and ponder, to consider nature and man and God, the attributes of each, the role of each in the grand scheme of existence."

But when the local people learned that a doctor was living nearby and flocked to his little cabin Cannon immediately returned to work. He soon had a busier schedule than ever. Cannon stated, "My office hours are day and night throughout the week." He served the people around Balsam Grove no matter what time they arrived at his door or called and never turned away a patient who was unable to pay. He believed that by caring for those with limited access to medical care he was, in a small way, following Schweitzer's model for the reverence of life.

Blythe tells of Cannon's compassion, dedication and respect for the people of the Balsam Grove area and their love, support and respect for Doc Cannon and his dream of building a hospital in their community.

Dr. Gaine Cannon often used short wave radio to communicate in the remote areas of the county.

"Mountain Doctor" was published in 1964, two years before Gaine Cannon's death. Copies of the book are available at the Transylvania County Library.

(Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the N.C. Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional photographs. For more information, comments or suggestions, contact Marcy at marcy. thompson@transylvania or (828) 884-1820.)


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