Title: Interview with Lottie Johnson Pierson (July 20, 1990)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00006717/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Lottie Johnson Pierson (July 20, 1990)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: July 20, 1990
Spatial Coverage: 12109
St. Johns County (Fla.) -- History.
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00006717
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'St. Johns County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: SJ 11

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Full Text

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and Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of

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Interviewee: Lottie Pierson

Interviewer: Diana Edwards

July 20, 1990

E: This is Diana Edwards. I am interviewing Mrs. Lottie
Pierson, 83 Lincoln Street, St. Augustine, Florida. This is
July 20, 1990.

P: I am Mrs. Lottie R. Pierson. I was born in Bamberg, South
Carolina, in 1897. I am now ninety-three years old. My
family moved to St. Augustine in 1903, when I was six years
old. I attended Excelsior High and Grade School on M. L.
King Avenue, now the HRS Building. I graduated from there
in the class of 1916. After school, in the afternoons, I
worked in the office of Dr. D. W. Roberts, who also owned
the hospital.

After my graduation I attended nursing training school at
Tallahassee, Florida. When I returned home I helped Nurse
Jones, a white district nurse, with welfare work. After she
expired I worked with Miss Caverness, also a white district
nurse. After she expired I worked with Nurse Estelle
Briton, who was black. She expired also. I was the first
black nurse to work at Florida East Coast Hospital. I also
worked at Dr. Sam Worley & Sons private hospital in West
Augustine. [Dr. S. G. Worley was, some ten years eariler,
the chief surgeon at the FEC hospital, and his son, G. A.
Worley, was assistant chief surgeon. By 1922 they had their
own hospital in New Augustine, now called West Augustine.

I was married in the year 1923. I also began working at
Flagler Hospital the same year. I retired from there in
1964. After then I did private nursing for around three
years. It may be interesting to some to know that Mrs.
[Rosa] Bennett [widow of Stephen F. Bennett], who once owned
the Bennett House hotel on the bay, was one of my private
cases. By her second marriage, she was known as Mrs. [Paul]
McNally. [He died in 1965.] As her condition grew worse, I
rushed her to Flagler Hospital where she expired 6:30 p.m.
on Mother's Day. Dr. [James] DeVito was her doctor. Mrs.
Hart, another older citizen of St. Augustine, was also one
of my private cases. After the death of my mother and
father, I worked hard to complete the payments to our home,
around $4,000, which was a joy and pleasure.

In my early years I joined the Order of Eastern Star chapter
and served as worthy matron from 1960 to 1988, attending
grand, large sessions at the Masonic Building in
Jacksonville, Florida, each year. I formed a nurses unit
for the Grand Bethlehem Chapter. I served well.

I remember my uncle helped to haul many carts of sand and
stones to fill in the place where Ponce de Leon Hotel was
built, now known as Flagler College. It was an old fishing


pond. I remember when the area from South Street to Park
Place was a wooded area. From time to time areas were
cleared and houses built which made a beautiful part of

My activities in my church were many. I joined at an early
age and served as secretary, teacher of Sunday school class,
teacher of Vacation Bible School classes, president of
Missionary Society, chorister with Junior Choir Number Two,
and president of the Nurses Board and the Floral Club. I
also held a class of the St. Johns River [Baptist]
Association. I am a member of Women's Federated Clubs and
Good Samaritan Auxiliary.

E: That is very interesting. Did you say when I was here
before that your father was a minister?

P: No, he was a deacon.

E: Oh, a deacon. And your father's name? What was your maiden
name? What name were you born with?

P: Johnson.

E: What was your father's name?

P: Andrew Alexander Johnson. He moved here from Bamberg, South
Carolina, in 1903.

E: So you were six years old when you came here. You had one
brother in town, who was an undertaker.

P: That was Aldrich Johnson. He worked with Craig Funeral
Home. In fact, he assisted him many, many times.

E: Did he have his own funeral home as well?

P: Yes, he had his own funeral home. At first his
establishment was on Washington Street, and then on St.
Francis Street in front of First Baptist Church.

E: Is he still living?

P: No, he died around 1942.

E: Are any of your brothers and sisters still living?

P: I have one sister living, Mrs. Annie Martin. She is the
only sister [left]. All the rest have gone on.

E: Annie Martin. Did I meet her?


P: No, I do not think you met her. She is in Baltimore now.
Her daughter is sick. She was in the hospital for a good
while, and now she is in a nursing home. She is improving.

E: So she is in Baltimore right now?

P: Yes. You did not meet her. I am so glad my sister is

E: Tell me a little bit about your school. You said you went
to .

P: Excelsior High and Grade School.

E: Where did you go for first grade?

P: Excelsior, from first grade on up to tenth. The school
carried ten grades.

E: Oh, at Exclesior?

P: Yes. It used to be up there where the HRS building is.

E: You said you worked after high school.

P: In the afternoons, after school hours, I worked in the
office of Dr. T. W. Roberts. He was the colored doctor. He
owned his own hospital down on Bridge Street. He was the
only black doctor that ever operated at Flagler Hospital.
He was wonderful. There were two other colored doctors
here, Dr. T. G. Freeland and another doctor, but they did
not last very long.

E: Was Dr. Roberts the earliest? Was he the first one?

P: Yes, Dr. Roberts was the first one.

E: What did you do after school in his office?

P: I was in training. I loved nursing. I helped upstairs with
the hospital as much I could. Then I wanted to be a nurse.
After I graduated I went to Tallahassee to school.

E: So you always knew you wanted to be a nurse?

P: I always did.

E: Oh, that is nice. And you did not regret it, from the sound
of it.

P: No, I really made good.


E: How were you able to go off to college? That was a long
ways away to go to college.

P: It was all through Dr. Roberts. He helped me.

E: Oh, he did?

P: Yes, he helped me greatly. It was through him. I did the
typewriting and kept office and all of that. He was quite
interested in my work. He did what he could to help me.

E: Did he die in St. Augustine?

P: Yes, he died in St. Augustine. Originally he was from some
place in the North. It has been so long now, I cannot
remember the place where his wife took him back for burial.

E: So he was not born in St. Augustine. He just came here as a

P: That is right. He was a Northerner.

E: So when you went away to school, you went to Florida A & M
[in Tallahassee]? Was that the school?

P: Yes, that was the school.

E: How long have they had a nursing program?

P: Oh, I do not know how long it had been when I went there.

E: And you graduated in what year?

P: No, I did not finish, because my mother died. I was working
in an operating room when she passed. She was taken
critically ill. When I came home, they had rushed her to
the hospital. They had done surgery. She stayed at the
hospital a little while, and after they brought her home I
took care of her.

E: You were pretty young, though.

P: I was.

E: So what year was that you came back from Tallahassee?

P: It must have been around 1918 or 1919, because my mother
died in 1920.

E: And you looked after her till she died?

P: Yes.


E: Was your father still living at that time?

P: Yes, my mother died first.

E: So after your mother died, you started working as a nurse?

P: Yes.

E: Your first job was where?

P: I was the first black nurse that ever worked at East Coast
Hospital. It used to have district nurses. Miss Jones was
a white district nurse, Miss Caverness was a white district
nurse, Mrs. Spickner--they were all district nurses. But
they do not seem to have them anymore.

E: What does it mean to be a district nurse? Did they go to

P: Well, there were so many accident cases and sick cases that
did not go to the hospital, they were taking care of them at
home. The nurses went back and forth. If any of the
patients required special care, they would send me on that
case to help out.

E: Oh, so that is what you mean when you say you were a
district nurse. You would go around from home to home of
the at-home patients.

P: Yes, that is right, and I helped with them. Miss Caverness
and Miss Johes were white district nurses. Both of them
died. I cannot remember the times that they served. Now,
Nurse Britton (you might remember her) was a black district
nurse. She died over in Jacksonville.

E: So she was the last district nurse that you worked with?

P: Yes.

E: But you actually worked in the hospital as well, did you

P: Oh, yes, after all of that. I married in 1923, the same
year I began working at Flagler Hospital. Let me tell you
how I got to Flagler Hospital. They knew about my work
everywhere, all over town. So they called me one day. I
had just come from a welfare case in North City [section of
St. Augustine], and they asked if I was busy. They all knew
about me from my working around town, and they asked if I
was busy. I said no, I was just off a welfare case. It was
a white girl in North City, and I went back and forth. They


said, "Well, come over to Flagler Hospital and help us for a
while." It was during the flu epidemic.

E: What flu epidemic?

P: It was flu. So many cases of flu they had over there, and
they were just overrun.

E: What year was that?

P: 1923. And they said, "Come over and help us just for two
weeks." Two weeks ended in 1964.

E: I guess they liked your work. I mention that because when I
was here before you showed me a letter of recommendation
from one of the doctors you worked with.

P: I still have that letter, from Dr. Griffin.

E: Would you mind getting that letter and reading it to me

P: I would be glad to.

E: I will put it in your file if you do not mind. Then we will
have something in your handwriting. Would you read that?

P: Flagler Hospital, St. Augustine, Florida, January 10, 1928.
To Whom it May Concern:

Before I sever my connection with this hospital, after three
and a half years service here, I want to leave with Lottie
Pierson, a colored nurse here, this letter of appreciation
for her splendid and always satisfactory service. She has
been with this hospital for a good many years as night nurse
in charge of the colored wards and as a relief nurse in the
white wards. She worked as a nurse, and as a woman she has
always been most pleasing and satisfactory, never having
caused any complaints of any kind. Patients of all color
and of all situations in life with whom she has come in
contact always had the highest and kindest praise for her,
and she has always satisfied the doctors as well as the
hospital. This letter may be used by her as she desires. I
desire to wish her success and happiness in her future work,
in her ability and willingness to serve hereafter.

Dr. James B. Griffin, M.D.

E: Very nice.

P: After Dr. [Vernon A.] Lockwood retired Dr. [R. J.] Plant
[Jr.] read that letter. He asked me if could he make a copy


of it to put on my file. I said, "I do not mind." So he
has a copy of it in my file. After Dr. Lockwood died I saw
Dr. Walker. Then Dr. Walker died. After that, Dr. DeVito
was my doctor. When he died, I went to Dr. Lockwood, Then
Dr. Lockwood retired, and I go to Dr. [R. J.] Plant [Jr.],
so Dr. Plant is my doctor now. Ever since my retirement I
have regular checkups, you know. Now my appointment is
every three months. My appointment with Dr. Plant is the
14th of August.

E: You have worked for a lot of doctors, have you not?

P: Oh, God, let me heal [through nursing]. This is another
letter. You can read that.

E: Bethlehem Grand Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, April 27,

Dear Sister Pierson:

Enclosed is a donation of $50. We miss you and are praying
for you. Thank you for your support in the work and the
part you played in making this session one of the greatest.
I am yours in Order of Eastern Star,

Willie Lee Smith, Grand Secretary.

So that was for your work in one of those sessions?

P: I formed a nurses unit, Grand Bethlehem Chapter, as I
mentioned earlier. I was worthy matron from 1960 to 1988,
and when I retired they gave me a check and that letter.

E: Oh, that was nice. Could you explain--I know I probably
should know, but I do not--what Eastern Star is?

P: It is a Masonic club. It is under various chapters, various
names, but Grand Bethlehem Chapter is over them all. There
are many subordinate chapters--I think it is now over 200.

E: Did your husband have to be a Mason in order for you to be
in Eastern Star?

P: You cannot be in Eastern Star unless your husband, father,
or brother is a Mason. They do not take you into

E: So your husband was a Mason?

P: My father.

E: Your father was.


P: My father was worthy patron. That is over a certain
chapter. Each chapter has to have a worthy patron. They
cannot exist without a heir, and they have to be a Mason.

E: What do they actually do in Eastern Star?

P: Well, now, that is a secret. I cannot tell you.

E: Oh, all right. I see. I guess that is why I do not know
very much about them, then.

P: That is a secret.

E: Okay. Now, tell me a bit about your husband. You said you
started work in 1923 at Flagler, and you also married in

P: My husband was an Florida East Coast [Railroad] employee.
He died in 1937. At first his run was from Jacksonville to
Miami, and then they made it more extensive, from
Jacksonville to Key West. I have been to Key West many,
many times, five or six times, during the time that I was
working. Maybe we went on a vacation or something like
that, or maybe a weekend.

E: Was he a conductor or what?

P: Well, he was kind of a helper. He helped with various
activities as an East Coast employee.

E: And that is what he did until he died, or did he retire

P: He was not there long enough for me receive a pension or
anything like that. I do not get any consideration, because
he was not there long enough for me to receive anything. I

E: But you have a pension from Flagler Hospital, do you not,
from all those years?

P: No. I already tried, but they would not give it to me. I
understand now they have started [a pension plan], but when
I retired [there was nothing].

E: So in the 1960s employees did not have pension plans.

P: Now I hear they are trying to, but I do not know if they do
or not. I know one thing: working over there, everything is
so hard now. They expect more work out of one nurse. It is
so different over there now.


E: How many patients would you normally have on a ward if you
were now on a regular day's work?

P: At East Coast Hospital there were quite a few from time to

E: Now, you worked at East Coast Hospital?

P: First.

E: For three years?

P: They took care of all the laboring men from Jacksonville to
Key West.

E: Oh, they did?

P: Just East Coast Hospital. That is why is was called East
Coast Hospital--Jacksonville to Key West.

E: So you would have a big patient load at that hospital?

P: There were a lot of people there all the time. Although my
assignment was in a colored ward, many times I relieved in
the white ward both at East Coast Hospital and at Flagler.

E: So you would tend to patients that had any kind of illness
in any kind of accident. You were a general nurse.

P: That is right, yes. And other cases that somebody had to
isolate. There were special isolated cases.

E: And you worked with those, too?

P: No, not all the time. Those patients had to have special
nurses because they were not ready to go among the other

E: So out of your career of nursing, do you remember any
particularly exciting or interesting periods of time? You
said there was the flu epidemic, and that was how you
started working.

P: No, I just went over there and started to work. They said
they wanted me for two weeks, and two weeks ended in 1964.

E: So you just kept going.

P: I just kept going.

E: So what do you do now? You are still very active in the
church, are you not? What church are you a member of?


P: Yes. First Baptist Church.

E: What do you do? I know you have been a member there for
ages and ages. When did you first join?

P: I first joined at eleven years old.

E: And you have been a member since that time?

P: Yes.

E: What kinds of activities have you done with the church?

P: My activities in the church have been many, as I joined at
an early age. I have served as secretary of the Sunday
school, teacher of Sunday school classes, and teacher of
Vacation Bible School.

E: Did you teach adult classes or children's classes or all of

P: Adults mostly. Now, Vacation Bible School is mostly for
younger people. But other than that, I taught grown ups. I
was also president of the Missionary Society, I was a
chorister with Choir Number Two, and I held classes at St.
Johns River [Baptist] Association.

E: What was the St. Johns River Association?

P: All the Baptist churches are involved in that. They meet
from church to church. They meet not every week but a
certain time. Whenever called on, they meet at such-and-
such a church and have classes. We have a dean of the
women, and I had a class for the women. But most of the
time I had men in my class.

E: Why do you say it with that look on your face? Were the men
harder to teach?

P: Well, I do not know. It was something about me. They just
opened the door and would say that I brought thoughts to
them that they never heard of, and they were pleased.

E: So they liked to have you there.

P: Every time I would go out there I would have more men in my
class than anybody else.

E: What kind of thoughts did you bring to them?

P: I do not know. But I did have special books, and each time
we had an association [meeting] we had different lessons.


And I studied my lesson [and went into class well prepared].
I asked a question once: "When you first enter the church,
who meets you at the door?" Some said, "They have special
people to welcome you in and make it comfortable for you. I
said no. He said, "Well, maybe they have special ushers to
meet you at the door, carry you in, make you welcome." I
said no. They had different ones that they mention, and I
said no. He said, "Well, Miss Teacher, who do you mean?" I
said, "The devil. He is going to try to do all he can to
make you find fault in the church. He is going to make you
find fault with the minister's next sermon. He is going to
make you find fault with the singing. He is going to make
you find fault when you take a person who does not believe
and is not truly converted. He is going to make you try to
fault everywhere you look." I said, "The devil has
representatives everywhere. He is the one you are going to
have to overcome and see the good everywhere you go anyway."

E: I see why they probably have not heard things said quite
that way before.

P: I said, "The devil is busy, and he is going to try to make
you find fault everywhere you go. You have to be strong
enough to overcome him. The Bible says, 'Get behind me,
Satan.' That is what we have to do." Then I said, "All
those who have accepted His salvation can gladly say they
can be magnified. Oh, there is pleasure in the prosperity
of His service." And every time I had more men in my class,
so I told the dean of women, "Get me somebody else." She
said, "No, you are going to get the same pupils. You are
going to take the same class you got." I said, "I will do
the best I can." But everywhere I have worked and
everywhere I have gone, regardless of what I have attempted
to do, I do not think anybody will complain, because I have
really carried on the best I could. If anybody has ever
said that I have mistreated them or treated them wrong, it
certainly was not done with intention.

E: Were you brought up that way by your mom and dad, or was
that something you learned on your own?

P: No, no, no, no. My mother and father were spiritual people.
Every Sunday morning we met in the front room. My father
read the Bible, and that is still what I do, every morning
before I leave.

E: So even before you go to church you do that?

P: Yes, every Sunday especially, all through the day. Every
morning before I come downstairs I have special scriptures
that I read. So it is just a part of me, and now I will
never quit.


E: So how do you think things have changed, oh, even since you
retired? How has your life changed?

P: I have done the best I could. Even about two or three years
ago, they were still calling me to go do private cases. I
said, "No, no, I do not go out anymore."

E: You were still taking private cases even a few years ago?

P: Oh, no. It has been about three years now since they have
called me. I said, "No, I am sorry. I do not go out
anymore. I am not able; I do not have the strength."

E: So until you were ninety you were actually taking cases?

P: No, no, before that.

E: So when did you actually retire? How old were you?

P: It must have been around 1984 when I stopped going out
anymore, as far as I can remember. But I can truthfully say
I have worked, and I am just so proud of every moment of my

E: Is that how you are happiest, when you are working? What
have been your happiest times that you remember?

P: Well, I look on the flip side of everything and try to find
good in everything. I do not look for any problems or the
bad or things like that. If everything appears to be from
the wrong direction, I just make it pass all from me. I do
not let it dwell with me.

E: So you do not hold on to the bad things that happen.

P: No.

E: What was school like when you first started school? Do you
remember your first day at school?

P: Well, I had to repeat first grade. Other than that, I made
a year each term.

E: Who was your teacher in the first grade?

P: It has been so long, I cannot remember. I have had so many,
many teachers since then. But Mrs. [Annie P.] Wilson I
remember. Her husband [Charles] was a county watchman. She
was the first, but in between there were different teachers.
When I graduated, Professor Johnson, from Georgia was the


E: Was it a big graduating class? That was 1916, did you say?

P: Class of 1916.

E: Was it a big one?

P: I think it was fourteen, and there are only two of us living
now. Frank Hoover is ninety-four now, and I am ninety-

E: Frank Hoover was identified in one of the photographs in the
book. Mrs. Young said she mentioned him in there.

P: He and I were classmates. [We are] the only two that I know
of [who are still living]. He is ninety-four and I am

E: Do you visit with each other once in a while?

P: Oh, yes, indeed we do. There is one club that both of us
are members of.

E: Is he from your church or a private club?

P: No, he is Methodist and I am Baptist. His church is on the
west side, and my church is over here. But we are just like
brother and sister.

E: So you meet at your club meetings?

P: Yes. Many times the activities are held, and we greet each
other. Now, they had some activity down at Bellamy Center,
this new place down there on the Links.

E: Do you go to that center?

P: I was invited. They found out that Frank [and I] were
[from] the class of 1916, and both of us were invited. To
my surprise, they gave us both certificates.

E: So do you still go out to club meetings?

P: Yes. I still go to the Women's Federated.

E: So you still go to that.

P: They are disbanded now for the summer. They will resume
their meetings in September. The Good Samaritan Auxiliary
has disbanded for July, August, and September. Those are
two auxiliaries that I go to.


E: So you keep pretty busy. And you still have family living
here with you, do you not?

P: Two nephews and one niece are here.

E: The two men that I saw?

P: And the younger one that passed you is my nephew, too. I
have nieces that are twins.

E: Oh, you do? What are their names?

P: Muriel Scott and Rowena Glass.

E: So the niece, Mrs. Glass, was here when I was here last.
She is your niece. I was not sure what the relationship

P: Well, they are twins. Rowena has all boys. Muriel has two
boys and one girl. This area used to be white sand. His
children used to go down and play on the beach. It was
nothing but just a wilderness.

E: Right over here?

P: Yes. You know that walk out front?

E: Yes.

P: Oh, it was just a wilderness. We were afraid to go around
there at 12:00 in the daytime as well as at night. It seems
like they finally began clearing it, clearing it, clearing
it, and they made a beautiful street. This little lane
here, this part of O'Magga Street, and all that area was
cleared away for building houses. Oh, that used to be
nothing but wooded area. The health center, back when
Flagler Hospital moved, oh, my goodness, it was like a

E: Oh, it was?

P: Oh, my goodness. It was nothing but a wooded area. They
finally cleared away and built.

E: I was thinking about these photographs again. Kings Ferry
was right next to you. Did you any of the Twine family--
Bessie or Jessie or Mae? Did you know them?

P: Yes.

E: Did they live in this block, or were they on another? I
have not gone up and down Kings Ferry Street.


P: I think they lived over there first, but then they moved on
to Palmo Street, I think. They kept moving to different
places that they are now. Twine was their name.

E: That is Henry Twine, but the other family of Twines is the
one I was thinking about--the photographer, Richard Twine
and his sisters Bessie and Jessie and Mae Chichester.

P: I do not remember too much about them.

E: What was the private hospital in West Augustine?

P: That was [Worley Hospital, owned by] Dr. Sam Worley and his
son. They owned that hospital. It was private.

E: Was it there for many years?

P: Quite a few years. Then after both of them died, that
building was torn down, and that huge white building was
built there, after you pass Broudy's [liquor store. That
building is still there.]

E: On that first block?

P: On the right-hand side. Many, many people do not even know
that there was a hospital in West Augustine.

E: You mean that the house that is standing now was a hospital?

P: No, no. It has been destroyed. They tore that down, and
there is a new hospital on the other side of Broudy's.

E: I have not heard anybody else mention that hospital.

P: A lot of people do not know.

E: But then most of the people that we have talked with have
been people who grew up or lived in Lincolnville, not in
West Augustine.

P: After Dr. Worley died, his son carried on for a while.
After he died, long afterwards, they just destroyed that
house, and this other building was put up.

E: Well, thank you very much for helping us with this.

P: Surely. And if there is too much, you can edit all you

E: Well, I do not think it is too much.


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