Interview with Maud Blount Ramsay, 1989-04-29

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Interview with Maud Blount Ramsay, 1989-04-29
Ramsay, Maud Blount ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Duval County Oral History Collection ( local )
Spatial Coverage:
Duval County (Fla.) -- History.


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.

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Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Duval County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
Resource Identifier:
DUV 029 Maud Blount Ramsay 4-29-1989 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )


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INTERVIEWEE: Maud Blount Ramsay

INTERVIEWER: Rick Alexander

April 29, 1989



Interviewee: Maud Blount Ramsay
Interviewer: Rick Alexander
April 29, 1989

This interview is part of a series by Rick Alexander on the
Spanish flu epidemic that hit Florida in 1918. Ms. Ramsay
relates some of her experiences during this trying time.

Maud Blount Ramsay was born in 1896 near Hartford, Alabama.
Her father was a supply buyer for the sawmill industry, and when
a new sawmill and planing mill were being built in Florida, he
moved the family to Noma, Florida in 1904. It was there that Ms.
Ramsay met and married a doctor's son. They had three children.
Her husband managed the front of the drugstore that his father
owned, while Dr. Ramsay, a "country doctor," saw his patients in
the back of the store. Her father-in-law served the townspeople,
and the mill provided a doctor for its employees. She busied
herself teaching in a small elementary school and working some in
the drugstore. She recalls the first cars in Noma, which were
bought by doctors (to make their rounds) and mill owners. Ms.
Ramsay also recollects the first peanut picker and the
Chautauqua, which was staged in DeFuniak Springs. It may be
interesting to note that she has an autographed copy of E. W.
Carswell's Holmesteading: The History of Holmes County, Florida.
Carswell was the same age as her oldest son.

The doctors had a good rapport with the people they served,
and many of the people came to them when they were sick. The
doctors were not always paid in cash, however; often they
accepted produce or other goods or services as payment. When the
epidemic hit, Ms. Ramsay relates how she came down with it,
although her case was not a bad one. Dr. Ramsay did not treat
his own family, as a rule, but sent them to Moody Hospital in
Dothan, Alabama. Remedies used for the Spanish flu included
CRC's, turpentine emulsion, and Calomel, which was often chased
with castor oil. She notes that Dr. Ramsay did not rely on the
former two. He was emphatic, however, on fresh air, particularly
for his pneumonia patients (a complication of the flu), and he
made sure to open the windows of their simple frame houses or
even log cabins. In addition, malaria was also prevalent, and
she recalls that Calomel, 666 (after childhood), and quinine,
which was sometimes flavored with chocolate for the children,
were used to combat that disease.

Social life was somewhat disrupted during the epidemic.
Since she was not teaching at that time, she does not recall if
the school was closed, but the mill remained open. The church
was the center of social life, and activity there was noticeably

A: My name is Rick Alexander. Today we are with Maud Blount
Ramsay. [Dena Snodgrass is also present, as indicated by
S:.] Today is Saturday, April 29, 1989, and it is 2:00. We
are at Wesley Manor, which is just south of Julington Creek
in Jacksonville, Florida. Let me begin by asking you, Ms.
Ramsay, where you were born.

R: In Geneva County, Alabama. It really was not really a town,
but it was sort of out in the country, about two miles from
Hartford, Alabama.

S: You said you were reared from the age of eight north of
Bonifay [in Holmes County], Florida.

R: Fifteen miles north of Bonifay, south of the Alabama line.
I was born in Alabama, but we moved to Florida, and it was
only about a mile south of the Alabama line. We were almost
on the Alabama line.

S: But on the good side, the Florida side.

R: Right.

A: The right side. What year were you born?

R: I was born in 1896.

A: How old were you when you moved to Florida?

R: I was about eight years old. We moved to Florida in 1904.

A: Where in Florida did you live?

R: We lived in a small town called Noma in Holmes County. It
was built absolutely because of the lumber industry, which
was very prominent in that area at that time. It was the
Yellow Pine Lumber Company. My father was brought there to
buy supplies. A big sawmill and planing mill were being
built called the Alabama and Florida Lumber Company. I grew
up there and married a doctor's son, and when the mill moved
away, I stayed until 1925.

S: What was the doctor's name?

R: Dr. W. D. Ramsay. He was really what you would call a
country doctor. He practiced in that area. He moved there
about a year after we did, around 1906.

A: What year did you get married?

R: What year did I get married? 1912. I was real young; I
married in 1912. I went to school with my husband. We were
there before they were, but I do not remember how much


A: Did he have an automobile? Is that how he visited his

R: Not at that time. I did not even see an automobile until
later. I drew pictures of them. I read everything about
them before I ever saw one. The doctors later had one.
There was another doctor there who was brought in by the
Alabama and Florida Lumber Company.

A: About when was it that you saw your first car?

R: Well, I must have been ten years old before anybody there
had an automobile. The first people who got automobiles
there were the mill owners and doctors.

A: So that was 1906, then. You were born 1896, so it would be
about 1906.

R: Well, I was older than six before I ever saw an automobile.
As I say, I had seen pictures because my dad took so many
newspapers. Back then, he took newspapers like the Chicago
Ledger and some Saturday papers like Grit and Saturday

A: Did he get the Pensacola Journal?

R: No, but he took those kinds of papers. I read about cars
before I ever saw one.

A: Your father operated a store for the lumber yard?

R: No. Dr. Ramsay, of course, had a drugstore, but my father
bought mill supplies for the Alabama and Florida Lumber
Company. He used to come to Jacksonville when I was small
to buy locomotives and all the big machinery. In addition
to the mill at Noma, Alabama and Florida had three other big
sawmills. One was in Pensacola (I remember that when I was
growing up), and the other two were in Falco and Geneva,
Alabama. I think the one in Noma was the largest of the
four. Noma was about six or seven miles [west] of
Graceville. You have heard of Graceville.

A: Yes.

R: We had a horse and buggy, too, but we did not have any
automobiles. The doctors were the first people to have
automobiles in Noma.

A: That is interesting. They had them so they could drive out
to make their rounds.

R: Yes, they practiced all around in the country areas.

A: What was the general opinion of doctors?


R: I think they were very much loved, because they meant so
much to people. They just took care of people whether or
not they were paid. Much of the time they did not get any
money. I know Dr. Ramsay accepted produce. If somebody
could not pay a bill, they would pay him in some other way.

A: By the time of the Spanish flu epidemic, which I am
studying, were doctors generally looked upon to provide
health care?

R: Yes.

A: Before then, people sought cures by burning potions, eating
roots, and so forth.

R: I can remember when I married into the family, we finally
had telephones, and occasionally Dr. Ramsay would take the
receiver off the hook of the phone. I really worried about
this. I thought somebody might be sick and could not reach
the doctor. Then, as I became older, I felt sorry for him,
and then I would say, "Papa, why don't you take the receiver
off the hook?" At that time, he made night calls and needed
to rest. But at first I did not like it a bit.

A: Did he get a lot of calls?

R: It seemed so. During the flu epidemic, many came at night.
I was very young when we married. My in-laws never had a
girl; they had four boys, and I married the oldest. I do
not remember very much about the flu epidemic. I do
remember that my husband ran the drugstore, and his father's
offices were in the back. He had to travel so much at night
during that time that we just went to their house and stayed
so my husband could drive his father at night. I do not
remember that Dr. Ramsay lost very many patients. He seemed
to have been successful with it. He was considered a good
pneumonia and typhoid fever doctor. That is what people had
back then, along with malaria.

A: That is what the flu complications were: patients were
highly susceptible to pneumonia.

R: Yes. That is mostly what I remember about him.

A: Were the doctors really busy?

R: He worked awfully hard it seemed to me. It did not so much
at first, but after I saw how little rest he got, having to
go at night and daytime, I became more sympathetic.

A: Did Dr. Ramsay get the flu?

R: No.

A: Did you or your husband?


R: Yes, I did, but I did not get very sick with it. I do not
think that my husband got so sick he could not drive his dad
at night or when he had to.

A: What did Dr. Ramsay recommend people do? Did everyone wear
handkerchiefs around their face so as not to spread the flu?

R: I do not think so. I do not recall what he did. Now,
remember, this is one of the poorer sections of Florida up
there, and he preached fresh air. He said that he would go
in to a pneumonia patient's house, and the house would be so
hot and there would no fresh air at all. He said, "I would
just go around and let up the windows and pull things out of
the wall where they had stopped up every hole." I have
heard him say that.

S: That is the holes in the log cabins.

R: Well, yes, but these were mostly simple frame houses.
Fortunately, that was not in this area. Most of the people
there worked at the mill, and salaries were not very large.
We had in this little town two of what we called mill
quarters. The blacks lived across the mill pond from the
whites, and they had smaller quarters than the whites. Some
of the houses were a little larger than others. The mill
company was very good to the people. I remember that they
contributed to teachers salaries; they were so low that the
company would help attract the teachers with a little more

A: Did everyone's children in the mill town go to school?

R: Yes, they had a school, except the blacks; they did not have
a school. Well, they may have had one there, but I never
knew any. I knew one woman who taught there for a little
while in some little place, but that was in her later life.
The blacks just were not educated. The people did not care
whether the blacks went to school or not, so they did not
bother them. They did not go to the white schools.

There were white schools. Now, I taught for about seven
years off and on in that county around there. Some schools
would last four months before the money just ran out. Some
of them lasted six months, but there was never any long-term
school. When I came to Jacksonville, I felt I just would
not try teaching anymore. I had not been used to
supervision or anything, and I taught mostly in the little
school that I had attended. I think it was about a six-
teacher school, but they did not always have that many
teachers because sometimes the money was so short, you see,
for education.

A: Everywhere in this state.


R: Not just there, but I taught later in Duval County. I began
teaching here in 1926, and I taught here 23 years. I taught
for very little money in Duval County for awhile. I mean,
it was pretty slim here when I first started in 1926.

A: Do you remember the beginning of the great war, World War I?

R: Oh, yes, I remember the war. I had a brother in the war,
and I had an uncle who was about my age who seemed like a
brother. He was in the 167th Infantry from Alabama--I think
MacArthur was the general. My brother was in the navy, and
he spent sixteen months of the war in the British Isles off
the coast of Scotland, I think. He was on the battleship
U.S.S. Florida. I was young then and did not worry as much
about him as I could. I had three sons later, and when the
second war came along I had more to worry about.

A: Do you remember which camps they were in? Where did they go
to train? Did they go to Alabama, or did they come here to
Camp Johnston, [currently N.A.S. Jax]?

R: No. I know part of the time my uncle was stationed on the
border--I guess it was the Mexican border. My younger
brother was already in the navy when the war started, and he
had already had his training. I just remember he spent most
of the war--sixteen months of it--in the British Isles.

A: Do you remember if either one of them got the flu?

R: No, I never heard if they did. I do not know, but I do not
think so.

A: Did they close the school or the mills or anything during
that period?

R: I do not know if the mill was closed, but the school might
have. I was not teaching then. I really do not remember.

A: Did they have a movie theater or anything like that?

R: Well, at one time the mill company put in a movie theater,
but it did not last very long. There was not very much
social life. Church was the main source. We went to church
on Sunday and Wednesday night prayer meeting once in a while
when I was growing up. There was not much social life
outside the church, and none for the blacks, except for the
church, you might say.

A: Was the church canceled when the flu came?

R: No, I never knew it. I went to church for just about
everything. As I said, once in a while back then--now, this
was almost a hundred years ago--occasionally there would be
what you might call a choir practice, but it would be in
somebody's home. We called them a "sing." That would


happen once in a while. There were not many parties; there
was not much social life.

A: When the flu came, as well as you can remember, how did the
people in the little mill town handle it? Did a lot of them
get sick?

R: Well, they were sick a lot anyway. There was a lot of
malaria in that little town. Probably the mill pond had
something to do with that. They used to bring those logs to
that mill pond and snake them up to that mill to be sawed.
[Snake is a term used in logging that means to pull a log
along through the water or mud by mules or machine.] But,
you see, my life in a way was separated from the workers. I
did not know very many mill people. Many of them worked at
the planing mill for a dollar or a dollar and a half a day,
and a lot of them were blacks. They worked for low pay in
the homes, so I always had help. But I lived in a different
section away from the mill quarters. I did not know very
many of the people who lived in the little houses, even the

A: What about the ones that worked around the house?

R: Well, they were very paid very little. I would tell people
that my father could not understand how my mother was such a
perfectionist about her home and everything, and I did not
like housework. People would say, "Maud, are you still
teaching school?" Before I could answer, Papa would say,
"Maud would teach school for just enough to pay a negro [for
doing housework]." I always had help because there was no
need not to. Later, when I had children, we always had help
in my home. They were glad to find work, even for two or
two and a half dollars a week, according to what people
would pay. I can remember, too, when the black woman would
come to our house, pick up our laundry on Monday morning for
a family of five, take it on her head like you have seen
pictures lots of the time, and carry it to her home. Then
she would bring it back later in the week--washed and
ironed--for $1.50 a week. The laundry is what we had done
that I know about, and it was very reasonable for the time.
But nobody made much money back then.

A: No, it was a poor part of the country. Nobody was making a
lot of money.

R: I have a book that is written by a young man. I married
quite young, and I had children young. This boy was from a
family of about nine or ten children, and he was about the
age of my oldest son. I taught his older brothers and
sisters, but I did not teach him. He wrote this book about
west Florida and about all of the little towns that I grew
up around in Holmes County. There was Bonifay (the county
seat) and other towns.


S: What was his name?

R: E. W. Carswell. He sent this book to me, Holmesteading: The
History of Holmes County. Florida. He autographed this and
sent it to me.

S: I bet that is in the P. K. Yonge Library at the University
of Florida.

A: Yes, I am sure it is.

R: He used to be real active with politics. He became a judge
and has written about a half a dozen books about the
Panhandle. He lives in Chipley.

A: Chipley, named for the famous railroad baron.

R: He is a very nice young fellow. They called him E. W.; I
never did know his name because everybody always called him
by his initials. He signed this. He knew that I knew him
as "Elbe" when he was growing up. He did not like that
name. He signed it Elbe, though. It has all you want to
know about that section of Florida. Do you want to see it?

A: Sure! I am trying to think of more questions about the

S: I have one that I think is a good one. Was your father-in-
law a mill doctor? I do not know, Rick, if you know what a
mill doctor is.

A: Not exactly. What is it?

R: Well, Dr. Warren was our mill doctor. We had a mill doctor.

S: That was hired by the mill to look after the people, and
they did not pay.

R: They paid a dollar a month at Noma.

S: Oh, they did?

R: Yes, in ours, and, of course, the mill company supplemented
his salary.

S: Yes. But your father-in-law was not a mill doctor.

R: No, he had nothing to do with that. He did a lot for the
mill people. Dr. Warren and Dr. Ramsay had a good
relationship, because if Dr. Warren was going to be away or
was sick, Dr. Ramsay took his, and vice versa. Then, later,
another doctor, Dr. Eldridge, came in, but Dr. Warren had
already gone when he came. He did not stay there so long.

S: All those big mills had mill doctors.


R: Yes.

A: During the flu, you said you simply moved into the doctor's

R: Well, I did not move. I had two little children. They were
very small, and I just moved up to Dr. Ramsay's house and
stayed there during the whole time that he was so busy
because my husband had to help. I used to tell Dr. Ramsay
that my husband should have been a doctor. He was inclined
that way a lot. All my neighbors always thought that if
they got sick, Watson (my husband) was there. He had that
inherited ability. He just liked to help people. I was the
other way. I just shrank away from sickness. I do not know
why, but I am just no good as a nurse. He was just very

A: So Dr. Ramsay had his practice. Did he have an office, or
did he work out of his house?

R: Well, yes, his office was in the back of his drugstore. He
built a drugstore down in the little town, and his offices
were in the back of the store. My husband managed it for
several years. He did not all the time because someone had
to take care of the front of the store. They had other
help, because later on Dr. Ramsay and Watson were always
looking for something else. One time, they owned two or
three peanut pickers. That was quite something in that
time, but that was not long before we moved to Jacksonville,
after the mill closed.

A: What do you mean by peanut pickers?

R: These great big machines that picked peanuts. Nobody there
had ever seen one. Dr. Ramsay and my husband could hardly
stay away from them, either. They had to go see about them.

S: They had to take up the peanuts and separate them.

R: Yes, the machine picked the peanuts. I had never seen one

A: And that was new? No one there had ever seen one before?

R: No, nobody around where we lived. People did not travel
very much because they did not have transportation. I came
to Tallahassee one time when I was growing up. My mother
and father used to go places every once and awhile. They
went to Montgomery, Alabama, to the state fair. They used
to have the Chautauqua at DeFuniak Springs, and they would
go there. My two brothers and I had an Aunt Winnie who came
to stay with us, and they went places, but we did not ever
go anywhere. I do not think I had ever been to Dothan until
I was married.


A: Did you get to travel around?

R: Mama did. Mama would go to Dothan, Alabama occasionally,
usually to see relatives. It was less than thirty miles,
but I did not ever go, I do not think, before my marriage.
She went up there occasionally, but not often, to buy

A: So when the people in the mill were sick, presumably with
the flu or any other thing that they might have, malaria or
whatever, they saw the doctor.

R: Yes. They had good relationships with the doctors. They
only paid a dollar a month and he took care of them. Most
of the time, the doctor took medicine in his little case
with him, and he would dole it out to them. I can remember,
though, that people came into the drugstore and bought
medicine. There was a lot of medicine on the shelves, like
the patent medicines. Dr. Ramsay used to have the great big
brown bottles full of certain things, and nobody but him knew
what was in them. We never touched any of them. I used to
operate the drugstore so Watson and Dr. Ramsay could run
around, but that did not happen very often.

A: Let me ask you about this. Let me show you something first.
During the flu epidemic and for any other thing, the papers
ran ads like this [an advertisement from the Florida Times-
Union ca. October, 1918] where commercial drugs were being
sold, and they promised to cure the flu or cure all kinds of
ailments. Did Dr. Ramsay sell those?

R: I never heard or knew anything about it. I have never seen
anything about any of this. I do not suppose many people
even took newspapers. My dad had been born and reared in
Alabama, and he took the Montgomery Advertiser all his life.
People used to wonder why he did not take the Jacksonville
paper or the Pensacola Journal, but he stuck to the
Montgomery Advertiser. We had all kinds of papers, and I
grew up with all kinds of books because my dad was great for
books. But not many people in those days had them.

A: Did you sell calomel?

R: That is the only drug they knew anything about. As I said,
there was a lot of malaria, and you took calomel, then you
took castor oil, and then you took quinine. My dad's next
door neighbor was the doctor, and when he got sick, I said
to him one time, "Pop, why not ask Dr. Smith what is wrong
with you?" He said, "My old Dr. Smith knows three things:
calomel, CRC's, and turpentine emulsion." That was my dad.
My dad did not depend on them. He did not believe in all of
that. Dr. Ramsay would not treat his family. If any of his
family got sick, he took them to Moody Hospital in Dothan,
Alabama. That was the nearest hospital. But when I was


small, my mother took me to one in Montgomery, Alabama.

I remember the calomel. I had to take it. They did not
know anything else. I had trouble with tonsillitis when I
was growing up. When I went to college, the doctor said my
tonsils should come out. Oh, I felt like it was the worst
thing in the world. My mama was not there. I would not
have had it done for anything at that time, and I never did.

Anyway, people would come and get the calomel, and then they
would have to chase that down with castor oil, I reckon.
It was all bad. Then for malaria, you started on quinine.
Later, when my children were growing up, they had chocolate
quinine, flavored like chocolate syrup. But even when my
children were small, we still used most of the same
remedies. I knew about castor oil for children and things
like that.

S: Did you know about 666? It was made right next door.

R: Well, that was not for children during my childhood. There
was a lot of that sold.

S: For malaria.

R: Yes, for malaria. Dr. Ramsay had a whole shelf of that in
the drugstore. I used to know about their uses because I
was down there a lot. I knew about the medicines on the
shelf, but I did not know anything about any others. I can
remember, as a child, how I dreaded that medicine--that
quinine, castor oil, and calomel.

S: I had the same thing.

A: Dr. Ramsay recommended those things?

R: Oh, yes, he recommended them. That was all he knew, I
guess. Like my dad said, there was not much they knew about

A: Were there some drugs that they did not recommend?

R: I never knew. Particularly after we moved here, we started
a different life with doctors. We had children and we had
to have a doctor that we could go to, and we kept him for
about thirty years. The children grew up with him.

S: Who was that?

R: Dr. Leonard Moe. He is dead now, but he lived across the
street, not right directly, but sort of across this way from
me. He was married. When I moved there, he would come over
anytime. He was just so nice to help me with the children.
Well, everything changed, but the children got so used to
him that they never felt afraid. It was kind of a


transition. They had never known a doctor but Papa, which
is what they called Dr. Ramsay. They had never known
anything about a doctor but Papa, except if something had
happened and they went to Dothan to Dr. Moody or Moody

S: Now, Dr. Moe was in Jacksonville on the south side.

R: Yes. I had Dr. Moe for about thirty years, I guess.

S: Where did you live on the south side?

R: I lived on Mapleton Road.

S: Mapleton Road, off Hendricks on San Jose. Rick, do you know
where that is?

A: Yes.

R: Between Hendricks and San Jose. We built out there. When
we first moved here, we lived in Springfield. We bought our
first house in Springfield. The blacks were not moving in
there then at all. The house got too small, so he just
wanted to move; he did not like it. He saw an ad in the
paper and went to Telfair Stockton. They owned this area
where we moved.

A: I know that name.

R: They talked him into buying a lot out there on Mapleton

A: That was way out there, right?

R: Yes. We moved there in 1940, and I lived there until after
my husband died. I had lived there eleven years by myself
after he died, and I was just fine. I did not know there
was anything wrong with me until about twenty years ago. I
had begun to feel so bad, and they found that I had had a
light coronary. I did not notice there was anything wrong
with my heart. Then the doctor told the children. Later I
got worse with the heart trouble, and that is when I had the
coronary. I did not have it that time.

S: Was that because of your coming out here?

R: He said that I had had one, yes, but then I lived in an
apartment a few years later. I sold the house because it
got to where it was too much for me to keep up. You know
Jacksonville. The people on Mapleton Road out in that
section keep up their yards and their homes, and it got to
be a burden to me by myself. My husband had always looked
after it. He had a yard man, so I never worried with
anything like that. About every three years we would make
repairs and would paint. I just could not take care of it,


so I sold the house and moved into an apartment for a while.
That is when I got worse with the heart. They kept me in
intensive care that time for forty-eight hours, and the
doctor told the children that I should not stay by myself at
night. That is why I am out here.

S: Well, that is nice. Did you know the 666 building downtown?

R: Yes.

A: Yes, I know where that is.

S: That is one of the landmarks that is going to be torn down
when they widen the Acosta Bridge.

A: Oh, they are going to tear it down?

S: They have already bought it, and they are going to tear it

R: I remember it.

S: It was owned by one of the families that helped develop 666,
the Roberts family.

A: I remember when they tore down the Mayflower Hotel.

S: Yes.

A: That was a long time ago, now. I saw it on TV when it just
went shwoosh!

S: They imploded it.

A: Well, I want to thank you here.

S: She is a marvelous subject, is she not?

A: Marvelous! Excellent memory!

R: Don't you print everything I have said!