Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mr. Mayor, the Dentist

Recently visiting Fort Meade, the small town home of my great grandparents, Rupert Charles and Sarah Broyles McClellan, was informative. Of course, it was nice to see the place and learn more about what life was like for my ancestors during those years in the early 1900s when they lived in Polk County's oldest city. And it was a treat to visit their historical society's museum.

But what I really wanted to find was more detail on my ancestors. After all, since my great grandfather was the town's dentist—not to mention, Fort Meade's mayor for one brief term—there ought to have been some trail of evidence marking his existence in the area.

Fortunately, a cousin tipped me off that there were old city record books stored at the city's museum, and urged me to look for them. Maybe something within those pages held a copy of R.C.'s signature. Then, she also told me to keep an eye out for a display with an old dentist's chair; she thought it might have been from his office.

Armed with that intel, when we walked in the front door of the museum and were greeted by the historical society volunteers, there were two questions uppermost on my list. Once we explained our mission, our helpful volunteers directed us to the room with the very display my cousin had described. The chair, however, was thought to have belonged to a different dentist.

That, however, didn't jive with the calculations. It was a very old style chair, and Dr. McClellan had left it behind when he moved his practice to Tampa in 1919. The new office was to have all new equipment, and taking that old style of chair simply wouldn't do. Perhaps the dentist who took over his practice in Fort Meade received the chair, as well.

There is one way we can untangle this minor mystery: the Fort Meade dental chair itself bears the tag indicating the manufacturer—McConnell, out of Demorest, Georgia. The date on the manufacturer's tag seems to say May 8, 1900. Possible date of the patent? Perhaps a visit to our helpful friend Google will resolve the question—a question to tackle after my return home. In the meantime, though, here's an interesting capture of a similar chair by same manufacturer in its current native habitat (an antique store), courtesy of this blogger.

One look at the chair reminds me of all those old horror stories about the dread of having to go to the dentist. The chair was simple enough—but somehow, its austere air was enough to remind me that fear can be a tradition passed down through the generations, as well. Going to the dentist is nothing, today, in comparison to the ordeal of years gone by, so why do we still act like a trip to the dentist is consignment to a torture chamber? We don't know how spoiled we are.

Dr. McClellan's office was situated on the second floor, above the bank alongside the main road through town. Now, of course, the bank is gone—supplanted by a pawn shop, of all things—and there is no public access to the upstairs suite. But the volunteers at the museum told us that we could spot the right place by the mosaic sign embedded in the doorway to the bank's front entrance. (Of course, the signs to the pawn shop would be a dead giveaway, as well.)

We simply had to go back down the street—despite the rainy weather—so my intrepid husband could snap a picture of what, in bygone years, would have been the storefront entrance to my great grandfather's business.

In addition to his professional livelihood, however, Dr. McClellan was known for one other role: that of his one term as mayor of Fort Meade. For that, we hoped to find some records bearing his signature. Though the records at the museum only went back to 1914—and R. C. McClellan's term began in 1912—the volunteers brought us the volumes which came closest to that date range.

Though not many, there were some records which satisfied our search. Even this little bit is a start, telling me that with a little more time, we may locate more of what we're hoping to find.

Photos courtesy of Chris Stevens.


  1. The mosaic sign is far too cute for a bank these days.

    1. It would be interesting to learn the history of that sign--and of that style of sign. I have certainly seen that style of flooring before. Made sense to be able to use that style for a sign--albeit cute, as you said.

  2. yes what Wendy said:) I am always afraid of pain whoever:)

    1. At least dentists have come a long way since then!

  3. I would be almost equally "afraid" to visit a pawn shop!! The one's in my hometown are in horrible neighborhoods!

    1. In this case, the town is so small that the pawn shop is right on the main street through town. Actually, my husband popped in to ask the proprietor for permission to remove the floor mat (which was out because it was raining) so he could take the photo, and the man came out with a bucket and mop and cleaned the threshold for us. I'm guessing this is not the kind of pawn shop operator you might have been thinking of.


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