Here are biographical sketches of two more doctors who worked here in Laurel County during the Spanish Flu Pandemic.

Dr. Owsley lived here in the county and Dr. Parker lived in Corbin. Last week I told you I had difficulty finding information on Dr. J. T. Nix. This week I had the same problem with Dr. J. H. Payne.

All I know about Dr. Payne is that his address was Hedrick, so I was unable to provide you his biography. I found a John H. Payne, age 42, living in Hedrick in 1930. He was a farmer. There was also a James H. Payne in Knox County. Since Dr. Payne did not live in Laurel County I was not willing to take the time to try to discover his identity. I plan to send a request to the Knox County Historical Museum. If I find out anything, I will let you know. If any of our readers can help please do.

Dr. John Gilmore Owsley was born September 19, 1866, in Lee County, Virginia, the son of Sherman W. and Margaret Kelley Owsley. He was reared on a farm and took his medical books to the fields to study. Between 1870 and 1880 the Owsley family moved to Laurel County. John G. was a public school teacher for many years. That was his occupation in 1900 when he was living with his parents. I looked at the Superintendent’s Annual Reports to see where he taught. I don’t have one for every year but here is what I found. He taught in 1887-88 in District # 46 (possibly Old Macedonia), 1890-91 in District #5 (possibly Wyan), 1892-93 in District # 4 (possibly Liberty) and in 1903-1904 in District # 12 (possibly Rough Creek). Since district numbers changed over the years the names of the schools may be incorrect.

He graduated from the University of Louisville Medical School. In 1910 and 1920 he was listed as a physician on census reports. He made house calls on his black horse “Caleb.” He was first married to Nannie Hare. Their daughter Dicy was born around 1900 and their son Willie S. was born July 29, 1901. Nannie died four days later on August 2. Little Willie died the following April. Dr. Owsley and his children had moved back home with his parents presumably so they could help him with the children. Dr. Owsley married Lucy Howard on June 13, 1911, in Laurel County. There is an Owsley infant who was born and died on September 22, 1913. This child is buried near Dr. Owsley so I suspect it was his child. The family is buried in the Owsley Cemetery on Pine Grove School Road. Dr. John Gilmore Owsley died June 23, 1934, at his home in Lily of a heart attack.

[Sources: July 5, 1984, “Traces of Laurel” column edited by Jan Sparkman using Dr. Owsley’s obituary and information provided by his great niece Cheryl R. Martin, Southwest Laurel County Cemeteries published by the Historical Society, census reports, Annual Settlements of Laurel County Superintendents]

Dr. John Henry Parker was born October 3, 1860, to George W. and Elizabeth Renfro Parker in Williamsburg, Kentucky. In 1870 and 1880 the family lived in the Lower Regions of Whitley County. As a young man he worked on the family farm. He married in 1887. On the census reports his wife’s name is very difficult to transcribe. It appears to be Herbronia or Fulronie. They had no children until they adopted their son Joseph O. who was born in 1894. Dr. Parker graduated from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in 1890. He acquired a license in 1893 and practiced Allopath medicine. In 1900 the family was living in Corbin on Florence Avenue. They were still in Corbin in 1920 but were now living on Laurel Avenue. He died September 25, 1922, in Whitley County when his vehicle was hit by a train while he was crossing the railroad tracks.

[Sources: Death Certificate, census reports, Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929]

Due to COVID-19 and the age and health of the volunteers our library is currently closed. We will notify you when we decided to reopen. We will try to schedule individual appointments. Masks will be required. You may contact us through e-mail at The first letter is a lower case l as in Laurel. You may also call the Laurel County Historical Society at 606-864-0607 and leave a message. We plan to periodically check messages and hopefully respond to them in a timely fashion.

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