Mary Owens Vann Bryan
Henry County Siftings
By T. Larry Smith
Vol. 15, No. 22
Nine of Headland’s Many Doctors
Professor James Joshua Head, who later became a medical doctor, founded Headland in 1871, after removing from Abbeville where he had been Principal of the Abbeville Academy; he was also a large land owner and farmer. J.J. Head sold his village of Headland in 1879 to Hosey C. Powell, who in turn sold to Headland’s first doctor, a young Dr. Wyatt S. Oates, a native of Abbeville, in 1880, Dr. Oates had opened his first practice in Headland in 1875, and he became one of the wealthiest men in the county and is buried in Abbeville. J.J. Head continued to live in Headland while becoming a medical doctor. Dr. J.J. Head had opened his medical office in Headland between 1880 and 1883, when he removed his family to Tampa, Florida where he opened his medical office on Washington Street. Dr. Head died in nearby Lake Magdalene and was buried there in 1927. Dr. W.S. Oates became the builder, developer, and promoter of his Town of Headland and became known as the “Father of Headland”. Dr. Oates has arguably been the most notable of Headland’s doctors; he was also a cousin of Alabama Governor W. C. Oates of Abbeville. The village of Headland incorporated in 1884 with several doctors signing the incorporating papers; the town could have then become “Oatesville,” but Dr. Oates retained the original name of the town.
The attached image depicts only nine of Headland’s many doctors who have practiced medicine there since its creation. The nine are identified from left to right, top row: Dr. J J. Head; Dr. Wyatt S. Oates; Dr. Jon Price, who moved in from Abbeville. Middle row: Dr. Charles F. Sporman, who removed from Abbeville, Dr. Sporman and Dr. Price, operated Headland’s first drug store; brothers Dr. Lee Roy Burdeshaw and Dr. Shelby Lenard Burdeshaw, both were born, reared, and attended the Malilieu Seminary in Kinsey, they practiced together for a time. Bottom row; Dr. Robert Franklin Blackshear, a dentist and native of Haleburg; Dr. Marvin Scott, who along with his two brothers, Dr. H.T.C. Scott and Dr. Walter Scott, operated the first hospital within the present boundaries of Henry County in Headland in 1911, named the Scott Hospital, Mrs. Dr. Marvin Scott wrote Henry County’s first history book in 1961; and last is Dr. Willis Alonzo Bird, who has been the only doctor to have had a branch doctor’s office located in Tumbleton, he had a son, Dr. Terry Bird. Headland has an interesting medical history.
- Dr. James (Jim, Jimbo) Wesley Vann guiding us around the First United Methodist Church Cemetery, HERE. I know Dr. Price's gravesite is shown, and that Uncle Jim also takes us by Dr. Burdeshaw's old home. Sorry about the craziness of the volume! Learning as I go! When you're done with that, click HERE for the Vann Family Home on W. Church Street.
- The late Sam R. Vann, Jr. and his sister, Grace Vann Brannon (now 93 years old!), in an interview a few years ago, talking in detail about the Vann family's origins and what life was like when they were growing up, go HERE.
- To learn more about Uncle Watty's maternal grandfather, Dr. Walter Scott, click HERE.
- And for Dr. Jon Price's poetry, click HERE.