By MARSHA PETTY
Adams Library is a great monument to the man who did so much for our small rural county.
Jesse Franklin Adams was born to Robert Johnson and Harriett Boley Adams on October 19, 1881, at home on their farm as most everyone was at that time. He lived with his family in the Short Mountain community until time to make a living for himself.
Opportunities in Cannon County were few and J.F. discovered the main professions, farmer and teacher, were not for him. He began teaching, but soon realized a school teacher's pay was not going to pay for his medical school tuition. However selling sewing machines would.
To earn the money for medical school, he took up the temporary profession of a traveling sewing machine salesman. This job took him all over the Southeast and part of the Midwest - Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
While selling in the area of McKinney, Texas, he met his future wife, Laura Elizabeth Hudson. After marrying on September 1, 1907, the happy couple settled in Short Mountain while J. F. attended Vanderbilt Medical School. After graduation in 1911, Dr. Adams began practicing medicine in Short Mountain, where he remained until February 1912. The practice then moved to Bradyville and he remained there until July 1924, spending part of 1918 and 1919 as a captain in the Army Medical Corps.
In 1924, he moved his practice to Woodbury and established his residence in the former dormitory of the Baptist Female College on College Street maintaining it as a private residence. During all this time of moving, he and his wife Laura increased their family with nine children.
Common medical practice in this area at that time was to visit the patient rather than have the patient visit the doctor. For those able to travel to him, Dr. Adams had a special room in his house, painted entirely in white, which he used for surgery. But more often his office was his medical bag, and any other supplies he needed to care for his patient would be provided by the patient's family.
If the patient needed long-term specialized care, the family had to provide that as well. Dr. Adams realized that some patients needed more care than family members could provide and he would invite these patients to live in his home where he could see they received the attention they needed.
A little girl, with burns down most of the side of her body from an accidental fire, lived with Dr. Adams and his family for years while he treated her burns. Under his care she finally healed, and grew up to have a family of her own. Her children were delivered by the doctor who had cared for her all those years in his home. In those days, many patients were treated at home and a country doctor had to sleep where he could. Many women told how he would show up to attend their delivery and, finding them hours away from birth, would lie down in the front room to sleep until his expertise was needed.
Dr. Adams was not only dedicated to his patients but also to the community in which he practiced. In 1921, he helped reorganize and consolidate the Peoples Bank and the Bradyville Bank in the Bradyville area of Cannon County. In 1925, after moving his practice to Woodbury, he helped organize the Cannon County Banking Company which eventually became the Bank of Commerce. In 1928 he started the Ice Factory which delivered ice all over the county by wagon until 1935. In 1936 he brought in the Amour and Company Cheese Plant which collected fresh whole milk from farmers around the county for processing into cheese.
Even though he had his hand in many business ventures wherever he moved, he never forgot his first passion of medicine. Knowing he couldn't keep treating long-term care patients in his home and knowing that as medicine advanced so must he, Dr. Adams began working toward opening a hospital in Woodbury. In 1934, this dream was realized when the 30-bed Good Samaritan Hospital opened in what is now the Education Administration Building. During his lifetime he continued to upgrade this hospital, making it a model for future rural hospitals and a great asset to the people of Cannon County.
By 1941, at the age of 60, merely being a doctor wasn't enough of a challenge and Dr. Adams took on the extra job as the Bank of Commerce President, serving in that capacity for 14 years.
Providing for the county, whether in business or medicine, was always a priority for Dr. Adams and in the late 1940s he helped Colonial Shirt Corporation establish a factory in Woodbury. The shirt factory was the main non-farming employment for nearly 40 years, bringing in an estimated $200 million into Cannon County. He continued serving as both bank president and doctor until 1950 when he suspended his medical practice to concentrate on banking and business. Also during this time Dr. Adams decided he'd been blessed with land on Short Mountain for a purpose and he determined that purpose to be a bible camp for youth. He helped form a Board of Directors for the Short Mountain Bible Camp and leased his land to them for 99 years for $1. This camp has continued to grow and thrive and serve the youth for decades.
In 1955, at age 74, Dr. Adams returned to the full-time practice of medicine until his death in 1964, putting business on the back burner. His widow, Laura Adams, continued to live at their home on College Street until her death in 1973.
As a doctor and a businessman, Dr. Adams was a driving force in every community in which he lived. He brought modern medical care and industrial employment to the citizens of the county which improved their lives for generations. If Dr. Adams only had been instrumental in building the Good Samaritan Hospital and serving the health needs of the county or if he only had organized banks and businesses, he would have been an outstanding citizen of Cannon County. But he did both of these things, often at the same time, and when many others would be thinking of retirement.
It was at his funeral that residents of Cannon County gathered to discuss the idea of creating a memorial to such a great man who had shown love for his community over and over during his lifetime of service. Several options were discussed but a library was determined to fill both a great need in the community and serve as a permanent living memorial to Dr. Adams. It was then that the library association was formed and fund raising was begun.
Mrs. Adams donated the land beside her house on College Street for the library, and within two years, the money was raised and the building was built. The Dr. and Mrs. J. F. Adams Memorial Library opened to serve the people of Cannon County in July of 1966. Since that time the library has become a hub of community service, providing not only books but also audio books, DVDs, genealogy services, meeting space, computers and Wi-Fi access.
Fifty years have passed and the Adams Memorial Library has grown and expanded, adding computers and modernization in every way. It is not only a great tribute to a man who dedicated his life to his community but also a great asset to the people he loved and helped all through his life. The community spirit Dr. Adams exhibited so well during his lifetime continues today at the library that bears his name.