Please welcome guest writer Bonnie Heiskell Peters. Ms. Peters grew up in Union County, Tennessee. She is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and is retired from TVA. Upon her retirement she began recording Union County history and was appointed Union County Historian in 1994. She has authored or co-authored 8 books: Our Union County Families, Union County Faces of War, Union County Schoolday Memories, Early Heiskells in America (two editions), A History of Pleasant Grove Methodist Church, A History of Hansard Chapel Methodist Church, and East Tennessee Pioneer – Mark Monroe. She writes regularly for the Union County Shopper.
This writing is about a most remarkable Union Countian. It is taken from a short autobiography typewritten by Dr. Capps in 1945. His daughter, Ethel, refers to it in her biographical sketch of her father:
Claudius Meade Capps was born April 9, 1863 two miles below Walkers Ford on the Clinch River in Union County, Tennessee. He moved with the family in 1869 to the Maynardville Valley (Nave Hill area) seven miles east of Maynardville, the County seat of Union County. Here he spent his boyhood and young manhood.
At that time there were no educational opportunities in this county, and he educated himself as best he could by studying at home–often at night by a dipwick light or a blazing pine knot by the kitchen fire. By this means of study he was able at the age of 19 to pass a first class examination for public schools and was given (hired to teach at) a school on Dodson’s Creek in Union County, Tennessee, at the remarkably low sum of $18 per month.
He taught three months, which was the usual school term at this time. He earned $54; and with these earnings he entered Arlington Academy in Grainger County, Tennessee in 1883-84. When he returned home in the spring of 1884 he still had $22.50 of his school money.
He informed his father that he was going to study medicine, but his father tried to discourage him from this effort on account of lack of money to pursue that course of study. Notwithstanding his father’s advice, he sent his last dollar to Lea Brothers of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ordered the three first books on Medicine. These books were Gray’s Anatomy, Dunglesen’s Medical Dictionary, and Flint’s Physiology. With these three books he commenced the long years for a medical education.
In 1886 he entered the Medical Department of the University of Tennessee at Nashville. At the end of his first term in Medicine at the University in 1887, he returned to his home in Union County and took up the general practice of medicine. He was successful from the start; and in less than sixty days he had built up a paying practice.
In 1888, he returned to the University of Tennessee at Nashville and completed his medical course in 1889 with the title of medical doctor–M.D.
In 1892 he moved to Corryton, Tennessee, and was appointed Ry surgeon to Morristown and Cumberland Gap, Ry. [Editor’s note: I am not sure of the meaning of “Ry,” but I am assuming it may mean railway surgeon.]
After practicing general medicine for ten years, he decided to take up special work in the eye, ear, nose and throat department. He left Corryton for the New York Polyclinic in 1896 where he studied in this branch of medicine for two terms. He then moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1898.
There for the next 25 years he was one of the leading physicians in this line of practice. During his time in Knoxville, he organized the Knox County Medical Society, was special surgeon of the staff of the Knoxville General Hospital and served as Professor of Opthalmology, Otology, Rhinelogy and Larynology in the Medical Department of Lincoln Memorial University at Knoxville.
Also during his medical career he contributed many valuable papers to medical literature. In 1925 he passed an examination in the United States Veterans Hospital Corps and was assigned to duty at Aspenwall, Pennsylvania, where he served two years. After two years he resigned to come home to Knoxville and resume the Ear, Nose, and Throat practice, his chosen profession.
Dr. Capps married Ollie Beeler on August 21, 1889. Ollie was also of Hogskin. They had seven children– Ethel, Mildred, Edith, Audrey, Beryl, Claudius, Jr. and Paul. Ethel taught school in Knox County and later at Berea College at Berea, Kentucky. They made their home on Tazewell Pike across from Greenwood Cemetery. Dr. Capps died August 27, 1951 and is buried near his home in Lot 7, Greenwood Cemetery.
Current Union County connections are Mona Grace Lynch George, who married the well-known sportsman, C. Edwin “Eddy” George, who is a grandson of Dr. And Mrs. Capps. Mrs. George has graciously shared the Dr. Capps papers with me; and I am most grateful to her for sharing this Union County history. Joann Beeler Bridges and Doug Beeler are a great niece and great nephew of Dr. Capps. Their grandfather Beeler married Dr. Capps’ sister Rebecca.
Dr. Capps is also the uncle of Peggy Haynes Warwick and Jean Haynes Seymour of Union County. Peggy tells me that Dr. Capps removed her tonsils and adenoids when she was just five years old. Not only that, this was the second operation Dr. Capps had ever performed. At St. Marys Hospital.