The Trivette Clinic

Trivette Clinic

The story of the Trivette Clinic, like the story of Davis Hospital, is the story of the man who founded it, William Amos Trivette.
The building must have looked out of place in the Hamptonville area, northern Iredell County when it was built in 1932. In a very rural community populated by family farms and wooden farmhouses, the clinic was a two story, modern brick building with the rarest of features in the area- a finished basement.
Even today, the building seem incongruous to it’s location, and looking at it from the road, it seems it must have been transported to the area from some distant city.

William Amos Trivette was born in 1888 in the same community his clinic would later be built. His parents Amos Wilson Trivette and Adeline Ann (Crater) Trivette were not very different from their neighbors- modest farmers who worked the land. There are no detailed accounts of William’s childhood, but one would assume it was in rhythm with that of his contemporaries, being ruled by planting time and harvesting time, the seasons and the sun.
Whatever his motivations for pursuing medicine, they are lost to the ages. As for how, according to one of the current owners of the clinic building, the help of Dr. L. P. Somers, a prominent local physician may have played a part. Not hard to believe considering Dr. Somers, upon his death was said to have been a benefactor to 31 people in the area who he put through college.
We do know William received an excellent education, whoever paid for it. His earliest enrolment seems to be in Elon University between Greensboro and Durham.
Shortly after that in 1912 at age 24, he may have spent some time at Baltimore Medical College or at least toyed with the idea, as it was announced in a local paper he would be traveling there to continue his education. If he did, the school would have changed dramatically after William arrived, as it was taken over by the University of Maryland Medical College the very next year. This may have something to do with his departure from that institution (if he ever actually went there), as the next time we hear of him in 1916 he graduated from the Medical School of Virginia in Richmond, VA at 28 years old. This would be the college today known as VCU. Since that institution is a four year college, I’m inclined to believe that William never actually made it to Baltimore, and something must have made him change his plans.
A year earlier in 1915, a newspaper article proclaimed that he would be moving to the Lovelace community in Wilkes county to “practice his profession”. It’s likely an area he knew as he had spent some time as a teacher in Wilkes county before beginning college.

He wouldn’t have been there long when the United States entered World War I.
Like many young men at the time, he was drafted and served his country in Europe, being able to join in 1917 as an officer due to his education. On his draft card, he would claim exemption as a physician “needed in his profession”, but this would likely have made him only more desirable to the US Army.

His draft card, though also listing his home as “Jennings”, is from the draft board of Wilkes county, so he was still likely living there in Lovelace when the war started.
As a young lieutenant he was at least lucky enough to be stationed at “Base Hospital No. 37” away from the front in Dartford, England. He would remain there until 1919 when his enlistment ended.

Trivette as a young lieutenant.
Statesville R&L – December, 1935

With the war over, it’s likely Dr Trivette had more money than he had ever had before. If he was frugal with his army wages he would have returned to North Carolina with enough to live comfortably for a time. It may be that this played a factor in being able to open his clinic later in life.
It’s unclear exactly where the doctor was and what he was doing between the end of the war and the opening of his clinic. He may have spent some time in Pennsylvania but eventually came home to the Hamptonville area, and may have also spent some time in Salisbury, as that’s where his future wife was from, and where he would be married to her in 1924.

His obituary would later state that during these years he was in practice, so wherever he was, he was still working as a doctor.
In 1932, the brick structure was completed just off the main road between Harmony and Union Grove at 290, Eagle Mills Road. While it was being built, Dr. Trivette was seeing patients in his own home.
The hospital was modern in all regards, with electricity, steam heat, a basement, water pumped from a well using a windmill, and the latest is medical equipment. And, unlike other local physicians such as Dr Myers, Dr Trivette’s clinic was open not just for common ailments and births, but for surgeries such as appendicitis, x-rays, and even radium treatment, according to local newspapers. It would have been a very modern, very welcome addition to the local community. In addition to the main building, a nurses residence was built just behind the main building and later in life Dr. Trivette would begin work on a larger granite building which would be an addition to the main clinic. This building would never be finished and would be taken down in later years. According to Kevin Campbell, who lived on the clinic property much later, stones from it were used in the construction of several homes belonging to his family members. However, the stone arch on the front of the building is still standing today.

One of the many accounts of people being treated by Dr Trivette.

Despite these projects and daily work at the clinic, Dr Trivette would continue on with his education. A newspaper blurb documents him traveling to New York with his wife for six weeks in 1929 for post-graduate work. I have been unable to find exactly where this work took place.

The hospital was also notable for it’s size. Unlike Dr. Myers, who had only his wife for assistance, Dr. Trivette’s clinic would employ several other doctors and a handful of nurses, some who lived on the property.
There are no publications from the clinic available, but I have been able to find the names of some of the employees from local newspapers.
One of these would have been Dr. L.C. Ogburn, a surgeon who I believe was hired in 1934.

Willie Mae Tulbert, who was Dr. Trivette’s niece, began working at the clinic in 1932 at 15 years old as a nurse’s aid of sorts. She worked at the clinic “night and day” for four years until she got married.

Willie Mae Tulbert
RN Gertrude Dudley (Liverman) later in life.

Dr. Trivette’s brother, Dr. Parks Trivette (full name Leandrew Parks Trivette), a dentist, was also employed, and did dental work in the basement.
Another newspaper announcement identifies operating RN Gertrude Dudley. She was definitely working at the clinic in 1935, but by the December of that year had taken a position a St. Peters Hospital in Charlotte and moved away.

Names written in the concrete of the basement.
Dr. Robertson

One of the current owners of the clinic building believes that the first four nurses may have been named Helen, Polly, Letha, and Cindy. These names are written in the concrete that was poured for the basement floor with the date “1932”. I can’t confirm this as of yet.
However, I believe “Letha” could possibly have been “Letha Somers“.

Dr. James Mebane Robertson was also one of the early employees, with the local paper announcing his arrival in July of 1933. Dr. Robertson was educated at Temple University and worked at Hamot Hospital in Erie, PA for a time after graduating before moving back home to NC. He would remain in the area after the clinic closed and go on to practice medicine in Harmony for many years where he was eventually elected mayor. According to one of the current owners of the clinic, Dr. Robertson planted the white pines along the road in front of the clinic.
Another small notice in the social section of the Statesville paper dated January, 1938 proclaims that “Miss Ila Hepler has returned to her old job at the Trivette Clinic“. It’s unknown what her old job would have been.
Dr. Trivette’s will and probate papers would also name employees due wages when he died. These papers list two nurses, a Mrs. Emery and a Miss Mulder. A Dr. Dolton is also listed, being owed $175 in salary. A Connie Pendergrass was owed a salary of $12 for an unknown position, and a Eugene Proctor was owed $4.34 in unpaid wages.

These would be the best years for the clinic. Despite being so rural, the work no doubt kept the staff busy, and a number of people alive today can trace their family back to births which took place at the clinic during this time. It was a scant few years.

A newspaper announcement from 1934 showing Dr Trivette participating in typhoid and diphtheria inoculations.
Olin Binkley. Unknown date.

Tragically, Dr. Trivette would become gravely ill during the winter of 1938 after attempting to clear leaves from the gutters of the nurses quarters. He would be admitted to Long’s Sanitorium in Statesville for the illness but would never recover, dying there just before Christmas at age 50 of lobar pneumonia.
His funeral would be at Zion Baptist church, with his own nephew, O.T. Binkley assisting in the service. Afterwards, his body would be buried at Union Grove Methodist Church, now Union Grove UMC.
Dr. Trivette was remembered as a gentle man who was deeply dedicated to his craft. One account from a local history book describes how when it came time for inoculation clinics in the community, Dr Trivette’s line was always longest, as he had a much lighter touch then some of his contemporaries.
Gwendolyn, his wife never remarried, and died in 1984 in a nursing home in Raleigh. She was brought back home and buried in the same cemetery as her husband.

The clinic was unable to carry on without Dr. Trivette after his death, and would close in 1939. I’m unsure if anything was done with the property directly after that, but a man named Leo Rivers and his wife Mary seem to have bought the property in 1945.

Rivers and his wife are most likely in this photo, but I can’t say which people they are. If I had to guess I would say he is front right and she is front left. Iredell County Library.

Rivers seems something of a character. He was originally from Ware, Massachusetts, but somehow found his way to North Carolina around 1940, and before buying the property, married his wife Mary Lavina (who was from Newton) and ran an establishment west of Statesville called the “Clinker Brick Villa”. As best I cant tell, this was a restaurant but also seemed to possibly be a night club of sorts, hosting dances, parties, and various to-do’s. It also had private dining rooms and a “negro quartet” that was the house band. I don’t know exactly where it was located, but I have reason to believe it sat on the corner of NC-70 and Brick Yard Road.

Feb, 1945
Statesville R&L NOvember, 1950

By at least 1950, Rivers has the clinic reopened as a rest home. During this time he would also work as a cook at several places, including Gray’s Cafe in Statesville, owned and apparently managed Fairview Cafe (also in Statesville-and which he would eventually put up for sale), and opened a “gift shop” called the Hobby Shop on NC-21. It doesn’t seem any of these ventures were especially successful, but the rest home continued on, with RIvers using the building for various things. During this time, newspaper accounts show his wife visiting such diverse places as Miami and England with her friends. One can’t help but wonder if Mr. Rivers had to work so hard to keep his wife up.
Leo Armand Rivers died in 1953, and according to his obituary, he and his wife only ran the rest home for eight years total. By the end of 1953, the clinic seems to have news owners. Sort of.

Statesville R&L May, 1954

It’s at this point that V.C. Tooley takes over the property with his wife, and continues to run it as the Vendora (or possibly “Verndora” depending on which newspaper clipping is correct) Rest Home, but only until 1954, when they seemed to close it as well. What happens after that is a bit hard to flesh out. By 1959, Leo River’s wife is still or else is somehow again in possession of the building, calling it the “Rivers Rest Home” or the “River’s Rest Resort”. It’s hard to tell exactly what was going on during these years. It could be both the Tooleys and Rivers were renting the property from a third party. I am unsure of what sort of arrangement was made.

The clinic building during it’s rest home years. Unknown date. From the Iredell County Library’s photo collection.

The property does pass to other owners around 1961. Blum “B.W.” Campbell gets the property through unknown circumstances around that time. B.W. is fondly remembered as the local school’s FFA teacher, and many older residents in the community can recall trips to White Lake where B.W. took the local FFA students. One person I talked to remembered that the trip was all back roads in those days in an old bus with no A/C, and kids would bring along food for themselves, sometimes even live chickens.
I’m not sure B.W. really did much with the property, but in 1963 it’s ownership passes from him to his brother Brice Campbell, who moves in with his family that summer. Brice Campbell would buy the property with a loan he secured through the Farmer’s Home Administration.
Kevin Campbell, one of Brice’s children was a baby at the time the family arrived at the clinic, but remembers it fondly from his childhood. There were still at least some remnants of it’s former life as a clinic present when the second Campbells moved in such as a dentist’s chair in the basement. Brice and his family went about turning the clinic into a livable home, but would also usher in the clinic’s second span of good times. Kevin’s bedroom would eventually be in the old operating room upstairs.

1971. Statesville Record & Landmark
September 30th, 1963

The Campbell family would create from the old rest home property a working nursery that would prove wildly successful, with every member of the family helping out with the business. In it’s heyday there were several greenhouses and numerous varieties of plants for sale, and there were years during it’s operation where the greenhouse sold enough to locals and people from out of state to earn over a million dollars in todays money, when adjusted for inflation.

A “ghost tour” at the clinic.

This lasted until 1980. Due to family circumstances, the property was sold that year, and an expatriate of Switzerland bought the property with the intention of continuing on a nursery operation. For whatever reason, that never quite materialized or worked very well, and the grounds became neglected.
In 2010, the current owners bought the property and began a slow renovation, using the former nursery as part of their business.
They have renamed it “Harmony Gardens Nursery“, and in addition to plants, there are and also have been “ghost tours” of the old clinic. As far as I know, the owners are still conducting these.

Probably not what Dr. Trivette could ever have imagined the result of his labors, but as we have seen from past posts, buildings have a way of losing their purpose and finding new ones if they survive long enough.

The clinic building in 2011.

Unlike all it’s local contemporaries, and despite being a clinic/hospital for a much shorter time than either Dr. Myer’s small clinic in Harmony or the much more prestigious Davis Hospital in Statesville, fate has been kind to the Trivette Clinic. It is a piece of history that the local population’s children and grandchildren will hopefully be able to see and touch and enjoy, whatever it is now and whatever it might be next.

It must be said that even though much of this story was discovered through old fashioned book research, a number of local people in the community have been key in finding new avenues of inquiry and filling in blank spots with first hand knowledge. My thanks to Kevin Campbell, Doug and Tim who now own the property, and all the other local folks who pointed me in the right direction when I hit a wall.

For a look at the written sources used in this article, click here.
For more about Dr Robertson, who worked at the clinic and moved his practice to Harmony, click here.

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Published by Abandoned NC

I went back to my old home and the furrow of each year plowed like surf across the place had not washed memory away. -A. R. Ammons

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