The Crawford W. Long Museum in Jefferson, Georgia will hold a special exhibit opening for its new Civil War Medicine Exhibit on April 15 and April 16.
Plaques on the Wall of Fame celebrate the names of almost 600 individuals, families and businesses who donated time and money to create and develop the museum which opened in 1957.
Speaking to the one hundred guests—including relatives of the museum’s founders—Jefferson Mayor Jim Joiner said the exhibit honors “those whose vision led them to create an educational memorial to Dr. Crawford Long on the site of the first use of anesthesia for surgery, a discovery now considered America’s greatest contribution to modern medicine.”
In 1951, Jackson Herald publisher T.P. Williams and Crawford Long biographer Dr. Frank Kells Boland met with the Georgia Historical Commission in to discuss the creation of the museum. The commission said it would provide half of the funding for the purchase of a building if the citizens of Jefferson could raise the money. The local fund-raising drive was successful in less than a year.
The Crawford W. Long Memorial Museum Association was incorporated in 1955. Officers included those who had led the fund-raising drive: Frary Elrod, Storey Ellington, Robert Bailey, Edmond Garrison, Morris Bryan Jr., Thomas Bryan, Jack Davidson, and T.P. Williams. The museum is now owned by the City of Jefferson with the ongoing support of the Crawford W. Long Association.
Association board president Roxane Rose presented museum projects manager Lesa Campbell with a bench in honor of her late mother Sallie Holsonback who died last September. The bench was placed in the museum’s 1850s Pendergrass Store building.
Today’s dedication ceremony coincided with the first anniversary of the museum’s re-opening after a two-year restoration project that included exhibit upgrades and structural renovations to the facility’s historic buildings. During the past year, over 2,000 visitors and 43 groups have toured the museum.
Last year, visitors attending the museum’s re-opening came out in force on a bitterly cold day. Today’s guests attended the Wall of Fame dedication while weathermen were broadcasting winter storm warnings. (The six-inch snowfall held off until everyone got home.) With luck, Mother Nature will be more accommodating for upcoming events, including a March 30th Doctors Day celebration and the opening of a Civil War medicine exhibit on April 15th.
The discovery of the use of ether as the first viable anesthesia for use during surgery by Dr. Crawford W. Long in Jefferson, Georgia on March 20, 1842 looms very large as a medical milestone. It’s on a par with–and predates by over 20 years–Joseph Lister’s discovery of antiseptics for sterile surgery and Louis Pasteur’s germ theory of disease. That the discovery happened in a rough and tumble frontier town makes it all the more remarkable.The museum, billed as “the Birthplace of Anesthesia,” reopened Saturday morning, January 9th, on one of Georgia’s coldest days of the winter after a two-year restoration and exhibits update project lead by consultant and acting museum director Lesa H. Campbell (front row, in black). In spite of the weather, the Crawford W. Long Museum at 28 College Street in Jefferson was packed.
Mayor Jim Joiner (standing, brown jacket) said at a Chamber of Commerce preview party the day before that some said that Crawford W. Long’s discovery in 1842 successfully put the town of Jefferson asleep. But then he indicated that the work done revamping the museum on a $200,000 USDA Rural Development Grant was another example of the reality that the town is very wide awake. Over 100 of the visitors surged through the front doors within the first 90 minutes. They flowed through the museum’s three, interconnected historic buildings seeing updated and enhanced displays with new information, and artifacts that had never been shown before. Outside, visitors were treated to a surrey ride through Jefferson’s historic district followed up by free coffee and hot chocolate across the street at Fusion Restaurant.
A visitor from Massachusetts said, “I think what they’ve done is absolutely excellent. I received a degree in museum studies from Harvard and this is even better than the Warren Anatomical Museum at the University.”
After the long hours put in by Campbell, by Vicki (to Campbell’s right) and Karen (far right) (museum staff), by Frank and Terry (contract craftsmen), Beth (Mainstreet Manager) and by Barbara, Jackie, Jim, Gerry, Reggie and other volunteers, such compliments are a tonic. So too, the wide eyes, smiles and kind words of the visitors upstairs in the new Anesthesia History Exhibit, on the main flow in the completely redone Crawford W. Long gallery illustrating the ether discovery and Long’s family and education, and down in the 1858 General Store.
The day ended with a fund-raising dinner, conducted in two seatings at Fusion, that featured guided tours conducted by Campbell. At the end of the last tour of the evening, she said that it was a little daunting explaining the import of Long’s work and the features of the anesthesia machines to an audience that included practicing anesthesiologists, one of who is a Crawford W. Long expert.
Everyone who shares the long-term vision for a museum hopes, on any given day, to treat visitors to an interesting and educational world of wonders. But in spite of the aching backs and tired feet that result from putting on a great show, there’s the inevitable pull by the work yet to be done. There are always new displays to construct and more research waiting to be done. The world inside the museum is infinite and both the staff and the volunteers are wide awake with the possibilities.
Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, was the first physician to use sulfuric ether as an anesthesia during surgery. This happened in 1842, and it has always amazed me that a man working as a doctor in what was then a hardscrabble frontier down had the education and vision to figure out why ether was so much better than chloroform.
The Crawford W. Long museum celebrates his achievement in what is still a very small town (about 9,000) about 60 miles northeast of Atlanta along I-85. Three buildings comprise the museum, including an 1858 general store and an 1880s brick building that served as a pharmacy and doctor’s office.
For the past 18 months, these buildings have been undergoing a major restoration effort which has included repairs to old brick, a new roof, leveling and painting the store, new flooring and new wiring. When the museum re-opens (probably in January) it will also have new rooms opened to the public filled with updated exhibits and many artifacts from the world of medicine of the 1800s and early 1900s.
Since my wife has been directing the restoration, covered by a $200,000 USDA Rural Development Grant, I’ve had a front row seat from which to view the transformation of the structure, its exhibits and its programs.
If you are planning to visit northeast Georgia next year or travel to and from Atlanta via I-85, then I hope you will stop and see the museum after the grand re-opening. The museum’s web site has pictures of some of the restoration work and will announce the opening date. I’m really looking forward to it!