Mountain Midwife [NOOK Book]


Mountain Midwife is the story of Isabella Brown Neal, a hard-working, smart, outspoken old mountain woman. Belle, as she was known, traveled day and night through the hills of Clay County, West Virginia delivering babies and nursing the area’s poorest families. Belle walked or rode her old nag, often traveling alone with just a doctor’s bag of herbs, a lantern, and a shotgun.

Belle learned about caring for the sick from her father, Dr. ...
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Mountain Midwife

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Mountain Midwife is the story of Isabella Brown Neal, a hard-working, smart, outspoken old mountain woman. Belle, as she was known, traveled day and night through the hills of Clay County, West Virginia delivering babies and nursing the area’s poorest families. Belle walked or rode her old nag, often traveling alone with just a doctor’s bag of herbs, a lantern, and a shotgun.

Belle learned about caring for the sick from her father, Dr. Anthony Brown, and her uncle, Dr. Wash Brown, who both practiced medicine in Clay and Clay County, West Virginia. She quickly recognized the great need for a midwife, and became a Certified Midwife of West Virginia. Primarily delivering babies, Belle would be called upon for other doctoring tasks if no doctor was available, or when large tragedies occurred at a coal mine or railroad.

Belle herself had seven children, one of whom lived with Belle and her husband into their old age. Raising and caring for children was second nature to her. More often than not Belle needed to care for not only the new baby she had just delivered, but also all the many brothers and sisters underfoot. She fed and cleaned entire families, sometimes turning a house and its inhabitants upside down while she helped them get a handle on the meals and housekeeping. Lucky was the woman who had Belle care for her family!

Two qualities stand out when reading about Belle Neal. One is her selflessness. Called into service no matter the weather, the distance, the time of day or night, Belle would quickly respond to her patients with little thought given to her own needs. The other is the commonsense, self-sufficient manner in which she lived. When, in typical fashion, a wild-eyed, exhausted, anxious, 10 year old appeared in the middle of the night with orders to bring Belle for a birthing, she would quickly and calmly fix him cornbread and buttermilk. While she gathered her birthing materials, she would wisely reassure the youngster that he had done his job—the responsibility was on her shoulders now. The two would jump on Belle’s old nag and head out.

It is estimated that Belle delivered over 3,000 babies in her 40-year career. Some of her ancestors still reside in Clay County, and she is often fondly recalled when the topic of childbearing arises.

Belle is a lost breed. She never expected payment, and often didn’t receive it. When she did receive pay, more often than not it was a ham, chicken, or other farm good. Occasionally she received a silver dollar or two. If the family had very little, Belle preferred to refuse payment. While Belle could be stubborn and outspoken, she spent her life caring for families when they needed it most, and delighted in the work.
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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940014031813
  • Publisher: Quarrier Press
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 150
  • Sales rank: 670,022
  • File size: 844 KB

Meet the Author

Vickie Osborne Brown was born in Clay in 1952. She was three years old when her great great aunt Belle Neal died. Vickie has vague memories of Belle, who must have left quite the impression on such a young Vickie.
Vickie explains, “All my life growing up I heard a great deal about my father’s great aunt Belle Brown Neal. It seemed that she marched to the beat of a different drum. After working on material for this book, I can honestly say that she was a radical. She believed in doing things her own way and she did them when she saw fit.”
Talking to Vickie about Belle, you can’t help but notice the passion Vickie has on the subject, “Aunt Belle was part of our family legacy and we were proud to call her our aunt. Belle could have been a legend but she was genuine and her story needed to be told. Thank you, Aunt Belle.”
Vickie is also responsible for putting on the annual play called “Solomon’s Secret” which celebrates Native American heritage in Clay County through the Trail of Tears. The outdoor drama has been performed for over 20 years in a row at the Apple Festival in Clay County.
Vickie currently lives in Bickmore, just a short distance from where Belle lived out her last years. Vickie is a cosmetologist by trade.

We grew up hearing many stories about Aunt Belle and I now live just a short distance from where she lived out her life in a little cabin at the foot of the mountain. All of my life I had heard the family speak of Aunt Belle.
Belle was a legitimate mountain woman, born and raised in these mountains, and she brought up her children during the Great Depression. Through the years that she worked as a granny woman, she helped those who had money for her doctoring and she helped those who had nothing. That alone endeared Belle to so many. But it was not without reason that she made people furious at her plainspoken ways.
Years ago my high school journalism teacher, Mrs. Jessie Linkinogger, obtained a book for me that I was unable to find; it was about a family in Calhoun County. When I went to her house to pickup the book I told her that I wished someone would write a book about Clay County people and she said, “You can do it.”
I thought, “No, I could never do that!” Mrs. Linkinogger died shortly after my visit and sometimes when I thought of her, I could hear her saying, “You can do it.&#x201
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2014

    wonderful family history book,with such warmth,and feeling,very

    wonderful family history book,with such warmth,and feeling,very well written,very proud of vicke brown for writing the book,and telling the Belel,s story.I give this book a five star rateing the best

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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