In 1920, local women formed the Greenbrier County Woman’s Association. Their goal was to create a community house in the red brick building on the corner of Lafayette and Washington Streets (where Brick House Antiques stands today). The community house was to have a public library, a first aid room, and quarters for the county public health nurse.
The first public health nurse, Julia Mellichamp, arrived in February of 1920.
The first public health nurse, Julia Mellichamp, arrived in February of 1920. She was described as having “a contagious smile, a sense of humor” while also being “mortally serious because of the conditions she found…” She was well known for traveling around the county in her Ford Model T car, taking it not only on roads but wherever her work took her.
She traveled to local schools, worked to establish kindergartens, and created educational programs for children.
With her focus on public health, Mellichamp tackled issues like food insecurity, access to health care, and access to education. She helped establish dental clinics, including traveling clinics, that provided greater access to health care for people living in rural communities. She traveled to local schools, worked to establish kindergartens, and created educational programs for children.
Topics for these programs included healthy eating and hygiene
Topics for these programs included healthy eating and hygiene. Mellichamp also worked to establish educational programs for adults, including a certificate program entitled “Elementary Hygiene and Home Care of the Sick” held at John Wesley United Methodist Church. She had her own column in the local newspaper where she printed articles educating people on diseases like measles, whooping cough, and smallpox. All of these diseases were major public health threats at the time.
Pictured above: Downtown Lewisburg, WV with the Red Cross Community House pictured to the right.
We are able to know so much about her life thanks to the scrapbooks that Mellichamp created.
Julia Mellichamp remained in her position in Greenbrier County for seven years until she retired. She returned to South Carolina where she lived until her death in 1939. We are able to know so much about her life thanks to the scrapbooks that Mellichamp created. To learn more about Julia’s life and work in Greenbrier County, visit the Greenbrier Historical Society on social media! The North House Museum is open to visitors Monday through Saturday 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
– Abigail Smith, HashtagWV #135. September 2021. Abigail is an AmeriCorps Member at Greenbrier Historical Society.