yesterday's tennessee

Yesterday's Tennessee

From Lillye Younger, People of Action (Decatur County Printers, 1983). Special thanks to Constance Collett and the estate of Lillye Younger for permission to make this web page.


Lillye Younger

An 81-year old Decatur County woman speaks with authority on a controversial issue: Childbirth — with its various methods.

Despite the fact that doctors frown on home delivered babies, Mrs. Sallie Young of Perryville bats 100 percent in her service as Midwife or "Granny Women" as they were called. She never lost a one.

Her skill stemmed from necessity rather than training. Her first delivery dates back forty-two years ago. Seems that the doctor had been summoned but "Mother Nature" won the race and the baby arrived.

Due to the fact that there were no hospitals in this area, neighbor women always assisted the doctor in childbirth, so Mrs. Young was doing just that, since she had only assisted the Mother with her strong gentle hands here-to-fore. "The Granny Woman had arrived but had a sore hand and couldn't tie the cord so it all depended on me," she explained.

When asked if she was nervous she answered, "No, because I had witnessed many births."

"In tying the umbilical cord," she explained, "I measured around an inch from the baby's body and tied it here, then tied it again a distance from the mother, and severed the cord in between." Coarse sewing thread, which had been twisted several plys was used to tie the cord.

"On one occasion," she said, "it looked like I would have to use a dirty fishing cord, and I just couldn't do that. However, the doctor arrived just in time."

Despite snow, sleet, or storms, Mrs. Young always heeded the call. "My only tool was a pair of scissors," she admitted. In those days it was just natural birth, minus any pain killer. "Sometimes if the going got too rough," she explained, "the doctor relied on a whiff of chloroform under the mother's nose."

Of course it took plenty of hot water to sterilize the scissors and do a clean up job for mother and baby. Usually the father spent his time drawing water from the well, since there was no running water.

Mrs. Young served ofttimes unexpectantly because the baby beat the doctor. One time she had just completed the delivery when the doctor and his wife arrived. They complimented her highly and said her services could not have been beat.

Sometimes her profession conflicted with her private life. Early one morning she received the call to go to an expectant mother, however she had planned to keep her appointment with her physician in Nashville. The dedicated "Angel of Mercy" rushed to the mother and one and a half hours later the baby had arrived, was dressed and the mother attended to. Then Mrs. Young went home, prepared breakfast for her family and continued with her earlier plans to Nashville.

"Not all mothers delivered so soon," she noted. "Sometimes it took all day and half the night," she said. Even when the doctor was present Mrs. Young was a tremendous help because of her strength, which enabled her to hasten delivery.

With a far away look in her eyes she seemed to be reliving those incidents in her life when she turned and said, "I wish I knew how many cords I've seen tied."

The experienced midwife pointed out that in those days expectant mothers didn't have check-ups with a doctor and many times it was the first time the doctor had seen the patient at delivery. Also there were no drops for the baby's eyes and no spanking the newborn. She is unaware of the modern ma chine treatment which registers pains, while the mother views television, as well as the Lamaze Method which incorporates both parents in childbirth

Odd ____ seem, the doctor was late when Mrs. Young delivered one of her children. "He was crossing the railroad track, when he was born," she said. "But he arrived on time." The Youngs lived near the tracks.

One of her four children weighed 13 pounds at birth. Dr Logan McMillan had to hold his finger in the baby's mount for him to breathe during childbirth. His circulation was so bad that he was black at first and had to have cold water splashed on him plus a spanking before he became normal.

The "Young at Heart" lady said, "I don't blame anyone from going to the hospital. I've seen many changes during my lifetime."

"However I could serve as Midwife today if it my eyes were not so impaired. It's something you never forget."

Mrs Young and her late husband, Clyde Young, lived in seven states when he worked on the pipeline, however Perryville has been their permanent home

She us the mother of a daughter, Mrs. Opal Dodd and three sons, Edward, Ernest L. (Chuck) and Earl. She has 16 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and three great great grandchildren.

(photo caption)Pictured above is Mrs. Sallie Young of Perryville holding her great great granddaughter, Melissa Young, 3 month old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Boyd Lee Young.

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