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Charles Solomon Lawrence was born in Quaker Gap Township, Stokes County, NC in 1878. After attending Siloam Academy in Surry County, he enlisted in the US Army, serving two tours, 1897-1900 with the Fifth Artillery Regiment, and 1900-1903 with the Army Medical Department. During those six years he served in the Spanish-American war, the Philippine Insurrection and the China Relief Expedition in the Boxer War.
In 1903 he enrolled at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. He interned at the Columbia Hospital for Women in the District and received his medical certificate in 1908. He opened a small surgical hospital in Mt. Airy, NC, where he married Alice R. Smith, or George, depending upon the source. Their marriage license and record says that her name was Smith, but that her parents name was George, so perhaps she was adopted. In 1910, he did a post graduate year at Johns Hopkins University.
In April, 1911, he and Alice moved to Winston-Salem, where Dr. Lawrence set up a suite, 414-416, in the Masonic Temple on Fourth Street at Trade. The couple joined Home Moravian Church and threw themselves into local civic activities, later moving to First Presbyterian Church. Alice would become a force in the Women’s Civic Association, where she brought in more new members than all the rest of the group combined, and the Associated Charities for many years. In 1912, Dr. Lawrence was appointed to a committee of three to begin planning a new city hospital. He would end up as chairman of the commission that opened the new Twin City Hospital in 1914.
On July 14, 1914, he sailed for England on the RMS Lusitania to attend an important congress of surgeons in London, with plans to then visit clinics in Germany and France before returning home two months later. He never got to see the clinics, because Britain declared war on Germany on August 4. It was all that he and other American surgeons could do to get back to the United States. The Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat on May 7, 1915, killing 1,198 passengers and crew.
In December of that year, the local Methodist churches decided to open a charity clinic in the Wesley House of Burkhead M.E. Church. Dr. Lawrence was the first to volunteer.
In January, 1917, Dr. Lawrence announced that he would build a modern three story brick private hospital on a lot that he had purchased next door to the Methodist Episcopal district parsonage on West Fourth Street. A number of powerful neighbors objected. The board of aldermen quietly passed a resolution forbidding the building inspector to issue a permit for the building, so Dr. Lawrence sued. His petition was denied in March, but national events soon made the case moot.
On April 6, the US entered the Great War. On June 5, the Twin City Daily Sentinel reported that Dr. Lawrence, in collaboration with Dr. John Wesley Long of Greensboro (founder of the Wesley Long Hospital), had raised an ambulance company to be trained and sent to France. Dr. Lawrence was elected captain of the Red Cross Ambulance Company #31 of North Carolina, later #321 of the US Army. He would end the war as a lieutenant colonel, commanding Base Hospital 61 at Beaum, France.
Back home from the war, In early July, 1919, Dr. Lawrence leased the former home of George T. Brown, the late president of Smith-Phillipps Lumber Company, and announced that it would be remodeled for a hospital. The house consisted of eight rooms with a four room annex, located at the northwest corner of Seventh and Liberty Streets.
The 25 bed hospital opened on September 2, 1919. Dr. Lawrence’s assistant surgeon was Dr. G. Carlyle Cook. Miss Lucille Gibson, who had served with Dr. Lawrence in France, became the business manager. Miss Beeson Smith was the stenographer. Mrs. Margaret A. McMartin was the head nurse, with a staff made up of Misses M.J. King, Una Rutledge, Cora Isley, Ruth Jones and Lillie Smith. A few months later, Dr. Lawrence opened a school for nurses on the premises.
On June 1, 1920, the Lawrence Clinic, a diagnostic center, opened at 223 West Fifth Street on the northeast corner with Cherry. Four diagnostic specialists and several graduate nurses made up the staff. New patients went to the clinic, where, after diagnosis, minor matters were treated on the spot, while more serious matters were sent to the main hospital. The clinic moved to the new hospital on Oak Street the day before Christmas, 1921.
In the spring of 1921, Dr. Lawrence bought three lots on Oak Street, barely two blocks from his hospital, and began building a modern, fireproof concrete building for a new hospital. He bought all new equipment and opened the 55 bed hospital on June 28, 1921. In 1925, he moved the original hospital to Oak Street to serve as living quarters for the nurses and nursing students. Also in the building was the Oak Street Baths, operated independently by Charles W. Wykle, which advertised Turkish baths, Swedish massage and Electro-Therapy treatment.
In 1922, Winston-Salem became the first city in North Carolina to have a chapter of the Lion’s Club. Dr. Lawrence became its first president, and also served as the first District Governor of Lions Clubs in North Carolina, 1922-23. Despite the fact that he was considered one of the best surgeons in the region, he continued to advance his skills, traveling to study in London, Leeds, Edinburgh and Paris. In 1925 he took a post-graduate course in pathology at UNC. He won many important professional honors.
But in early 1930, he began having problems with his liver. In June, he traveled to Saint Elizabeth Hospital in Richmond to have an operation for “sclerosis” (cirrhosis). Post-op he seemed to be recovering normally when things took a turn for the worse. He died on June 21, 1930, aged 51. The Lawrence Hospital closed in early 1931 and sat vacant for almost two years.
Texas Pete comes to Oak Street
In 1929, Susan Crossman opened a new restaurant, the Dixie Pig barbecue, in the area that we now know as Ogburn Station, near Smith Reynolds airport. Within months, teenager Thad Garner and his father Sam had bought her out. In the 1930 US census, Sam is listed as proprietor with Thad as cook. The restaurant did well enough, but the homemade barbecue sauce became the real attraction.
Soon the Garner family was concentrating on making the sauce at their home on what is now Indiana Avenue, for sale to other restaurants. In 1932, they sold the restaurant to Frank H. Colvard. The Dixie Pig lasted for many years, with one of its last owners being Paul Myers, who eventually opened a well known barbecue joint under his own name.
Soon, people were clamoring for more heat in the sauce, which led to the Garner’s second product, Texas Pete hot sauce. Sometime in 1933, Sam Garner bought the Lawrence Hospital complex on Oak Street. Most of the Garner family moved into the former nurse’s home, and the sauce manufacturing took over the hospital building next door.
As the business grew, more space was needed. In 1942, the Garners built a modern factory at the old homeplace site on Indiana Avenue. That site, remodeled many times, is still the home of Garner Foods, with corporate offices downtown on Fourth Street at the Bolich Building. Texas Pete is today the number 3 selling hot sauce in the US, just behind Tabasco and Frank’s.
By 1947, the hospital buildings had been converted into the Lawrence Apartments, with about 35 units in the former hospital complex and another 10 across the way in a former boarding house at 724 Oak Street, under the management of Billy Adams, who would remain in charge well into the 1960s.
Winston-Salem Rescue Mission
In 1966, a group of local ministers began working toward a non-denominational ministry which would target homeless and helpless men. The Winston-Salem Rescue Mission was established the next year at 824-826 North Trade Street, which had formerly housed a diverse clientele including a variety of small businesses, furnished rooms to rent, and the Woodland Baptist Gospel Mission. The first director, the Reverend A. Neal Wilcox and his wife Barbara lived upstairs. The mission opened on July 22, 1967.
In 1973, Risden P. Reece, who had been a division superintendent at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, donated the Lawrence Apartments to the Rescue Mission. After a good bit of renovation, the buildings became a part of the mission, opening in October, 1974.
Since then, the Rescue Mission has grown in size and breadth and has become a paragon of success in dealing with the homeless and hopeless. A few years ago, a plan was developed to “renovate” the old Lawrence Hospital buildings. Fortunately, the money raised was allocated elsewhere and the buildings were saved, for the moment, at least.
Two buildings, four quite different local institutions, 100th anniversary beginning next year.