Edward Gaine Cannon
was born in the Calvert community of Transylvania County in 1900 to James and
Anna Whitmire Cannon. James Cannon was a
physician who served the surrounding mountain area on horseback. The Cannons moved to Pickens, South Carolina in
the early 1900s where they raised their seven children.
Gaine Cannon graduated
from Berea College in 1925, then attended the Medical College of Virginia at
Richmond and studied at Northwestern University and in Denmark. Cannon served in the Army for 12 years after
graduating from Medical School.
There were two
doctors that Cannon held a great respect and admiration toward—Dr. James Alvin
Cannon, his father, and Dr. Albert Schweitzer.
Gaine Cannon first
learned about Dr. Albert Schweitzer through a magazine article in 1931. He was inspired to learn all he could of
Schweitzer and later met the revered doctor while travelling in Africa. The two formed a close friendship that lasted
until Schweitzer’s death in 1965.
In 1947 Gaine
Cannon returned to Pickens where he started a three-room clinic. The little clinic, named for James A. Cannon,
grew quickly. He typically saw 70-90
patients and made 10-20 house calls a day.
|Dr. Gaine Cannon in Balsam Grove|
Realizing he needed
a place to get away and relax Cannon bought property in the Balsam Grove
community. When the local people learned
that they had a doctor, who was also a native Transylvanian, living nearby they
flocked to his little cabin.
Dr. Cannon soon
“retired” and made caring for the people of Balsam Grove and surrounding communities
his sole purpose. He lived Albert Schweitzer’s
philosophy of Reverence for Life. His
dream was to build a 30-bed hospital; the only hospital in U.S. that Dr.
Schweitzer allowed to use his name.
Dr. Cannon did not
turn away patients who could not pay. He
accepted whatever they could offer. Patients
were asked to contribute two or more river rocks for each visit to the
doctor. The rocks were used to build the
The people of
Balsam Grove and throughout the mountains supported Dr. Cannon with volunteer
labor and by organizing fund raisers.
Money flowed in from around the country and from all over the
world. Donald McCall, one of the early
supporters of the project tells of taking “a big box full of foreign money” to
the Rosman Bank where banker Rowell Bosse exchanged it for U.S. currency.
|Early Construction on the Albert Schweitzer Memorial Hospital|
McCall’s Boy Scout
troop was among those who worked tirelessly to dig and lay the hospital foundation. Brevard contractor C.R. Sharp donated his
time and skills to lead volunteers from Balsam Grove, Quebec and Lake Toxaway
in completing the roof.
Gaine Cannon died in 1966 before the hospital was able to open. Stored in the building were 41 hospital beds
and all the equipment for the unfinished hospital.
In 1980 the dream
of medical care in Balsam Grove finally became a reality when the Balsam Grove
Medical Clinic opened. Staff included
registered nurse, Juanita Butterworth and receptionist, Fran Whitmire. Dr. James Keeley and Dr. Raymond Dunkleberg
each visited the clinic once a month.
Services offered included general outpatient, immunizations, health
education and illness prevention, monitoring chronic illnesses, physicals,
prenatal care and even minor surgery and emergency stabilization. There was also an in-house pharmacy so patients
did not have to travel to Brevard for prescriptions. Although the facility only operated for a few
years Doc Cannon is remembered with love and respect in the community.
information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit
the NC Room during regular library hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about
our history and see additional photographs.
For more information, comments or suggestions contact Marcy at [email protected]
or 828-884-3151 X242.