Sometimes you stumble upon the most amazing stories when you are simply going about your day.
On Sunday I had to headed to Pineville to replace my Swamp Fox cache (yes, again!) and after doing so, I placed another cache at the beautiful Pineville Chapel. I really like this area of Berkeley County.
On the way home I came across a building I have passed a million times before but never paid much attention to. This time I decided to stop and take a couple of photos. The lettering on the top of the building said "Maude Callen Clinic - Berkeley County Health Department." The building was old and run down with a couple of broken windows. It's in the middle of a very rural community and I started to wonder what the story and history of it was.
When I walked up to the front of the building to get a closer look I noticed that the door was cracked open. Anyone that knows me will tell you that this might as well be a handwritten invitation to go inside - I love exploring any old, abandoned property! When I pushed the door open it barely budged. I had to really push hard to get it to open. When I was finally inside the air smelled like mold and other than the interior itself falling apart, it was actually quite clean. When they closed this clinic they emptied it out entirely.
I started walking around and was a little nervous because you never know what (or who!) you might run into when entering an abandoned building. I called out "Hello!" and no one answered, but I still didn't let my guard down (remind me to invest in some mace!) I walked around taking photos and tried to be as fast as I could. My Jeep was parked on the side of the road and since there isn't anything else in the area besides the church next door I didn't want to raise suspicion about who the Jeep might belong to and where I might be!
The clinic consisted of several exam rooms, a bathroom, long hallway and a large room which I assume was the waiting room. I was trying to imagine all the bustling activity that once existed here, but at the moment the atmosphere it held nothing but eerie silence.
I finished my photo taking and headed outside making sure to close the door tightly behind me. I made a mental note to Google the clinic when I got home to find out more about it.
Later that night when I was uploading my photos of the clinic to Flickr I came across the plaque that is on the front of the building and did a Google search on the namesake of the clinic. I was overwhelmed with the search results. Maude Callen turned out to be a very real, amazing Nurse-Midwife that lived in the Pineville area!
The first thing that popped up was a Life Magazine article that appeared in the December 3, 1953 issue that you can read here.
They did a several page spread with the most amazing photos of Maude while she was on the job treating the people of the Pineville area. I immediately fell in love with this woman and her obvious passion for her what she did and also the residents of the area. The photo essay speaks volumes about her dedication and work ethic.
(There are so many more photos in the magazine - do yourself a favor and check it out!!)
After doing additional research I found out that Maude dreamed of opening up a clinic in the area but didn't think that she could ever raise the money to do so. However, after the Life Magazine article was published her dream came to fruition when $27,000 in donations were collected. Maude worked in the clinic until she retired in 1971.
I noticed on the plaque that they have Life Magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith listed as "Promoter" - how did he even find Maude for his photo essay?
She seemed like such a selfless woman and I wonder what her personal life was like. Was she married? Did she have children? Where is she buried? Does she have family in the area? I need to know more!!
I love coming across heartwarming stories like that of Maude - especially when it was totally unexpected.
I think I have a new hero!