The Life of Orlean Puckett

Posted By From On High
Date Tuesday, 15 October 2019, at 8:36 a.m.
While driving up Groundhog Mountain yesterday Paula and I came upon this cabin. It and its owner have an interesting history. It's a testament to the courage and stamina that the people - especially the women - living in the mountains two hundred years ago exhibited.
From "Virtual Blue Ridge":
"It is a historic site that stands in tribute to the legendary midwife Orlean Hawks Puckett, who to many symbolizes the strength of the Appalachian woman. Orlean Hawks Puckett had little formal education and married at 16. In her own young adulthood, she gave birth to and lost twenty-four children. Many were stillborn, and the rest died in infancy. Several theories exist today about why Orlean’s body was unable to carry a pregnancy to term, but her losses are particularly striking when placed next to the 1,000-plus babies she successfully delivered as a midwife.
"When Orlean was in her 50s, a neighbor went into labor and no doctor could be found. This began her career as a midwife, and for the next nearly fifty years, she traveled the Virginia countryside, never charging for her services, and becoming known for her compassion and skill. In more than 1,000 deliveries, she never lost a mother or a baby. Orlean delivered her last baby at age 94, and died in 1939. The cabin was her last home."
Her husband, John, deserted the Confederate army during the Civil War and hid in the mountains until the war was over. He built this cabin in 1865. 

John Puckett died in 1912 while Orlean lived on, by herself, until she too died 27 years later.

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*Paula wanted me to let Gregory Woodfill, an OB-GYN in Wilmington, NC, know that Orlean Puckett, acting as a midwife, was paid the sum of $6 for her labor and delivery services when the family she was helping could afford it. When they couldn't - which was often - she worked for free.

** Orlean Puckett was known to travel as far as 20 miles - often on horseback - through the mountains - to deliver babies.

*** Though no one is sure as to when exactly she was born it is thought to have been around 1844, which made her 95 when she died. Orlean Puckett was still delivering babies until 1938, when she was 94 years old.

**** In 2012 Orlean Puckett was selected by the state of Virginia to be a member of "Virginia Women in History."

***** Despite the fact that John Puckett had quit the Confederate army and had hid out for the duration of the war, Orlean Puckett, in 1913, applied to the state of Virginia for a widow's pension, her husband having served … for a time.

****** Because she was illiterate Orlean Puckett's spelled her first name over the years at least five different ways. It just wasn't high on her list of priorities back in the day.

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