The legendary dentist of East Bend

By Sandra Miller

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She was a woman dentist in a man’s world, faithful to her Yadkin roots, and respected by all. I never heard anyone address her as “Dr. Garriott.” She was just “Rosebud” to the town folks, and many were the tales of her generosity during the rough Depression years.

It was in the early 1970s when I first met Rosebud. Still practicing in the same spot for six decades, her back was bent from her occupation. Her assistant Lochie Sears (pronounced “Lockie”) met me at the top of the old creaking stairs leading to the second floor of East Bend’s general store on Main Street, originally operated by Henry Davis but long since closed. I found them both to be delightful, in spite of age and ancient dental equipment. Rosebud took a look at my abscessed tooth and wrote me a prescription for penicillin to take until I could see my regular dentist in Yadkinville.

The family

Rosebud was born July 3, 1892, the first child of Thomas Evan Morse and Anne Laurie Wade. They called the baby girl Rosebud, because they thought her mouth resembled a tiny rosebud. Her sister Italy came along two years later, and her name was chosen because of her sunny disposition. The only boy, Duke, was named after the tobacco company family in Durham. And the last child was called Erie, because her eyes reminded them of the blue water of Lake Erie. All the children except Erie went into dentistry, but only Rosebud remained in East Bend her entire practice.

The Morse family lived in, owned and operated the Morse & Wade Hotel, later called the Yadkin Valley Hotel, across the street from the Davis Store. The family employed Bet Sears, who also raised her three children in the massive building. After Rosebud’s siblings left, Bet Sears remained Rosebud’s bookkeeper and housekeeper. Bet’s daughter Lochie became Rosebud’s lifelong dental assistant. Lochie’s brother Edward had one son, who was raised in East Bend. Rev. Ed Sears, now pastor of Grace Baptist Temple in Winston-Salem, recalls spending time in the big hotel. “It was like a rooming house situation,” he says.

A portion of the hotel was designated for the production of small plug tobacco sacks, “back when people rolled their own smokes,” says Ed Sears. After the sacks were sown, the Morse business paid local women at home to clip, turn, string and tag the bags in bunches of 25. Sears recalls his father talking about traveling around the community to collect the sacks, which then were sold to tobacco companies. With the distribution of the sacks, the Morse family provided women with a way to make extra money during hard times. When work was scarce, they distributed the sacks to the families considered in worse need.

Not forgotten

Rosebud was one of the first females to graduate from dental school at Emory University, in Atlanta, in 1916. She married Leonard Garriott, a traveling construction worker, but the relationship was short-lived. She practiced in East Bend for 64 years, until just weeks before her death on October 13, 1980. Rev. Sears spoke of his last visit with Rosebud in her dying hours in intensive care. “I gave her the last drink of water and sang the hymn that she wanted me to sing—‘Sweet Hour of Prayer.’ Shortly afterwards she passed away.”

Most of the little town of East Bend’s historic landmarks have succumbed to progress. The hotel was torn down, and Reese’s Restaurant and a laundry have taken its place. But the Davis Store building across the street still stands as a memorial to some of East Bend’s prominent businesspeople. The portion downstairs that housed the general store is now Kitchen Roselli’s, a popular Italian restaurant. The three-story home of Dr. Evan Benbow, who practiced in East Bend for 40 years, remains on one side of the original Davis Store. And the Drummers Home, which was a hotel and livery stable for traveling salesmen known as “drummers,” sits on the other side. These three buildings are about the last of the historic Main Street landmarks, which once brought commerce to a budding East Bend.

Those of us who had the good fortune to meet Dr. Rosebud can still glance fondly at the upstairs window of the old building and, for a fleeting moment, visualize Rosebud working fervently with her faithful sidekick Lochie. They say that Rosebud sometimes dangled a cigarette from her lips as she worked on her seated patients. Many of us have heard only stories about the renowned dentist, but the building serves as a reminder that once upon a time a woman in a man’s world, with an unusual name and a big heart, worked there.

Dr. Rosebud’s dental chair and equipment, along with the primitive sewing machine used to sew the tobacco sacks, are on display for public view at the East Bend Public Library.

About the Author

Sandra Miller is a freelance writer in Yadkin County and author of “When Mountains Move,” a memoir.
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