top of page

Discovering History - One Artifact at a Time

History is an amazing thing. It pops up in the most unexpected places, it teaches us things we would have never thought of, and it gives us insight into a time long past. One of my favorite parts of studying history are the artifacts that I get to research and preserve. Sometimes theses artifacts have stories that are plain as day, written right there on the front for you to see. Others, I have to do some digging to find out the story they may hold. Recently, several medical bags were donated to the Museum, once belonging to Dr. John R. Paddison of Kernersville. Dr. Paddison was not a name I was familiar with, so what did I do? I started digging, trying to find out more about these fascinating artifacts.

Dr. Paddison's Medical Bag
One of the medical bags. This bag held medical instruments inside.

The saddle bags.

The second medical bag. This bag held a variety of different medicines inside.

I would like to first give some background on who Dr. Paddison was. As I said I did not immediately recognize the name, which most likely speaks to the fact that I am not originally from this area. So I did some digging in some of the books we have on Kernersville. After several hours of perusing these books I finally came across a passage from the 1971 Kernersville Bicentennial book that mentioned Dr. Paddison. According to the Bicentennial he was a local physician who began practicing in Kernersville in 1910. He studied at the University of North Carolina for several years before moving to the University of Maryland, where he obtained his medical degree. When he moved back to Kernersville he married Zora Sapp who was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. N.W. Sapp. They moved into the Sapp home, which was then renamed the Paddison home. The home was located across the street from where the old Kernersville Bank building was. Dr. Paddison practiced medicine in Kernersville until 1936, when he retired because of his health. He passed away in 1946.

I would now like to say how amazing these artifacts are! There are two hand-held medical brief cases that Dr. Paddison would have carried with him on his trips to see his patients. Two saddle bags were also included in the donation; these bags would have been used when Dr. Paddison had to travel further outside of town to visit patients. All four bags still hold inside of them medicine and medical instruments that would have been used by Dr. Paddison. This discovery intrigued me more. The fact that they could have survived for so long inside the bags was truly fascinating. Though many of the labels on the medical bottles are faded and hard to read, you can still see the small, white pills held within. These medicine bottles and instruments are not only relics of Kernersville’s past, they also shed light on what practicing medicine was like around the turn of the century. I sat for close to an hour, carefully looking through the bags with my gloved hands. The more I looked the more fascinated I was. It was then, in that moment, I realized I truly had found my calling. To get so excited about old medicine bottles and faded medical bags is a testament to how much I love history.

Medicine labeled "Willson Drug Store" found inside one of the medical bags.

Medicine found inside one of the saddle bags. The label is too faded to read.

The research I have done on these bags is not even close to being done, but I can now at least shed some light on who once owned these bags and what it was like practicing medicine in the early 20th century. It is a fascinating find, one that will continue to intrigue me for months to come.

111 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page