Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Heirloom

A couple of years ago, I posted about my mother's family's history of manufacturing patent medicine. That post showed a 1930s photograph with a Nash's Chill & Liver Tonic advertising sign, and I said I had long wanted to find a bottle. I mentioned this in an off-hand remark to my cousin Clifford Toney when I was in Arkansas over the summer and he surprised and delighted me by sending me a bottle (and box!) earlier this week. The bottle is even still full. You can click to embiggen this picture to read the label, and if you do you'll see this stuff will fix you right up.

My father has told me his grandmother used to dose him with this stuff when he was a little boy in the 1930s, and he can still remember how awful it tasted.

This all started with my great-great grandfather, William Travis Nash (1852-1919). He was born in Alabama, and came to Jonesboro in 1871 when his father Augustus S. Nash moved his family there and went into the mercantile business. I'll have a lot more to say about Augustus in another post later on.

Bill Nash apprenticed as a pharmacist working for a relative, and in 1875 opened the Nash Drug Company in Jonesboro. He both manufactured patent medicine and operated a retail drug store. He and his wife Louisa (1854-1950) had six children: Effie, Augustus, Flora Louisa (my great-grandmother), Wiley, Majorie, and Sidney. Four of them - Augustus, Flora Louisa, Wiley, and Sidney - became college-educated pharmacists, something fairly unusual at the time.

The Nash Drug Company flourished and he branched out in other businesses: he was a director of the Bank of Jonesboro, president of the Jonesboro Roller Mill, and a director of the Jonesboro Building & Loan Association (where I had my first bank account).  Sons Augustus, Wiley and Sidney took over the drug business from him in 1915, and changed the name to Nash Brothers Drug Company.  They operated this business at least until the 1940s. A family story says they missed the boat financially when they turned down a buy-out offer from Abe Plough, a rival drug manufacturer in Memphis. His company later became the pharma giant Schering-Plough.

I visited their graves in Jonesboro City Cemetery. Bill and Louisa's headstones are either side of the monument and the headstone to the right is for their son Sidney. The smaller double headstone in the right side of the picture broke my heart.

 I mentioned that Bill and Louisa had six children, and this monument is for two still-born infants, another son and daughter, in 1881 and 1883.

1 comment:

Queen Maria said...

This is an amazing article! I was just searching the web for haunted places here in Jonesboro. Soon, Augustus's name showed up as a ghost in the court house. I soon found this article and was fascinated to the history of your family. The medicine sounds amazing, I would be lucky to have a bottle as you said you did in the article.