ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan
A Story of Conjure
By F. Roy Johnson
MIRACLE-LIKE experiences have proved of great value to the career-building of successful conjure doctors. Extraordinary professional achievements set them apart from the ordinary conjure people and built patron confidence. The smarter or strong minds rose to greatness and enjoyed good practice much like distinguished people in other professions.
The miracle-like stories fascinated the public imagination; they were told and retold; and became the doctors more effective advertising force.
Stories extraordinary appear many times during Doctor Jordans climb to greatness; and they seem to have been of greater service during his later practice when he gave emphasis to faith healing.
Cassel Steward, twenty-four years the doctors business assistant, says patients who had to be borne into his office would leave walking; those who could not speak regained their voices; other resigned to death were restored to normal health.
Cassel and the doctors son Isaac report one of Jims favorite cases:
Henry Mason of Petersburg, Virginia, weighed just 71 pounds upon his first visit to Doctor Jordan. He said he had spent eight months in three hospitals in Washington, Baltimore, Chapel Hill finally went home with no expectation to live.
At first he felt it useless to heed a friends advice to visit Doctor Jordan at Como, but eventually he consented.
The doctor went to work on him with both faith and herb remedies. Within two months Henry was able to return to work four months later he had regained all his lost weight.
Henry lives in Petersburg today. He had returned to Como several times after Doctor Jordans death; humbly refers to him as the doctor who saved my life.
Dr. L. M. Futrell, retired practitioner of Murfreesboro, was asked for an opinion on Henrys recovery. He said, It is very possible that after medical treatment time was necessary for the mans recovery.
It has been observed that conjure doctors hold by a general policy of never disclaiming credit for a miracle-like occurrence.
Joseph Dickerson of Murfreesboro notes another interesting case. While enroute to Greensboro in 1957 he had a flat tire a half-mile east of Burlington. The colored repairman saw his town license plate and volunteered:
I have been through Murfreesboro two times going to Como to see Doctor Jordan.
The man said he had been seriously ill with high blood pressure, and after two years he felt his case was hopeless. Friends visiting from New Jersey said they were certain the Como doctor could help him. They told of several of his miraculous cures.
I went to see him just two times. My blood pressure came right on down, and for the past two years I have felt better than anytime in my life.
What did he give you?
Something out of a bottle.
Peter Britt of Mapleton names a white neighbor who obtained limited relief from an incurable disease:
Mr. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ suffered from a blood tumor from early age. He was operated on several times. He said he went everywhere seeking cure.
Eventually he went to Jim Jordan; and reported, Jim said he couldnt cure me; but he sure holp me.
Some of the miracles are unmistakably fables. Local story tellers say this one helped more than any other to build the doctors reputation:
Some New Jersey Negroes visited Doctor Jordan. One with thievish hands lifted the doctors crystal ball and hid it in his car. The car immediately caught on fire. He ran into the doctors office crying, Help, help; my cars on fire.
I know, said the solemn doctor; you stole my ball.
The man hurriedly returned the ball and begged, Where can I get some water?
You dont need no water. You have brought my ball back.
Clarence Green of Severn was living near Doctor Jordan in 1947. Early one autumn day he visited the doctors store to buy sugar. He observed:
People were arriving at Doctor Jordans place by north and south buses and cars. His office was full.
An old man who looked to weigh about 125 pounds was helped by a woman from a south bound bus. He made his way to the doctors office on crutches.
I struck up a conversation as he awaited his turn. The old fellow said he had suffered from arthritis and rheumatism many years. He had to quit farming as he ran from one conjure doctor to another. Eventually he found one who did him a lot of good; so much, I got so I could jump on my mules back and gallop to the house without a pain.
The doctor eventually died. The pains returned and the old man began looking for a new doctor. One day a friend advised, That Doctor Jim Jordan down at Como, North Carolina, is the best.
A few days later I asked Jim if he was able to do the old man any good.
Yes; when he left my office he lad his crutches down and walked right on out.
Henry Edwards of Murfreesboro was living near Como during World War II. Doctor Jordan asked him to motor him to Franklin, Virginia:
I told Doctor Jordan I would gladly accommodate him except my old car had a bad tire and I was afraid it would blow out.
If dat tire blows out, Ill give you a new one, he promised me.
So I accommodated him. The tire had a boot in it and bumped there and back. I thought it would blow any time. But it waited until I had left the doctor at his store and was about half a mile on my way home.
Mrs. Jennie Mae Eley tells of speech restoration to a young man:
A young man who had lost his speech came to my brother for help. He had failed to get results from several other doctors he had visited.
Brother Jim worked on the young mans mind; told him that faith controlled all except physical ailments; and his affliction was not physical.
Soon the patient began to talk, praising the doctor for his rare wisdom.
ISAAC JORDAN, the doctors son, says his father was the best in administering treatment for arthritis and rheumatism. Many times I hope carry them from the car. They were with Papa about 25 to 30 minutes. Most of them would come out of his office talking about miracle he had performed.
Often the doctor used no medicine, yet sometimes he advised the patient to see a medical doctor.
A STORY at the conclusion of World War II exemplifies how humor was woven about the doctors practice. This one was heard at Menola:
Soon after the World War II German surrender a Philadelphia woman laid her problem before Doctor Jordan.
She had received a letter from her soldier boy husband he was boarding ship for home. The news was warming except she had been pleasuring during his absence and was expecting a child within a few weeks.
Doctor, can you do something to delay him until I can get the baby placed?
The doctor asked of her finances and learned she could raise no more than $200.00.
He lifted his eyes from his crystal ball and said solemnly, Lady, dats a mighty little bit to turn a battleship around with.
Yet the good hearted doctor accepted her mite; told her to go on home and stop worrying, for everything would be alright.
A few months later the doctor received a letter from the patron expressing her thanks. The ship bearing the husband homeward had developed motor trouble and put into an English port for repairs. The delay was adequate.
Randolph Whitley tells a 1922 story:
My father Tom Whitley was living on the Cype Whitley place in Maneys Neck Township. In addition to his row crops he raised about 200 hogs.
One day he had his Model-T pick-up loaded with hog feed returning from Murfreesboro. The truck cut off in front of Jim Jordans house. Father checked everything and it wouldnt start.
Jim came to the road and looked on. Soon he offered, Mr. Tom, if you give me a bucket of feed for my pigs, Ill start your truck.
Father told him, I aint going to give you nothing; if I cant start it, I know you cant.
Father messed with the truck until he had cranked himself wringing wet with sweat. He backed away panting, If you start that thing, you can have your bucket of freed.
Jim insisted on his feed in advance; brought out a bucket; and Father tore open a bag and filled it. Jim started walking toward his house.
I though you were going to start this truck!
Jim looked over his shoulder and advised casually, Turn on the switch and try it now.
The truck caught on the first turn of the crank.
Amos Hall of Cofield tells a similar story:
In 1946 I rode over to Doctor Jordans with Bud Watford of Ahoskie. He went to get his good luck bag renewed. We returned by Parkers Ferry. Before we got to the ferry an old woman stood beside the road waving her walking cane for a ride. Bud rode right on, but about a hundred yards further his car cut off.
Bud began checking about his cars motor, and the old woman hobbled up. She had grey hair and looked to be over 70.
Son, you wouldnt give me a ride, she rebuked.
I was in a hurry and didnt have time to stop.
Youre stopped now; kin I git in?
My car has cut off.
There aint nothing wrong wid it; put down dat hood and git in.
The old woman took a seat. Bud hesitated but stepped on the starter. The motor caught right up.
A short distance more the old woman pointed her stick at a long lane. We last saw her hobbling toward a small house far back near the woods.
Mrs. Edwin P. Brown, Sr., of Murfreesboro, as vice-president of the General Federation of Womans Clubs, attended the national convention in Portland, Oregon, in 1946. She sat beside a Richmond, Virginia, woman on a sight-seeing tour of the city. This story developed:
I told my companion I was from Murfreesboro, North Carolina.
Is that near Como?
Yes just a few miles, and I was curious that she should mention such a small place.
Do you know a Doctor Jim Jordan there?
Yes, he is well known.
What kind of practice does he do?
I explained several of the popular notions relating to his conjure business. Then she told a story of her colored servant.
She got sick, and since my husband is a general practitioner he was looking after her. One day she said she was feeling no better and wanted to go see a Doctor Jordan at Como. She had been with us a long time and we pampered her. My husband gave her permission and advanced the money for the visit. When she returned she said she was feeling much better and soon stopped complaining.
Henry Ricks of Como:
I was at Doctor Jordans store when a New York man came up. I talked with him while he waited for the doctor.
He showed me a sore under an eye and said he had seen several doctors and they couldnt make it heal. He seemed afraid it was cancer.
A friend told me of Doctor Jordan, but I was afraid at first to come.
I was at the doctors store about a week later and talked with the man again. He said he was improving. Then I happened to see him on his third visit. He said, Im doing fine. The sore looked to me like it had healed.
The man was so pleased he insisted that Jim take $100.00 extra as a tip.
A New York woman arrived at Underwoods (Bus) Station in Murfreesboro after a visit to Doctor Jordans office. She told Cecil Forehand, Jr., this story:
A woman crossed me up. The doctors didnt do me no good, and a friend told me You go on down to Como, North Carolina, and Doctor Jordan can take it off.
He surely is a fine doctor. I got faith in him, and I believe Im going to be alright.
Source: F. Roy Johnson The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan © Copyright 1963 Johnson Publishing Co. Murfreesboro, N. C.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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posted 28 December 2006 / update 23 June 2008
Related File: Conjuring & Doctoring