ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
The Fabled Doctor Jim Jordan
A Story of Conjure
By F. Roy Johnson
Weakness With Strength
DR. L. E. BARNHILL, young Murfreesboro general practitioner, began attending Doctor Jim Jordan in 1960. The medical doctor invariably was called to the home of the conjure doctor. So it had been during the 45 previous years when he was served by Doctors L. M. Futrell and Q. E. Cooke.
The conjure doctor never impaired his image in the eyes of his patients by visiting the office of a medical doctor.
Upon early visits to Jordans Store Dr. Barnhill observed the conjure doctor had an attractive girl in his employ. Once the old man asked, How do you like my girl friend? and after a slight pause, Were going off and get married.
The young woman smiled.
THE CONJURE MAN, awfully alert for his age, had been a ladies man for about 70 years. The women he had known intimately would have filled a small harem.
While he had only one wife he openly claimed children who went under at least six family names.
He told his sister Jennie Mae that his manhood failed when he was 88 but by then he had begotten 42 children.
During more than a quarter of a century Dr. L. M. Futrell delivered up to five children a year at Jordanville. Some, however, were the conjure doctors grand children and other belonged to people in his employ.
Jim had been a courting man about ten years before he married Adell Cooper in 1900. A few years later Adells mother died; her father Cleveland Cooper, a brother, and Minnie, a young sister born in 1890, moved into the Jordan home.
An unusual family relations saga soon began. Adell favored her sister with motherly care. Eventually Jim began sharing his affections between his wife and her sister. Both women bore children with no apparent disaffection. Minnie had two sons and three daughters before she married Horace Reid and moved with him to Franklin, Virginia. Both sets of children called Adell Mama and her sister Minnie.
The Cooper children remained with the Jordan family. Minnie explained, He (Jim) can take care of them better than I can.
IN LATER YEARS when Doctor Jordan enjoyed a seemingly limitless income he surrounded himself with several women. Some were in his employ and he was helping others. At one time he had a yard full of women folks, says James C. Flythe.
Adell had suffered a stroke several years before her death in 1954. She, however, never openly objected to her husbands polygamous inclination.
She took pleasure in being the boss of the household. Jims sister Jennie Mae says when she spoke somebody heard, and Jim heard when he wished.
LOVE FOR CHILDREN was one of Doctor Jordans lifelong obsessions. Dr. Futrell says the quality was so extraordinary it added greatness to Jims personality.
Sister Emma says the doctor was forever teasing his sisters and nieces:
Give me that baby.
What you do with him?
Carry him home with me.
And children everywhere came to love Jim almost as if he were God.
He really fed them . . . his own and the many others around his place.
Doctor Jordan insisted on paying delivery bills for all the children born at Jordanville, says Dr. Futrell. Some years the cost totaled several hundred dollars. Upon his death he had 33 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren by his legal children . . . unknown numbers by his outside children.
He cared for many children other than his own. Unwed mothers sometimes left children for him to coddle and feed; and he also sheltered children of broken marriages.
During his later years he was cheered by the company and love of six little boys. They were his three adopted sons Donald Everett, Larry and Richard Jordan; McKinley, Bernard and Donald Worthington, grandsons of Cassell Steward, treasurer and office manager.
After the doctors death Cassell with the aid of his children have been caring for them.
They called him Granddaddy, and their stories reveal Doctor Jordan had a tender heart.
One day, taking turns, the boys explained:
Granddaddy loved birds and wild animals; he wouldnt let us shoot them around the place.
Granddaddy had three dogs. Red Buttons and Little Sis sat on each side of his desk during the day and slept under his bed at night. Junius, the black pincher, was kept tied outdoors. When he was turned loose he would run into the house to Granddaddy.
A car killed Little Sis before Granddaddy died. Red Buttons grieved a long time after Granddaddy was carried away. She lay under his bed several days and wouldnt eat.
We knew how the dogs felt, for they loved him like we did.
PEOPLE in NEED found help and understanding from Doctor Jordan. He aided uncounted number of men and women to better lives.
He stood for several men released from prison on parole. David Worthington says he first would set their minds straight and then put them to work on the farms and in the logwoods. None of those men ever went to prison again.
One is Hosea Cuffy of Norfolk who continues at Jordanville as a logwoods employee of the doctors son Matthew. Hosea was serving time for murder. His parents came to Doctor Jordan for help. He heeded their request and set to work to have the young man paroled to him. Hosea came to Jordanville three weeks before the doctors death. Nonetheless he impressed the parolee he must lead an useful life. Now everyone at Jordanville speak highly of Hosea. He is a hard worker and considerate of others.
Homeless and jobless women were seeking the doctors helping hand by 1930. Noteworthy is his care of a mother and her three children:
Cunie Porter of the Hertford County St. Johns community moved with her three brothers to Courtland, Virginia, to share-crop Doctor Jordans three-horses farm. They continued a year or two after the doctor sold the farm, then moved to Washington.
Cunies husband left her, and one day she and her three children got off the bus at Jordans Store.
Doctor Jordan took them in; sheltered and fed them several years until Cunie remarried.
Cassell Steward is one of Doctor Jordans more devoted admirers, and here is why:
Cassells parents lost their farm in the 1930s. Doctor Jordan cared for them and their ten children until they could find security. He gave Cassell a job at his store, and she worked for him 24 years. When the doctors wife suffered a stroke Cassell managed the household work. Later the doctor made her his cashier with responsibility of handling his flow of money by the thousands of dollars.
Soon before his death he gave her the farm her parents had lost.
Three days before the doctors death blood tests were made in preparation for marriage to Cassell. Quick weakening of his condition interrupted marriage plans.
There is the case of Lula Bright of Norfolk who came to the doctor jobless and homeless. He gave her employ and helped her pay for a home.
Jessie Deloatch and her two children received Doctor Jordans care three years until they found security.
Others include an alcoholic girl of Weldon whom the doctor helped to sobriety and usefulness; his sister Emmas daughter Bernice of Suffolk he cared for two years while treating for a spasmatic condition; Elmer Carey and her brother of Boykins, Virginia, he sheltered several years; and unrecorded numbers of other people who need food and lodging until they could find gainful employ.
He was a members of Mill Neck Baptist Church, Knights of Pythians, Order of Love and Charity, all of Como, and Ahoskie Masonic Lodge. He collaborated with conjure doctors and faith healers in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and other places.
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