Owen Shelby Woods was born to William Mitchell and Elizabeth Ellen Woods on February 27, 1870 in Izard County, Arkansas. He grew up in small towns in Izard and Fulton Counties. His final residence in adulthood was in Salem, Arkansas (Fulton County).
About the turn of the 20th century at 30 years of age Owen graduated from old Memphis Medical College (it later became University of Tennessee School of Medicine) and immediately started his practice of medicine. Throughout his years Dr. Woods was a life-time member of the American Medical Association, the Arkansas Medical Society and was past-president of the Independent County Medical Association.
At age 21 he married Cornelia Jane Faust (Foust?) on December the 24th of 1891. The marriage yielded eleven children, 4 daughters and 7 sons. During this time he lived in several towns in Izard County. He moved his family to Salem in 1900 (this source apparently counted from his medical school graduation; another source indicated 17 years later). He moved to Salem in 1917 (second source) where his practice grew and he became a popular and well known doctor.
His wife, Cornelia, died in 1936 at age 45 after 27 years of marriage. He married Mary Skaggs on April 15, 1939. They had 2 children, a boy and a girl. Mary died at the age of 79 just six weeks before Dr. Woods’ death. The marriage had lasted for more than 31 years.
Dr. Woods made home-visits for 18 years in his early practice, on horseback or with horse and buggy. He was often paid in produce from home gardens or chickens or anything of value. Patients often stopped at his house and stayed for dinner. This was in the rural areas before moving to Salem. Finally, he bought a Model T in 1917 for $362. After that, he owned six more Model Ts and 13 other various cars in his long years of practice.
During his Salem years he associated with Dr. J. L. Weathers, aiding the county nurse with first aide and giving tetanus shots. Dr. Woods helped a young man from a rural area, offering little educational facilities, who wanted to attend Salem High school. He kindly boarded him while he went to school. Many people called him their friend. A “keen sense of humor and a wonderful bedside personality”* were part of his ability to make his patients better. Over the years he delivered more than 2000 babies.
On his eightieth birthday in 1950 the Salem community gave a party and program at the Salem High School to honor his 50 years of medical practice. Dr. Woods retired soon after but his advice to others in the medical community was sought even in retirement. His diagnostic skills were legendary.
For more than 60 years Dr. Woods cared for the people of Fulton County as a true old country doctor. Loved by many, his daughter wrote, “he devoted his life to the well-being of his family and community. His dedication, expertise and compassion were trade marks he carried through out his life of service to Fulton County”**.
Dr. Woods died on September 2, 1960 and is buried at Salem cemetery.
*Betty Knowles. “Woods” History and Families of Fulton County. Morley, Miss: Acclaim Press. 520
**Norman and Marilyn Woods “Woods” History and Families of Fulton County. Morley, Miss: Acclaim Press. 521
Betty L. Battenfield, July 20,2019