Biographical Sketch of Dr. James Oddis Rush
June 2, 1867 – February 25, 1960
James Oddis (Oddy) Rush was the oldest of seven children born to the farming family of Joel Grigsby and Ann Mariah Briggs Rush near Mayview in Lafayette County Missouri. The family appears in the 1870 and 1880 census as having moved across the state to Jackson, Johnson, Missouri. James moved to St. Francis County in 1896. Receiving his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University Medical College in Kansas City, Missouri on the twenty-eighth day of March, 1899, Dr. Rush appears in the 1900 U. S. Census as a physician in Forrest City, St Francis, Arkansas. Dr. Rush began his medical practice making house calls on horseback. “In the early 1900’s country doctors were required to perform many different kinds of services. Dr. Rush was an obstetrician, dentist, surgeon, family doctor, and even undertaker. Medical specialties were not an option for doctors.”1
On the twenty-fourth day of April, 1901, Dr. J. O. Rush of Forrest City married Cora M. Peak of Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. In 1907 they built their house which included his office. The house sets just across the street from the railroad. This gave him the option of hitting the rails on his personal push cart to be able to go to outlying homes in the county. “Dr. Rush set up his office in tents to be closer to citizens in both the great flood of 1927 and 1937.”2
“He was past president of the 50-year Club of the Arkansas Medical Society and was secretary of the St. Francis County Medical Society more than 50 years. Dr. Rush became an elder of Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church in 1904 and had been clerk of the Session 50 years. He was a member of the Building Committee that supervised construction of the present Church building. He taught Sunday school many years.”3
Dr. Rush became known for accepting Native American artifacts from patients in lieu of payment for his services. “In 1912, as Dr. Rush was leaving a patient he had visited he saw an “Indian pot” sitting on the family’s front porch, and he said to the family, “Give that to me and it will settle the bill. Word soon spread that Dr. Rush would take “old things” in payment for his medical service. Because of the volume of Native American sites located in St. Francis County, many sharecroppers had more Indian artifacts than money. This bartering system allowed many people to receive medical care and pay for it who would not have been able to pay in any other way.”4 His collection grew to over 4000 items and became at that time, one of the largest Native American collections in the state. He and his daughters numbered and cataloged all of the items in the collection. They are now on display in his home which has been renovated and serves as the St. Francis County Museum.
Dr. Rush passed away on February 25, 1960 and is buried at Forrest Park Cemetery in Forrest City.
1 The Doctor’s Office of Dr. J.O. Rush courtesy St. Francis County
2 Judy Sweet, Director, St. Francis County Museum, Sept. 4, 2019
3 Arkansas Gazette, February 27, 1960
4 The J.O. Rush Relic Collection, courtesy St. Francis County Museum
John T. Mitchell, BBA
November 16, 2019