The Vagabond – Pioneer dentist in Gadsden


By Danny Crownover

Dr. John Perry Gunn, a noted Gadsden dentist, was probably better known in Etowah, Marshall and St. Clair counties than any other local citizen in the late 1800s. Few people had as many friends in this section of the state.

Gunn had the reputation of doing fine work and was regarded by many as the best in his profession in northeast Alabama. He raised five sons to be dentists.

Walter, Charles, Perry, Howard and Homer trained under his direction and obtained college diplomas and state license.

Dr. Gunn was born in Columbus, Georgia, in 1843, the son of a prominent medical doctor who in 1801wrote a book on family medicine i that was a standard of remedies for all ills common in those days.

In 1869, the younger Gunn arrived in Gadsden by boat from Rome, Georgia. After staying here for a short time, he rode a horse to Guntersville and he took a boat to Paducah, Kentucky. He eventually returned to Gadsden and settled here.

In 1872, Dr. Gunn married Miss Belle Logan. Among the bridesmaids were Mrs. Viola Greer and Mrs. J.A. Green, who were members of two of the most prominent families in the county.

Dr. Gunn loved to hunt and fish. He was a fine shot and probably killed more game than any other hunter in Gadsden. He always had fine bird dogs and fine guns and made his own fishing lines from hairs taken from the tails of his horses.

One day when he was driving his horse and buggy to Ashville, he met a stranger driving a buggy toward Gadsden. As they were about to pass one another, the good doctor pulled up and motioned to the stranger to do likewise.

“Mister, I’ve always said that if I ever ran across a man as ugly as I was, I would shoot him,” Dr. Gunn informed the stranger.

“Well, if I am as ugly as you are, then go ahead and shoot me,” the stranger replied.

The two riders spoke at length and eventually parted as good friends.

On every trip to the countryside, Dr. Gunn came home with his buggy loaded with farm produce, much of it given to him by friends. Gunn and his son Perry were in the Emmett Store in Albertville when a farmer came in to sell 40 dozen eggs and 40 frying chickens.

Mr. Emmett offered the farmer 5 cents a dozen for his eggs and 10 cents each for his chickens, but in trade.

The farmer wanted money, so Dr. Gunn told him he would give him cash if the farmer would take the load to the North Carolina & St. Louis work train, the railroad having been completed a short distance beyond Albertville.

Dr. Gunn, who died in 1899, had an unusual sign in the form of a cast iron plaque embedded in the sidewalk in front of his office, which was located in the front room over what was the Story Drug Store at Broad and Fourth streets. The sign bore the letters J.P. in front of a rifle. To one side was a hand with the forefinger pointing to the stairway leading to the office. It invariably attracted the attention of strangers as well as locals.

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