New Appalachian Moments Blog Post
By Scott Ballard
The popular image of the Appalachian folk healer is complex and sometimes even contradictory. In our very first blog post we covered home remedies, most often created and used by women, but the image of an older gentleman, like Alleghany County’s (NC) real-life faith healer Uncle John L. Joines, who was not medically trained, not affiliated with religion per se and who didn’t use herbs…is both simple and supernatural…
Born in 1864, folks around Alleghany County, North Carolina called him UNCLE as a term of endearment for someone who was thought well of, but who was actually outside the extended family.
Uncle John L., who lived to be 98 years old, was widely known and believed to be a healer…he could heal a variety of ailments…for example, if you were burned, he would wrap up the burned area and “take the fire out” of the burn…AND you wouldn’t have any scars.
The existing photos of Uncle John L. show a…rail thin old man with a long white beard.
Uncle John L. would sometimes come over to Richard Nichol’s house where his Dad would trim that unruly white beard…On one visit… he told Richard’s father that… if he ever had a headache that he should take some of his own hair to a creek that runs east and bury it in the mud. Who needs aspirin?
In another story Jean Osborne’s youngest sister developed thrush…Uncle John L. put a penny on her sister’s tongue, put his finger on the penny, mumbled some words, took the penny out and within two days she was healed…Uncle John L. made believers out of that family!
He was also very well known for removing warts…Gary Joines once told us that Uncle John L. BOUGHT his wart…he gave Gary a penny for it!…and told him, “I’m not going to take it with me today, but I’ll be back shortly to get it…” and in a few days Gary woke up and the wart was gone.
Tam Gambill’s Daddy had a wart on his toe…it was actually a “corn”…but Uncle John L. said he could take it off…so he touched his hand to his lips, muttered a few words and then touched the toe…BUT Tam’s brother said later that Uncle John L. touched the wrong toe and guess what? That corn never came off…
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