Notable Women of Henderson County: Mary Jane King Justice
By: Dan Gibbs
Mary Jane King Justice went by the name “Dr. Polly” and she was one of Henderson County’s first midwifes and medical practitioners. She was born in 1819 and died in 1904. She married John H. Justice of the Dana community in Henderson County. He was known as “the Peacemaker” because of his calm temper and even disposition. They were the parents of 13 children. Three of the children died early in their years and one was brutally killed by Indians. They lived in the Dana community and their home was near where Dana Baptist Church now is.
Local lore has it that Dr. Polly’s first-born son, James King Justice, had a problem with his umbilical cord shortly after he was born and it was not healing properly. She had a vision one night in which God told her to gather some plants, roots, and the bark off of certain trees and he told her how to make a poultice out of this and apply it to the child’s umbilical cord. The child was healed shortly thereafter.
Dr. Polly had no formal education and she could not read or write. She acquired her medical knowledge from the medical books that her husband John would read from at night by the light of the fire. She was never certified by the state medical board.
She traveled far and wide in the mountains and never refused to help anyone that needed medical assistance. She rode sidesaddle on a white horse to wherever her help was needed. The headstone on her grave in the Kings Grove Church Cemetery reads that she “devoted her life to the sick or the afflicted.”
Any research on the historical people and legends of Henderson County begins with Frank FitzSimons On the Banks of the Oklawaha. Find A Grave Memorial and hendersoncountyhistory.com were also valuable resources.