Chester Martin Remember His St. Elmo Uncle 100 Years Later

Saturday, January 7, 2017 - by Chester Martin
Uncle Chester (Dean) Young
Uncle Chester (Dean) Young

That uncle would be Chester Dean Young, who gave me my first and middle names! And yes, I have already written about him about a year ago. Today I want to re-visit his short life, just to ponder some of the differences between his time (of 1917) and ours. (He died on January 7th of that year).

The major medical difference that comes to mind is the almost total eradication of tuberculosis, the dread disease that took his life at age 24.

(I have a very healthy grandson who is that same age at the moment, and for whom the word "tuberculosis" has little or no meaning). Although born at Flintstone, GA, Chester spent most of his days in St. Elmo, whose mores and Victorian values doubtless molded his life-style, habits, and beliefs.

Uncle Chester - whom I never knew - is reported to have been an avid reader, loving the Harry Potter type book of his day, known as PECK'S BAD BOY. He had been a good student at Central HS (when it was located on Dodds Avenue on what is now McCallie School property). It is therefore easy to imagine that he took a keen interest in World War 1 - a war from which he would have been exempted had he lived. Fact is that he died three months, almost to the day, before the US's entry into that terrible war.

Growing up in St. Elmo he counted at least two well-known residents there among his friends:  Creed Bates and Tom White. Bates later acquired the rank of Lt. Col. in the World War, later becoming the long-time principal of Chattanooga HS. White became owner of a popular grocery store located on St. Elmo Avenue about two blocks south of St. Elmo United Methodist Church.

As a high school graduate he was able to take a business course and find immediate employment in the offices of Dixie Portland Cement Company at Richard City, (South Pittsburg), TN. They liked him there, and he received several promotions before the tuberculosis took over and ruled the rest of his life. Local doctors sent him to Pine Breeze Sanitarium north of the river for treatments which did no good. Next step was to send him to the warm, dry climate of Phoenix, AZ. There he again found immediate employment at another mining concern and was able to set up a small chicken farm with a newfound Arizona friend in his spare time.

Pine Breeze has long-since been gone as it was no longer needed due to the gradual eradication of TB. Be grateful for that! FDR's MARCH OF DIMES, originally founded to pay for polio research, soon included tuberculosis among its beneficiaries, slowly overtaking that disease and virtually removing it from our consciousness.

As the only son (to survive infancy) of my grandparents, James Lyde and Mattie Minerva Smith Young, I have often wondered where Uncle Chester's education and entreprenurial spirit might have taken him in life had he lived. It would appear he was on his way to a successful career - and might have lived on to influence my early years. I will always regret I never knew him. Same goes for his father, (my grandfather) who died at age 43 (of "grippe")!

The accompanying picture shows Uncle Chester in the middle, with Tom White at left. Driver of the handsome rig is unknown. One can imagine that the image was snapped by a photographer friend on a Sunday drive after church. My uncle does not appear to be too happy, and I wonder if his dread disease had already set in... Were the others taking him on a Sunday excursion simply to try and cheer him up? Don't know.

Just let this short story remind us all to be grateful for the modern age we live in, when so many maladies such as tuberculosis, small-pox, polio, yellow fever - even many forms of cancer - have been conquered.

My Uncle Chester's burial was in the comparatively new Hooker, GA Cemetery, which HIS uncle, Dr. John Wesley Smith, had founded years before to help finance a new university in that area. (That story is related in a book, THE ROAD I CAME, by Paul Jordan-Smith, from Caxton Press).


(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at )

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