Gerache’s medical history collection sold Retired dentist ‘excited and thrilled’ with purchase

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some of Vicksburg’s most famous pieces of medical history have changed hands, but the medicine show will go on.

Retired dentist Dr. David Harris, who moved to Vicksburg from Ardmore, Okla., a few months ago, has purchased a USA Hospital Department surgeon’s kit used during the Civil War from medical historian and retired pharmacist Joseph A. Gerache and plans to continue using the kit for historical demonstrations.

For years, the 86-year-old Gerache, who called his lecture “Dr. Joe and the Medicine Show,” has used the kit around the state for re-enactments and public lectures on Civil War medicine but had to stop his medicine shows because of declining health, friends and family said.

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“I’m excited and thrilled that he allowed me the privilege of purchasing an original surgeon’s kit,” Harris said.

In April, Gerache sold Corner Drug Store, which also served as a museum of Civil War antiques, at Washington and China streets to a Meridian family that owns 13 Fred’s Super Dollar franchise stores.

Store officials said Tuesday they plan to move from downtown to a Clay Street location, and the surgeon’s kit is one of many collectables the Gerache family has parted with in the past few weeks.

“There’s nothing really left in there,” Gerache’s son Johnny Gerache said of the downtown store. “It’s looks nothing like it used to. It looks like a Fred’s Super Dollar inside.”

Before Joseph A. Gerache sold the store, his family, including his father, sisters and his son, Bubba, had operated pharmacies in Vicksburg since 1920.

Harris, 62, purchased the kit and a collection of Civil War medicine from the Gerache family several weeks ago and held his first public speaking engagement Thursday at Vicksburg Rotary Club.

“People still have a morbid interest in Civil War medicine and surgery,” Harris said.

The kit contains saws, scalpels and other equipment, some of which is stained with blood from battles fought 150 years ago.

“It’s still hard for me to believe that I actually own it,” Harris said.

Harris moved to Vicksburg to become a certified battlefield guide. Vicksburg and Gettysburg are the only two national military parks with certified guides, and Harris completed certification last week.

“I felt like if I’m going to realize a dream I’ve had all my life, I need to do it now,” he said.