|Dr. James Walter Wells was the last rural
physician to practice medicine in Jefferson County. The span of his practice
was from May 1906 until his death October 5. 1960. Except for the first
few months in Scheller. his office was located on the second floor of the
Waltonville State Bank building in Waltonville.
Dr. Wells was born January 27, 1879 in Laur. Blissville Township, Jefferson County, Illinois, the son of John and Laura Ann Bravard Wells. After completing the local elementary country school, he attended Ewing College, Ewing. Illinois for two years. In May 1906, he received his M.D. degree from Barnes Medical College. St. Louis. Missouri.
In the early days of his practice the work was rugged. Hospitals were not available and patients who were too ill to come to his office were cared for in their homes. Few homes had telephones and this necessitated the doctor making daily house calls to the very ill. The roads were unpaved and were muddy in the winter and dusty in the summer. The chief means of transportation were by horseback. buggy, wagon or sled. The doctor's armamentarium for house calls was contained in two satchels one for the various pills, powders and elixirs, the other for instruments and bandages. Patients who were less ill or were convalescing were seen less frequently and members of their families would report to the doctor at specified intervals.
The doctor's services were available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. It was not uncommon for him to be up half the night with a home delivery and then be in his office as usual the following morning for a full day's practice.
Before the development of vaccines. typhoid fever and other communicable diseases were prevalent. It was not uncommon for several members of the same family to be ill simultaneously. After the development of typhoid vaccine. Dr. Wells encouraced the board of directors of various country schools to sponsor district wide immunization programs. With the school board's approval and at specified times, the doctor held immunization clinics at the schools, immunizine anyone residing in the school district. These programs were very successful and did much to control typhoid fever in the southwest area of the county. This same procedure was later followed, prior to the state's requirement for immunizations, to inoculate aeainst smallpox, diphtheria, measles and whooping cough.
Dr. Wells was married to Bertha Blanche Hartley in 1912. They had one child, Vivian Wells Allen (Mrs.W. Carl Allen) of Rantoul. Illinois. Bertha Wells died in 1914. in 1918, Dr. Wells married Melissa Ann Kirkpatrick. three children were born to this union: Charles K. Wells. M.D. of Mt. Vernon: Dorothy Wells Hirons (Mrs. Knox Hirons) of Waltonville: and Helen Wells. Lieutenant Colt'nel. retired. United States Air Force, of Waltonville.
Dr. Wells 's was active in community affairs. In 1911 he served as the first president of the newly organized village board of Waltonville. He was a member of the board of education for the elementary school for several terms and served as president for one term. He served one term as a member of the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors. This was during the time the present Court House was constructed. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Modern Woodmen of America. During World War I he seved in the Army Medical Corps and was stationed in Georgia.
In 1946. when the medical staff of Good Samaritan Hospital. Mt. Vernon organized, Dr. Wells became a member. He was a life long member of the Jefferson-Hamilton County Medical Society and held various offices in the Society. He was also a life time member of the lllinois State Medical Society and the American Niedical Association. In 1956 he was honored by the Illinois State Medical Society and was received into the Fifty Year Club for actively practicinit medicine for fifty, years. He was also honored by the Jefferson-Hamilton Countys Medical Society and the Sisters of St. Francis (owners of the Good Samaritan Hospital) "for his outstanding service to the sick in our community 1906-1956."
Dr. Wells believed strongly that every child should have the opportunity for an education, and to this goalv he financiallv ssisted many needy students with books clothes and tuition.
SOURCE: Facts and Folks History Of Jefferson County
1978 page 342
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