Chapter 13
THE MEDICAL FRATERNITY
Pages 700-707

From the book about Wabasha Co. Minnesota
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY"
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books


The history of the medical profession of any county in any state bordering on the Mississippi river will refer us to a time antedating the occupation of any land by the white inhabitant. The various tribes of American Indians were advised by their medicine-men, from whom they expected relief no less signal than that required by their white successors. The lower the tribes remained in the scale of intelligence, as a tribe, the more they looked for cures from some irrational source, and so the medicine-man entered upon his duties with the flourish of trumpets and the beating of gongs, and continued the orgies until the disease had been driven out from the patient or the patient had died. The early citizens of the city of Wabasha will all remember the latter days of March, 1858, when for three long nights the wakeful ones could hear the assembled medicine-men on the opposite bankof the river, from dusk until daylight, curing a poor So (sic), who for two years had been the victim of consumption. The poor fellow was shrouded and the trees bore his body before they bore leaves in that spring, even if the consumptives did flock to Minnesota from all parts of the Union to escape death from that dreaded disease. But howling over the prostrate form of the sick or wounded to drive away some evil spirit which they imagined the cause of the disease, was not the only claim which the native medicine-man had to entitle him to the degree of doctor in medicine.

There can be no valid denial to the claim that the Indians of North America possessed a knowledge of what roots were edible, before contacts either with the pilgrims or with the John Smith colony; then why not go one step further and accord them some skill in selection of roots and bark that were medicinal? There is a precedent in Wabasha for this acknowledgment, in that after the horsepower and threshing-machine had been domiciled in this county, and Indian, not knowing that it was loaded, put his foot so far into the gearing, that a consultation of graduated of Jefferson Medical College decided and informed him of the result of their council, which was that amputation was the only hope to save his life. The Indian declined the amputation and called another physician, who gave him every encouragement that he might still have a useful foot, with good treatment and care. He permitted the physician to dress the foot by the method which, previous to the date of "Listerism" (the systematic use of antiseptics in the performance of operations and the treatment of wounds; so called from Joseph Lister, an English surgeon), gave promise of the best results attainable. Three days afterward the physician found his dressings all removed and the foot enveloped in about a peck of pounded barks and roots, from which the foot emerged to chase the deer before midwinter. The Indian surgeons of Wabasha county were not unskilled in the "lost art" of venisection (the act or practice of opening a vein by incision or puncture to remove blood as a therapeutic treatment), as the median basilic of many an Indian witnesses to this day. They were also skilled in the art of "cupping," or drawing blood by scarifying, and producing a vacuum with a cup of horn, and the mark of that on the temple or other parts of the body is a testimony to that claim. But the day will come when the medicine-man must give way to his more ambitious white brother; and so the first man who announced himself as a practitioner of the healing art in the county of Wabasha took up his abode in the city of Wabasha and announced himself as Dr. M'Thurston. What medical lore he was master of he brought with him from the "Green Isle." His stay was short, for though he was temperate, law-abiding and kindhearted, he was a descendant of Adam, and the woman tempted him, and he, like the Arab, folded his tent and gave place to a successor, and in the autumn of 1853 the first physician upon whom had been conferred the degree of M.C. located in Wabasha to practice his profession in the person of D. F. H. Milligan. For two or three years he enjoyed the field alone, not only the whole of Wabasha county, but the whole region on both sides of the river, a territory almost equal to a New England State. In 1857 he left the county and located at Hastings, Dakota county, but returned to Wabasha in 1858, and has continued to practice his profession to the present time.

In the winter of 1855-6 Dr. J. P. Bowen arrived on the ground and soon formed a copartnership with Dr. Milligan, which continued for a year. Dr. Bowen remained at Wabasha until the spring of 1859, when he left for a less severe climate.

In the year 1855 Dr. Geo. F. Childs and Dr. N. S. Teft located in the flourishing village of Minneiska, and continued in the practice of medicine, both in town and country, until 1860, when Dr. Childs went to Washington, D. C.; and Dr. Teft removed to Plainview, where he has led an active and laborious life in his profession, except when he has been called by his constituents to sit in the councils of the lawmakers of the state.

In the early spring of 1856 Dr. O. S. Lont took up a residence in Mazeppa. Of modest demeanor, genial and kindhearted, he did not claim to his compeers to be a graduate of any school; his leaning was to the non-heroic in practice, and by a conservative practice he won many friends. The writer will never forget a case of fracture maltreated in such a manner and degree that a loss of the limb was the result, which case might have been his but for his retiring modesty. The doctor told the parties interested that he did not profess to be much of a surgeon, and so the case fell into the hands of those who did profess, but whose services resulted in the loss of the leg. We have always held the opinion that if Dr. Lont had taken charge of the leg his usual modesty would have prevented him from spoiling it.

In the summer of 1857 Dr. W. L. Lincoln commenced the practice of medicine in the city of Wabasha, and has devoted his life to his professional duties at the same place during the years as they have passed.

In 1857 Dr. Chauncy Gibbs, of Painesville, Ohio, worn out by the practice of his profession, to renew his failing health and if possible to prolong his life, removed to a farm on the beautiful prairie where now is Plainview. He did not contemplate the practice of his profession, but a noble soul can never know of suffering without offering relief, so he was again in the harness for a few short months, and the "wheel was broken at the cistern" (Ecclesiastes 12:1-7). The exact date is not obtained, but not far removed in point of time, Dr. C. C. Vilas located at Lake City remaining a few years, and then removing to Michigan to return again to Lake City after the close of the war, which field he has constantly occupied to the present date.

In 1860 Dr. Sheldon Brooks removed from Winona county to Minneiska; and while he gave a large share of his time to business, he practiced his profession as the occasion demanded his services, and so he may be well among the men who have contributed their share to give honor to the profession of Wabasha county. At this stage of our citation the war of the rebellion was precipitated upon our nation, and young physicians went to the field of strife from all parts of the land, and young men neglecting the halls of learning do not so fast obtain the title of doctor, save here and there a hospital steward who acquired the title by brevet (a commission giving a military officer higher nominal rank than that for which pay is received). After the restoration of peace and prosperity the profession of medicine began to take on new life, and as the number of physicians in the county seemed to warrant, there was a movement toward the formation of a medical society, and a tacit understanding was indulged in by those who had been in the practice of medicine in Wabasha and Plainview as to the status of a county medical society; but this arrangement did not carry. Dr. Vilas had left Lake City and it was not known that there was a graduate in medicine in active practice there at that time. The initiatory steps were, however, taken at Lake City, but no clue to the date is at hand or any official record of the society. The first tangible point as found in the records is that an informal meeting was held at Lake City on the 25th ult., when the permanent organization of a county medical society was established. Dr. F. H. Milligan, president; Dr. E. C. Spaulding, of Lake City, secretary. The slip cut from the local weekly newspapers was clipped of its date. Dr. Spaulding was not engaged in the practice of medicine, but a newspaper man of Lake City, which may account for the manner of the records. Dr. R. N. Murray, who was at this time engaged in the milling business, soon after this meeting entered upon a practice at Lake City. Dr. W. H. Spafford, of the same place, belonged to this organization until his death. Dr. Isaac J. Wells was also one of the charter members, as was Dr. P. C. Remondino, (Peter Charles Remondino (1846-1926) San Diego Biographies, link contributed by Sister Jane Remondino), a graduate of Jefferson College, Philadelphia, but a convert to the tenets of Hahnemann (Samuel Hahnemann, 1755 - 1843, founder of "The Healing Art of Homeopathy," a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease), and his advertisement was yet in the paper that published the organic transactions of the society. An important item of business at this meeting was a bid for medical attendance on the county poor, and it was resolved to propose to the county commissioners to perform the duties of county physician and surgeon for one year for eight hundred dollars, and, if the proposition be accepted, to purchase with the same instruments and books for the benefit of the members. The proposition was accepted by the commissioners, but so far as can be ascertained there are now no books or instruments in possession of the society.

In December, 1869, is a record of a meeting at Lake City, when a motion was carried to elect Dr. J. P. Waste and Dr. N. S. Teft, of Plainview, members, when they shall have signed the constitution and paid the membership fee. Who were present at the meeting does not appear there, and a future record would lead us to infer that Dr. Waste and Teft were not present, for we next find note of a meeting January 7, 1870, at the office of Dr. Teft in Plainview, at which meeting the two were unanimously elected members.

On December 8, 1870, is a record of a meeting at the office of Dr. Milligan, and a more methodical secretary appears in the field. A list of the members present is recorded, among which we find the name of Dr. F. Lessing, a young man who went to the war from Wabasha. He served as hospital steward; at the expiration of his term he went to Philadelphia and graduated from the university of Pennsylvania, after which he located at Wabasha. The other name new in the record was the recording secretary. How or when these two joined does not appear, nor when Dr. B. F. La Rue, of Lake City, was chosen secretary, but they entered at the "strait gate" (taken from Jesus Christ's teaching on salvation ~ Matthew 7:13-14) for they were not the kind of men to "climb up some other way."

June 20, 1871, records a meeting at Lake City with Dr. G. R. Patton's name added to the list of members, with no intimation when he became a member. Dr. Patten removed from Cincinnati, Ohio, and located at Lake City in 1871; and it is to be presumed he was elected a member then and there at the same meeting. Dr. J. C. Adams was elected an honorary member. Dr. Adams was at this time rector of the Episcopal church at Lake City, which accounts for the designation honorary member. The record here reads: "The second annual meeting of the Wabasha County Medical Society convened at dr. Teft's office at Plainview, January 16, 1872. By vote of the society, Dr. Wm. L. Lincoln, of Wabasha, and Dr. Bacon, of Mazeppa, were elected members. Dr. Spafford was chosen president; Dr. Lincoln, vice-president, and Dr. La Rue, secretary. On June 4, 1872, the society convened at the house of Dr. Lincoln, at Wabasha, with all the members present, and the records are complete; papers and discussions on subjects of interest to the profession occupied the time until dinner was announced. Immediately after the repast, the following resolutions were passed:

"Resolved, That we, the members of the Wabasha county Medical Society, would request the county authorities to procure a more suitable and central position for a county poor farm, the present building being totally unfit for such a purpose, and the distance from medical aid being too great."

Another item of the records of this meeting is worthy of note, as follows: "Upon request the society then visited the county jail to examine it in reference to ventilation. They found upon the plans of the architect a complete system for ventilating the cells, which had not been carried out in the building. Alas for ‘post prandial' judgment in that matter, for the sanitarian knows that with such a constructed jail there never could be a decently healthy condition of the cells by any system of ventilation." A break in the records brings us to June 7, 1875, when the meeting convened at the office of Drs. Milligan and Tupper at Wabasha. In the absence of the secretary Dr. Stone was chosen secretary pro tem. When he became a member does not appear, but there are good precedents for his membership without such record. At the meeting Dr. J. P. Davis, of Kellogg, and Dr. E. A. Tupper, a partner of Dr. Milligan, and Dr. W. F. Adams, now of Elgin, were voted members of the society.

On June 1, 1876, the society met at the office of Dr. J. C. Adams, of Lake City, who, at some time since he was elected an honorary member, had retired from the pulpit and entered the no less important profession of medicine, and he was now the honored president at this meeting. Dr. F. W. Van Dyke was elected a member and was made treasurer of the society.

The next record informs us that the society met at the office of Drs. Lincoln & Van Dyke, at Wabasha, when Dr. Low, of Wabasha, was elected a member and made treasurer. One of the trophies of the surgeon's art exhibited at this meeting was a codfish rib, two inches long, removed from the "recto ischiatic fossa," and yet the patient never remembered to have swallowed a whole codfish. Another important item in the report of this meeting was the treatment, by the secretary, of a surgical disease "by instrumentation." Whether the disease was cured does not appear from the newspaper slip containing the report of the meeting, but the secretary has the honor of seeing his case reported in print, and his word, which appeared in print for the first time, there to await the coming lexicographer, to gather it into the spoken language of the future. Fortunately the disease is one which is as likely to fall under the observation of the "tyro" in surgery as into the hands of the grey-beard, and so will lead to no confusion.

On the 10th of June, 1878, the report shows that the meeting was held at Alma, Wisconsin, and as neither president of vice–president were present, Dr. N. S. Teft was elected president pro tem. Dr. Charles W. Tinker, of Wabasha, now of Stewart, was elected a member of the society. A vote was carried to expel all members who were in arrears for dues. On October 1 a motion was carried that an order for eleven dollars be drawn on the treasurer to pay the fare of the eleven who came to the meeting on the steamboat Sien; but even then doctors, leaders in humanitarian measures, forgot to vote a half-peck of oats to the horses of those who came by that method of transportation. A motion was carried requesting the newspapers of the county "to publish whose section s of the national code of ethics relating to quackish advertisements and handbills." Whether the press honored the request, the writer is not advised, but if such was the case, it must have had much the same effect as the pope's bull did on Martin Luther. The quack will reveal himself in or out of the professions, and the truehearted physician will labor for the love of humanity and the love of that God "in whose hands our very breath is," and both receive their coveted reward.

In 1879, on June 12, at which meeting no new members were elected and the membership was reduced by the expulsion of Dr. Seiler, of Alma, and Dr. Tupper, now of Zumbrota, Goodhue county, for neglecting to pay dues, the record of expulsion appears to be more methodical than most records. (I wonder if Dr. Seiler quit coming to meetings because the society didn't pay his steamboat fare? ;-)

On September 14, 1880, the record show the annual meeting to have convened at Wabasha, at the office of Dr. Milligan, where the first item reads as follows: "Dr. Patton's resignation read and accepted;" and next in order Drs. E. C. Davis, of Plainview, and H. N. Rogers, of Zumbro Falls, were elected members. Dr. Davis was a citizen of Plainview, a student with Drs. Teft & Waste. After graduating in medicine he remained in the town where he had been reared, and entered upon a successful practice, in which he continued for two years, until removed by death.

The annual meeting of the society was held June 14, 1881, at the office of Dr. Lont, at Mazeppa, and a motion prevailed to payt the expense of those coming from abroad out of the current funds of the society, and so by implication, and is in accordance with memory, that at some former period the society voted to receive into membership physicians living in the near towns in Wisconsin. Just why the physicians of Wisconsin should be paid for attending the meetings is not apparent. Dr. Boyd, of Millville, was elected member at this meeting.

In 1882 the annual meeting was held at Plainview. Dr. A. E. Baldwin, a native of that place, a graduate of Chicago Medical College, and Dr. R. A. Gove, of Millville; also W. E. Taber, graduate of the Missouri Dental College, were elected members of the society. Dr. Baldwin and Dr. Adams, of Elgin, were appointed a committee to draft resolutions of respect to the memory of our late brother, Dr. E. C. Davis.

The annual meeting of 1883 was held June 12, at Wabasha, at which meeting no new members were elected; but that fact does not indicate a loss of vitality in the society, but would rather suppose there were no new doctors in the field. Our brethren who affect the granula and attenuation theory are represented in the county, and have been for some years, by the "jolly medicine-man" Charles W. Crary, who reports himself a graduate of Albany Medical College, in 1858, and also of Jefferson Medical College, in 1870, which fact does not look like attenuation in regard to diplomas. Any attempt at an epitome of history of the medical profession in our county would appear incomplete if the name of Dr. Curry were left out. A cultured, gentlemanly Scotchman arrived from Canada in the early years of the war, having brothers, friends, and acquaintances of the same nationality in the county. He located at Lake City, but previous to his coming here disease had shaken his large and well-knit frame, and to bring relief from suffering he had resorted to the "drug which enslaves" (alcohol) and his days were soon numbered. The doctrine of heredity is exemplified in the medical profession of Wabasha in the person of Dr. E. A. Patton, of Minneapolis, son of Dr. Patton, of Lake City, and again in Dr. William H. Lincoln, of Chicago, son of Dr. Lincoln, of Wabasha. The Wabasha County Medical Society seems now to be on a firm basis and will undoubtedly exert a good influence on the members of the profession, and will recommend its good work to the general public.

End of Chapter



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