PHYSICIAN TO BODIES AND SOULS
By Mrs. Pearle Felton
One of the early doctors with a country practice was Dr. Richard Carscadden, who came to York in the '70s and remained to mingle medicine and advice. His daughter, Pearle C. Felton, has written an account of his busy career.
Dr. Carscadden was born of Irish parents, his mother from county Donegal and his father from county Tyrone, by the Irish sea. They left the green isle in 1839 to settle in Newcastle, Canada, where the future physician was born in 1840.
He was graduated at St. Albert's college, Belleville, and then came to the states, to have a year at Ann Arbor college of medicine and to take his degree at Rush Medical and Chicago Medical colleges – getting experience and a bit of money by sleeping on a couch in a Chicago doctor's office. During his practice in a Chicago suburb, Dr. Carscadden met the school teacher, Miss Clara Sedgwick, just out of Wheaton, Ill., college. Following their marriage, the couple lived at De Pere, Wis., for five years.
Then came the urge to join the pioneers in this great state of Nebraska. This was in the late '70s and although I was a five-year-old girl, well do I remember the long, long ride on the train. On the evening of the second day we arrived in York. There was no question as to whether we should continue our journey. The Burlington railroad decided that for us as we had reached the end of the road and the next day the train would start east again.
Mother's brothers met us at the train. They were Samuel H. Sedgwick, at the time of his death in 1919 a justice of the Nebraska supreme court, and T. E. Sedgwick, an early newspaper man in York, and they had come to the county in the early '70s and were identified prominently with its activities. The brothers were living together in a three-room house, and with the arrival of the Carscaddens, five new members were added. That totaled eleven, but it is easy to make beds for children on the floor.
Although my father had thought of leaving the family in York and seeing a little more of Nebraska, he never left York as a residence. The first day here he was called on a typhoid case and as that was a long siege and as new patients continued to call him, he decided York was the place to remain.
His first office was in the front room of a building, in which the three back rooms served as our home. We had a parlor, and mother had her marble top table and haircloth sofa with two chairs sent to her. We slept in the bedroom back of the parlor; the dining room and kitchen meant the remaining room.
That first Sunday we went to church in the little white frame Methodist church which was the congregation's first building in York, and it still stands on Platte avenue. The family was so pleased to meet others there who had come from "way back east" – Iowa and even Illinois and Wisconsin.
The pioneer doctor was not a specialist. He treated all diseases, would sometimes have to do some surgical work, also extract teeth. These were the days of the dreaded diseases of typhoid fever, diphtheria, scarlet fever and tuberculosis. When his patient was seriously ill there was no limit to the length of his visits. He would stay all night and watch with the family for a turn of the crisis. I know of the baby of a widow which was very sick with scarlet fever. Father knew the child could not live and he and mother spent the night at the home and watched the little life ebb away and comforted the mother the best they could.
I know of the wife of a farmer in the north part of the county who had tuberculosis and father knew she couldn't live. He told her husband he could not help her and perhaps he had better not make any more visits as it was a long way and the husband could not afford the expense. After talking with his wife the husband told father, "Come just as usual. The cheer and comfort you bring her with your visits helps her so much more than you know."
I often went with father in the summer to the country to visit his patients. We did not follow the road. There were no fences and we would cut across the section, driving on the prairie grass over the unbroken sod. But in the winter he had no companion. It seemed that always in the thickest snow storm, when the snow was the deepest and at night, would come a knock at the door and a voice saying, "Doctor, you will have to come out to my house. One of the children is awful sick and we can't wait till morning. I will go ahead of you on horseback and watch for the drifts."
Father always kept a soap stone on the back of the stove and it was always nice and warm and ready to go with him on his journey. A buffalo coat, arctic overshoes, a cap with ear flaps and knit mittens, a lantern in the buggy, and his medicine case, which was filled for all emergencies, and away he would go in his top buggy, drawn by a faithful horse. Sometimes the neighbors would hear the doctor was within a few miles and they would send for him to come to other homes in the neighborhood. We had no way of knowing when he would be home and he could get no word to us. How mother would worry!
After we had been in Nebraska two or three years father bought three lots four blocks from the business square, had the lumber shipped from Wisconsin and built our home. He planted the trees which are still on the place and his recreation was to take care of the home. He loved fine horses and when it was possible he was at the county fair during the trotting races, out in the quarter stretch. Mother was over at the dining hall where the Ladies' Aid was serving meals to help build the new church.
When the telephones came ours was one of the first installed and it was of much interest for the visitors in the doctor's office to try it and call the doctor's wife to have an opportunity to see how the "new fangled thing" really worked. There were thirty of our relatives, the Sedgwicks and Carscaddens, and our Thanksgiving dinners will never be forgotten, and the charades and games afterward. And the Fourth of July celebrations when the folks came from all over the county to the grounds on East Hill – the orations by speakers from other towns, the home-made ice cream, the happy gathering of neighbors cemented these friendships and they are lifelong.
Later came the blizzard of 1888 and out of a clear sky of the morning came in the afternoon the blinding snow which was almost impossible to face and caused the loss of lives.
Two years after this, in the late winter of 1890, the pioneer doctor was called to Blue Vale, fourteen miles south. The roads were badly drifted and almost impassable but a very sick man was down at that home and the doctor must go. He made twelve calls that day to homes in that part of the county and when he went to bed that night it was to meet his last sickness. Pneumonia was the trouble and he could not do for himself what he had done for others. He is buried in Greenwood cemetery under the Nebraska sod which he loved so well.