Joseph Ralph Wagner, born on May 16, 1870, in Newman, Illinois, was the son of Dr. John Marquand (Marquin) and Sarah Ellen Wagner He attended public school in Newman, and was graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago. He began his practice in 1895 in Newman. About 1902 he moved his family to Crowley, Louisiana, and farmed rice for a couple of years . In 1906, they moved to Palacios and bought a farm, intending to raise rice. He soon found that Palacios needed a doctor, so in June, 1907, he took the Texas Medical Examination and opened practice. In the early days Doc had an ad each week in the Palacios Beacon, "DR. WAGNER'S PHONE IS #13," and, of course, his phone number was very important to a lot of people!
Docwas a typical "country doctor" of the era, beginning his practice with a horse and buggy, but advancing to an automobile in 1909 At times his car would not go where he was needed, so someone would meet him with a buggy to take him over muddy roads to the sick person. He said , "All of the roads around here were muddy in those days, and I have been stuck in every danged one of them." He practiced in the days of the "house calls," and for much of the time, without the benefit of a hospital. Often he was paid with gratitude and admiration instead of cash. He said , "I've had a lot of success with medicine, but I'm a financial failure. If I had it to do over again, I would pay more attention to business." But, as stated by John H. Moore, a Houston Post correspondent, "everybody who knows "Doc," and that means everybody in this vicinity, knows that his remarks about wishing he had paid more attention to making money are just so much hot air."
In the winter of 1928, Docwas called to deliver a baby of a woman who lived more than twenty miles in the country At that time there were few hard surfaced roads in the county, and certainly none to the house to which he was called . He drove as far as he could in his car. A friend of the expectant family met him, with a buggy, at the end of the good road and carried him, piggyback, across the muddy areas to the buggy. Doc liked to arrive as clean as possible when he was to deliver a baby! The child, a boy, was named Ralph Wagner in his honor.
Doc practiced medicinefifty-four years. During those years he delivered some four thousand babies. In November, 1949, about one hundred of these "babies" joined friends and patients in paying tribute to Doc for his long years of patient, faithful, service to the people of the Palacios area. Of the "babies" present, Estelle Elder Alley was the oldest, and the six-month old son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Ragusin was the youngest.
John H Moore writes of him,"It is doubtful that anyone enjoys just plain everyday living more than "Doc" Wagner. He enjoys talking to his cronies, and listening to the radio, and eating, and traveling, and puffing on cigars--he enjoys everything he does. His hobby is poker--stud , draw or deuces wild--and he enjoys it whether he wins or loses. He is almost never seen without a cigar stub sticking out of the corner of his mouth. He has another way of smoking cigars around the house. He filters the nicotine through a long-stemmed pipe, stuffing the cigar into the bowl as if it were a pipeful of tobacco. This method of smoking a cigar is fascinating to watch once one gets used to it."
Dr Wagner was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and a charter member of the Rotary Club. For thirty-nine years, he served as City Health Officer He was a Mason for sixty-seven years, becoming one at the age of twenty, which required a special dispensation. He served as a school board trustee.
He was married three times, first to Mary "Minnie" Isabella Wagner (March 2, 1874-May I, 1911), who is buried at Palacios Cemetery Their children were: John Thomas Wagner (July 10, 1903- July 15 , 1984) who is buried at Palacios Cemetery; Helen Wagner, who married first Lum Twilliger and second Roy Bell, and lived in Houston, and Ina Wagner, who married Carl Nelson.
Dr. Wagner's second marriage to Harriet B. Jennings ended in divorce. His third marriage, in 1918, was to Emylee Bonner Wagner (September 27, 1889-December 26, 1983), who is buried at Palacios Cemetery.
Emylee had previously been married to Harley Bonner and had two children, John Harlan Bonner and Opal Bonner Williams. Emylee's mother was Emily H. Jones (May27, 1840-January4, 1931) who is buried at Palacios Cemetery. Doc died on May 28, 1957, at Bay View Hospital in in Palacios and is buried at Palacios Cemetery In 1960 a new hospital was built in Palacios. The town voted to name it Wagner General Hospital in honor of "Doc."
Historic Matagorda County,
Volume II, pp. 547-548
PALACIOS--Dr. Joseph Ralph Wagner, 87, prominent Matagorda County physician and civic leader, died at the Bayview General Hospital here Tuesday morning.
Dr. Wagner had practiced medicine here from 1906 until four years ago when ill health forced him into retirement.
The tall, powerfully built physician was one of the few remaining country doctors of this area. During the early days of his practice he made his rounds in a horse and buggy and later in a Model T Ford.
Oldtimers can still recall the big doctor slogging through the mud to attend patients after the Model T bogged down.
Dr. Wagner was born May 16, 1870, in Newman, Ill, the son of a doctor. He was graduated from Rush Medical School and began practicing in 1895. He moved to Palacios in 1906.
A Mason for 67 years, Dr. Wagner was active in public affairs. He was a former city health officer and school board member, and a leader in a number of civic organizations.
Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM Thursday at the Palacios Funeral Home with the Rev. John Branner, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Palacios, and the Rev. Logan Cockrum of Corpus Christi officiating. Burial will be in the Palacios Cemetery.
Surviving are the widow, Mrs. Emylee Wagner of Palacios; two daughters, Mrs. Roy Bell of Houston and Mrs. Carl Nelson of McAllen; one son, John Thomas Wagner of San Francisco, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Mrs. T. C. Williams of Washington, D. C.; a stepson John Harlan Bonner of Houston; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Wagner, wife of Dr. J. R. Wagner, died suddenly at an early hour Monday morning from heart failure, which had been superinduced by a severe attack of the measles but a short time before. The news of Mrs. Wagner's death came as a great shock to all the people of the city, and deep sorrow was felt in every heart over this sudden summons to one who was held in such high esteem by all who knew her, and who was so much admired and beloved for her many noble qualities had gained for her a warm place in the affections of the whole community. Sorrow for her loss was measured only by the depth of the great sympathy that went out to the bereft husband in particular who is numbered among the most esteemed of the good citizens of Palacios, as well as to the entire family. Just when Mrs. Wagner died is not known, but it was some time after the hour of midnight, and the death angel came while she slept, for when it was discovered that she was dead she was lying in bed in her natural pose when sleeping. Dr. Wagner was away from home attending a professional call, and did not return to his office in the city until the early hours of the morning, and was again called before he returned to his home. It was while he was on this last visit that Mr. Wagner's two youngest children who were alone at home with her mother, discovered that she was dead. After much telephoning the word was made known in town, and Dr. Moore hastened to advise Dr. Wagner of the great loss he had sustained.
Mrs. Wagner's maiden name was Mary Isabelle Shaw, the daughter of Mr. Thos. Shaw, of Newman, Ill., and was born at Tuscola, Ills., March 2d, 1874. She was married to Dr. Wagner December 25th 1895, to whom four children were born, three of whom survive the mother. They are Ira D., aged 14; Helen LaVerne, 12, and John Thomas, 7. Beside her husband and children Mrs. Wagner is survived by her father and mother, Mrs. and Mrs. Thos. Shaw, of Newman, Ills. She was an active and devoted member of the Presbyterian church of Palacios, and has been a faithful member of that denomination since her twelfth year. Hers was a model Christian life, and she was a most devoted wife and mother.
Short funeral services were held at the family home north of the city at one o'clock this afternoon, conducted by Rev. Green, pastor of the Presbyterian church, and the public service was held at the Presbyterian church at three o'clock, under the auspices of the local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, of which Mrs. Wagner was a beloved and most esteemed member. This service was conducted under the direction of Mrs. J. L. DuMars, of Angleton, deputy Grand Worthy Matron of Texas.
The services at the church this afternoon were attended by a large company of the friends of the family, the large auditorium being filled to overflowing, many having to stand both on the inside and outside the church at the windows. A quartet furnished beautiful music, and the scripture lesson, prayer and discourse by Dr. Green were comforting to the family and friends. He read a brief biography of the deceased and paid a most beautiful tribute to her life and lovely character. The ritualistic ceremonies by the Easter Star were most touching and impressive, and the tribute to the memory of their departed sister found a tender response in every heart. The floral offerings were many and most beautiful, completely covering the casket. The pall bearers were members of the Masonic lodge, of which Dr. Wagner in an honored and esteemed member. After the services the remains were followed to their final resting place in the city cemetery by one of the largest processions ever seen in Palacios.
No words from the Beacon can add to the evidence already given Dr. Wagner by the sorrow felt by all in the loss of his devoted companion, or of the depth and sincerity of the sympathy that goes out to him and his family and all the relatives and nearest friends from all the people of this city.
Beside Mrs. Wagner's father, Mr. J. M. Wagner, father of Dr. Wagner, also of Newman, Ills., came to attend the funeral.
Palacios Beacon, May 5, 1911
John Thomas Wagner, 80, died July 15, 1984 in San Francisco, CA. He was the son of Dr. Joseph and Minnie Wagner of Palacios. He was born July 20, 1903 in Crawley, Louisiana.
The Wagner family moved to Palacios in 1906, where he attended Palacios public schools. At the age of 16 he enlisted in the U. S. Navy where he spent six years.
Upon returning to the United States, he established residence in San Francisco. He took an active part in union organization and was for many years a business agent of the pile Drivers' Union. Upon his retirement, he lived in Trinidad, CA for several years and returned to San Francisco three years ago.
Interment was held in the Wagner plot at the Palacios Cemetery.
Survivors include his wife, Andree Wagner of San
Francisco; one sister, Helen Wagner Bell; two nieces, Anita Bell
Massey and LaVerne T. Brown, and one nephew, Lum E. Twilligear, all
At Dr. Jennings’ office last night (the last day of the old year) at nine o’clock, Rev. Owers, the Christian pastor, performed the ceremony uniting in marriage, Dr. J. R. Wagner and Dr. Harriet B. Jennings, both prominent physicians of this city. This announcement will come as a decided but most pleasing surprise to the many friends of the high contracting parties, who will heartily join with the Beacon in extending congratulations. Dr. Wagner is one of Palacios’ pioneers, and is perhaps better known all over the county than any other of our citizens. Dr. Jennings came to Palacios nearly two years ago, and by her splendid ability and skill as a physician has built up a large practice, and at the same time gained a wide circle of warm and admiring friends. This makes it true that the family physician of many of our people has now become a family of physicians, as both the doctors will continue their practice.
Palacios Beacon, January 1, 1915
Copyright 2014 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Jan. 7, 2014
Jan. 7, 2014