Physicians of Washington County, Nebraska

No community is ever exempt from the need of a "family doctor." In all ages of the world's history there has been need of physicians to heal the sick. The Science of Medicine is among the greatest and most useful of all the professions. When in full health we are sometimes heard to speak lightly of the physician, but when the sick chamber encloses us, when the hand of death is reaching out towards our form, it is then that we seek aid from the best doctor known in the community. The science and understanding of medicine have greatly advanced for the better within the memory of many now living. Especially in surgery the strides have been wonderful in the last forty years. There are numerous "schools of medicine," but each and all have their friends and their merits. In the early days in Washington County, Nebraska, the allopathic school of medicine was almost universally used, with now and then an herb doctor. A little later, several homeopathic physicians settled in the county and built up a good practice. Today the number of schools of practice has come to be many, but still by a large majority the standard is the allopathic physician.

Physicians, as a rule, are all too busy to leave any record of their practice, even no data as to when they located in a given place. It is to be regretted that we have not a personal paragraph on every doctor who has ever practiced within this county, but such is the case. The earliest physicians of the county have long since ceased to practice and nearly all of the pioneer doctors are deceased.

Among the early physicians of the county are recalled the names of Drs. J. P. Andrew, William Moore and Charles Lawrence, all of whom practiced medicine at Fort Calhoun prior to 1876.

Up to the last-named date, at De Soto were Doctors Cutts, McLaughlin, John Glover, Doctor Cannon, Charles Emerson Tennent, F. H. Longley and S. H. Fawcett.

From bits of information gleaned from the records of the Washington County Medical Society, now in the hands of Dr. G. A. Langstaff, of Blair, and from other reliable sources, the writer has compiled the following imperfect list of the physicians who have at some time or other practiced medicine within Washington County. The mere mention of their names will bring to mind some recollection of the good doctor who used to travel, perchance by horseback, with his saddle-bags thrown over his horse's back. Another will recall a dreary night-drive with the pioneer doctor, against a severe wintry wind, to some distant part of the county. Some middle-aged man or woman will recall when a child the face of another doctor who frequently visited at their place in the '60s or '70s, driving in an old weather-beaten buggy, carrying with him a medicine chest filled with remedies that were strong and unpleasant to the taste, and were not mixed in tablet form as today, but had to be administered, because that was as far as medical science had gone at that date. Another scene may pass before your vision. You may remember that night when a dear mother or father was not expected to have from hour to hour, and you recall how after hours of patient waiting and prescribing for the sick one, the doctor looked up and assured the family that the worst was over and that the ill one would recover. The physicians have been no better nor worse in this county than in any other. It should be said that most all of these doctors were honorable persons and did the best they knew how.

Without much attention being paid as to the dates the doctors of this county commenced or quit their medical practice, the long list of physicians known to have been here a greater or less period have been as follows:

Doctor Langley, Doctor Post (a druggist). Doctor O'Linn died in 1880 in Blair, Dr. W. H. Palmer, of Blair, still surviving but not in active practice, and is the only one of the older physicians of the county now living.

Dr. Samuel B. Taylor, Dr. Byron F. Monroe (homeopathic), Dr. Parris G. Cooper of Cuming City, Silas H. Fawcett moved from De Soto to Blair where he practiced; Dr. Samuel G. Glover, Arlington; Doctor Hadley, Dr. J. P. Andrew, at Fort Calhoun in an early day, and was the father-in-law of pioneer lawyer E. H. Clark; Doctor Love of Herman practiced there before the '80s.

The names of other physicians of Washington County will appear in the following account of the County Medical Society, see Washington County Medical Society.

This society was organized January 20, 1903, at Dr. M. D. Bedal's office in the City of Blair. Those present at the first meeting were:

Doctor Bedal
Doctor McDonald of Fremont
Dr. H. Noble of Blair
Dr. W. H. Palmer
Dr. E. R. Stewart of Blair
Dr. J. F. Curtis of Fort Calhoun
Dr. P. J. Clark of Herman
Dr. G. A. Langstaff of Blair.

The first president of the society was Dr. M. D. Bedal; secretary, Dr. G. A. Langstaff, who has served most of the years since the society was formed; Dr. W. H. Palmer, vice-president; Dr. P. J. Clark, treasurer; Dr. E. R. Stewart, delegate. The censors were Dr. J. F. Curtis, Dr. W. H. Pruner and Dr. C. O. Robinson. In 1911 the total membership was eleven and today it is only nine.

The present (1920) officers are: Dr. L. J. Kilian, president; Dr. E. R. Stewart, vice-president; Dr. G. A. Langstaff, secretary; Dr. James B. Anderson, delegate. Board of censors, Drs. A. J. Cameron, E. R. Stewart and J. V. Hinchman.

The society meets the first Tuesday of each month at Blair. Every physician in the county is a member of this society save one, and he is not really eligible.

In the spring of 1920 the membership included the following physicians:

Drs. R. J. Murdoch
G. A. Langstaff
E. R. Stewart
L. J. Kilian
J. V. Hinchman (practicing at Blair at present)
A. J. Anderson, Kennard
E. S. B. Geessaman, Fort Calhoun
A. J. Cameron, Herman
Drs. Marie Anna Nielsen
William H. Pruner, Kennard (now deceased)
Somers Pettingill, Fort Calhoun, later of California
Marshall B. Bedal
Charles O. Robinson of Blair
P. G. Grimm, at Blair five years, was only an honorary member of the society
L. L. Burnstein, now in California, practiced in the county six years
A. W. Fees (homeopathic) was formerly a member, but not at this time
W. G. Orr, for a short time only
Dr. Marian Orr Wilson
Dr. W. R. Wagner, Blair

The oldest doctor in years of practice in the county at this date is Dr. J. V. Hinchman. Dr. H. Noble died at Blair and Doctor Bedal died after removing from this county. Doctor Robinson is gone.

The City Hospital

A few years since the old two-story brick school building in the central part of the city was purchased and converted into a private hospital. Different ones had charge until 1917, when it passed into the hands of Mrs. F. A. Washburn, who continues to conduct it. While it is not large, it does supply the demand for any ordinary hospital cases. Local physicians may take patients there and operate on them, in most cases as well as though they were operated on in Omaha.

Nebraska AHGP

History of Dodge and Washington Counties, Nebraska, Rev. William H. Buss and Thomas T. Osterman, Volume 1, The American Historical Society, Chicago, 1921.

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