Winnebago County, IA
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It is the general impression that no community could well get along without physicians, and the impression is well founded, although in one sense a little exaggerated.  Yet it would be trying and sorry work for any community to attempt to get along entirely without the aid of those who have made the work of healing, curing and administering comfort to the afflicted, and allaying their suffering, a life study and a life object.  Their worth, when they are needed, is not measured by dollars.  Their long years of study, preparing for emergencies where life and death are struggling for supremacy at such times, are above value.

The physician, associated as he is with life and death, is a subject for study.  He is present when members of the human race are ushered into existence, allaying pains, lessening danger; is also there at the bed of the child as it grows upward, and expands toward manhood or womanhood, warding off disease, sustaining the health, and conquering deformities; at middle age he is present, for, along life's pathway are strewn for all a large share of the ills that flesh is heir to; and while old age has set in, and the once rosy youth or maiden passes rapidly clown the plane of declining life, as grandmas and grandpas, the physician is still at his post; and again, as the steady tread of approaching death is heard, while the eves dim, and the clammy mantle of that awful messenger covers its victim, carrying the humble life into the great blaze of eternity, the physician is still there, exerting his utmost knowledge to prolong the spark or to ease the suffering.  God bless the physician—if honest and sincere he is a blessing to the world.

As to progress, the medical world has made wonderful strides, and, in the future, will undoubtedly keep up its onward march.  In this respect that able man, Prof. I. H. Stearns, health officer of Milwaukee, and for many years surgeon of the Soldiers' Home at that place, once said:  “It is doubtful whether it is wonderful that medical science has advanced the way it has, in the past fifty years, or stupidity that the advancement was not made years ago. * * * For instance, years ago—but while the practice of medicine was as old as Rome—the discovery was made that boiled oil was not good for gun and pistol shot wounds.  What a discovery!  It is handed down to us that on a certain battle field the surgeon ran out of boiled oil, and so as not to discourage his patients he used cold water, pretending it was oil.  It is not strange to us that the water patients speedily recovered with little pain, while the oil patients, if they recovered at all, did so in spite of the oil. * * *”  Prof. Stearns continued at length, relating the present method of treating fever, the giving of plenty of water, which, but a few years ago, was absolutely forbidden, and many other scientific items in regard to present practice which would be of interest, but space forbids.

In all ages of the world, among civilized and uncivilized people, the medical profession has been held in high esteem.  Whether it be the learned professor, who has studied the science of medicine in all its branches, or the “great medicine man” of the untutored savages, who, from actual experience, has made discoveries of the healing powers of herbs and roots, honor awaits him upon every hand, while the life and death of every human being is virtually placed in his keeping.  The weary patient lying upon a bed of pain, and the no less weary watcher by his side, wait anxiously for the coming of the “good doctor,” and, on his arrival, note every expression of countenance for a ray of hope.

The members of the medical fraternity of Winnebago county have, with few, if any exceptions, been true to their work and an honor to the profession.  They have ever been ready to respond to the call of duty.  The winter's cold, the summer's heat or the rains of spring and autumn could not keep them back when the cry of distress reached their ears.  Not a physician in the county, especially among those who settled here at an early day, has escaped the experience of sufferings that would have deterred those in any other profession, in response to a summons to attend the bedside of a sick and suffering one.  They have been compelled to cross trackless prairies, to face the dreaded blizzard from the north, often with no hope of fee or reward, but only, if possible, to relieve those who plead for their care.  All this has been done by the physicians of Winnebago county without complaint, and if the good deeds of the profession are not remembered and appreciated by those who have received their aid, a time will come when these acts of kindness will be remembered and rewarded.

In the following review of the medical profession, those who have practiced only for a time will be briefly noticed first, and then in regular order will be taken up the representatives of the profession in 1883.

[By W. H.Jones, M. D.]

The writer of this article, after due consideration, left his home in DeKalb Co., Ill., on the 18th day of December, 1869, to seek a location in the then frontier of Iowa.  Arriving in Forest City on the 23d of the same month that the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad had its terminus at Mason City.  On inquiring of some of the old settlers in Mason City about this town (Forest City), there were very few who knew the place by its proper name, it being universally known by the name of Pucker Brush, and I was frequently told that it was madness to think of going there to practice medicine, as all there was there were muskrats, mink, deer and a few hunters.  However, I was not daunted by their statements, and here I am.

My first work was to form the acquaintance of the leading men of the town at that time, and, by the way, they are the leading men to-day.

I might mention some of their names, Hon. David Secor, Eugene Secor, J. W. Mahoney, B. A. Plummer, and others.  Some have passed to that bourn from which no traveler returneth; some have moved farther west, and others have taken their places.

Well for my first experience:  The people, hearing that a young physician had or was about to locate in Forest City, called a meeting to take into consideration the feasibility of organizing a cemetery association.  Of course, I was invited to attend.  After the formality of an organization had been gone through with, i. e., appointment of a chairman, secretary, etc., the object of the meeting being announced, a number of the citizens were called on to give their views on the matter.  One of the oldest inhabitants being called on, made his speech as follows:  “Mr. President, fellow-citizens, ladies and gentlemen:—I calkalate that my idees is that we have lived here nigh on to fifteen years, and have had no use for a burying ground.  But I have hearn [sic] tell that there is a doctor here now, and I think we had better have a grave-yard, as I recon we will need it.”

I, of course, thought this a severe drive at me, but I took the joke and enjoyed it as much as the others present.

My first patient:  One of our esteemed citizens was suffering with an abscess, and was under the care of a spiritualistic doctor, and when I was called excited the wrath of Mr. Spirit, who very indignantly inquired of me what I had given him. I told him that I had used iron.  This was a good thing for the doctor, and it was not long before all the people had heard that Mr. W. had a boil, and “that fool of a doctor was giving him iron.”  Some took the trouble to inquire if such was the case, and I told them it was, but that I had given it in a very concentrated form, i. e., that I had opened the abscess with my lance, and the patient was doing well.  Then the spiritualist said that my “reckless interference would be the death of some one [sic] yet.”

My next call was on the morning of Dec. 28, 1869.  I was called in great haste, the messenger informing me that the man was about dead or he thought dying.  I hastened to the house and found the man dead with a large piece of fat pork in his mouth.  The friends informed me that he had gone to the table as usual, but on taking the first mouthful, fell from his chair dead.  I gave it as my opinion that disease of the heart was the cause of death.  This did not satisfy some of the curious people, and they freely stated that, in their opinion, there had been some foul play.  Well, my friend of grave-yard fame came to my aid and said:  “Now we have a doctor, we had better adopt the customs of civilization and have something scientific,” and he suggested a post mortem.  The autopsy proved my opinion to be correct, and the man was interred with all the customs of a civilized country, and thus the first subject for the new cemetery was furnished.

I presume all doctors pass through about, the same experiences.  I had not been here long when an esteemed lady was free in expressing her opinion as to the worth of the new doctor.  She stated that she “would not have that young fellow doctor [do] any thing [sic] for her unless it was her cat.”  This was at that time somewhat annoying, but now, amusing to me. However, I did not have long to wait before this dame called on me.  She was taken suddenly sick and I of course responded to the call.  On entering the house I laid [sic] off my coat, hat and gloves, took a seat, and very submissively told the lady to “bring on her cat,” as I supposed that was what she wanted me to treat.  Her reply was: “Oh! you wicked thing, I have changed my mind now, and wish you to give me some medicine to ease my pain.”  This I did and the lady to-day is one of my best friends.

Another very amusing thing occurred.  A young couple who had obeyed the divine command to “multiply” etc., called on our spiritualistic friend.  I presume he thought it strange, but on entering the house he turned his face heavenward and remarked—“stuck in the mud, eh.”  After a few more similar remarks, he was escorted out of the house and the “young doctor” was called, and thus another friend was secured.  All this was very encouraging at that time.  Again, in the spring of 1870, on a Sunday afternoon, as I was on the way to make a visit about three miles north of town, I met a messenger coming after me to go to the extreme north part of the county.  After traveling along by-paths, over grubs and across sloughs, I arrived at the place of destination about 11 o'clock, p. m.  I found the family in a log cabin, living in the full style of frontier life.  There was no table or chairs, and the only seats were a block of wood and a log bench.  The bedstead was a very crude affair, made by boring holes in the logs and driving in pegs, upon which poles were laid.  The people were very hospitable and invited me to partake, but their bountiful repast was too much for me, so I declined with the plea of not being hungry.  On account of the darkness, and there being no road lo travel, I was compelled to remain until morning.  They had no extra bed, and there being nothing to recline on, except the long bench, I conceived the idea of making a bed of it.  From being accustomed to four years of army life, this was no great task, so I placed a sack of grain on end for a pillow and turned in for the night.  I had not been asleep long, before I was awakened in great torment.  On casting my eyes over my shirt sleeves, I discovered, to my horror, a swarm of those little aminalis [sic] that were so plentiful in the sand around Ft. Wagoner, S. C., that credited so much disturbance of our peace and comfort, (not by biting as you may suppose), but by jumping up and sitting down so quick and often.  But these things, like the noble red man, deer, prairie chicken, beaver, otter, etc., have gone toward the setting sun beyond the pale of civilization.  Well, I passed the night as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, and at dawn of day prepared to return home.  When I was about to start, the good man inquired how much I charged.  On looking everything over, I thought the people very poor, and told him the usual fee was $25, but under the circumstances, I would charge him $10.  You can imagine my surprise, on his pulling an old chest from under the bed, and taking out an old wallet, from which he took a roll of greenbacks that did not contain less than $400 or $500.  I began to wish that I could hire some small boy to gently brush my coat tails until I got home.

To return to our spiritual friend, he had, what was called at that day, a drug store.  He had on his shelves some bottles labeled after his own idea, as follows:  “Spt camp fire,”' (camphor); “blak hash,” (black cohosh); “worm fuge,” (vermifuge); “powderd robbarb,” (rhubarb); and a full pound of calomel, properly labeled, “Hyd. chlo. Mit.;” also some “pot. ass. nit.;” which he informed me was a mistake, as he did not order either the “pot. ass. nit.,” or “hyd. chlo. mit.,” but had ordered “calomel and salt peter.”  The balance of his stock in trade was an article that passed under the name of “bug juice,” “fire water,” “red eye,” “spt frumenti,” and plain “whisky.”  All these names were very well known, and the article was in good demand at that time.  But things have somewhat changed.

Our friend, the doctor, druggist and spiritual medium, has gone farther west, I presume to improve and grow up with the country.  Some very amusing and ingenious methods were adopted to test the qualifications of the new doctor.  This seemed to be the all-absorbing question in the domestic circle.  One of the citizens said he had a method by which he could prove whether the doctor knew his business or not.  So he came into the only store in town, at that time, and called on on [sic] a lawyer and school teacher, who professed to be Latin scholars, to translate for him a prescription he was possessor of, and which was, no doubt, written by a good physician.  The prescription proved too much for the Latin scholars, and was referred to me.  It was very plain and was a follows:

R. pulv. spee et opii, grs. XXX.
Hyd. cum creta, grs. XXX.
Quinia sul., gr. X.                         MX.
Ft. chts. No. X.
Sig. Take a powder pro re nata.

The abreviations [sic] being understood, and my ability to explain the contents of the prescription, was sufficient evidence to this gentleman of my qualifications.  This brought me another patient, in the person of his mother, who was fortunate enough to recover.

Another somewhat amusing thing occurred.  A lady of English extraction was taken sick, and of course there is always some one [sic] who has a remedy for any disease flesh is heir to.  So my English friend was blessed (?) with a neighbor of this kind, and was advised to take a bottle of Ayres' Sarsaparilla.  This did not have the desired effect and the next neighbor came to her relief and ordered a bottle of Walker's California Vinegar Bitters.  This she stated was a sure cure for the disease.  The bottle was procured and taken as directed.  It had the desired effect, that is, of giving me a case.  On my first visit I found Mrs. D— in an advanced stage of typhoid fever.  It is hardly necessary to state that the natural tendency of typhoid and the action of Vinegar Bitters did not go very well together.  To give the husband's words—“The stuff tore my wife all to pieces!”  However, a good constitution, and favorable surroundings, cheated the new cemetery out of a victim, and showed the friends what meddlesome quackery and patent medicine would have done, had not proper and timely assistance been rendered.

To give something of the inconveniences of early practice in this county I will relate a few of the many experiences through which I have passed.  A family living about six miles from town was attacked with typhoid fever.  The first taken sick was the noble sire, who was a staunch believer in spiritualism, and of course my friend, the spirit doctor, was called.  It is unnecessary to state that at the expiration of ten or fifteen days the noble old gentleman had “climbed the golden stairs,” or, as the boys say, had “gone to be an angel.”  When the balance of the family, five in number, were taken sick, I was called to administer unto them.  On my arrival at the place, I found a log cabin, the size of which was 9x12 feet, four feet in height on the sides, and containing one room, which served as kitchen, parlor, bed-room and cellar.  In my daily calls, my custom was to ask the good mother how the children were getting along.  She would answer by calling each by their respective names, which were very similar and sounded very much to me like Ham, Shem and Japheth.  I was somewhat like the Dutchman, who didn't know whether he was “Hans what was living, or Jacob what was dead,” so I was compelled to tell the good woman that she must designate them as oldest or older, youngest or younger, etc.  She answered me by saying :  “Good God, doctor, how can I, when they are all twins?”  I will state that all five recovered, and are to-day honest, industrious young men, and are citizens of Winnebago county.

This is a somewhat brief reminiscence of the early practice of medicine in this county.  But things have greatly changed and in place of the dug-outs, straw sheds, log cabins, and other primitive habitations, we have as fine dwellings as one can find in any country, and a large per cent have accumulated considerable of this world's goods.

I will state, in conclusion, in place of being the only physician in Winnebago county, we have twelve to fifteen, and I can proudly state that they are a corps of young, enterprising and efficient physicians in whom any county might take just pride.  In our history they have stood nobly by when suffering and death was near, and have by their skill and attention, banished hours of pain and fought the battle with death successfully.  The privations through which they have passed, the inconveniences which they have experienced in attending to the wants of the suffering, may not now be fully appreciated, but that day is not far distant when the due meed [sic] of praise shall be given, and they will receive their reward.


Prior to 1865, when a physician was needed, people had to go to Mason City, Clear Lake or Bristol, as there was no doctor then located in the county.  This necessitated long, hard drives before a physician was reached, and many times the patient was dead or beyond the reach of recovery when the doctor came.  Finally, however, the advent of the first physician into the county obviated these difficulties.  Dr. W. H. Jones located at Forest City in I869, and thus became the first resident- physician of the county.  He still lives in Forest City, where he has a large and increasing practice.

William H. Jones, M. D., the oldest practicing physician in the county, was born in Pembrokeshire, South Wales, Oct. 7, 1843.  When nine years of age his parents emigrated to America, and located at St. Charles, Kane Co., Ill., removing in 1853 to De Kalb county.  His father, John H. P. Jones, was a regular practicing physician, a graduate of the London Medical College.  He practiced his profession in De Kalb county for many years.  In politics he was a strong abolitionist, and his time was given to the cause.  Previous to coming to America he was surgeon in the British navy on board the ship Nimrod, and was also stationed at Bombay and Calcutta at the time of the cholera.  Dr. W. H. Jones, the subject of this sketch, when sixteen years of age, began reading medicine in his father's office.  At the breaking out of the war he entered the army, enlisting in company D, 39th Illinois Infantry, and participated in several engagements, among which were:  The battles of Winchester, Cedar Creek and second battle of Maloon Hill, at which place he was taken sick and sent to the hospital at Philadelphia, where he remained some months.  He returned to his regiment at Suffolk, Va., was sent to South Carolina, and was at the capture of Forts Wagner and Sumter.  In 1863 the regiment veteranized [sic] and returned home on a furlough.  He was then sent to the army of the James, under Gen. Butler.  He was wounded at Chapin's Farm, and soon after was discharged on account of physical disability.  He then returned to De Kalb county, and again commenced reading medicine.  In 1865 and 1866 he attended lectures at the Rush Medical College.  In August, 1866, he was married to Hattie Silkworth, by whom there has been five children, four of whom are living—Maud, Ada, Ernest H., and Claire.  In 1869 he removed to Winnebago county.  He [sic] 1873 he attended the Keokuk Medical College, where he graduated. Dr. Jones is vice-president of the Medical Society of Northern Iowa, of which he was one of the founders.  He is a member of the Free and Accepted Masons, having served as master of the lodge; also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

In 1871 Dr. William VanDuzen came to Forest City and entered into partnership with Dr. Jones.  Dr. VanDuzen was a native of Wisconsin, his father being a practicing physician at Mineral Point, that State.  After a residence of about six months in Forest City, he went back to Wisconsin and is now practicing at Arena, Iowa county.  Dr. VanDuzen was a graduate of the Miami Medical College, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was well posted and gave promise of making a successful practitioner.

Dr. P. C. Jones located at Forest City, in 1872, and remained nearly two years.  He was born June 28, 1834, in South Wales, England.  His early life was spent in that country, and there he received a classical education.  In the spring of 1852 he came to America, and immediately settled in DeKalb Co., Ill.  The following fall his parents also crossed the ocean, and followed their son to his new home.  Upon their arrival, P. C. began the study of medicine with his father, who was a physician.  Subsequently he attended Rush Medical College, Chicago, and afterwards the University of Medicine and Surgery, at Philadelphia, where he graduated with the class of 1872.  Dr. Jones then located in Brown Co., Wis., where he practiced for a short time, then came to Winnebago Co., Iowa.  On his removal from Forest City, he went to Tama county, this State, locating at Dysart, where he is now practicing.

Dr. J. S. Wright came from Osage, in 1877.  He studied medicine with Dr. J. E. Nichols, of Osage, for five years, and was well up in his profession.  He did not have much practice, however, and left the county after a stay of about one year.

In the fall of 1883 the medical profession of Forest City was represented by Drs. W. II. Jones, J. A. Hewett, J. W. David, H. R. Irish and W. R. Franklin.  In 1874 J. A. Hewett, M. 1)., located in Forest City. He is a graduate of Bennett Medical Collage, Chicago, Ill., and for a number of years was United States examining surgeon, for pensions, receiving the appointment Sept. 5, 1877.

J. W. David, M. D., Forest. City, was born in Richland Co., Ill., Feb. 28, 1841. He is a son of Isaac David, a native of Luzerne Co., Penn., who emigrated to Richland county, where he became acquainted with Cecelia Ruark, whom he married.  By this union there were eight children, seven sons and one daughter.  In 1S46 he removed to Grant Co., Wis., where he engaged in farming.  Here he remained until his death, which occurred in 1879.  Dr. David was reared on a farm and received his education in the common schools.  In September, 1858, he commenced attending Platteville Academy, which school he attended for four years, and teaching winters in a district school.  In 1862 he commenced reading medicine, but the war breaking out, he joined the 30th regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, company B, and was sent to Minnesota at the time of the Indian trouble.  In 1864 he was promoted to post hospital steward, at Frankfort, Ky.  He was discharged at Madison, Wis., in 1865.  He then attended lectures at the Rush Medical College, Chicago, Ill., graduating therefrom in 1869.  He then returned to Highland, Grant county, where he embarked in the drug business in connection with the practice of his profession.  In 1874 he removed to Muscoda, of the same county, where he remained six years.  In 1880 he located in Forest City.  He was joined in wedlock, in October, 1866, to Jennie Green.  Three living children bless this union—Laura, Cecelia and Lister.  Dr. David is a Master Mason, also a member of the A. 0. U. W. and G. A. R.

W. R. Franklin, M. D., of Forest City, was born in Rockford, Ill., Nov. 14, 1859. His parents are Stephen R., a native of Maryland, and Anna E. (Gillis) Franklin, of Washington Co., N. Y.  They were married in Rockford, Ill., where they settled at an early day.  There the doctor grew to manhood, receiving his early education in the Rockford schools.  He afterward attended the State Normal, of Normal, Ill.  After leaving school he entered the office of Dr. Hill, of Rockford.  He graduated at the Chicago Homœpathic Medical College, March 1, 1883.  Soon after, he came to Forest City, where he started in his profession, and by close attention to business has built himself a practice of which he may be justly proud.

Harry R. Irish, M. D., was born in Dane Co., Wis., Oct. 1, 1860.  His parents were David and Harriet (Brown) Irish, who located in Dane county in 1853.  Dr. Irish graduated from the medical department of the Iowa State University with the class of 1883, and soon after came to Forest City, where he is now associated in practice with Dr. W. H. Jones, the oldest practicing physician of the county.


The first physician to locate at Lake Mills was Dr. A. L. Shay, who swung out his shingle in 1871.  He remained two or three years, then moved to his farm in Worth county, where he died in 1876.  Dr. Shay was a graduate of the Chicago Medical College, and was a good physician.

The representatives of the medical profession now located at Lake Mills are  Drs. J. M. Hull, C. E. Keeler and W. L. Gundlach.

Justin M. Hull, M. D., son of Rev. O. P. Hull, was born at Albion, Dane Co., Wis., June 9, 1845.  He enlisted in 1862 in company L, 3d Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, and after fourteen months of service was discharged by reason of an injury received at the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark.  He was married Oct. 6, 1863, to Mary R. Stewart, who was born at Albion, Dane Co., Wis., June 16, 1845.  Mr. and Mrs. Hull are the parents of two children—Nora, born March 3, 1866, and Nathan J., born June 12, 1871.  Dr. Hull is a graduate of the Bennett Medical College, of Chicago, Ill.  The last ten years of his practice has been at Lake Mills, where he now resides.  He was elected in 1879 to the State Legislature, representing the counties of Worth, Winnebago, Hancock and Wright in the 18th General Assembly.  In 1881 he was appointed by Gov. Geer a member of the State Board of Health.  His term expiring Jan. 1, 1884, he was re-appointed by Gov. Sherman for a term of seven years, ending Jan. 1, 1891.  He is a member of the I. 0. O. F., Aurora Lodge, No. 412; also a member of the G. A. R.

C. E. Keeler, M O., a native of Black Hawk Co., Iowa, was born June 25, 1854.  He removed with his parents to Worth county, locating at Bristol, where he resided until 18S0, removing to Nebraska, and after remaining one year, removed to Lake Mills, where he has since resided, following the practice of his profession, and engaged in the drug business with J. M. Hull.  He is also agent of the American Express Company, and postmaster of Lake Mills, being appointed Jan. 23, 1883, by Timothy O. Howe.  He was married to Elizabeth J. Hancock, of Missouri Valley, Iowa, Oct. 11, 1881.  She was born in Dubuque, Iowa, in November, 1859, and is a member of the M. E. Church.  Dr. Keeler has been following his profession since 1879.  He has a good practice and a large circle of friends.

In 1879 Dr. J. B. Hirsch located at Lake Mills for the purpose of practicing his profession.  In 1881 he removed to Blue Earth City, Minn., where he now enjoys a large and lucrative practice.  He is a graduate of Rush Medical College, Chicago, Ill., and is a first-class professional man.

W. L. Gundlach, M. D., located at Lake Mills in the spring of 1881.  He is a native of Germany and has a good classical education.  In 1883 he attended Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Penn., and returned to Lake Mills, where he has since been located.

In May, 1881, Dr. David C. Aas came to Lake Mills, and commenced the practice of medicine with Dr. J. M. Hull.  Dr. Aas was born in the parish of Thoten [sic], Norway, on the 12th of April, 1853.  He was from childhood, a bright, talented boy and was a close, attentive student.  He commenced in the common school of his native country, and after his fifteenth year worked partly at the harness trade, also began a college course of study, which he did not complete on account of his coming to America.  After his arrival in the United States in 1875, he pursued the study of medicine and graduated with honor at Bennett Medical College, Chicago, Ill., in the spring of 1881.  Shortly after his graduation he located in Lake Mills and continued in practice until his death, which occurred Nov. 21, 1881.  Dr. Aas was a young man of thorough integrity, faithful to his profession, was intelligent and temperate, and won his way to the hearts of the people.

1History of Kossuth, Hancock and Winnebago Counties, Iowa. Springfield, Illinois: Union Publishing Company, 1884. 807-16.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy for Winnebago County IAGenWeb