The Medical Profession of Mecosta County


Editor's Note. - Dr. W. T. Dodge, the writer of the article below is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He located in Big Rapids in 1890, ten years after leaving college, and during the 22 years of his residence here he has built up a large practice, not only in the city and county, but he is known throughout the State for his skill in surgery. He was elected a councilor of the Eleventh District Michigan State Medical Sociery in 1902 and has held that office since. In 1909 he was made chairman of the council, and is the present chairman.

He is head physician to Mercy hospital, and is in a great measure responsible for the wide and excellent reputation this institution has been accorded throughout the State.

Dr. Dodge has achieved some distinction in military circles and was commissioned surgeon in the Michigan National Guard in 1899 and is chief surgeon of that organization at the present time.

Besides these activities Dr. Dodge is prominent in social and lodge circles. He was worshipful master of Big Rapids Lodge, F & A. M. in 1897 and 1898, High Priest of Big Rapids Chapter in 1900 and 1901.

He was mayor of Big Rapids in 1907, and has served for several years on the board of public works and always taken a prominent part in the political as well as the commercial life of the city.


The early medical history of Mecosta County resembled closely that of all pioneer communities - first a few settlers clearing up patches of land. then lumbermen cutting the timber, and later erecting mills to convert it into lumber, more lumbermen establishing camps at various places in the wods, then the hardy pioneer physician with his saddle horse and saddle bags to be followed by others as the population rapidly increased. The gentleman who is credited with being the pioneer physician of this county was Dr. D. F. Wooley who located here in 1858. He held a warm place in the hearts of the people and continued to minister to them until the early nineties when he left to spend his decling years with son Vernon. Celira Canfield Fuller, mother of the late Judge C. C. Fuller was not an educated physicianbut had attained considerable knowledge of medicine and treated the sick in Indiana before coming here and followed the practice here it is said with much satisfaction to her patrons. Her husband operated the first store in this county. Mrs. Fuller had but little technical education having attended school but ten weeks in her life, but she managed private study to obtain a good general education and possessed much literary ability. She was very active here in social, moral and religious life. One of her daughters, Mrs. B. E. Hutchinson, became a graduated physician and also practiced her profession here for a time.

The Whitfields, L. J. and Henry, were also numbered among the early physicians of Big Rapids.

Dr. Fred B. Wood flourished here for some yearsand is said to have possessed much rugged surgical skill. Anecdotes that are handed down concerning him do not indicate that he occupied a high place in the moral life of the community.

Dr. W. S. Whitney located here in 1872 and for many years enjoyed a lucrative practice. He lived to a ripe old age, passing away only a few years ago.

His son, Dr. W. A. Whitney, has been here since 1873, is greatly beloved by many of our citizens and has for many years served as an efficient health officer. He is also on the Board of Examining Surgeons for pensions.

Dr. S. A. Phelps was another pioneer physician who held a wrm place in the affections of his patrons. He is reported to have been an ideal family physician honorable and upright in all his actions.

Dr. Badger, who passed away in the early nineties had lived here many years and served as health officer up to the time of his death.

Charles P. Bigelow located in Big Rapids in 1868. He conducted a drug store on Michigan avenue and practiced his profession. In 1882 he removed to Grand Rapids and thre conducted a drug business for several years, selling out, and returning here in 1888 where he continued practice until failing health compelled him to give up active work, when he again moved to Grand Rapids, where he still resides. Dr. Bigelow was a fine type of family physician, honorable, upright in all his actions and held a high position in this community for many years. Outside of his profession he was principally interested in the Masonic order, holding offices at various times in the Lodge Chapter and Commandery. In 1888 he was chosen Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Mich K. T. and filled that position for a year. Upon his removal to Grand Rapids his membership was transferred to DeMoisi Commandery and he was elected its Excellent Prelate which position he holds today and performs the duties of his office when his health will permit.

Dr. W. A. Hendrix was a prominent figure in medical circles here from 1874 to 1885. He enjoyed a very large practice and left here to engage in other pursuits in the west where he still resides. During the same period Dr. Bradley, Sr., practiced in Big Rapids for a time subsequently moving to Paris where he died after many years of work among the people of Green Township.

Dr. J. F. Pease came here in 1871 and is still a resident of the Third ward where he has conducted a drug store continuously and has practiced his profession.

Dr. W. A. Howig was long a citizen of Big Rapids and died here. He practiced his profession but litle and while his health permitted was engaged in business pursuits.

In 1880 F. J. Groner, fresh from the University, located in Big Rapids and quickly assumed a commanding position in the local profession. He had a large circle of friends and enjoyed more than local renown as a surgeon. He moved to Grand Rapids in 1890 where he still works.

Dr. E. A. Romig came here about 1880 and was for some time in partnership with with Dr. D. F. Wooley. IN 1898 he was commissioned a captain in the U. S. Volunteers and served in the Phillipines for several years. He then formed a partnership with one of his associate medical officers and located in Newburg, Oregon, where he still resides. Dr. John L. BUrkart located in Big Rapids in 1881, as a partner of Dr. W. A. Hendrix. After one year the partnership was terminated and Dr. BUrkart continued by himself until 1895 when he removed to Grand Rapids. Dr. Burkart was one of the leading practitioners during his term of active service here and was very active in the social life of the community. Upon his removal to Grand Rapids he ws commissioned as a medical officer in the 2d regiment M. N. G., and served in that capacity in the 32nd Mich. Vol. Infantry during the Spanish American War. After the close of the war he completed his term of duty as City Physician of Grand Rapids and then went to the Phillipines for a six year service as Contract Surgeon, U. S. A. Since leaving the Army he had been associated with the Michigan State Life Insurance Co., and made his headquarters in BIg Rapids.

Dr. L. S. Griswold located in Sand Lake in 1879 after completing his college course and removed to Big Rapids in 1881. Since that time he has been one of the leaders of the profession in this county, has gained an enviable reputation as a surgeon, and has a considerable private and consultation practice. He has also been prominent in business, political and fraternal circles. He was mayor of the city in 1895. In fraternal circles he has been closely identified withe the Masonic Order having served as W. M. of Big Rapids lodge and Eminent Commander for several years of Pilgrim Commandery, K. T.

Dr. F. C. Terrill located in Millbrook as a partner of Dr. Pattison after his graduation in 1879 and removed to Big Rapids in 1881. He has given close attention to his professional duties ever since and has also been active in social and fraternal life. He has a large circle of warm friends who are always cheered by contact with his genial and happy disposition. Dr. Terrill has also been active in political circles and has been county and jail physician for many years.

Dr. Curtis was an active practitioner here from 1882 until his death a few years ago.

Dr. W. J. O'Hara succeeded Dr. Burkart here in 1895 and remained in active practice until two years ago when he removed to Hastings, Neb., where he enjoys a large surgical practice.

Dr. Cutting was here in practice for a short time in the early 80's. He also practiced in Chippewa Lake.

Dr. Keam was another of the large number who located here in the early 80's. After a few years he removed to Minnesota.

Dr. W. E. Dockry was a prominent pratitioner in Big Rapids during the 80's and early 90's. He gave up practice for a time to follow business pursuits but subsequently resumed practice in Pentwater. More recently he removed to Urbandale, Calhoun Co.

Dr. P. J. Sullivan also practiced here for a short timein the 90's and then removed to Muskegon where he still resides.

Dr. A. A. Spoor located here in 1901. He received his preparatory education at the Ferris Institute and his medical training at the state university. Dr. Spoor has attained a deservedly high reputation as a laboratory worker and numbers many warm friends among his clientele.

Dr. George H. Lynch graduated at out state university in 1903, served a time as assistant to Dr. Crane in Kalamazoo, married a charming Big Rapids girl, Miss Una Palmer, in 1905 there after located here for the practice of his profession. He is prominent in the social and charitable work of the order of Elks and served as Exalted Ruler.

The last physician to locate in Big Rapids is distinctively a Big Rapids product, having resided here since he was two years of age, Dr. Clyde F. Karshner. He is a graduate of our high school and of our state university. He served in Co. A 34th Mich. Vol. Infantry and afer graduating in medicine suffered a very critical illness as the result of a disease contracted in Cuba. Dr. Karshner has a warm place in the hearts of our people. He is specializing on diseases of the eye and ear.

Dr. Donald McIntyre practiced here for a time in diseases of the eye and ear, removing to Montana last year where he bought a ranch. He has been much missed in professional and social circles.

Dr. Jacob W. Pattison was a pioneer in Millbrook and is still living there at an advanced age suprisingly vigorous and active.

Dr. Farrar is an old resident of Mecosta and although crippled and aged is still doing active work. Dr. James Clarkin the 80's was at Chippewa Lake, subsequently moving to Stanwood and from there to Hammond, Ind., where he has a good practice. He was succeeded in Stanwood by Dr. John Fitzgerald who subsequently located in AuSable where his property was last summer destroyed by fire, after which he moved to Saginaw. Drs. Gordon McAllister and J. B. Campbell are the present representives of the profession at Stanwood, are both doing well and have the confidence of their associates. In later years Dr. A. A. Patterson and C. L. Grant have practiced at Chippewa Lake and recently Dr. Grant has moved to Chase and Dr. Patterson is the only physician at the lake. He has served many years as township clerk.

Drs. B. F. Brown and I. E. Darr are old residents of Morley and with Dr. Joseph McNiece constitute the present members of the profession in that village. All are well regarded and have many friends. Dr. B. H. McMulen, a prominent surgeon of Cadillac began his professional work in Morley. He was succeeded by Dr. C. V. High, who now resides at Coleman. Paris has had a good many physicians, first and last Dr. C. H. White, now of Los Angeles, Cal., was one of the first, subsequently moving to Reed City, afterwards to Grand Rapids. Dr. Leggett succeeded Dr. White at Paris and died there. He also conducted a drug store. The Drs. Bradley, father and son, were there for many years, the father until his death, the son removing to Remus and later to Saginaw where he still resides. In later years Drs. Logan and Lewis have in turn, been located there, but at the present time Paris has no resident physician. Dr. C. H. Rodl practiced in Millbrook durig the early 80's. Dr. Armitage was there during the late 80's and died of consumption about 1894. He had a good practice and was succeeded by Dr. Charles P. Doyle, who removed to Frankfort after a few years. Dr. W. R. Stingham, a son-in-law of Dr. Jacob Pattison practiced several years in Millbrook in the early 80's. He then removed to Keneenaw Bay where he still resides.

Years ago the late Dr. Barry practiced medicine at Rodney, subsequently quitting the profession and turning to mercantile pursuits. He then founded the village of Barryton and died in that village as the result of chronic disease. He was a prominent figure in county affairs for many years. Dr. C. C. Walker was the pioneer physician of Barryton and is till busily engaged there in professional work besides being actively interested in many business ventures. Dr. Lewis practiced there fora time and had many friends but now resides outsie of this county.

Dr. Northrup was for many years active in Stanwood, moving from there to Delray. Dr. Franklin now looks after the health of the populace in Millbrook and is very successful. Dr. Kelsey, now of Lakeview, began his professional life in Altona, where Dr. DeGroat is now the sole representative of the profession. At Mecosta Dr. John Snyder was long the leading practitioner until impaired health prohibited him from making long drives. He now does office and consultation work while Dr. Harry Weaver conducts a very large practice. Dr. Snyder also conducts a drug store. Remus has been blessed with many excellent physicians, among them Dr. Bradley, now of Saginaw, Dr. Fred Noble now of Guthrie, Oklahoma and Dr. Fischer now located in Minnesota. The present practitioners in Remus are Drs. Allen and Farley, the time of each being fully occupied in caring for the ills of the community.

A history iof the medical profession of Mecosta County would be incomplete without areference to the Mercy Hospital which was established here in 1879 by the Sisters of Mercy to care for numerous cases of sickness and accident that occurred in the lumber woods of this section of the state. It fulfilled that function adequately, caring for, within its walls, more than 15,000 cases before the lumbering operations were finished. Indicentially it made Big Rapids the medical center of this section of the state and permitted the physicians residing here to gain experience and reputation otherwise impossible to attain. As the lumbering operations diminished the hospital began to prepare for other classes of patients and it has now become a first class medical and surgical hospital for private patients. Upwards of 500 surgical operations are annually performed within its walls. Twice have the sisters suffered complete destruction of their buildig by fire and after the last calamity of this kind, they purchased the Northern Hotel and converted it into a hospital and convent. First class aseptic operating ad sterilizing rooms were equipped and a complete chemical and bacteriological laboratory was established, in which exact and scientific methods of diagnostic research are carried out. The medical profession of BIg Rapids is thus provided with facilities for diagnosing and treating the most obscure ailments. In 1898, a training school for nurses was established in connection with the hospital and annually since 1900 classes of young ladies ahev been granted diplomas as trained nurses. Many of the graduates have achieved distinction in their profession. A member of the first class to graduate served for several years as head nurse in the Gynecological ward of the hospital at Ann Arbor and is now in charge of private hospital in Louisana. Another has for several years been head nurse in a hospital at Albany, Oregon. Graduates and student nurses from this school have furnished the whole of northwestern Michigan with private nursing service for the past twelve years.

The members of the medical profession of the county have always maintained cordial relations with one another and in 1902 organized the Mecosta County Medical society as one of the county units of the Michigan State Medical society. This society holds during the greater part of the year monthly meetings and brings its members together for interchange of professional thought and for social intercourse. The present officers are:

President - L. S. Griswold
Vice President - Harry Weaver
Secretary and Treasurer - Clyde F. Karshner
Delegate to State Society - George H. Lynch
Alternate - A. A. Spoor