Dr. McNabb and Dr. Nafe
Newaygo County

Note: Drs. Weaver, McNabb and Norton
were first in Hesperia and then came to Fremont

Everybody has heard the old cliché how the postman makes his deliveries in all kinds of adverse weather. Back in the 1870's Fremont had two dedicated men who also made deliveries, babies, instead of mail, in much the same way, in the same kind of weather, with the same means of transportation as the early mailman. Before the age of medical specialization these two men, Dr. J. W. McNabb and Dr. G.W. Nafe, were called upon to administer services, advice and medicine not only in Fremont but also for miles around. Pulling teeth, setting fractures, delivering babies and treating any and all sicknesses was all part of their daily routine. Horse and buggy where roads existed and horseback where only a trail led to the abode of some patients who needed attention was the only mode of transportation. However, Dr. McNabb, who always wore a black skull cap, winged collar and string tie usually traveled on mule back.

In a journal kept by Dr. McNabb and Dr. Nafe while they were partners, and later by Dr. Nafe when the partnership was dissolved, is listed the patients for whom they served, which in reality could be a roll call of the early pioneers and lumbermen in the Fremont vicinity. Some of the families so listed are Mallory, Holton, Hindes, Kimes, DeHaas, Stearns, Cole, Reynolds, Harrington, Martin,Gerber, Ketchum, O'Dell, McComber, Spooner, Ryerson, Jewell, Waters, Stewart and many more. They also had as their patients some of the Indians such as the Pego and Cary families.

A very touching tribute to Dr. McNabb entitled, "The Old Fashioned Doctor" was written by J. H. McComber and published first in 1911 in the Fremont Times Indicator and republished in 1966 in the Hesperia Centennial book.

Dr. McNabb first came to Hesperia in 1868 where he practiced until moving to Fremont in 1875. Dr. Nafe arrived in Fremont in 1877 and became a partner of Dr. McNabb's. According to their journal, office calls were 50 cents; house calls in Fremont $1.00; and the price of other calls were according to distance. Medicine was furnished at no extra cost. Money was scarce and the journal shows page after page of appointments with no cash changing hands; occasionally the doctor was paid by a ham, shingles, groceries or some other median of exchange.

Some Entries Outside of Fremont Are As Follows:

12/21/1878 William Anderson of Denver - To visit and medicine for wife - Dr. $4.00

12/26/1878 Mr. Covell at Kimble Lake - To visit and medicine for self - Dr. $3.50

2/22/1879 William Tozer (Lincoln Township) - To visit and medicine for three children - Dr. $4.00.

5/3/1879 Charlie Titus (Hesperia) - To visit and medicine for self - Dr. $4.00.

5/31/1879 John Graves (near Newaygo) - To visit and medicine for self - Dr. 3.50

9/30/1878 Alley and Co. (Alleyton- White Cloud) - To visit men at boarding house - Dr. 6.00

Other Charges Are As Follows

Wooster $3.50,

Martins Mill $3.00,

Holton $5.00,

Below the Gullies (South of Bridgeton) $5.00,

Pinch Town (old Aetna) $5.00,

Pulling teeth were an extra $.25 and obstetrical calls $7.00 to $10.00. However on the following call, the journal reveals the doctor must have been behind schedule 1/1/1879 Mr. Easterly (on County Line) - To obstetrical visit wife - too late - $4.00

Some Accounts Credited By Other Than Cash:

Simon Thorp 6 bushels Cr. $1.80

Job Reynolds Groceries Cr. $2.50

Theodore Dirks 5,000 shingles Cr. $10.50

M.B. Franklin coat Cr. $10.00

John Murphy 1 ham 32 pounds at $.7 per pound Cr. $2.24

Ben Tibels ½ ton of hay Cr. $5.00

Joseph Heozter Peaches and plumbs Cr. $1.50

Charles Townsend Beef Cr. $10.00

Baby mortality was high and only the strong survived. It would be interesting to know if the babies brought into the world by the doctors lived and who their descendants are. For instance on December 29, 1878 an entry is recorded as follows: Mrs. Fry (at restaurant) - To visit and medicine for child - Dr. $1.00. Could this be either the late Ed. Or Phil Fry?

Correct names didn't seem to mean much as long as the doctor knew who they were and some of the entries are vague

John (a Hollander at the lake).

Mr. Moran (Frenchman) -

James Bradford's sister-in-law and boy.

Old Man Blendening - To visit and medicine for woman at his house.

Frenchman near Archie Jewels.

Peter Barnhards hired girl.

Numerous entries for old man Scoifield, old man Rhodes, and old man Shaw and many others.

It is interesting to note that from September 10, 1878 to September 30, 1978 Dr. McNabb had 143 appointments for a total of $256.29, but only received $3.50 in cash.

As we close the journal on these two gone, but never to be forgotten pioneer doctors there is one more item of interest - a note in the beautiful handwriting of John C. Nafe -

Mrs. Ryerson Madame:

May I have the pleasure of accompanying Miss Neva to the Medal Contest at Newaygo this evening. No pains will be spared by myself to make the evening conclusive to her comfort and pleasure not to speak of the profit to both of us. I have her consent, we await yours. Hoping that you will deign to answer by bearer and in the affirmative, I am

Yours respectfully,

John C. Nafe

George W. Nafe, M.D., Fremont

Son of John and Mary M. (Stewart) Nafe, natives of Maryland and Pennsylvania, respectively, and was born in Ohio June 19, 1848. He lived with his parents until about 22 years of age, attending the common schools, and afterward the High School at Rochester, Ind. He early gave his attention to the study of medicine, and attended the Pennsylvania University, at Philadelphia, Pa., two years, and was graduated in 1871. He had previously studied in the office of Dr. Hector at Rochester, Ind.

Upon leaving college he commenced the practice of his profession in Cass Co., Ind., where he remained six and a half years. In the summer of 1877 he came to Fremont, where he followed his profession, with gratifying success.

Dr. Nafe held the office of Village Trustee three years, President of the village two years, member of th e School Board four years, and Director two years. In the fall of 1882 he was the Democratic candidate for Representative, but was defeated by Charles W. Stone, the Greenback candidate, who had the plurality, but of less than 100 votes. He was a member of the Fremont Lodge, 741, K. of H., and in politics was a Democrat.

The Doctor was married in Rochester, Ind., April 6, 1872, to Cordelia, daughter of Christopher and Julia A. Ernsperger, who was born in Ohio, Aug. 15, 1847. They had three children: John C., born March 13, 1875; Julia M., born April 2, 1881; Nellie L., born Jan. 9, 1873, died June 24, 1883.

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