Early Doctors
Old Time Tales of Warren County


Early Doctors

No man was more a part of the community in which he lived than the doctor of a generation or two ago. He knew the intimate life of his vicinity; it was he who ushered into the community its new citizens, he shared the tense midnight hours of anxiety when a life hung in the balance, and the doctor, faithful unto the end, was present when death entered the home and hearts were wrung with anguish.

Because he usually stayed much longer in a community than the preacher, he knew the people even better than did the man of God. The doctor of days but recently vanished, entered all homes without knocking, helped himself to hot water from the kitchen stove when necessary, knew just where to go to wash his hands without asking. If he drove to a country home where the man of the house was ill he would often put out his horse, which meant put it "in" the barn. And very likely, if it were to be a long call, the medical man would fork down some hay for his horse, or feed him from the oats bin.

Only the rural dweller fully appreciates the administrations of a good doctor. The sudden serious illness in an isolated house, the hurried dispatch of someone on horseback to fetch the doctor, the listening to the galloping hoofs, their beat growing fainter as horse and rider sped away, the waiting in the dark watches of the night-wondering when the doctor would arrive. The endless waiting while some loved one lay and suffered, the slow ticking of the clock that seemed suddenly to have slowed down, as if time itself had conspired this night to delay the doctor, till his coming would be too late. Long, intense hours of waiting, listening at an opened door for the hoped for hoof beats down the road. Uncertainty, the terrible uncertainty that he would arrive at all, he might be forty miles away, at some bedside that demanded his presence. Then, at last, the relieving sound of a horse's feet on the dark road, the dim spark of the doctor's lantern, jogging, coming down the road at a trot. And finally the crunching of wheels on the gravel, the doctor's firm step on the porch, his cheery entry and the immediate easing of the strain, "Thank heaven Dr. Brown is here, he will know what should be done!"

Warren County in its earlier days had its share of splendid men who ministered to the bodily ills of each community.

SOURCE:  Page(s) 247-248: Old Time Tales of Warren County; Meadville, Pa.: Press of Tribune Pub. Co., 1932


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