Fremont County, Iowa

Early Days of Healing
by Mary Howry
View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of August 1, 2016

A new exhibit is ready for viewing at the Fremont County Historical Center and Iowa’s Championship Rodeo Museum in Sidney. In the Museum, there is now a display of Doctor’s items along side the Penn and Stoner Drug Store, hardware and millinery shops. The exhibit reminds all of us how lucky we are to live in the modern world. Early doctors in Fremont County had to cope with diseases unknown in today's vaccinated world. In the exhibit is a story from a local newspapers about a man who died from lockjaw (tetanus) when a wagon wheel scraped his ankle. Children were susceptible to scarlet fever, whooping cough, polio, smallpox, mastoid infections, measles and mumps -- diseases which could leave victims crippled, blind, or dead. Typhoid and cholera were also not uncommon.

Schools were closed during outbreaks, and doctors hung Quarantine signs on the homes of the afflicted. Often everything that came in contact with a person, who had a very contagious disease, was burned. Then the house was fumigated. The exhibit includes a home fumigator, as well as an old Quarantine sign.

There is an interesting article written, for the newspaper, by Dr. Ralph Lovelady about polio and the iron lung. Another article tells about vaccinating entire schools in our county against polio. The doctor's bag was very important . An old doctor's bag; his medical book; and all the instruments from the bag are in a glass case along with some microscope slides from Dr. Cole in Thurman. Medicine bottles from the early period of Fremont County are on display at the Penn and Stoner Drug exhibit. There is also a doctor's bag with instruments for home childbirth, and a mortician's bag with those things needed for home care for the body. There are also old dental instruments, and a dentist's journal from 1906 which has interesting entries.

You can also find Doctor’s items in the Rodeo Hospital exhibit. On display are pictures and stories of several of our county's doctors, and a list of all the old doctors in the county, including one veterinarian. We have pictures of the hospitals in Hamburg, including one run by a lady doctor, Sarah Taylor. She was one of the first lady doctors to graduate from medical school, in 1881, in Keokuk. She had the first X-Ray machine in southwest Iowa. She came home to practice medicine, her office and home were just east of the post office in Hamburg, and is still standing. The earlier, Dr. James Lovelady and Dr. Cyrus E. Hoover, operated a hospital and sanitarium in Hamburg until 1900. A third hospital was built on a hill and was in use during WWII until the new Grape Community Hospital was built.

Special summer open hours for the county museum are bringing in many visitors. When you come, check out the new Doctor’s exhibit.

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Page updated on June 20, 2017 by Karyn Techau