THE FLU EPIDEMIC OF 1918 - It's Impact on Johnson County

The Doctors

Dr. William Max Rohrbacher (1887-1972)
Born on November 28, 1887 in Big Grove Township, a farm community near Iowa City, William Max Rohrbacher was determined, as a young man, to avoid a career in farming. He tried business school, book-keeping and other odd jobs until, while waiting tables at Merchant's Restaurant in Iowa City, he befriended a homeopathic professor who encouraged his enrollment in the UI Homeopathic Medical College. On June 12, 1912, after four years of study, Rohrbacher graduated with the degree of Doctor of Medicine and, that night, married Elizabeth Petsel, also of the Iowa City area. After he served a one-year internship at the Massachusetts Homeopathic Hospital in Boston, they returned to Iowa City and Rohrbacher worked as a staff doctor and substitute lecturer for the UI Homeopathic Medical College until its close in 1919.

Soon after the college closed, the Rohrbachers purchased a building at 811 East College Street in 65. 
The back section became their home and the rest was converted into a homeopathic hospital, which they named "Rohrbacher's Sanitarium." Although the hospital burned down in 1931, it was rebuilt soon after, functioning a total of 51 years.

Dr. Rohrbacher died at age 85, after his 60th wedding anniversary in 1972. Today, "Rohrbacher's Sanitarium" is an apartment building; two of his four daughters are still living, both in California, and numerous Johnson County residents remember his service to their families.

Source: The University of Iowa Homeopathic Medical Department. Medical Museum - University of Iowa Health

Dr. John G. Mueller (1870 - 1918)

Dr. J. G. Mueller died at a local hospital here last night after a hard fight against pneumonia, influenza and other complications. He had been very low for several days and his friends had been expecting the summons.

Dr. Mueller was born in Iowa City, March 29, 1870, his parents, Adam and Mrs. Justina Buettner Mueller, being of the pioneers of the place and with the exception of one year , 1895 - 1896, his entire life was spent in this community.

Dr. Mueller graduated from the State University of Iowa in 1895 after three years work in the College of Liberal Arts followed by a medical course and later by post-graduate work in bacteriology and was for several years after assistant in gynecology in the Medical College at S.U.I.

During his college life he was prominent as a debater in Irving society, and a member of the football team, and had the rank of major in the university military batallion.

On October 15, 1895 Dr. Mueller was married to Miss Catherine Miller of Gilbertville, Iowa, who died in February, 1912. Five children of this marriage survive - Elizabeth, a graduate nurse; Lucille, a senior in training in Glockner sanatarium, Colorado Springs; Mary, a senior in St. Mary's high school of this city; John, aged 12; and Catherine, aged ten years.

October 31st, 1913 he was married to Miss Margaret Corridan, who survives him. Other relatives surviving are four brothers, Dr.  A.J. Mueller, a dentist of Waterloo, Iowa; W. P. and L.F. Mueller, local merchants; Dr. Otto H. Mueller, lieutenant in the U.S. medical corps, now at a point of embarkation; two sisters, Mary and Margaret Mueller and an aunt, Miss Margaret Buettner.

He was a life long member of the Catholic church, serving as an altar boy in St. Mary's church, and in his later life a member of the Catholic Order of Forresters, the Knights of Columbus and was but yesterday re-elected a member of the national board of directors of the Roman Catholic Mutual Protective Society of 

Iowa, now in session at New Hampton, Iowa, a society which his father helped to organize.

Other societies of which he was an active member are American Medical Association, Johnson County Medical Association, Rock Island Surgeons, and Association of Railway Surgeons, and the local lodge of Elks.

Dr. Mueller was an honored and valued resident of the community and numbered his friends by the hundreds. He was an upright and public spirited citizen whose long service had endeared him to many. He will be sadly missed by a large circle of friends.

The funeral will beheld from the family residence Saturday morning, the hour cannot be announced until word is received from distant relatives.
Source: The Iowa City Press Citizen, 18 Oct 1918, pg. 2

Dr. John G. Mueller was the first medical martyr to the influenza scourge in Iowa City.  If a history of the epidemic is ever written too much credit cannot be given to the noble and self-sacrificing work of the physicians. Nearly fifty in Iowa City, including some medical students, worked night and day for a long period of time without thought of themselves that they might rescue others who were in danger. It is said that Dr. Mueller was taking care of sixty cases of illness when he contracted pneumonia, which with other complications brought him to his death in a comparatively few hours. He was a strong man in the community, a friend and advisor in many households, and he gave his life for the sake of his friends and neighbors. More than this no man could do.
Source: The Iowa City Press Citizen, 21 Oct 1918, pg. 7

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Page updated 14 April 2020