Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book
Stories of Early Nichols

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 150
By Alberta Metcalf Kelly

         In the 1879 History of Muscatine County, Dr. S. H. Smith is listed as the first physician in Nichols. He dispensed medicine and had his offices and living quarters in a long frame building which stood where the new bank building now stands on Main Street. South of this location were a small orchard, the Svoboda home and harness shop and Gus Kaiser’s general store which faced Ijem Avenue.
         Dr. F. F. Carl came to Nichols a century ago. He married Margaret (Maggie) Kirchner, and they were the parents of Maleta and Evan Carl. They built the home at Richard Street, where the Browns now live. Evan Carl also became a doctor, later becoming a cataract specialist in India.
         Early medicine was considerably different from the way it is practiced now. Doctors rode horseback over muddy country roads to visit patients. They operated on a patient lying on a kitchen table for “inflammation of the bowels,” known now as appendicitis. Babies were brought into the world in their own homes.
         The early rural doctor might be paid by barter – a chicken or two, a side of pork, eggs, butter – or he might not be paid. He varied his charges according to what he thought might be the ability of the person to pay. There was no health insurance – the country doctor was an independent free lancer. Occasionally a doctor or druggist might be reputed as getting extra income from the sale of “liquid Rock candy.”
         Though Dr. Carl had the reputation of owning the dustiest downtown drug store, he was also known as a most meticulous hand-scrubber who insisted on complete sanitation for his medical work. His drug store was not in his home but in his brick building on Ijem Avenue, now occupied by Ma and Pa’s. Above the store was the Masonic Temple.
         Another drug store in town was run by Claude Duncan. It was a block west, in the east corner of the present Elder Implement Company. Drug stores were different then – no magazines, no pantyhose, no furbelows. There might be favorite nostrums – Lydia Pinkham’s vegetable compound, Sloan’s liniment, syrup of pepsin, Cascara, Peruna and the like.
         In summer, five captain chairs stood in front of the Carl Drug Store, where one might see Dr. Carl at rest in one, looking somewhat like a Buddha but with a favorite cigar in the corner of his mouth.
         Dr. Carl continued active practice through World war I and the flu epidemic of 1917 and 1918.
         Dr. Carl and a colleague, Dr. J. J. Nolan handled vaccinations for the small pox scare around 1907 or 1908.
         Dr. Nolan practiced for at least fifteen years in our town, but met his untimely death in 1910. He was known as a brilliant intense man, a twirler of keys as he studied a case. He married Kate Ryan, and they lived where the Mike Hazens now live. They were parents of three children, Robert Nolan, Marie Nolan and Eddie Nolan, who are all deceased.
         Medicine shows came to Nichols by train. Harolde Rummells remembers them. The shows were held indoors or out. They sold elixirs at a dollar a bottle which were claimed to cure all illnesses. Perhaps a black man “plugging” a banjo might help to sell their wares.
         A grandma’s home remedies might augment health services – onion poultices or cough syrups, asafetida bags, sassafras tea, epsom salts, castor oil and oil of cloves for ear aches were also popular. On hand were fine tooth combs and kerosene to take care of an outbreak of head lice. The value of the asafetida bags worn around the neck of the child must have been the odor that kept all people with germs far away.
         Fresh out of medical school at the State University of Iowa in Iowa City, Dr. Virgil O. Muench came to Nichols in 1910 and practiced until his death in January 1948. There was a short time when he became an Army doctor during World War I that he was absent from the community. Many remembered him coming back from service in his khakis, a big blond “buffalo” of a man who made doors stretch as he came into a home on a call.
         He was known as an excellent diagnostician who could bring the help of specialists to Nichols when he was in doubt. He didn’t hesitate to send his patients to the hospitals when they needed a particular specialist.
         During his early years of horseback riding or train travel to his later years of shiny fast cars, Dr. Muench acquired the Peter Hart two-story brick building located on Ijem Avenue, where the Catfish Place now operates. His offices and living quarters were on the east side of the second floor, where the Harts had lived above their general store.
         The walnut plate rail in his waiting room at the top of the stairs held pictures of many of the babies he had delivered, many of whom were named Virgil in his honor. His office and examining and treatment rooms were north of the waiting room; his living quarters were south of it.
         These rooms were transformed for a couple of days in the summer when he brought in cots, a surgeon and nurses to hold a wholesale session to remove tonsils from all who had suffered from tonsillitis the previous winter.
         He encouraged boys and girls to enter the medical field. His most outstanding protégé was Bill Adams, [see Dr. William Elias Adams] who practiced in Chicago and ho became president of the American College of Surgeons. Jeanne (Elder) Poeltler became a nurse who served in the Pacific theater during World War II. Doris (Meyers) Thompson was an Army nurse during World War II who finished her nursing career at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Iowa City.
         Dr.Muench was quoted as saying that he wanted to “die with his boots on.” He did. His last baby was Jerry Crabtree who was delivered to Martin and Jean Swickard Crabtree in Muscatine.
         Dr. Virgil O. Muench was buried on a cold January day in 1948. Tributes ere paid to him at the school auditorium. Friends still place flowers on his grave.
         It took the city fathers a year to find a replacement in Dr. Howard Palmer. He and his family stayed here until Dr. Albert Ady convinced him to move to West Liberty. He, too, died of a heart condition, as had Dr. Muench and Dr. Nolan.
         Nichols is lucky to be close to several hospitals – Muscatine General, the University of Iowa Hospitals, Mercy Hospital, the Veterans Administration Hospital – and medical clinics in West Liberty and Lone Tree.

Obituaries of
Dr. J. J. Nolan * Dr. Virgil O. Muench * Dr. Howard Palmer
Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, pages 151-153

Well Known Physician of Nichols Passes Away at His Home
After a Few Days’ Illness from Pneumonia.

        Special to News-Tribune. Nichols, Iowa, April 11, 1910. – Dr. John J. Nolan, one of the well known practicing physicians of this neighborhood, passed away at his home here Sunday after a short illness of but a few days. The cause of his death was pneumonia, he having taken cold while pursuing his duties as a physician. The cold rapidly developed into central pneumonia, and after about five days’ struggle, he passed away. His death is universally regretted here as he was a man who was well liked and was a capable physician.
         He was born in Ireland about 43 years ago, and for several years has been located at Nichols, having located here in 1895. He received his medical education at St. Louis. In 1899 he was united in marriage to Catharine Ryan, who with three children, aged 10, 6 and 3 years, respectively, survive him. He is also survived by a brother, Father Michael Nolan, of Missouri Valley, and by his mother, two sisters and two brothers who are in Ireland.
Many Mourners at Funeral of Nichols Doctor
         All Business Houses Closed From 9 A. M. to 2 P. M. as a Mark of Respect to Memory of Dr. J. J. Nolan, Who Was Buried Yesterday. Entire Community Pay Final Tribute of Respect to Decedent – Many Priests, Doctors and Knights of Columbus from Surrounding Towns Attended the Funeral – Church Filled to Overflowing With Sympathizing Friends.
         Nichols, Ia., April 15. – That the death of Dr. J. J. Nolan is keenly felt among the citizens of this place was shown today by the many words of regret uttered by prominent citizens and people in all walks of life who lived the cheery, kind-hearted and faithful physician whose end was hastened by devotion to his professional duty. As a public mark of esteem for the decedent, all business houses in Nichols closed today between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Physicians from neighboring towns were among the mourners, as were a dozen priests and many Knights of Columbus from Iowa City, Muscatine, Ardon, Letts, West Liberty, Wilton, Washington and other points. The Knights assembled at their hall and then marched to the Nolan residence where they viewed the familiar features of their departed brother and then acted as escort preceding the funeral cortege to St. Mary’s church.
         The large and beautiful edifice whose erection was begun by Father Nolan, brother of decedent, was filled to overflowing and many were unable to gain admission. A solemn requiem mass was celebrated by the Rev. Father Timothy Nolan of North Dakota, a cousin of the doctor, with Father Ward of Iowa City as deacon and Father Curtain of Brooklyn as sub-deacon and Father Walsh of Washington as master of ceremonies. Among the other clergymen present were: Very Rev. Monsignore J. P. Ryan of Davenport, Rev. F. J. Leonard of Muscatine, Rev. Henry Knebel of Tipton, Rev. Nugent of Kinross, Rev. Bulger of Ottumwa, Rev. M. F. Nolan of Missouri Valley and several others. The sermon was a peculiarly appropriate and touching one, in which the Christian life and death of the decedent were extolled and his unfailing fidelity to his church, family, fellow citizens and professional duties were justly commended. The speaker and his auditor were moved to tears during the course of the sermon.
         The interment was made in the Catholic cemetery, two and a half miles northwest of Nichols, and the cortege was one of the largest ever seen in this community. The floral offerings were numerous and beautiful tributes from friends and associates of the late Doctor Nolan, the emblems from the Woodmen and the Nichols K. of C. being especially fine.
Muscatine People Attended the Funeral Of Doctor Nolan at Nichols
         A number of Muscatine people attended the funeral of the late Dr. J. J. Nolan at Nichols yesterday. Among them were Rev. F. J. Leonard, James P. Ryan, A. G. Bestenhehner, M. W. Stapleton, George Casper, James W. Healey, L. P. Flannery, J. M. Healey, William C. Healey, J. F. Gorey, Leonard Fuller, Frank Byrne, J. J. Byrne, J. T. O’Brine, L. J. Byrne, John D. Ryan, Mrs. L. P. Flannery, Mrs. Thos. J. Ryan and Miss Felicitas Mackey. The latter sang the “Ave Maria” and several other hymns that were beautiful and affecting in the extreme.
         The pall bearers were all members of Laurent Council No. 1305 Knights of Columbus, they being Knights Peter C. Hart, Henry Brugman, Cyril Healey, Albert Brugman, Lawrence P. Flannery and James P. Ryan. The cortege that followed the remains to the cemetery was almost a mile long.
Funeral Procession Marred by Accident
         Iowa City, Ia., April 15. – W. P. Hohenschuh and Lewis Miller narrowly escaped death Wednesday in a remarkable accident between Iowa City and Lone Tree. The hearse on which they had been riding, in attendance at the funeral of Dr. Nolan of Nichols, was precipitated from a bridge into a creek ten feet below. Both men were fortunate in escaping with only some severe bruises. One of the horses was painfully cut and the vehicle was considerably damaged. A bunch of hogs rooting in the mud bank of the stream was responsible for the frightening of the horses.

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, pages 152-153

         [The following article was taken from the Lone Tree Reporter, Thursday, 8 January 1948.] The community mourns this week the passing of Dr. V. O. Muench, 63, of Nichols, who died suddenly in his office Saturday (3 January 1948) as he was preparing medicine for a patient. Death was attributed to a heart attack.
         Doctor Muench was known to have been in less than usual health for the past several months following an illness during which he was a patient at Mercy Hospital for treatment of heart trouble. However, he resumed his practice and continued it until his death.
         Doctor Muench had served the community as a practicing physician continuously for 37 years except for a period during the first World War. He came to Nichols in 1910 to set up a practice following his graduation from the University of Iowa Medical school and his internship at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City.
         He was born February 12, 1884 at Pilot Mound in Boone County, the son of Catherine and Isaac Muench, and spent his early life in that community.
         Following his death the body was taken to the Kirchner Funeral Home where friends were welcome. At noon Tuesday it was moved to the school auditorium at Nichols.
         Funeral services were held that afternoon at 2:30 in the auditorium. In attendance was one of the largest crowds to assemble in Nichols in several years. Among those who came to pay their respects were any from the towns and community around Nichols and from Washington, Muscatine and Iowa City.
         Floral offerings banked the entire front of the auditorium.
         Officiating at the memorial services were the pastors of the three Nichols churches. Prayers were offered by the Rev. C. F. Curtis of the Methodist church and by the Rev. Lawrence Vogel of St. Mary’s church. The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Noble Bolinger, pastor of the Christian church.
         A chorus of nine men sang “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Lead, Kindly Light,” selections which had been requested by relatives of Doctor Muench. Those taking part in the chorus were Leo Van Aken, George Grable, George Poeltler, Clifford Hesser, John Loeb, Elroy Knoll, Amos Borgstadt, Martin Crabtree and Ralph Kirchner. Edna Kirchner directed the singing. Ora Nichols was at the organ and Alberta Metcalf at the piano.
         Pallbearers were Jim Poole, Robert Chown, Frank Mills, Willard Rice, Fred Swanson and Clarence Metcalf. Honorary pallbearers were Fred Poole, Wiliam Poole, B. L. Metcalf, W. R. Schmidt, Tom Dean and Ben Oostendorp.
         Elsie Poole was in charge of the flowers and she was assisted by Verda Metcalf, Gladys Rudman, Jean Poeltler, Hazel Poole, Anna Rosenfield, Wilma Mills, Miriam ARenshaw, Alice Grable, Edna Kirchner, Mollie Hintz, Dora Nichols, Mae Poole and Margaret Gabel.
         Military graveside ceremonies were performed by members of John L. Mumm post, American Legion, of which Doctor Muench was a member. Arrangements were made by Lester Fellner, post commander. The Rev. V. A. Walsh served in the capacity as post chaplain. H. W. Stevens and Glen Rummells presented the flag. Cleo Dodson, Jack Larew, Leroy Forbes and Bernard Dougherty acted as color bearers and guards. Dana Kral commanded the firing squad which fired the salute. Members of the squad were Emmett Bird, James Stock, Maynard Sexton, Herman martin, Kenneth Rayner, Robert Kirkpatrick, Gerald Stout and Arthur Zimmerman.
         Burial was in the Nichols cemetery.
         Doctor Muench is survived by one brother, Robert Muench of Washington, Iowa; three nieces and two nephews. Two brothers and a sister preceded him in death. He never married.
         He was a member of the Masonic Lodge at Nichols, the Elks Lodge at Muscatine and the American Legion at Lone Tree. He was a director of the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Lone Tree and Nichols.

         Letters of administration were issued in the estate of Dr. Virgil O. Muench of Nichols . . . were admitted to probate, according to papers on file toady in district court.
         A brother, Robert L. Muench, Washington, Iowa, will administer the estate of Dr. Muench, who died of a heart attack at his office in Nichols, 3 January 1948.
         Mr. Muench, who was appointed administrator after filing bond in the sum of $50,000, is the sole heir of the Muscatine County physician, other than three children of a deceased brother. A nephew, Kenneth Muench, lives at Renton, Washington, and two nieces are Mrs. Iyone Orem, Jefferson, South Dakota, and Mrs. Dorothy Lovely, LeMars, Iowa.
         A will drawn by Dr. Virgil O. Muench who died at Nichols on 3 January 1948, existence of which had not previously been suspected by heirs, became known here today with the filing of the document in the office of the clerk of court here.
         Administration of the estate of the well-known Muscatine County physician already had been largely completed.
         The will, dated January 19, 1946, was place by Dr. Muench in the care of his attorney at Boone, Iowa. Since relatives did not know of the existence of the will, the Boone legal counsel had never been informed of Dr. Muench’s death.
         Records of the administrator show that personal property of the deceased already has been sold and that appraisers have been appointed to place a valuation on real estate that was owned by Dr. Muench in Nichols.
         The will, which has been set for hearing in district court on October 30, 1948, bequeaths to Mame E. Black, Muscatine, the real estate in Nichols, and the executors are directed to trade a Ford automobile, for a new Ford, Chevrolet or Plymouth, to become the property of Mrs. Black.
         Anna Reynolds, who served as office girl for Dr. Muench, is bequeathed $1,00, as is also Mercy Hospital at Iowa City. Kenneth Muench, Dorothy Lovely and Iyone Stover, children of a deceased brother, Harvey E. Muench, will receive half of the residue, and the other half is bequeathed to a brother, Robert L. Muench.
         Mrs. Black and T. W. Doran, Boone attorney, are designated as executors.

Nichols, Iowa Centennial Book 1884-1984, page 153

         Article from the West Liberty Enterprise dated Thursday, 10 July 1980.
         Dr. Howard C. Palmer, age 58, died late Saturday evening, shortly after being admitted at University Hospitals, Iowa City.
         He was born 11 July 1921 in Johnson County, Iowa, the son of S. J. Palmer and Anna (Warey) Palmer.
         In 1942 he was married at Iowa City to Lucille Hughes.
         He was a graduate of The University of Iowa College of Medicine, Class of 1945. He later served his internship at St. Joseph, Missouri. He served for 21 months in the Army Medical Corps.
         He first practiced medicine at Nichols, and the last 27 years in West Liberty, the past three years in association with his son, Dr. Steven Palmer.
         He was a member of the Iowa Medical Society, the American Medical Association and had been an associate staff member at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City. He was also a member of the American Philatelic Association.
         Survivors include his wife, three sons, Dr. Steven Palmer of West Liberty, Rex Palmer of Palo Alto, California, Dr. Michael Palmer of Danville, Pennsylvania, and four grandchildren.
         Funeral services were held Tuesday, July 8th, at 1:30 p.m. from the West Liberty United Methodist Church, with rev. Frank Greenwood officiating. Mrs. Dorothy Carey was organist. Pallbearers were E. P. MacKenzie, Stanley Swartzendruber, Thomas Gipple, Walter Windborn, William Hughes and Robert Barclay. Interment was in Oak Ridge Cemetery, under the direction of the Snider Funeral Home.

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