Peeking Into Lake City's Past

More About Dr. McVay and His Descendants

Last week we recorded a capsule life profile of events in the life of a prominent lake City doctor who was born to humble Christian parents in February 1844, twelve years before Lake City was founded.

We learned from our study that numerous acts in his life, both during his service in the Civil War and thereafter, commanded the respect of his peers and their descendants. Josiah McVay was regarded as a man of great leadership ability.

Josiah's marriage to Miss Lucretia Norris in 1866 added strength and courage to his determination to help relieve suffering of those in need, with or without financial remuneration. This fine couple later became the parents of a daughter, who when grown to womanhood became the wife of a prominent Lake City merchant, Mr. A. B. Lossee, connecting the McVay family to the business community. On the year of their marriage, Lake City's population had grown to include 15 to 20 families. Most settlers lived on their 160 acre homestead claims scattered throughout the prairie.

History tells us that D. Josiah McVay and Dr. F. C. Stewart both received their medical degrees at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Keokuk, Iowa, class of 1873. It is unknown whether or not these two fine young men, while in school together, made plans to locate in the same pioneer community. However, records show that Dr. Stewart arrived shortly before Dr. McVay. Both men spent the balance of their lives in Lake City, and were the first two permanent resident physicians.

During years following the arrival of Dr. and Mrs. Josiah McVay, the primary growth of the Lake City community began. Fifteen years later 1881, population of the town reached 320 persons, and during the following eight years, 1890, Lake City population was 1,160. Doctors McVay and Stewart practiced medicine during the growth period. Dr. McVay died while still in practice in 1904 at the age of 60 years. Lake City hit the peak of its growth in 1900 when the census showed population of 2,703. Shortly after 1900 population began to decline showing a drop of 2,043 in 1910.

During the time Dr. Josiah was practicing medicine in Lake City, a young, distant cousin living in Hudson, South Dakota was growing to manhood. This young man was Melvin J. McVay. At Melvin's education progressed, he decided to become a medical doctor. Melvin earned his medical degree at Loyola University and interned at Park Avenue Hospital, both in Chicago. Dr. Melvin began his practice in Lake City on September 12, 1912 as an associate of Dr. G. L. Pray, whose office was located over what is now Lymer's Hardware. The name McVay when connected with the practice of medicine was still quite fresh in people's minds because Dr. Josiah McVay had been dead only 12 years.

Four years later, in 1916, Dr. Melvin J. McVay acquired the office built by Dr. Josiah McVay, conducting his practice there for ten years.

During his early years in Lake City, Dr. Melvin married Miss Florence Lossee, a granddaughter to Dr. Josiah McVay, and to this union was born two daughters; Maxine McVay, and Mrs. Jean McVay Awtry, who both reside in Lake City. Dr. Melvin McVay's widow, Florence Lossee McVay is a resident of Shady Oaks retirement home.

Dr. Melvin formed a partnership with the late Dr. F. W. Hobart in 1927, when they moved the old wood-frame office, built by Dr. Josiah, to its present location on south Center Street, and constructed a new brick building on the corner site to house their clinical offices and a modern hospital was constructed using their own financial resources without taxation or contributions from citizens. The hospital/clinic was built and dedicated to the memory of Dr. Josiah McVay.

The McVay/Hobart partnership was a successful medical institution, offering much needed health services to the Lake City community for 27 years, ending with Dr. Hobart's demise in 1954. The medical services of the partnership was interrupted during World War II, when both Dr. Hobart and Dr. McVay, went to war. Those who remember Dr. Francis Hobart can testify to his dedication to his patients and the medical profession.

After Dr. Hobart's demise, Dr. McVay had other doctors practicing medicine in his hospital. Some readers may remember Dr. Carp and his family who lived in the home where Joel Swanson now resides.

With great sadness, our community mourned the passing of Dr. Melvin McVay on October 23, 1969. He passed away in our modern community hospital, built and dedicated to the memory of Dr. F. C. Stewart, a pioneer colleague to the earlier Josiah McVay. Dr. Melvin was loved by a host of Lake City people who appreciated his sincere dedication to his profession. Dr. Melvin told the writer about how few drugs were available for treatment when he began his medical practice. He told about how early doctors used cold towels to reduce severe fevers and about other remedies which today are all but forgotten. In last week's article I quoted Alpha Owen's article, telling how Dr. Josiah McVay saved her life from diphtheria by using yeast at a time in history before antitoxins for the disease were created.

In an effort to show appreciation to Dr. Melvin McVay for his many years of service to the Lake City Community, the Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with all civic organizations in the community, sponsored an open house event of September 27, 1962, culminating in a banquet held in the Lake City Community Club. The event was entitled McVay Day. During the banquet, a spokesman for every Lake City organization spoke words of sincere appreciation to Dr. McVay for his lifetime of medical services and for taking an active part in leadership of various projects throughout the years where the welfare of the Lake City Community, both rural and urban, was concerned. His many Lake City friends felt it was better to thank a deserving person while he is living rather than just to say nice things about him at his funeral. Such was the honor given to Dr. Melvin McVay by our community.

Dr. McVay was a patriotic citizen, a veteran of both World Wars, a life member of the American Medical Society and the local Methodist Church.

The McVay family lineage that began during Lake City's early pioneer age, to serve this community for so many years, certainly proves that the great American dream can become a reality. Our community has every right to be proud of the pioneer citizens and their descendants who gave so much of themselves to build the "good life" so many of us take for granted.

The fact that numerous descendants of pioneers live her continuing to influence the community their pioneer ancestors helped to create over a century ago is proof that we are recipients of the American heritage of security and solidarity.

Let us give thanks to God for directing the many fine people who developed our country so that we may enjoy the good life. Let us do our best to forward a worth while contribution to our descendants in the form of peace on earth and good will toward all people everywhere.