From Dr. Paul Harrison's Diary - Union City Medicine, 1930s
Union City has always attracted its share of doctors from the time it became Union City and even when it was still known as Miles Mills and Union Mills.
Dr. Paul D. Harrison came to Union City to practice medicine about 1930 and settled into a home on Second Avenue with his wife Emma and (eventually) four young children. By 1939, he had earned a place as one of Union City’s up and coming young physicians and had learned about some of Union City’s other doctors- past and present. He practiced medicine in Union City for over four decades and when he died at age 74 on August 1, 1978, he was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Dr. Harrison’s diary entries, courtesy of his sons Dr. Sam Harrison and Paul Donald Sterrett Harrison, provide fascinating glimpses into Union City doctors and the medical profession in America in the 1930s. Some of the first entries in Dr. Harrison’s diary are about the Union City doctors that he either knew or knew about. Dr. Harrison noted on Monday, January 23, 1939, that when he came to town "the oldest doctor was Barker…deaf for many years. Never drove an automobile, always walked since I knew him. Died at about 90." (Diary of Dr. Paul D. Harrison-Monday, January 23, 1939)
A look at the Evergreen Cemetery Records published by the Union City Public Library reveals that Dr. Edson C. Barker, M.D., and his wife Emeline Hardy Barker are buried in Section 2 Lot 6 of Evergreen Cemetery. Dr. Barker was born in 1854 and died in 1936, and Emeline Hardy Barker was born in 1860 and died in 1940. The 1930 census shows that their granddaughter Mildred Barker lived with them.
Dr. Charles Payne is the next Union City doctor that Dr. Harrison mentions. Dr. Harrison notes that "Dr. Payne died a few years before in his eighties. I later took care of his wife who eventually died on South Street, second house back of Comer Fuller's grocery."
Dr. Charles Payne was born about 1845 in Canada and immigrated to the United States in 1862. The 1920 census lists him as age 75 and his wife Velma, age 62. Dr. Payne died in 1922, and is buried with his wife Velma in Evergreen Cemetery in Union City.
Dr. Harrison goes on to note that "Dr. William Humphrey still had an office on the corner of South & First Avenue and still made an occasional house call…He had started practice the in house west of M.E. Church, later over Gates Drug Store. His father built the house I believe. He had been a M.D. and started across from M.E. Church."
The 1930 Census shows Dr. William J. Humphrey, 69, and his daughter Alice, 24 living in Union City. His wife Helen died in 1918, and Dr. Humphrey who was born in 1860, and Helen are buried in Evergreen Cemetery. Dr. Humphrey's father, Dr. Jonas Humphrey, is also buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Doctor Humphrey’s obituary appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Magazine on December 27, 1919. Dr. Humphrey himself wrote to the Journal of the American Medical Association on February 21, 1920, and informed the editors that he was very much alive and well.
Next, Dr. Harrison mentions the Drs. Sherwood, Dr. Alfred Carter Sherwood and Dr. Andrew Jackson Sherwood, prominent doctors in Union City history. He noted that "AC read medicine in that house (the Sherwood house) with a Dr. Terry and when he died he took the place."
Dr. H.L. Stem is the next doctor that Dr. Paul Harrison discusses in his journal. He said that "Dr. H.L. Stem, now 69, is restricted to office and day calls by my prescription and not by any selfish motive. It is a cardiac case. I have been attending him a great deal during the last year. Homeopath from Cleveland."
Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary features a capsule biography of Dr. Henry L. Stem of Union city. He was born in Waterford on October 5, 1869, the son of Louis T. and Elizabeth Stem. His mother Elizabeth died when he was just a few days old and his grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rice raised him. Henry graduated from Waterford Academy in 1888, and in the fall of 1889 he began to study medicine at the Homeopathic Medical College in Cleveland, Ohio. In the fall and winter of 1890-1891, he was a student at the Hahnneman Medical College in Chicago and he returned to the Cleveland Medical College in the fall of 1891. He graduated from Cleveland Medical College with honors in the spring of 1892.
In April of 1892, Dr. Stem moved to Union City, Pennsylvania and set up a medical practice. His medical skills and good judgment helped him build up a solid and lucrative practice.The 1930 Census records that Henry L. Stem, 60 and Lana Stem, 50, lived in Union City and the Evergreen Cemetery Records at the Union City Library show that Henry L. Stem, 1869-1941 and Lana W. Stem, 1880-1955 are buried there.
Dr. Harrison goes on to name his next colleague, Dr. L.D. Paige. He said that "Dr. L.D. Paige from one of the Washington Schools now in his sixties lives on Second Avenue, Westside, three doors from here. Office downtown. I attended him one or two years ago for passive congestion…cardiac. He came here from Spring Creek some 15 years ago where he had always practiced."
The 1910 census reveals that Dr. Levern D. Paige was born in 1872 in Spring Creek, Warren County, Pennsylvania. Dr. Page, 38, was married to Jennie, 30, and they had two daughters, Violet, 6, and Doris, 3.
Dr. Harrison noted that "Doctor Rockwell has been gone probably twenty years. Long white whiskers. Soft spoken. Patient."
Dr. La Rue Du Betz Rockwell was born on August 9, 1849, on the homestead farm of his parents in Crawford County. He acquired a primary education in Cambridge Springs Schools. In February 1864, when he was just 14, LaRue ran away from home and enlisted in Company E, 83rd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer infantry.
After he fought with his Regiment in the Battle of the Wilderness, LaRue marched on with his comrades and next they fought in the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. When they fought the Battle of Laurel Hill, LaRue Rockwell was one of the casualties. After he was wounded on May 8, 1864, he was transferred to the Chestnut Hill Hospital in Philadelphia and he was discharged in October 1865.
Returning home, LaRue DuBetz Rockwell attended the Waterford Academy for one term and then entered the Normal School at Edinboro. He graduated with the class of 1870 and during 1871-1872, he was the principal of the Ridgeway Public Schools. Then he entered the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia and graduated in 1874. He began practicing medicine at Cochranton in Crawford County. In 1876, he located in Union City, where he practiced the rest of his life. The 1880 Census shows LaRue Du Betz Rockwell living in Union City with his wife Frances and their two children, Alfred and Florence.
When LaRue Rockwell died on May 9, 1919, his wife Frances, three children, and many friends mourned him and honored his service in the Civil War. LaRue Rockwell and his wife Frances are buried in Evergreen Cemetery.
Dr. Harrison mentions another Union City Doctor, P.L. Hatch in his diary. He said that P.L. Hatch was a "Homeopath. Coudersport til war. Then Army. Then UC, Pa. Old family here."
Philip Luther Hatch was the son of Nancy and Edwin Hatch and he was born in Hatch Hollow, Pennsylvania, about 1872.The 1930 Census shows that Dr. Philip Hatch, 58, lived in Union City with his wife Mary C. Hatch, 56. Dr. and Mrs. Hatch are buried in Evergreen Cemetery. His obituary says that he died on May 1, 1958, at age 86, and his wife Mary C. Everson Hatch and his daughter Mrs. Aleta D. LaPont and his brother Augustus Hatch survived him.
Still discussing doctors, Dr. Harrison said that one of his best friends, Dr. James H. Hodgins, started and married in Waterford. "He got me started on hunting and dogs. We used to visit a good deal evenings. Arteriosclerosis got him while under my care about three years ago at 75 years…" he writes.
The 1930 census shows James A. Hodgins, 67, who was born about 1863 in Canada, living in Union City with his wife Jennie, 50 and his son Robert, 34. He immigrated to the United States in 1888. Nelson’s Biographical Dictionary summarizes Dr. Hodgin’s story. He was born in Shawville, Quebec, the fifth in a family of seven children, three sons and four daughters. After he was reared and educated in Shawville, he completed his education in public schools. He had long desired to be dentist, so in 1883, James Hodgins began to study dentistry under William Brace, one of the leading dentists in Brockville, Ontario.
James Hodgins continued to study with Dr. Brace until 1885, and then he entered the Philadelphia Dental College and graduated from there in 1887. Immediately after graduation he moved to Waterford, Pennsylvania and established a dental practice.
On June 4, 1890, Dr. Hodgins married Miss Jennie Judson, daughter of T.M. Judson of Waterford. They moved to Union City and Dr. Hodgins established a dental practice. The Hodgins had three children: Lawrence J., May, and Robert. Dr. Hodgins was a member of the Masonic Order, the I.O.O.F., K of P, and an attendant of the Episcopal Church.
Dr. Hodgins and his son Robert had another skill that Dr. Harrison thoroughly appreciated. As he put it:
"He helped my shotgun shooting a good deal, correcting by timely advice. He taught me about the surrounding country and where to find birds and what parts to cover. I never would have really been a woodcock hunter if he had not helped me. His son Robert whom I shoot with a good deal is an expert in woodcock. I can pick out a likely place. He will look at it from a distance, only driving by maybe, and will predict with surety, and I have checked it by searching. I’d probably be shooting a pump gun yet if unassociated with Doc Hodgins."
A glance at just a few of the medical discoveries of the 1930s offers some insight into Dr. Harrison's world of medical advances and setbacks.
On August 8, 1930, O.T. Avery and Rene Dubos announced that they had isolated an enzyme taken from the soil of a cranberry bog in New Jersey that effectively treated pneumonia in mice..
On December 21, 1933, Dr. Earl W. Flosdorf and Dr. Stuart Mudd of the University of Pennsylvania made the first dried human blood serum.
In 1934, Dr. Emil Bogen of Olive View, California stated that women developed breast cancer as a consequence of not nursing their children.
In 1935, Dr. Lars Gulbrandsen of the University of Illinois theorized that typhoid carriers might be neutralized by applying X rays to their livers and gallbladders.
On August 26, 1938, Dr. Robert E. Gross of Harvard Medical School repaired a congenital heart defect.
In 1938, Dr. H.C. Bazett of the University of Pennsylvania claimed that everyone has 30 percent more blood in spring than in fall and winter.
In 1939, Dr. Gerhard Johannes Paul Domagk of the University Munster won the Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine for his discoveries of the effects of sulphanilamides against staphylococci bacteria.
In January 1939, eight months before World War II broke out in Europe, a war from which Dr. Paul Harrison’s younger brother would not return, Dr. Harrison called at Dr. Sherwood’s office. Dr. Harrison told Dr. Sherwood that he had just finished reading the first volume of Harvey Cushing’s Life of Osler. He wrote that Dr. Andrew Jackson Sherwood "showed me old letters of his while he was White’s resident at U of P and where Osler had visited there and gave a clinic…" (Dr. Paul Harrison Diary, Monday, January 23, 1939)
Dr. Harrison said that he had started reading the biography of Dr. William Osler on Friday, January 20, 1939 and found it absorbing. Like most doctors of his generation and the generation before him, he respected and admired Dr. Osler. William Osler was yet another Canadian doctor who immigrated and established his practice in America. Born July 12, 1849, in Bond Head, Ontario, he spent a year in Trinity College in Ontario and then decided that he wanted to be a doctor. He went to medical school at Toronto Medical College and McGill University in Montreal, where he graduated with an M.D. degree in 1872. Traveling abroad for his postgraduate work, he studied in London, Berlin, and Vienna and returned to Canada in 1874 to join the medical faculty at McGill University. Advancing rapidly up the career ladder, he became a professor of medicine at McGill in 1875, and a fellow at the British Royal College of Physicians in 1883.
In 1884, Dr. Osler went to Philadelphia to accept a position as a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1888, John S. Billings recruited him to be chief physician of the new Johns Hopkins Hospital and professor of medicine at its new school of medicine. Dr. William Osler was the second appointed member of the original four member medical faculty and during the next sixteen years established a solid foundation for Johns Hopkins medical education. In 1905, Dr. Osler accepted the then most prestigious medical appointment in the English speaking world as the Regius Professorship of Medicine at Oxford University.
His peers and is patients thought that Dr. William Osler was one of the best doctors in America and abroad. He combined the best of the English and German medical systems and revolutionized the medical curriculum of the United States and Canada. He transformed the English medical system to the more equitable American system by teaching all medical students at the bedside. He believed students learned the best by doing and that clinical instruction should begin and end with the patient. He used books and lectures to support his beliefs and applied the same principles to the laboratory, requiring all students to work in the bacteriology laboratory. He implemented the German postgraduate training system that required a year of general internship and several years of residency with increasing clinical responsibilities after that.
In 1892, William Osler published a book, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, which supported his innovative new curriculum. Based on the advances in medical science of the previous fifty years, it remained the standard clinical medicine text for the next forty years and went through several printings and editions.
Four decades later, Dr. Paul Harrison’s diary entry for Thursday, January 26, 1939, describes the impact of World War I on William Osler and hints at Dr. Osler’s impact on the doctors of the small town of Union City, Pennsylvania:
"Nearly through second volume of Cushing’s life of Osler. One has no idea of the losses of life in British -Canadian families for three years before U.S. entered. .. At one time Osler had fifty relatives in the war. His son and his brother’s son were killed besides many others. It was almost a foregone conclusion that if one was in France’s section one would be killed or wounded in time. If I should read volume one and half of volume two I would be happy and satisfied. The last half is so sad, that of a brilliant man dying a little each year…He is gradually preparing for death. Of course the last seven or eight years are heavily shadowed by fears and sorrow for his son, Revere, a great grandson of Paul Revere, now serving for England in Canadian forces for three years before being killed."