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Spring Valley once host to medical pioneers
By Mary Jo Dathe
, Glimpses of Yesteryear
Tuesday, February 11, 2014 2:16 AM
Dr. Isabel Albro's medicine kit, c. 1860s, carried along to treat her patients. The 24 tiny tubes contain powders, labeled such as: Dovers Powder, Potassium Iodine, Ipecac, Quinine Powder, Cerii Oxalis, Opium, Pepsin and more.
A recent tour of the marvelous new Olmsted Medical Clinic in Spring Valley prompted a look at long-ago history of medicine in town. At centennial time in 1955, John and Betty Halbkat perused "History of Medicine in Fillmore County Prior to 1900," written by Nora Guthrey of Mayo Clinic, Rochester. Following are some of their notes plus a few of mine. A Scottish physician once said, "It is the lot of the successful medical practicioner to be invaluable when alive and to be forgotten soon after he is dead." Not so! Here in this area we appreciate and give thanks for their dedication.
Before Spring Valley was a spot on the map, Erastus Belden, a New Yorker of English descent, came to the area known as Hamilton, along with his physician son. Dr. Wallace Belden, of some means, invested $3,000 in a tract of land he called Beldena, about three miles north along Deer Creek. A dam was erected for power, and the tiny settlement fought a losing battle with area communities for dominance. Around 1858 the dam went out in a flood but the pond provided a favorite fishing hole for many years. Dr. Belden moved to Hamilton and in 1869 sold his home to Dr. Plummer. Belden, in his retirement years, owned and operated the Valley Hotel (site of present community center) till his death in 1891.
Dr. E. J. Kingsbury of New York, where he began his practice, came to Minnesota Territory in 1855; he helped organize the first board of supervisors in Bennington Township and practiced medicine here for eight years before moving to LeRoy. Dr. William Dean came here on his graduation from medical school at age 25 and met a tragic death in 1858. He and friends were in Stevens Mill on South Broadway, being weighed, when his long scarf got caught in the mill wheel, dashing him repeatedly against the scale and he died of his injuries. Dr. J. Early came from Virginia with his son-in-law, Henry Kibler. The latter earned a name for himself when he built a sawmill, and laid out a village to be called Liberty. The village died for lack of development, and both men moved on to Iowa. Boasting a wide range of interests, Dr. H. Gilbert came from Pennsylvania about 1857. He was instrumental in forming the Mower and Fillmore Counties Agricultural Society, and was an instigator of the lyceum, educational entertainment attended by young and old.
A true "pioneer" in medicine, Dr. Isabel Albro was a married woman with two children. She studied medicine in New York in the 1830s before getting her license in Fillmore County in 1862. The license is on display at the Methodist Church Museum on West Courtland. Much loved by all, she made house calls on horseback. An early physician, Dr. E. Loop, left little biographical information, but we know he was one of the founders of the Fillmore County Medical Society and its first secretary. A soldier in the Civil War who was hospitalized for a long time with wounds, Russell Moore later studied medicine at Rush College; on receiving his degree he came to Spring Valley in 1871. In the course of a frightful night drive to make a house call near Forestville, he rounded a bluff and met a team that crowded him off the road. He and his team and vehicle rolled down a steep incline and he died of his injuries in 1902. Dr. Lyman Viall, also a graduate of Rush College in New York, came in 1860. He was a specialist in treating small pox and cholera; he eventually moved to Preston where he was constituted as health officer. His grandson, Roy Viall, married one of the Lobdill twins and was the subject of an earlier Glimpse.
Dr. Charles Wagner practiced here for several years in the 1880s along with his brother-in-law, Dr. Paul Denninger, both graduates of Homeopathic Hospital College in Cleveland. Dr. A. F. Whitman came in 1868 to stay 15 years. Always interested in promoting education, it was he who started our first "public library" when he set aside a small room in his office for books for public use. Another of his hobbies, formal flower gardens, were greatly admired.
Dr. Frans Mackelenbergh's story was a lengthy one and his life was worth an entire column in 2010. A native of Holland, he learned many languages, traveled extensively around the world, was shipwrecked but rescued after weeks on a life raft; came to America. His earthly goods were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire; two sons died young; he moved to Forestville, was chased by wolves, nearly froze to death. When the railroad bypassed Forestville, he moved to Spring Valley. His heavy rural practice soon took its toll, and he died at age 58 in 1892.
A native of New Hampshire, Dr. Albert Plummer also had a heavy rural practice near Hamilton and Racine. He was a valuable asset to his regiment in the Civil War; then ended up in Hamilton where he practiced for 24 years. His sons, Henry and Will, were well-known physicians associated with the Mayo Clinic. (Have you ever been in the Plummer Building?) Dr. S. P. Meredith came to Spring Valley to remain for 11 years. Another graduate of Rush College, Dr. D. J. Utley, came in 1892 and built up an excellent medical and surgical practice. He later moved to Minneapolis and took over Midway General Hospital until being appointed Captain in the Medical Reserve Corp. at Battle Creek, Mich.
In another column we will consider bios of doctors who served more recently. It also might be prudent to consider the role of Valley Medical Clinic and Olmsted Medical Clinic, all with valued doctors in our midst.
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