Twice a Pioneer A Life on the Frontier
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Jonn Richmond at a farmhouse near Newton, Ohio. The operation at that time was fatal to three women out of four, even when done under the best of circumstances. Richmond accomplished it at night, by the uncertain light of flickering candles, in a primitive setting typical of frontier surgery. He did it, moreover, despite his own grave doubts that he was equal to such a challenge. Richmond was an itinerant preacher who had taken up medicine after listening to lectures at a medical school where he worked temporarily as a janitor.
He had never seen a Caesarean performed, or even heard it described by another physician; he had only a rudimentary knowledge of how to proceed, based on reading ancient accounts in Greek and Latin. He wanted to call in a more experienced physician, but a storm-swollen river cut him off from help. Finally, he had to act. The crevices were not chinked, there was no chimney, nor chamber floor.
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The night was stormy and windy, insomuch, that the assistants had to hold blankets to keep the candles from being blown out. The last line of Dr. Typical, too, was the quite off-hand way in which the tribute was paid. Courage was necessary, and so it was taken for granted. It was a long time before anesthesia came to relieve the need for sheer endurance in the face of pain. In the gold camps of the Far West medicine was practiced on much the same level as on the shifting frontiers inland.
But the patients were different, and so were the doctors. These were no homesteaders come to raise crops and families, but adventurers, gamblers, fugitives, wanderers of every description. The gold seekers piled into overcrowded ships, and died by the thousands on the trip around the Horn; quite often those who lived brought the germs of epidemics with them when they staggered ashore in California.
Or they arrived sick and half-starved sometimes after similarly hasty and ill-planned stampedes across the plains. They suffered terribly from scurvy, a disease easily prevented by eating a lemon a day. But no one spent time raising fruit when gold was waiting to be plucked from the ground. Physicians were stricken with gold fever along with everyone else. And it was prospecting, not medical opportunity, that drew many of the 1, doctors who arrived in the Gold Rush.
Shortly, however, the doctors discovered that there was more money to be made with lancet and stethoscope than with pickaxe and crowbar. Some doctors made more in a week. The money to be made in medicine attracted hordes of quacks. One impostor who came to grief was a swaggering, gaudily dressed alcoholic who called himself Dr.
He set up an office at Placerville, known earlier as Hangtown, and announced that he would fight anyone who jumped his medical claim. Into this same camp came Dr. Edward Willis, an Englishman with a European medical diploma. Hullings stalked into Dr. Hullings, however, had misjudged his man. Willis dispatched the challenger in a duel, and settled down to medical practice undisturbed.
Generally the doctors had no need to fight over patients. There were more than enough to go around. In Rich Bar, California, for instance, twenty-nine doctors kept busy tending to the needs of one thousand brawling miners. The wife of one of these doctors passed on an account of what the life was like. Even in this violent land, however, there was a kind of unwritten compact which made all men allies against the common enemies of disease and death. The doctor who was respected could move among toughs and cutthroats, knowing that his profession was a better protection than a gun at his hip.
It was not just sentiment.
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These men had needed him before, and they knew they would almost certainly need him again. Among those who enjoyed such status was Dr. William B. In the West he became so well known and liked that miners used him as a gold courier, confident that bandits would not molest him. Eichelroth reported this dialogue with a bandit he met on the trail:. In Denver, Dr. Bancroft reacted coolly to another kind of threat.
A cowboy brought in his badly wounded brother, dumped him on the operating table, and announced that he would shoot the doctor if the patient died. Bancroft proceeded to do the necessary thing, which in this case was amputating a limb.
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Later he told friends that he had not worried much. After all, he was armed, too. And if a patient were going to die, the doctor would be the first to know. Typical was the attitude of Dr. Charles Buck, who habitually travelled unarmed through the Rio Grande Valley of Texas when that area was a meeting ground for ruffians from both sides of the border. At one point the Texas Rangers offered to provide him with armed escort for his journeys.
Buck declined emphatically. It was his view that the Rangers had many enemies, while he, so far as he knew, had no enemies at all. Eventually the West settled down. And when they came to write their memoirs, the doctors who had experienced the wild days very often found that their most vivid memories concerned not shootings and brushes with outlaws but the old, elemental dramas which are the stuff of medicine everywhere.
Coe, for instance, reminisced about the midnight chase down the lonely road, but one of his most terrible experiences involved the time he arrived too late to assist at a birth. Coe remembered the scene thus: On the bare simmering sand near the water hole, quailing under the hot mid-day sun, stood a tent.
In front on the hot sand lay the body of an almost naked woman smeared with sand and blood from head to feet. Grouped around it in a circle were eight ragged, dirty children, from three to eighteen years old, crying and wailing in the most abject misery and grief. He held a naked unwashed baby in his left arm and was brandishing a big six-shooter at the sky with his right hand. In a vituperative stream of blood-curdling profanity he threatened all the gods in Heaven and defied Jesus Christ to come down to earth in person and fight him in mortal combat.
Along with such tragedies went many triumphs. Charles Gardiner recalled that shortly after he arrived in Colorado, a greenhorn both to medicine and to the West, he was asked to operate on a woman suffering from a huge tumor on the head. The deformity had so embarrassed her that for months she had locked herself in her home, refusing to see even her closest friends. When the nervous, uncertain young doctor was ready to perform the operation, he learned to his horror that it had become a public event.
Scores of miners and cowmen gathered about. Gardiner wrote later. The last announcement was greeted with wild cheers and a general discharge of firearms, following which the festive crowd dragged the doctor off to a nearby saloon for drinks all around. In his new-found dignity Dr. Gardiner stated his frank preference for soda water, and such was his position as hero of the hour that this eccentricity of taste was entirely overlooked.
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That saloon celebration is probably as good a place as any to take leave of pioneer medicine. Changing conditions of life in a more settled land saw the slow refinement of the haphazard credentials—and sometimes practices—on the basis of which some frontiersmen called themselves physicians. Texas was the first state to establish a licensing board for physicians, in By most states had followed suit. All Rights Reserved. To license content, please contact licenses [at] americanheritage. Doctors Of The Frontier. Share Tweet Email Print. George Groh. As homesteads became more established, the different heritages of settlers would influence what and how they cooked.
Scotch-Irish settlers came to the Virginia frontier with a tradition of using game, fish and mutton as meats, drinking milk with meals and baking bread on griddles or hot stones in front of the hearth. The English and Germans, once established, preferred baking in Dutch ovens, preserving meats with salts and smoking. Germans liked sweet and salt combinations, using sour preserves to contrast with the flavor of meats and fermenting apple juice into hard cider and cabbage into sauerkraut, the book notes. African-Americans, as cooks, grew different varieties of vegetables for themselves, like okra and cowpeas.
Richard painted a scene of floating in a boat down the upper end of the Ohio River in , rounding a bend and encountering Blennerhassett Island. Off on either side of the river, in the woodlands of Ohio and Virginia, bear meat and Hasty Pudding, a cornmeal mush, might be served for dinner at a pioneer settlement deep up a hollow. We have an order of what Mr Blennerhasset wanted to get Cayenne pepper! If you had the means, you could get them. In addition to a sample menu from a Blennerhasset Mansion feast, the book features menus that might have been served at various historic Western Virginia houses and buildings.
Among them is a menu dated from that could have been served at the Craik-Patton House, in Charleston, one of the first clapboard frame houses in the area. They brought with them, often literally, the seeds of their new lives. So, while their new book is eminently usable as a cookbook for modern kitchens, for other readers it is also chock full of nuggets about how the West Virginia frontier turned into home for so many settlers, said Martha.
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https://au.emecefug.tk One pound of flour, half a pound of sugar — half a pound of butter, the yolk of five eggs, four spoons full of cream — half a pound of currants, a little beat mace. Preheat oven to degrees. In a large powl, stir together flour and mace. In a separate large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in egg yolks. In a small bowl mix currants with a tablespoon of the flour mixture, set aside. Drain and mash. You may wish to put potatoes through a sieve. In large bowl add tablespoons of sugar, salt and butter or lard to potatoes and stir well.
Let yeast mixture stand five minutes. Stir beaten eggs into potato mixture. Stir in dissolved yeast. Gradually stir in flour to make a soft dough. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with cloth, put in a warm place and let rise for about two hours until doubled in size. Punch dough down, pinch off dough balls the size of a small egg. But when a dark face pressed against a windowpane or a grotesque coppery form appeared at the door, gesturing and grimacing, it took a brave tenderfoot bride to discern that he was only begging for food, and a braver one to call him pathetic.
Sometimes courage was a matter of ignorance. Alderson held up one finger. Two Moons laughed long and loud, so we concluded that he had a sense of humor. Next time he asked for my price in horses my husband started opening and shutting both hands very rapidly.
The menace was broken, but not broken enough to keep Mrs. Every frontier had its quota of the unsuited: the women who needed civilization and should never have left it; the ones who hated horses; the ones who shuddered and turned pale at a meal cooked over a cow-chip fire while grizzled plainsmen, masters of the dead pan, looked on in unfeeling mirth. But failures seem to have been few, and it was noticed that when they did occur, husbands as well as hardships played a part. It turned out that she had been up since 3 A. Yet life held grim moments. Babies were born and accidents happened—a man dragged by a horse, a child thrown under the blades of a mower—with medical help many miles away.
As a result, western lore contains countless unwritten epics of rides for the doctor. Some of these stories add little luster to the halo of the horse-and-buggy practitioner. A boy was hurt on the roundup south of Miles City in —give or take a year. The doctor briefly examined the victim. Now get to work. People were so desperate to get a doctor and so thankful when they got him that they did not pause to ask whether he had a license to practice medicine.
He might be a dentist or a veterinarian. He was better than nothing. Cooney remembered one such character, a chronic drunkard, who delivered his mother at most of her confinements. There were minister-doctor combinations and doctors who had never completed a medical course. Long after chloroform was standard everywhere else for women in childbirth, there were plenty of horse-and-buggy medicos who never got around to using it. When a birth was imminent, the mother baked up all the bread and pies and cookies she could, to hold the family over while she stayed in bed, if possible for a week.
Efforts were made to have a doctor or a mid-wife on hand, but these arrangements could fail, and the woman could find herself stranded and up against it at the last minute. Because of such mishaps, the gently reared Mrs. Alderson had her last two children on the ranch, with no help but that of her husband.
But the women did more than survive ordeals with courage. They survived—at least some of them did—with all their gusto intact. They were not afraid. Though they might have known terrible fear, they had faced it down. But they had also faced down the small, nonterrible fears that distort most human character more than the big ones. Squeamishness was burned out of them, leaving no ash. The delectable Mary Peachey was carried off by one of her escorts and became Mrs.
Taylor Cox. Ninety-two at this writing, she still lives in the Tongue River valley, the grande dame of a small but lively ranching community, half of which is related to her in one way or another. As usual, no one else was home. Also as usual, the nearest doctor was 65 miles away. The operation was successful. The ordeal of childbearing was grim enough anywhere until recent times, but the women of Birney, on Tongue River, met it with awe-inspiring solidarity. Either distrusting what they knew of doctors or preparing for a doctorless emergency, they learned to use chloroform and kept it on hand.
And because of it, in what is surely one of the most moving episodes of feminine self-help in the history of the frontier, they saved a life. Everything that forethought could do had been done. A young doctor, thought to be the best, had been engaged. A cowboy set off at a gallop for Sheridan, Wyoming, to get another doctor. It was sixty miles, and by changing horses at ranches along the route he made it in six hours. The doctor, driving, took nine hours coming back, despite relays of fresh horses prearranged by the cowboy.
The ranches, of course, were away from the road, which added miles to the journey. They had no mask, only a handkerchief. The woman in labor was her sister. Though the baby was dead, the mother lived and later had four children. Life was tough but so were they, with the spiritual toughness that is forged in the fires of reality. His father had found a bride in the East, and the young couple traveled by steamboat up the Missouri. At a landing in Dakota Territory they went ashore for a walk around.
It developed that there had been a little Indian trouble there lately, and various ears, fingers, et cetera, of departed Indians were displayed on the dock in pickle jars. They did the necessary. From Wyoming comes the story of a hired man with a gangrened finger. Green streaks were starting up his arm. There was no time to take him to a doctor, no time for wringing of hands. The woman of the house made up a yarn to the effect that blood poisoning could be detected by placing the finger on wood while the patient looked toward the sun.
Then she led him to the woodpile in back of the house and directed him to lay his finger on the block used for cutting stove wood.