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The Country Doctor

Have you ever seen a pair of pacers coming down a country road in the early 1900's? Many elderly folks can recall the days of the country doctor and his faithful team. Not only did the country doctor have to rely on a fine ream of horses, but the ill or women in childbirth also depended on them. When someone in the house was sick, people would wait day or night for the doctor, and how relieved they would be when they heard the sound of horse's hooves coming in the distance. 

Whether using horses or an early model auto, doctors traveled nearly impassable roads at various times to bring their medical knowledge and skills to those in need. The mysterious big black bag was a constant companion and its sight was a visual reminder that relief was soon to come. Because of rural isolation, it is said that most people lived closer to death than a doctor. 


As time passed, it was quite common for doctors to set up shop in their homes in small communities. The fees ranged from less than 75 cents to $1.50 per visit. Many times doctors were paid with meats, vegetables, fruits and home baked goods or people worked for the doctor to pay off the debt. Many times that doctor just provided charity. A doctor was well respected in the community and treated everyone equally, from the poor to those who were able to pay.


The last person to live in the Noble House was Dr. Gertrude Howe, the granddaughter of Alexander and Maria Noble. To pay tribute to her we have a small room dedicated to Country Doctors. She was a pediatric doctor and retired to Fish Creek in the late 1968. Several of her medical artifacts are a part of this special exhibit. After teaching pediatrics at the University of Illinois Medical School she practiced medicine at Sault Ste. Marie, Polyclinic in Michigan. She continued work with the Department of Maternal and Child Welfare in Michigan and Wisconsin.

The doctor's office at the turn of the twentieth century now seems completely unfamiliar to most of us. The typical physician of our times operates out of a hospital or office complex with a vast array of high-tech equipment. The doctor's office of the past, however, was quite different. Doctors of the past operated out of the front room our upstairs room of their house. The interior of these offices were not particularly attractive. Most offices consisted of an examination table, the doctor's desk (usually cluttered with books, papers and bottles), a few chairs or stools, and a spittoon - a necessity in the tobacco chewing days. Many other pieces of medical equipment and supplies could be seen scattered around the room. Many had a human skull or whole skeleton in plain view because it exhibited their knowledge and interest in anatomy. 

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