doctors once made house calls by houseback
By WANDA YODER
LAGRANGE - Gone are the days of herbs, poultices and
the doctors' house calls with his black bag.
In the early part of the 20th century, most LaGrange County
doctors made house calls by horse back or with horse-drawn carriages.
Surgery performed was of a minor nature. Anything more serious
than tonsillectomies was done at larger hospitals in larger towns
outside of LaGrange County such as Kendall-ville, Goshen or Sturgis,
As she remembers, Glova Sink, a 97-year-old resident of LaGrange
County, her childhood physician, Dr. Charles Dancer of Stroh,
made house calls in the mornings and reported back to his office
for any incoming calls. He would then travel back out by horse-drawn
carriage to make other calls as needed.
Many late night calls brought danger. During such a call,
Dr. William Grubb reportedly had a valuable horse mire and drown
on the old beaver dam road south of Scott, a location that is
now being farmed.
Most doctors in the county in the first part of the 1900's
were originally from the county. They would pursue their education
in large cities, such as Indianapolis, Chicago, New York, etc.
and then return to LaGrange County to practice. LaGrange County
doctors were reported as having offices in their homes with connecting
operating rooms where they performed minor surgeries.
Small private hospitals were built by several doctors with
connections to their offices. Almost all townships in the county
had their own hospital. As time passed, fewer house calls were
made to see patients.
"There was at one time, and the building still stands
in Mongo, a hospital started in 1893 by Dr. A. G. Grubb (the
first hospital in LaGrange County) which contained 25 beds,"
Sink remembered. "It seems as though his brother-in-law
brought some scandal to the hospital when several of his women
patients died in childbirth. It was found that he carried a poison
on his skin and contaminated the patients. After that, he started
wearing rubber gloves."
"If anyone needed an ambulance, we called the undertaker,
a horse-drawn hearse in my day," recalled Sink. "Any
life-saving equipment of course being absent from the early ambulances."
"The LaGrange County Infirmary (or the County Home),
located one-half mile west of LaGrange, was for those who were
poor," Sink reminisced. The building, now apartments, was
built on 150 acres in 1883. A small building to the west housed
the insane. Occupants were expected to help with maintenance
of the buildings, farm, maintain their rooms and help prepare
Marie Marks reportedly started her own nursing home in 1952
in her home. Outgrowing the house in 1955, she located all of
her patients in what had been an old hotel in downtown Mongo.
In 1959, she expanded again, taking the 30 patients to the now
unused old County Infirmary. Years of hard, caring work and illness
forced her to retire from her profession in 1970.
The LaGrange Nursing Home on North Townline Road and Miller's
Merry Manor on Ind. 9 both opened in 1970.
The need for a county hospital was first discussed in 1938.
After World War II and post-war conditions improved, federal
aid through the Hill Burton Act brought assistance and in June
1946, a board of trustees was appointed. It consisted of Mildred
Gilbert, president; Anna Grady, secretary/treasurer; William
Ballou, D. D. S. and Glen O. Keasy. Gerald Fisher and Jack Dunten
served as council on bond and other legal issues.
At about this time, polio was a frequent and frightening visitor
to LaGrange County families, and fogging with chemicals was not
noticeably interrupting the spread of illness. The new hospital
Construction on the new facility began in 1948 on what was
at that time the Gibson farm. There were 13 acres and it sold
for $11,000. The total cost of the project amounted to $647,000.
Edythe Gappinger was appointed administrator in August of
1949 and the hospital was dedicated Sept. 17, 1950, with 34 beds.
Approximately 4,000 visitors attended the event.
The population of the town of LaGrange in 1970 rose to 2,053
and in the county to 20,800. On July 4, 1970, ground was broken
for a new wing. This was to become the medical floor and increased
bed capacity to 62. The new wing was dedicated in September 1971
and new patients moved in on Oct. 17 of that year.
In 1985, the hospital was sold to VenCare, Inc., a Louisville,
Ky., based health care firm. Under contract with the county for
35 years, VenCare, Inc. continues to provide upgraded acute care
hospital services. VenCare, Inc. has embarked upon a building
program intended not only to increase the practicality of the
hospital but also make it an attractive setting for county residents
and other patrons to share in the LaGrange Hospital tradition
of "neighbors caring for neighbors."