Service to mankind
condensed to footnotes of history
By DAVID BAINBRIDGE
Whole lives, given in the service
of one's fellow man, summarized in a few sentences.
Sometimes it seems there is no guessing what one will be remembered
for - or how the words of history's scribes will sound to future
generations and what accidental omitances might occur.
Take, for instance, those individuals who have served LaGrange
County who earned doctorates or worked as physicians.
Dr. John H. Rerick still sounds pretty reliable today. According
to the history books, he was a "Surgeon in the Civil War
with the rank of major. Was clerk of LaGrange County eight years
and postmaster at LaGrange under President Harrison. Owner and
editor of the LaGrange Standard for more than a half century
... One of the organizers of the Republican Party in Indiana."
Another physician, Dr. John E. Rarick, "constructed a
modern, up-to-date, two-story medical building in Wolcottville
... which is ... the only hospital in the United States devoted
exclusively to tonsil surgery."
Dr. John Heyward McKenzie got a pretty good write-up too:
"Rector of Howe School, one of the foremost institutions
of its kind in the United States, a preparatory school for boys.
Dr. McKenzie held rank with the leading educators and ministers
of this country and for a quarter of a century labored to the
end that Howe School became known coast to coast."
Most of the physicians, like Dr. Leslie J. Naftzger, come
away with a more or less average sentence summarizing what was
surely an exemplary life full of achievement and good works:
"While pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church in LaGrange,
was elected grand chaplain of the Indiana grand lodge of Odd
However, history is not always so kind.
The earliest records of doctors in LaGrange County go back
to 1845, when a minor smallpox outbreak hit the Fort Wayne area.
One author characterizes the doctors of this era as "hard
working, honest men, skillful in using inventive genius, meeting,
overcoming and fighting terrible sickness and hardships to save
lives," and reminds that they dealt with "hardships
unknown by the doctors of today. Long journeys to reach poor
homes ... Much sickness and little or no pay."
However, other accounts of medicine in 1845 paint a different
In the sentence or two he is given in one account, Dr. Bolton
Smith of Lima was, even in 1845, reportedly thought to be of
"the old school." This is apparently because "he
wore old-fashioned ruffles."
Also practicing in the county was another Dr. Smith, a phrenologist
who the locals called "Dr. Bump" to differentiate him
from Dr. Bolton Smith. "Bump" seems an appropriate
nickname, as phrenologists practiced medicine mostly by studying
the shape of - and particularly the bumps on - one's head.
Another 1845 LaGrange doctor was Dr. Brown. His medical worthiness
was apparently unremarkable, as his claim to fame in area history
books is simply that he was the cousin of famed abolitionist
John Brown, whom he grew up with in Ohio.
Finally, also practicing in 1845 was Dr. Hill. Hill practiced
medicine mostly with herbs and roots and was thought of as either
an advanced medical practitioner or as a radical-thinking quack,
depending upon a person's point of view at the time - he is most
remembered for his refusal of the practice of bleeding as a treatment
Later in the 1800s, Dr. Silas B. McManus served LaGrange County.
According to the history books, "McManus acquired national
fame with his poems, one of which, 'Papa, Fot Would You Take
for Me?' was set to music and sung by Bishop Charles C. McCabe,
the 'singing bishop of Methodism,' around the world." As
a footnote to this celebrated fact, it is also revealed by the
history books that McManus was nominated and elected to the Indiana
state Senate in 1892 and held a position there for four years.
Or consider the case of Dr. H.W. Schrock, whom history will
judge by his looks. Illustrating an account of the medical profession
in LaGrange County in an otherwise excellent volume of history
is Schrock's picture. It is indicated beneath the photo that
it was taken in LaGrange in 1938. Schrock, standing stiff and
straight in his dark suit, tie and high collar, looks urbane,
refined and dignified. But he isn't mentioned anywhere else in
the accompanying article - or the entire book for that matter
- and his photo is not even indexed at the back of the volume.
And then, in the account alongside Schrock, we learn that
Dr. W.D. Dryer joined the LaGrange County Medical Society in
1885. His other notable contribution to society during his lifetime
is apparently that he "Had no-nonsense ideas about raising
pigs in town." What exactly those ideas were, and what might
have been so no-nonsense about them, is left to the history buff's