In a previous post, I mentioned that I had found several newspaper items regarding my great-grandfather, Dr. August DeBacker from the 1880s until he died in 1921. Most of what I found was of a mundane nature – things such as birth announcements and death notices. Tragically there were obituaries for two of August’s sons. Both died in 1906. In January of that year, their nine-year-old son Theo after was struck in the right temple by a rock thrown during a snowball fight with classmates. The obituary says that he had been in poor health due to diabetes. That last part was something I did not know.
Later in July, my grandfather’s younger brother Camille died from choking on an eggshell. The family cook had made scrambled eggs for the two-year-old boy, accidentally leaving a shell in the mixture. The way my father told the story, the cook was the only one present with the child at the time, and while the child was choking, she panicked, not knowing how to save the child’s life.
Most of the items I found were published in the St. Mary’s (KS) Journal. This was a newspaper that from the 1890s to the 1930s was published by August’s son-in-law, WE Miller.
A couple of items were reports regarding a meeting of the Pottawatomie County commissioners in Westmoreland, Kansas. In the course of the county’s business, they awarded a contract to my great-grandfather to care for indigents or, as they were called then, paupers. The amount of the contract in 1902 was $120 annually. Hmmm, That sounds a lot like socialized medicine to me.
In one item, I found he and another doctor were called upon by the state of Kansas to examine a woman for insanity. The doctors pronounced the woman insane, and she was subsequently hospitalized in a state institution.
An article from March 1906 told how August and another doctor misdiagnosed an outbreak of smallpox at the local college. His call was “chickenpox.” The report stated that St. Mary’s College was under strict quarantine and that no new cases had appeared in the past six days.
A couple of the items were articles describing accidents involving people and animals in which my great grandfather assisted in the care of the individuals who had been injured. The Friday, November 22, 1907, edition of the St. Mary’s Journal had an article on page 12 entitled “Hurt in a Runaway.” The article tells of a Mrs. Milan Patterson and her infant child enroute from Willard, Kansas, to St. Mary’s in a horse-driven buggy. East of St. Mary’s near the railroad crossing “North of Will McCormick’s place,” the horses became frightened, throwing the occupants out and demolishing the buggy. The woman and her baby were found lying on the ground about half an hour after the accident. The mother was unconscious, and the baby was fast asleep. The child escaped without injury. However, Mrs. Patterson received a bruise over the right temple rendering her unconscious, and she remained in that state for several hours. Mr. McCormick loaded them onto his wagon and brought them to the Meister hotel in town, where Dr. Conlon and Dr. DeBacker waited upon the injured woman. The ladies of the Royal Neighbor Lodge nursed her. By Tuesday, she was in condition to return to her home in Kaw Township.
An article in the St. Mary’s Journal dated Friday, February 24, 1899, appeared on page 1 under the heading “Frightful Accident.” This story is a little bizarre, and rather than interpret it, I will quote the article in full:
“Saturday, while Ignatius Rickshaettler was sawing wood with a circular saw which is run by horsepower, his 14-year-old daughter, Margaret, who was driving the horses, fell off her seat on the power and landed on the rod which conducts the power to the saw. Her dress was caught by the wheels, and the child was dragged through under the rod, feet first. Her brother was in the act of putting a heavy piece of wood to the saw, and this had the effect of stopping the horses quickly when called to. Her left arm was broken near the shoulder, and she was badly bruised. Had the horses went a foot farther, her head would have been pulled from her body. As it was, the pressure on her body and throat was so heavy as to cause the blood to pour from her eyes, ears, nose, and mouth in torrents. Her eyes almost popped out of her head, and the white of her eyes are red as blood. Dr. DeBacker was called and set her arm and put her under the influence of opiates, and she is resting nicely. Margaret is the same child who was run over by the eastbound passenger train a few years ago. When the engine was stopped, she was under it considerably bruised.“
Here’s a video showing a horse-powered saw in use today in Central America.