Because You Asked . . . .    

11 South Columbus Street - Dr. Carpenter's Office and Home


When Doctors Made House Calls

Many men and women have practiced medicine throughout our community.  Doctors Bigelow, Brown, Carpenter, Copeland, Denning, Foster, Gerhard, Godshall, Gorsuch, Hawley, House, Ihle, Livingston, McClary, Mills, Mosher, Skeels, Swickard, Taylor, Thomas and Williams are just a few of the dedicated people who kept our community healthy.  I shall choose Dr. Carpenter to represent these people.

Born in Olive Green in 1870,  William Bowen Carpenter attended Ohio Wesleyan then taught school for eight years in Olive Green, one year east of there and one year in Kingston township. He married Carrie Wilcox of Porter Township in 1891 and they had a daughter, Angie in 1893.  Three years later Carrie died.

In 1900, Carpenter married Jenny Crego of Galena.  They had 2 sons, Howard Crego in 1901, and William Nelson in 1902.  In 1903 he graduated from Starling Medical School in Columbus and set up medical practice in Center Village.  Their third son, Walter Corwin was born there in 1906.

Doc did not like the roads in Center Village and moved to Lewis Center because it had a few good roads.  In Center Village there were "no gravel roads at all.  Part of the time I had to walk through mud to make my calls."  Doc recalled Center Village had two stores, a creamery, a blacksmith shop a barber shop and a lot of good folks.  

Doctor Carpenter moved his practice in 1918 to the south front room of his home at 11 South Columbus Street in Sunbury.  

In 1966 Dr. M. W. Livingston compared medical practices of 1816 and 1966.  In 1816 about a dozen vegetable drugs were gathered and physicians made powders and mixtures to dispense to their patients.  By 1966 there were over 6,000 drugs in 18,000 mixtures.

In this area in 1816, 99% of the babies were delivered in the home.  150 per thousand died in the first year of life.  In every 1000 live births, ten mothers died.   By 1966, 99% of the babies in our area were born in a hospital,  Death rate of infants dropped to 26.4 per thousand live births.  Less than one mother in every 2000 live births died.

Dr. Carpenter brought thousands of babies into our community, many at home.  He made house calls on patients by horse and buggy and later by car until he was in his 80s. During snows he would take a boy along to shovel in order to reach his patient.  Once he delivered premature triplets and made incubators of boxes and lamps for heat to keep the babies alive.  Often money was tight so he was paid with garden produce, a chicken or a promise.  Rarely did the family finish a meal without a patient calling.

In 1957,  I sprained my ankle and made a visit to Dr Carpenter.  From the door chimes to the rows of pills and powders which he mixed, to the cat which curled around his legs, and to the rows of antique apothecary jars with colored water in the windows, to the every-ready black medicine bags near the door, the room was a pleasant mixture of doctor's office and life from a different time. 

On one of his daily walks to the post office for his mail, he told Bill Whitney, "I'm a little tired of my work as I can't cure everyone and I want to."  Doc continued to practice medicine until shortly before his death at the age of 88 in May of 1959.  

Some of Dr. Carpenter's implements are on display in Community Library.  At 7:30 next Tuesday evening, Dr. Carl Godshall will present a program on "Old Time Doctor Practices"  in the library.  This is a joint program sponsored by Big Walnut Area Historical Society and Community Library as part of the Ohio Bicentennial and the exhibit of 'Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature' which is  in the library through July 9th.


. . . .And Now You Know
by Polly Horn


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Bill Whitney, age 3, in front of house in 1908 meanbean.jpg (76639 bytes)

Doc's House as Mean Bean in 1998

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(04/01/2006 )

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