I hope you enjoyed the story titled “ Christmas in Stringtown” by Frances Faulin. Several readers called me and I thank them. I had heard many stories over the years from family and old friends from the north end of Brazil where I was raised. My store is treasured and there is always room for more factual history to pass on and be preserved for others with future interest, which is the plan. I have one more story written by Francis Faulin that this writer would like to share with you.
“DOC SMITH” THE HEALING HOOSIER
‘A small town doctor ahead of his time’ - that was Dr. Jacob F. Smith born March 12,1858, in Terre Haute, Indiana. He became known state wide and beyond for his innovative surgical techniques,but remained a simple Hoosier,choosing to practice in Brazil, Indiana,a town even smaller than that of his birth.
In the early 1900’s ,my husbands mother, Katy, did practical nursing for this unusual doctor. Along with others in the community, she remembered him with love and admiration,for despite his fame in later years, “Doc” remained just one of them.
Dr. Smith was the first Midwestern physician to successfully perform many surgeries,and these were the ones that earned him his place in the annals of Indiana Medical History.
He is credited by Dr. J. B. Murphey,noted specialist of Chicago,with being first before he, himself (as he later discovered), in using common flooring nails to nail bones together, crossing the nails to hold the bone at the place of the fracture.
Another of Dr. Smith’s accomplishments was the amputation of a leg at the hip for John Macdonald, a city officer of Brazil.
Similar operations followed. A section of town got its reputation as Bloody Row because of the drunken brawls that occurred there. After one of the fights,”Doc” was called to see what he could do for a fellow who had been disemboweled in the fracas. He picked the intestines from the sawdust on the tavern floor, washed them, folded them back into the patients body,and sewed him up. The man lived to old age.
After another gun battle Dr. Smith performed a similar surgery on a drunken customer at the tavern, by having him laid upon a crude table. The doctor sterilized his surgical instruments in a wash pan of water boiling on the wood burning stove. Then, as a smoky coal oil lamp was held for him, he sewed up the holes in the man’s intestines. This, operation, too,was performed many times, once on a young girl shot in the abdomen.
Perhaps the most daring feat undertaken by this courageous doctor happened when a small boy fell in front of an automobile and the wheel passed over his head, causing bits of bone to enter his brain.
Dr. Smith took one chance in a thousand, and cutting through the boy’s skull, picked out the pieces of bone and sewed up still another patient who lived to old age.
During World War I when the young men were off fighting the dreaded influenza gained epidemic proportions and “Doc”gave his services unstintingly to the little community he called home. He was phenomenally effective in using treatments more or less his own to fight this scourge ,as well as that of that of pneumonia. Whether or not the patients had money or not (few had, it seems) did not seem to matter to “Doc.” He just did his job. At the time of his death in 1927 the small local newspaper, The Brazil Times became equal for a while to big city newspapers in importance, for although the latter remarked on Dr. Smith’s well-known reputation,Brazil was able to claim “Doc” for their very own local boy who made good, by doing good!
I hope you enjoy this read. Happy New Year!
I can be reached by phone at 317 -286- 7352 or drop me a line.