A local historian looking back at turn of the 20th century is struck by the high number and transitory nature of local health care practitioners. The city of Effingham was home to 15 physicians over the span of 1895 to 1903, but only five of them persisted for the the entire eight years. The others came late, moved away, or were transferred to the cemetery.

Office location seemed to make a difference. All of the long-term doctors had offices somewhere on the 100 to 300 blocks of West Jefferson Avenue. Today that area encompasses a strip starting with the current County Building and extending to Broom's Furniture on the north side of the street, and from roughly La Petite Boutique & Resale Shop down to EffingBrew on the south border of Jefferson Avenue. These offices were just blocks from St. Anthony Hospital, and close to the railroad that delivered medical and pharmaceutical supplies. In addition, the location allowed the doctors to see and be seen in the heart of the community.

Competition for patients left the resident physicians with time for other activities. Dr. Sumner Clark invested heavily in the Effingham Democrat, with his son Homer Clark installed as editor and business manager. The Goodell brothers (Drs. William Lott and Frank Wise) each took a turn as City Health Officer, as well as serving as Coroner. F.W. Goodell wrote for medical journals, and composed music for the piano, guitar and cornet.

Dr. John N. Groves ran an alcoholism treatment facility, which reported $350,000 in paid up stock, according to the 1894 Illinois State Board of Equalization. He was a federal Pension Examiner, the official who assessed local military veterans to decide if they qualified for a service-related disability payment. Dr. Louis J. Schifferstein partnered with Groves for a time. In addition, he was an analytic chemist and inventor who created and tested a non-motorized "flying machine" in 1891. Groves and Schifferstein died in their respective Effingham homes at about the same time on April 26, 1907.

The years spanning 1880 to 1910 brought major changes in the practice of medicine in Illinois, The Illinois legislature passed a more detailed Medical Practice Act in 1877, and a Pharmacy Act in 1881. Each law defined the profession, but there were areas of overlap, particularly in the sections addressing who could compound medicines.

Registered pharmacists were educationally prepared to compound drugs, but the law made an exception for licensed physicians. Doctors zealously guarded that privilege, as it was one area of practice with a clear financial advantage. That was important in an era prior to insurance coverage. Patients needed care, but many had limited cash at hand, and payment for a doctor's service might be four live chickens, or a sack of turnips and ten pounds of potatoes.

In addition, although positive outcomes from medical interventions were sometimes unclear, few patients dared to argue that a doctor did not deserve to be paid for a bottle of medicine dispensed from his office. To emphasize their compounding privilege, early 20th century physicians commissioned formal photographs surrounded with medicine bottles and packaging equipment. Dr. Samuel Lorton's compounding photo is currently on display in Gallery 4 of the Effingham County Museum. Dr. Albert Goebel of Montrose posed for a similar portrait in his office later on.

Pharmacists, on the other hand, were prone to advertising their detailed preparation for compounding and dispensing. Paul Eiche, who attended the University of Illinois Chicago College of Pharmacy, specifically stated in his ad in an early high school yearbook, "I make a specialty of compounding MEDICINES...(as a) graduate in Pharmacy".

Paul Eiche emerged as influential character over time. He ran a drug store for 40 years and served as an advisor to Illinois State Board of Pharmacy. In the 1919 election, he defeated incumbent Ben Kagay for the office of Mayor by 14 votes, and filled that role into1923. Eiche literally shaped Effingham's landscape by facilitating the purchase of ground to enlarge the west end of Oakridge Cemetery. After his death in 1953, he willed $50,000 to the city for the establishment of the Helen Matthes Library on Market Street, in honor of his mother.

One type of medicine was under the control of neither physician nor pharmacist. Both Illinois Practice Acts allowed the sale of "patent and proprietary medicines and domestic remedies by retail dealers." Country people used patent medicines, preferring to reserve doctor visits for situations that didn't yield to home remedies. They were likely influenced by enthusiastic and detailed testimonials for patent medicines, for example, ads for Doan's Kidney Pills.

There were several kinds of Doan's, but one variety was specifically marketed to prevent Bright's Disease (renal failure) and to treat diabetes. The pills contain a mild diuretic (theo-bromine), which has a systemic effect similar to caffeinated coffee. As with caffeine, there was also some stimulation of the central nervous system, which might make the emotionally downcast perk up a bit. Unfortunately, the targeted serious renal and metabolic diseases were unaffected.

Drawing salves were also popular. Some older women made their own. My grandmother, Minnie Stumborg Hatke, sent a bottle of rendered goose grease home with my father when I had chest congestion. The idea was that the irritating effect of the salve would "draw out" inflammation or infection. But my mother was a fan of Vick's Vapor Rub™, so the goose grease languished in the utility room cabinet for many years, a silent tribute to Grandma Hatke's domestic skill and good intentions.

Some tins of commercial drawing salves, like Prid™ or Boyol™, weren't very large, but a little went a long way, and the economy size could serve the needs of more than one generation. Children generally didn't mind drawing salves. Application didn't hurt much, and the dressing change process meant you had your busy mother's sympathy and undivided attention for a few minutes.


"$50,000 Left to Effingham for Memorial Library," Decatur Herald, 10/8/1953, p. 28; Annotated Statutes of the State of Illinois in Force May 1, 1896, 2nd ed, Vol 2 (Chicago: Callaghan & Co., 1896), Chapter 91, Medicine and Surgery; "Doan's Pills" (advertisement), Decatur Herald, 4/3/1900; "Effingham: Paul Eiche," Belvidere Daily Republican, 4/16/1919, p. 4; "Effingham Mayor Dies," Decatur Herald, 9/18/1953, p. 8; "Ex-Mayor Paul Eiche," Decatur Herald, 9/22/1923, p. 4; Fiftieth Anniversary Souvenir of Effingham, Illinois 1853-1903; p. 66, 68; "Has Invented Flying Machine: How an Effingham, Illinois Doctor Proposes to Navigate the Air" Chicago Tribune, 2/15/1891, p. 3; Heart of the USA: A Sesquicentennial Celebration 1853-2003, p. 36-43 & 82-91; Effingham's Lewis City Directory, 1895; Effingham's Barbee City Directory, 1900; Newton Bateman & Paul Selby, Effingham County Historical and Biographical, (Chicago: Munsell Publishing, 1910), p. 767-770; Louis J. Schifferstein & John N. Groves, in Directory of Deceased American Physicians 1804-1929, accessed at www.ancestry.com; Proceedings of the Illinois State Equalization Session of 1894 (Springfield: Roeker, 1894), p.76; Effingham High School Yearbook, 1908, p. 51; "Theobromine," Useful Drugs, (Chicago: American Medical Ass, 1930), p. 146; "To Enlarge Cemetery," Decatur Herald, 10/20/1921, p. 10.

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