The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 15.


Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When


(The following is a story by Englebert Zimmerman, Sr., of The VIDETTE-MESSENGER force, on memories of old-time doctors of Porter county; Published August 9, 1934. Dr. Letherman died March 19, 1936.)

Dr. Andrew P. Letherman, the oldest living physician in Porter county, is a man who was in touch with men who were engaged in the medical practice when life was strenuous, and sufferings and privations the rule.

Comprising this famous group were Drs. Sylvanus Evarts, J. V. Herriott, James Newland, H. M. Beer, H. C. Coates, W. C. Paramore, J. F. McCarthy, A. C. Stanton, Price, Blackstone, Green, Morricle, Jones, Marr, Goodwin, Ellis, M. F. Sayles, Soverign, Hankinson, Elliott, Arnold, Welch, St. Clair and Dr. J. H. Letherman.

These were men who were practicing in the pioneer period when in the spring of 1871, Dr. Letherman returned from Louisville, Ky., with the degree of M. D., and a diploma authorizing him to practice medicine and surgery. Becoming a partner of his father, Dr. Joseph H. Letherman, who was one of the outstanding practitioners of his day, he advanced rapidly in the profession.

All of these men who ploughed their way through storm and flood from Lake Michigan to the Kankakee, through drifted snow and seas of mud, over impassable roads or no roads at all -- mere trails -- until with shoulder bent and hair turned grey they became worn and old in the service, facing every crisis boldly, fearlessly, with scanty or poor equipment, have passed on.

Oftimes the doctor of sixty years ago was dependent on a few of the staple remedies -- quinine, Dovers powder, calomel, jalap, ginger, capsicum, or red pepper, opium, ipecac, and antimony -- a few of what they called their "sheet anchors," and still more dependent on the old aunties for help and nursing. The aid of the latter was invaluable as they were the only dependable nurses in the community.

In a crisis or malignant infection when no nurse could be reached or help of any kind obtained in time to be of much value, the doctor had to officiate as neighbor, nurse and physician -- prepared for almost any conceivable condition. Dependent entirely upon his own resources, he became self-reliant, well-poised, and was forced to study his case with the closest care and attention. These men measured fully up to the standard of their day and brought cheer and comfort to many a darkened home.

An encounter with big gray wolves when the snow was sixteen inches deep and thermometers below zero, one bright night when driving through a timber section -- how the mare he was driving, with ears back and mouth open, charged a big fellow that blocked the way and how suddenly he side-stepped and gave the right-of-way, is only one of the many thrilling experiences in the life of Dr. Letherman.

And how his father, Dr. J. H. Letherman, coming back from Calumet, when passing through the big woods, riding horseback, heard the shrill scream of a panther right overhead and how the horse seemed to sink under him, and then how he flew until he reached the open country; also of being lost in the Kankakee river bottoms when the river was three miles wide and both horse and driver narrowly escaped being drowned.

And how, on another occasion, the Senior Letherman was called on night in February to attend a woman in childbirth, living six miles west of Valparaiso. There had been heavy rains, followed by freezing, with a light fall of snow, making the roads slippery and dangerous. Two and a half miles from town his cutter slipped and skidded from the bridge into the creek, swollen and in flood, and doctor, horse and sleigh were washed under the bridge and lodged against the fence on the other side of the road.

Swept from the cutter by the swirling waters, he caught hold of the fence post and held himself above the flood. Observing a light shining from the window of a house on the hill just above the creek, he shouted lustily and two men came with a lantern. They could not reach him, but finally got a rope and threw it to him. HE was pulled up on the bank. Dr. Letherman was taken to the house and wrapped in blankets. When his rescuers went to look for the horse the animal had climbed the bank and dragged the cutter, with one runner broken, to the gate. The Good Samaritans hitched up their own team and took the doctor to his destination, where he arrived on time.

Dr. Letherman often tells of one night, during a fierce storm, how he was called to attend a woman dying of pneumonia. He had seen the case in the morning and told the family she could live but a short time. As the roads would be impassable by night, Dr. Letherman informed the family he would not be back.

However, the family sent for him at 2 a. m., and when the doctor answered the door bell there stood her son. He said: "Doctor, mother wants you to come. I have brought the big team and the bobsled, the box is full of hay, and there are two big robes; won't you come?"

Dr. Letherman went. It was an awful struggle for the team, and the occupants were thrown out several times, but they made it. The woman was falling fast. The doctor sat down by the bed and took her hand. She stared at him and cried out: "Oh, doctor, say something, say something."

Dr. Letherman repeated these beautiful lines:

"I know not where His island lift
Their fronded palms in air;
I only know that I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care."

She repeated the last line, "Beyond His love and care," two or three times, and then asked him to say it all over again. The doctor did and the woman cried out: "I never heard anything so beautiful, I never heard anything like that in my life."

As the doctor left the house in the grey of the morning there was almost a smile as she bid him goodbye. She reached the islands of the fronded palms that day. Her husband afterwards said: "Doctor, I will never forget you; never. You brought such peace and comfort to my wife that awful night."

Such were the trials and tribulations endured by the doctors in the early days of Porter and adjoining counties. The old roads like the horse and buggy, are a thing of the past, and the old doctor will soon be but a memory.

Fading from sight, they have gone to their reward, and who may doubt they have received the glad hand from old St. Peter at the gate; the cheery smile of welcome from Saint Luke, the Beloved Physician -- or have heard the ringing words of welcome from the Great Physician, "Well done, well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.".

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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