This is an article printed in the Elk Grove Citizen Progress Edition issued February 1980 written by Florence (Polhemus) Markofer a few years earlier.
(Editor’s Note: A colorful history of the medical men who served the Elk Grove area in the past was compiled by Florence (Polhemus) Markofer. Mrs. Markofer, a native of Elk Grove, has many delightful anecdotes to share about the people and the remedies that kept the community healthy from the 1880’s through the 1950’s.)
If you expect this account to be spiced up with the errors and omissions or indiscretions of the medical men the their private or professional lives, you will be disappointed. Although I am well aware that this is not the way to produce a best seller, I am not the Gore Vidal type of recorder of history. I am not tempted, even though everybody knows that in the tail of Peter Rabbit while good little Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail got bread and milk and blackberries, it was naughty Peter who got his name on the title page, and his picture on the cover.
Surely it is the good men do which should live after them, and the evil should be interred with their bones.
So, I am writing this more or less meager account in the belief that there should be some record of those dedicated men who made healing of men their life work and gave so generously of themselves for the betterment of our community. Bless them.
There existed in the early days, and perhaps still does to a certain extent, especially in the country area, an attitude of the patient to the doctor of his choice that is akin to feeling toward his church or political party or his allegiance to his country…….. a closeness that is absent in his professional relationships. For this reason, a physician holds a unique position in his community.
Doubtless the earliest Indian inhabitants had their own medicine men and health practices, but as I am unfamiliar with them, I shall limit this account to things I know or have been told.
In the earliest days of our town medical help was not available so folks were forced to deal with health problems as best they could with remedies handed down or gleaned from home manuals or such. This being the case when a doctor was called it was pretty well understood that the patient was in a very bad way indeed.
I well remember some of the remedies administered by my mother – turpentine for cuts and bruises, turpentine and sweet oil rubbed on a congested chest, coal oil applied to one’s nose and under the nostrils to relieve stuffiness, mud or pasta soda for an upset stomach and a perfectly ghastly mixture of bitter rhubarb and coffee as mother did not approve of calomel. Soda and salt and wine are all good gargles, but my favorite (which I still use) is well diluted vinegar.
In very early times expectant mothers depended on the service of a kindly neighbor. One quite famous lady was so skillful that she acted as a midwife as a profession and proudly declared that she “borned” hundreds. (I was one.) She was Granny Witt. It was her custom to come to assist at the birth and remain to care for mother and child and household until the mother could take over. There were likely others, but Granny Witt is the best known. Her home on Main Street has been renovated and remodeled and is now the home of the Dinkins family. (Note: There was a Dixie Ann Witt, b. March 21, 1863, d. February 24, 1945 in Elk Grove – Granny? – She did have sisters Dora Lee and Mary Adelia, both living in Sacramento)
In later years Miss Agnes Baker, a practical nurse, performed much the same service. When my first baby was born in 1920, she came, assisted the doctor at the birth and stayed a week or ten days caring for me and the baby, instructing me in the care, taking care of the house and cooking until I could cope. Later still, instead of coming to the house she took the expectant mother into her home on Second Avenue, caring for mother and child there.
Apparently, not much is known about our town’s earliest doctors.
Thompson and West’s History of Sacramento County published in 1880 mentions Dr. C. S. Bradford and two drug stores – one belonging to Dr. Bradford and another to A. M. Vance
A list of Elk Grove’s inhabitants made by Eugene Tribble in 1887 places an office and drug store of Dr. Howard on Main Street: also, his residence.
A Dr. Powers practiced in Elk Grove for a time, married Earnest Springsted’s sister, had two daughters, and later moved away.
Dr. Bradford’s residence was at one time on the corner of Main Street and Kent Street – at least he owned a lot there now occupied by Ben and Emily Saxon and family.
In the old Oddfellows cemetery on Waterman Road stands a stone engraved, “Dr. Charles S. Bradford, died February 29, 1884, aged 35 years, I month and 24 days,” and beside it another pathetic stone marked, “Charles H., son of Charles and M. J. Bradford, July 7, 1881, aged 2 years, 6 months and 21 says.” (Note: He is believed to been born in 1849 according to the 1880 census, he was 31 in 1880.)
They sadden me, and I can’t help wondering what happened to strike down this young doctor in the prime of his life and deprive him and his wife of their little boy, and I wonder what became of her and if there were other children. I know that Dr. McKee who took over the practice must have known and been fond of him as he named one of his sons Charles Bradford McKee.
Dr. James Anderson McKee
1854-1921 (67 years old) – Practiced in Elk Grove 1884-1899 (15 years)
After Charles Bradford’s Death in 1884 his practice was taken over by Dr. James Anderson McKee, who must have been a remarkable man. Born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania in 1854 he was the son of Robert and Susan McKee who both died of tuberculosis when he was nine years old. He then, lived with his uncle who took over his father’s cooperage business (Where barrels and casks are made.) and learned the trade himself. In his late teens he contracted pneumonia, and on recovery, he came west for his health on money loaned him by his uncle.
He settled in San Francisco, and when his money gave out, found work on the ferry boats. Because of the fog he gave this up and for a time worked as a conductor on the horse cars in San Francisco. He met Dr. Huntington and was soon working for him as an assistant, becoming very interested in the practice of medicine. He again contracted pneumonia and moved across the bay to Oakland where he was quite ill for some time and threatened with tuberculosis.
On recovery he decided to go to Elk Grove, thinking the change in climate would be beneficial. He stayed for some time working on ranches in the vicinity, performing various types of chores – at one time sheering sheep for Cameron Bartholomew.
It was his ambition to become a doctor and he worked industriously in an effort to save money to continue his education and realize his goal. Mrs. Harvey Kerr, sympathizing with his plans took him into her home.
Dr. Huntington, brother of Collis P. Huntington, the railroad man, loaned him $500 and he went to Chicago to Rush Medical College where he studied medicine and realized his dream of becoming a physician.
He returned west and settled in Williams, California. While there he had occasion to go to Colusa and met Miss Barbara Nau who was visiting her aunt, Mrs. Bicknell. They became engaged and were soon married in Williams where he continued in practice for a year or more.
He then returned to Elk Grove, taking over Dr. Bradford’s practice, becoming a resident of that town. He and his family lived at the location on Main street so long occupied by the drug store.
Dr. McKee and his wife entered into the life of the community, becoming active members of the Methodist Church and charter members of Elk Grove Chapter 109 OES. Dr. McKee was a member of the Masonic Lodge and was a Knight Templar.
He was very public spirited and always used his influence to further any move for the betterment of the community. He was one of the leaders of the group which formed the Elk Grove Water Works. Whether this was a business project or to improve the quality of the water I do not know; perhaps both.
Perhaps his most notable achievement was his untiring effort in bringing to Elk Grove the first union high school in the state of California. In recognition of this accomplishment, an elementary school (8701 Halverson Drive, EG 05624) has been named for him.
Previous to m1892 anyone wishing to continue his education beyond elementary school had to go to Sacramento or another city and few could afford this. This was a matter of grave concern to, many in the community.
When Mrs. Delos Gage saw an article in the paper telling of the passage of a bill authorizing the formation of union high school districts, she called it to the attention of Dr. McKee and he immediately went into action, working to arouse interest locally.
He had made a start when the disastrous fire of 1882 destroyed his papers. This delayed matters as many of the town’s businessmen were affected. But the project was taken up again and Dr. McKee, with the help of others, saw that the eighteen elementary districts were canvased to get the necessary signatures.
The act passed in 1891 had stated that if the majority of the heads of families, regardless of citizenship, voted to that effect, high school districts must be formed, and schools built. Oddly enough there was quite a bit of opposition, but after a great deal of work on the part of many dedicated people a vote was taken, and sixteen school districts united to form the first union high school in the state. (Note: Look for the entire story of Elk Grove High School in “History Topics – Elk Grove.”)
A high school was built, and the school established in 1893. No wonder we honor this man who found time in his busy life of caring for the sick to be the moving spirit in such a worthwhile undertaking.
He was one of the early horse and buggy doctors traveling in all kinds of weather at all hours. He used a single buggy drawn in summer by one horse and in winter when the country roads were deep in mud with the top down drawn by two horses. He often had to stand to drive, fighting wind, weather, and mud. Patients hung lanterns on gate posts on stormy nights to guide him.
As his sons grew older, he was accompanied by one of them on his distant midnight calls. Two of his sons followed in his footsteps in a manner of speaking as Charles became a doctor specializing in the ear, nose, and throat and Robert a dentist.
At one time Dr. McKee went to Chicago for further special courses leaving a retired physician D. Ridenour, to care for his practice. When he returned, he practiced in Elk Grove until 1899 when he moved to Sacramento and continued his profession, gaining quite a reputation in obstetrics. Among others, he delivered Beatrice Cound and Robert Gage.
From 1904 to 1908 he served as state senator under Governor Gillette. In 1919 he suffere a stroke while delivering a baby and was bedridden for two years. He died in 1921 and his body, with that of his wife, rest in East Lawn mausoleum in Sacramento.
Such is the history of the stalwart men whose life on our community was such that the impact of his presence here is still felt.
I am told that Dr. McKee is the first registered pharmacist in California.
In 1964 two of his sons, Robert and Elmer were living, Charles having passed away. Many of his descendants are living in Sacramento. As of 1964 there were five grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren.
There is an excellent picture of Dr. McKee on page five of the 1922 Elk Grove high School “Elk” yearbook. He was a handsome man.
The dedication in the yearbook reads….
“To the one who will live forever in the hearts of all who enter the doors of Elk Grove Union High School, we the staff of the “Elk” for nineteen-twenty-two dedicate this book. He was the leading spirit among eight men who originated Elk Grove Union High School. The other seven were: Joseph Kerr, Joseph Hasman, Julius Everson, James T. Chinnick, Alfred Coffman.”
Dr. A. E. Briggs
Practiced in Elk Grove 1899-1907 (8 years)
When Dr. McKee moved to Sacramento in 1899 his practice was taken over by A. E. Briggs who moved into the residence and drug store on Main Street with his family.
The Briggs family has furnished many medical men. A. E. was a general practitioner who had two brothers who practiced in Sacramento – William Ellery, an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist, and Wallace, a general practitioner who became one of the leading physicians in Sacramento.
There are doctors among their descendants. A. E. and his charming wife had four children: two girls, Edna and Helen, and two sons, George A. Briggs who practiced for many years in Sacramento as an eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist and Rowland, who went into x-ray work.
I remember that it was Dr. A. E. Briggs who gave me my first smallpox vaccination when I was about four years old. There was a smallpox scare in the community and the only vaccine available was very strong, so it was given on the arm rather than the leg in the belief that it was better to lose an arm than a leg in case anything went wrong (an idea with which I do not agree). These vaccinations “took” violently – I still have the scar, and no subsequent vaccinations has ever “taken.”
The other thing for which I remember Dr. Briggs was his efforts to establishment of a telephone system, knowing the benefit of being able to get in touch with one’s doctor quickly as well as neighborly communication. His sone George and two pals, Landon Lindsey and Aubrey Leavit, strung a barbed wire telephone line among country roads and solicited users. (Note: Look for the entire story of The Barbed Wire Telephone Company in “History Topics – Other Related Subjects.”) They were successful and for a time Mrs. Briggs tended the switchboard in her home. However, the service became so popular that soon a telephone association was formed, the boards installed in a bakery across the street and a “central” hired.
The telephone was a boon to those in need of emergency care. I remember that when my maternal grandmother suffered a fatal heart attack some time previous to the installation of phones, my father unhitched one of his team of horses, jumped on its back, and rode to town across the fields. cutting the fences as he went.
So, another of our doctors contributed to the welfare of the town in an area other than medicine.
Dr. Fred Wildanger
Practiced in Elk Grove 1907-1925 (18 years)
Dr. Fred J. Wildanger and his wife, Geneva, were both graduated as nurses from Battle Creek Sanitarium. Mrs. Wildanger then worked as a matron in a Chicago jail to put her husband through Northwestern University.
They came to California in 1900 – settling first in Franklin and later in Hood.
When DR. Briggs left Elk Grove to practice in Sacramento, Dr. Wildanger came to Elk Grove in 1907. He and his family first lived in a house west of Main Street, then moved to the Nelms house on Main Street and then later to a house on School Street.
He was an exceptionally fine physician who kept up with the new methods of treatments and was one of the first in the county to administer shots for flu and malaria and other diseases. He used to state frequently, “the medical profession is very conservative.”
He had a photographic memory and could quote whole paragraphs verbatim. He was an ardent socialist and most sympathetic with the ills of the poor and unfortunate.
I remember an occasion when one of his wealthier patients complained about the size of his bill (perhaps suspecting he might be overcharged to compensate for the lack of charge to someone needy). The doctor just laughed and said, “Well now, why do you vote for a system that permits any fool doctor to charge whatever he wants to?”
He voted for Eugene V. Debs whenever he ran for office and expounded at length his political beliefs to anyone who would listen.
He felt the farmwomen were over-worked, especially on washday, so he personally circulated in the area signing up families to make it feasible to hire a man and team and wagon to drive into Sacramento with bundles of clothes, have them washed and returned them that evening as “wet wash,” clean but still damp thus saving hours over steaming tubs of dirty clothes. Again, a doctor had worked for the welfare of the town and women blessed him.
He was a good pharmacist and mixed his own prescriptions. I have yet to find a better headache and cold remedy than his “asphenols and phensasols.”
He drove a little open car in all kinds of weather and never let anything delay him in reaching a patient if he could help it. On one occasion when a train blocked the Main Street (sometimes this caused a delay of quite a long period), Dr. Wildanger looked both ways than just took off along the track until he passed the end of the train, went up and over the track and back down the other side to Main Street, and went merrily on his way.
He worked to save his patience until the end – on one occasion he fired a nurse when he heard her remark that that was the last time, she would have to make up the bed of a woman desperately ill with meningitis or similar disease; he also pulled his patient through.
Never will I forget how he and his wife worked during the flu epidemic of 1918. Illness was rampant an even veterinarian helped as the supply of doctors and nurses was pitifully inadequate. As the schools were closed and my cousin Edna Batey and I were relieved of teaching duties we volunteered to help the doctor. We took phone calls, kept records of house and office calls, even administered shots. Sometimes I drove Mrs. Wildanger on calls to deliver medicines or give the nursing advice or help she, as a nurse, could give.
The doctor himself each morning made out three lists of house calls: one in the Florin Sloughhouse area, one down the river and one locally, besides taking office patients in the morning and afternoon. How he and his wife survived I still can’t realize. His shots proved effective, and he kept records but unfortunately these were destroyed when his house burned in 1920. I had the feeling that he had intended to write his findings.
Previous to the fire he built a house next door (It is the one now occupied by Robert Carr and his wife) which contained his office and was still arranged as to supply living quarters. So, the fire did not interfere with his practice.
He was probably the most selfless man I have ever met. And if ever a saint walked the earth it was his wife who was ever at his side. They had a fine family, three boys and two girls. The middle boy was in my high school class and the youngest, Fred, now living in Sacramento, was in an eighth grade I taught in World War One. They were worthy children of such parents.
The doctor delivered both my children and one day after the birth of the last he was killed in an automobile accident at the corner of Elk Grove Boulevard And Highway 99 while on a call, in the line of duty.
Dr. Hugh Beattie
1866-1936 (70 years old) – Practiced in Elk Grove 1897-1936 (39 years)
Dr. Hugh Beattie’s parents, William and Isabella (Walker) Beattie, came from Scotland and settled on a farm in Canada, in Ontario near Toronto. He was born February 7, 1866. He had several brothers and two sisters.
He attended public schools and the Collegiate Institute, and the University School in Toronto.
He came to United States in 1893, going first to Boston and later to San Francisco where he attended the Cooper Medical School (Stanford) and received his M.D. from there in 1896. For a time after that he was with Dr. George A. White at the County Hospital in Sacramento.
In 1897 Dr. Beattie came to Elk Grove and set up an office in the West one-half of the Everson store on Main Street. He became a citizen of this country in 1900. And in 1902 he married Ada Gage, the daughter of a pioneer family.
They moved into the house on the corner of Walnut Avenue and Elk Grove Boulevard. (This house had been built by Mr. Derr at the request of Ernest Springstead and is still standing.) He and his bride were married in this house.
Dr. Beattie built a three-room office on the southeast corner of his lot where he practiced. It was later rented on certain days to a dentist, Wallace Wrenwick.
Dr. Beattie and his wife bought the house and lot and live there the rest of their lives. They had twin girls, Marion and Margaret. Margaret died at age thirteen, but Marion married Charles Heimerdinger, became the mother of a girl and boy and is at present living in Menlo Park an active in Red Cross volunteer work.
Dr. Beattie was also a horse and buggy doctor until the automobile came into use. He had a large practice and there is only one known occasion when he refused to go on a call at night.
He was the Southern Pacific doctor for the Elk Grove district and served as Sacramento County health officer in the 1930’s.
He took an active part in social and civic matters and was a member of the American Medical Association, the Sacramento County Medical Society, the Odd Fellows, Rebecca’s and Royal Arch Masons. He was one of the organizers and director of the Elk Grove Bank. In 1917 he was Master of the Elk Grove Masonic Lodge #173. He also developed an eighty-five-acre fruit ranch about a mile northwest of Elk Grove, the present location of the Elk Grove Shopping Center and development.
He died as a result of pneumonia in 1936.
Note: We found this San Francisco Call newspaper article from September 30, 1901:
Finds Burglars in His Office – Elk Grove Physician the Target for Volley of Bullets
Sacramento, Sept. 29 – When Dr. Hugh Beattie of Elk Grove, eight miles south of this city, entered his office shortly after midnight last night, he was faced with three burglars, who at once drew revolvers and fired several shots at him. Dr. Beattie retreated and the burglars left the office, and, and with three companions who were outside, fled.
Dr. Beattie aroused then neighborhood. A posse was quickly formed, and the gang was surrounded and captured within an hour. They gave the names as Thomas Maguire, James Cooley, James Murphy, James Monroe, Frank Smith, John B. Lee, and Charles William’s. They are now in jail here
On the men were found three revolvers, two dozen pocketknives, three razors, and two dozen cheap watch chains. The supposition is that they recently robbed a store near Redding or Red Bluff.
Dr. Frank Warne Lee
1898-1970 (72 years old) – Practiced in Elk Grove 1925-1927 (2 years)
Dr. Frank Warne Lee was born in India, probably in 1898, the son of Methodist missionaries, Dr. D.H. Lee and his wife ada Jones Lee. His father went to India in 1875 and his mother in 1876 they were married in 1881 and continued in missionary work until 1883 when Dr. Lee’s health forced their return to the United States where he had several charges in the East Ohio conference of the Methodist Church. Six children were born to them in the States, four girls and two boys.
In 1894 the Lees returned to India and settled in Calcutta, resuming their missionary work. They were intensely religious family and busy and happy until 1899 a terrible tragedy took the lives of their six older children. The children were in Darjeeling while their parents were in Calcutta preparing a house for them. A storm caused a landslide in which the mountain home and children were engulfed Frank, the baby, was with the parents and so was spared. Two years later another son, Albert, was born.
The Lee Memorial Mission was established in Calcutta in memory of the tragic loss of the children.
Dr. Lee’s father died in 1924 and his mother retired in 1940 but lived in India until her death in 1948 at the age of 94.
Dr. Frank Warne Lee was educated in medicine at the University of California at Berkeley and received his degree from there May 16, 1923 and it was licensed in September of the same year.
He had his wife Lucille and their two children, David and Frances, came to Elk Grove in 1925 where he took over the home and practice of Dr. F.J. Wildanger. In 1927 he sold his home in practice to Dr. Paul Warren Frame and went to Sacramento where he associated himself with Dr. Oscar Johnson, a well-known physician.
He died March 13, 1970.
Dr. Paul W. Frame Sr.
1894-1974 (80 years) – Practiced in Elk Grove 1927-1953 (26 years)
Dr. Paul Warren Frame Sr. Was born in Snohomish, Washington in 1894, son of a Methodist minister and his wife. He had two older and two younger sisters. He attended the University of Washington taking a premedical course with the intention of becoming a physician.
In December of 1917 he married Maude Marie Scheyer , a school teacher.
In January 1918 he entered the Navy and was transferred to the East Coast where he served on ships working in an office capacity and in the pharmacy, performing duties relating to his medical preparation. He became an ensign and when he left the Navy at the war’s end, he entered Stanford University and continued his studies in medicine and received his M.D. degree in 1924. A son had been born to him and his wife in 1920.
In 1924 he took his family to Walker Mine about 25 miles from Portola in Plumas County where he became the company doctor.
He remained there until 1927 when he took over Dr. Lee’s practice in Elk Grove and bought and moved into his residence and office on School Street. A second son was born in 1933, Phillip Frame.
Dr. Frame lived and practiced in Elk Grove until 1953 when he moved into Sacramento when he became public health assistant director, he retired in 1964 but was to actively associated with the Blood Bank.
He was a member of the Sacramento Society for Medical Improvement and was on the staff of the Mercy Hospital and the Sutter Community Hospitals.
He was a member and past master of Elk Grove lodge #173 F.&. A.M., a member of Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine and American Post #219 of Elk Grove.
He was an excellent physician. He was also an avid bridge player. He displayed both a scientific and personal interest in his patients and was a good diagnostician, analyzing one’s symptoms (sometimes out loud) as he would discuss a difficult bridge hand.
No one more kind and sympathetic couple than he and his wife existed. As a doctor who practiced during the depression, he knew the problems and was considerate of both the health and pocketbook of his patients.
I remember one Japanese woman whom they installed in an upstairs bedroom and cared for her personally in order that she might have the medical attention which she would otherwise be unavailable. This was only one instance of their many kindnesses to patients, relatives and friends. They gave help on countless occasions, always quietly and without ostentation.
Again, Elk Grove was the better for the presence of a doctor and his family. He died in 1974 leaving his wife Marie, two sons Warren and Phillip and James Young, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren in California and two sisters in Washington.
His son Warren became a well-known and able physician in Sacramento before his death in an auto accident in 1975, and son Phillip had an insurance agency in Elk Grove. The son, Dr. Paul Warren Frame Jr. was killed in an automobile accident in 1975.
Dr. Donald Webb
b.1907- 19?? Practiced 1945-1965 (20 years)
Married Edna Schauer on August 2, 1961 in Sacramento. She was born in 1929 in Sacramento. They had one son, Donnie, born in 1962 in Sacramento.
Dr. Edward Jenkins
Practiced 1962-1975 (13 years)
Obviously, since that article was written, a lot has changed. Elk Grove has had many physicians and now many at the same time. Long past are those one or two town doctors. Here is a list before it expanded beyond clarification:
Dr. C. S. Bradford (1849-1884)……………………..Practice 18??-1884
Dr. James Anderson McKee (1854-1921)…….Practice 1884-1899 (15 years)
Dr. A. E. Briggs………………………………………………Practice 1899-1907 (8 years)
Dr. Fred Wildanger………………………………………Practice 1907-1925 (18 years)
Dr. Hugh Beattie (1866-1936)……………………….Practice 1897-1936 (39 years)
Dr. Frank Warne Lee (1898-1970)………………..Practice 1925-1927 (2 years)
Dr. Paul W. Frame Sr. (1894-1974)……………….Practice 1927-1953 (26 years)
Dr. Donald Webb……………………………………………Practice 1945-1965 (20 years)
Dr. Gravens……………………………………………………..Practice 1953-????
Dr. Donald Bishop………………………………………….Practice 1962-????
Dr. Warren Christenson………………………………..Practice ????-????
Dr. Edward Jenkins…………………………………………Practice 1962-1975 (13 years)
Dr. John Hilderbrand……………………………………..Practice 1978-????