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National Doctor’s Day- Is there a Doctor in the House- er, Tree?

Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray, probably about 1925 after finishing college.  (Click to enlarge.)

 

McMurray Family, Helbling Family (Click for Family Tree)

Our Congress really does get important things done… and they really can work together if they try.  Think back to 1990 when, with overwhelming approval, both Congress and the House passed S.J. #366 to declare ‘National Doctor’s Day.’ The bill had just been introduced that year, and Pres. George H.W. Bush signed it in October- less than 10 months from start to finish! Public Law 101-473 thus took effect on March 30, 1991, proclaiming March 30 as a national day to celebrate the contributions of physicians throughout our history.

We do have at least two ancestors who were physicians, and one uncle.

Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory.
Dr. Edward A. McMurray and his wife Elna Mae Kenner McMurray in the 1939 Newton, Iowa City Directory. His office was in the bank building at that time, and his home was on S 8th Ave. W. (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. Edward A. McMurray

Both of the sons born to William Elmer McMurray and Lynette (Payne) McMurray, Edward A. McMurray (1900-1992) and his brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989), became doctors.

Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929.
Herbert McMurray, Newton (Iowa) High School Yearbook, 1929. Herbert was one of only six young men at Newton High to be inducted into the National Athletic Honorary Society. The Society required high academic achievement as well as outstanding athletic work. (Click to enlarge.)

Within the family, Edward was lovingly called, “The Doctor.” He specialized in Ear, Eye, Nose, and Throat problems, after a residency in New York City around 1940. (His son Edward A. McMurray, Jr., remembered going to the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City with him one summer during that residency.) Back then, ‘The Doctor’s’ specialty was known as “EENT.” Now that specialty has split- we have opthamologists- doctors who specialize in eyes only, and other doctors called ‘otorhinolaryngologists’ or ENTs, who cover the ear, nose, and throat areas. But Dr. McMurray could do it all, and his out-of-state grandchildren got their annual eye (and ENT) check when visiting him in Iowa!

I have already written a detailed post about the medical career of Dr. E. A. McMurray (1900-1992) in Newton, Iowa- see “Workday Wednesday- Dr. Edward A. McMurray.” His brother Herbert C. McMurray (1911-1989) practiced in the Ballwin, Missouri area.

Dr. John H. O’Brien

If you are a descendant of Gerard William/William Gerard “G. W.” Helbling (1882-1971), then you are also descended from Dr. John H. O’Brien (1808-1887), who was G.W.’s maternal (mother’s) grandfather. Dr. O’Brien was born in Ireland and attended the University of Dublin. A letter to the University has not provided any specific information about him as a student, although there was a Dr. John O’Brien working there as the Librarian of the King and Queen’s College of Physicians in 1841. This cannot be the same Dr. John O’Brien, as our known ancestor had immigrated to America in 1831. (Perhaps it was his father or an uncle? O’Brien is a common name in Ireland though so the Librarian may not have been related at all.)

Dr. O’Brien immigrated in 1831, and was in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania by 1832. It was a tough time to be a doctor in western Pennsylvania- a cholera epidemic, spread by contaminated water, was taking place on the frontier.

The inscription on his headstone was very appropriate for a physician:

Blessed is he that understandeth concerning

the needy and the poor, the Lord will deliver

him in the evil day.       -XL Psalm 

Dr. John H. O’Brien- headstone detail (Click to enlarge.)

Dr. O’Brien and his wife Jane (Neel) O’Brien were early settlers of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suburbs, and he was a successful doctor in the Pittsburgh area. (He is often listed as “J. H. O’Brien” in directories.) A previous post tells a bit more about Dr. O’Brien and his family: “Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien.” We will tell more of the family story in upcoming posts.

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All of these doctors would be amazed at today’s healthcare. Dr. E. A. McMurray, who died in 1992 but had been retired for a number of years, saw the beginnings of this incredible age of medicine.  Dr. O’Brien, however, may have been paid in farm products, especially in his early years in America and while on the frontier, where hard cash was hard to come by. (If memory serves, Dr. McMurray was sometimes paid with goods as well, especially in his early years as a general practitioner in a small town with surrounding rural areas.) The ‘germ theory of disease’ was not fully understood or accepted until at least the 1850s, and really into the 1880s. John Snow wrote his theory of the transmission of cholera in 1849, and mapped cholera epidemics in London in the early 1850s. Not fully accepted even when he stopped the epidemic, it was too late for our Dr. O’Brien to use this information to help stem the disease in Western Pennsylvania. Viruses were discovered in the 1890s, after Dr. O’Brien’s death and just 10 years before Dr. E. A. McMurray was born. Some arsenic-based synthetic antibacterials had been used after 1907 for some diseases, but Dr. McMurray was already through medical school when penicillin was described in 1928; antibiotics were not widely available, however, until after World War II.

From using genetics to determine treatment, to the incredibly complex machines we have available for diagnosis and treatment, to how medical care is paid for (and how insurance companies think they know more about appropriate patient care than a personal doctor), today’s medicine would be astounding to all these learned doctors!

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. “Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland for the Year of Our Lord 1841,” p. 151, Ancestry.com.
  2. Tombstone Tuesday- Dr. John H. O’Brien” may be found at http://heritageramblings.net/2014/01/14/tombstone-tuesday-dr-john-h-obrien/
  3. More mentions of these men can be found on our blog by searching for the names “McMurray” or “O’Brien.”
  4. For our younger readers, a brief explanation of our title is probably warranted. In earlier times, if someone got sick in a theater or hotel, the cry, “Is there a doctor in the house??” would go through the audience and hallways in order to get fast medical assistance to the victim. (It became a great comedy routine, too.) There were no cell phones, and even no phones at all, of course, depending on how far back one goes. In fact, calling 9-1-1 for emergency assistance was not instituted in the United States until 1968, and many communities did not have this resource available for its citizens even into the 1980s. (Probably before you were born.)

 

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We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
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1) For a blast from the past, watch Schoolhouse Rock: America “I’m Just a Bill.”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFroMQlKiag

Labor Day: Celebrating the Labors of Our Ancestors

First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia.
First Labor Day Parade in the US, 5 Sep 1882 in New York City. Via Wikimedia. (Click to enlarge.)

 

Labor Day officially became a federal holiday in the United States in 1894. “The Gilded Age” included the rise of big business, like the railroads and oil companies, but laborers fought- sometimes literally- for their rights in the workplace. Grover Cleveland signed the law to honor the work and contributions, both economic and for society, of the American laborer. Celebrated on the first Monday in September, ironically the holiday was a concession to appease the American worker after the government tried to break up a railroad strike but failed.

The Labor Day weekend is a good time to think about our ancestors and the work they did to help move our country and their own family forward.

Jefferson Springsteen was a mail carrier through the wilds of early Indiana, traveling for miles on horseback through spring freshets (full or flooding streams from snow melt), forest, and Indian villages. Samuel T. Beerbower, who would be a some-number-great uncle depending on your generation, was the Postmaster in Marion, Ohio, for many years. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Edward B. Payne, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.
Edward B. Payne, Pastor, circa 1874. Image courtesy of Second Congregational Church, Wakeman, Ohio.

Bad weather, gloom of night, ocean crossings in the mid 1800s, and the threat of disease or injury did not stay our minister, deacon, and missionary ancestors from their appointed rounds either- especially since the felt they were appointed by a higher power. We have quite a number of very spiritual men in the family. Henry Horn became a Methodist circuit rider after coming to America as a Hessian soldier, being captured by George Washington’s troops in Trenton, NJ, then taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and serving in the Revolutionary Army. The family migrated from Virginia to the wilds of western Pennsylvania sometime between 1782 and 1786. A story is told of how he was riding home from a church meeting in the snow. The drifts piled up to the body of the horse, and they could barely proceed on, but Henry did, and was able to preach another day. He founded a church Pleasantville, Bedford Co., Pennsylvania that still stands, and has a congregation, even today. Edward B. Payne and his father, Joseph H. Payne, Kingsley A. Burnell and his brother Thomas Scott Burnell were all ministers, some with formal schooling, some without. Edward B. Payne gave up a lucrative pastorate because he thought the church members were wealthy and educated enough that they did not need him. He moved to a poor church in an industrial town, where he was needed much more, however, he may have acquired his tuberculosis there. He also risked his life, and that of his family, by sheltering a woman from the domestic violence of her husband, and he testified on her behalf.

Abraham Green was one of the best tailors in St. Louis, Missouri in the early 1900s, and many in the Broida family, such as John Broida and his son Phillip Broida, plus Phillip’s daughter Gertrude Broida Cooper, worked in the fine clothing industry.

Edgar Springsteen worked for the railroad, and was often gone from the family. Eleazer John “E.J.” Beerbower worked for the railroads making upholstered cars- he had been a buggy finisher previously, both highly skilled jobs.

Sheet music cover for "Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart," from "The Slim Princess."
Sheet music cover for “Bless Your Ever Loving Little Heart,” from “The Slim Princess.” (Click to enlarge.)

The theater called a number of our collateral kin (not direct lines, but siblings to one of our ancestors): Max Broida was in vaudeville, and known in films as “Buster Brodie.” Elsie Janis, born Elsie Beerbower, was a comedienne, singer, child star in vaudeville, “Sweetheart of the A.E.F” as she entertained the troops overseas in World War I, and then she went on to write for films. Max Broida also did a stint in the circus, as did Jefferson Springsteen, who ran away from home as “a very small boy” to join the circus (per his obituary).

Collateral Lee family from Irthlingborough, England, included shoemakers, as that was the specialty of the town. They brought those skills to Illinois, and some of those tools have been handed down in the family- strange, unknown tools in an inherited tool chest turned out to be over 100 years old!

Will McMurray and his wife Lynette Payne McMurray owned a grocery store in Newton, Iowa. Ella V. Daniels Roberts sold eggs from her chickens, the butter she made from the cows she milked, and her delicious pies at the McMurray store. Franz Xavier Helbling and some of his brothers and sons were butchers in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, and had their own stores.

Some of our ancestors kept hotels or taverns. Joseph Parsons (a Burnell ancestor) was issued a license to operate an ‘ordinary’ or “house of entertainment” in 1661 in Massachusetts, and Samuel Lenton Lee was listed as “Keeps hotel” and later as a saloon keeper in US Federal censuses. Jefferson Springsteen had a restaurant at the famous Fulton Market in Brooklyn, NY in the late 1840s.

From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) "May" Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914.
From left: Edgar B. Helbling, (Anna) “May” Helbling, Vi Helbling, and Gerard William Helbling, on Flag Day 1914. Note ‘Undertaker’ sign- yes, it was all done in his home. (Click to enlarge.)

Many of our family had multiple jobs. William Gerard Helbling (AKA Gerard William Helbling or “G.W.”) listed himself as working for a theater company, was an artist, then an undertaker, and finally a sign painter. George H. Alexander was artistic as well- he created paintings but also worked as a lighting designer to pay the bills.

Sometimes health problems forced a job change. Edward B. Payne was a Union soldier, librarian, and then a pastor until he was about 44 when his respiratory problems from tuberculosis forced him to resign the pulpit. For the rest of his life he did a little preaching, lecturing, and writing. He also became an editor for a number of publications including, “The Overland Monthly,” where he handed money over from his own pocket (per family story) to pay the young writer Jack London for his first published story. Edward B. Payne even founded a Utopian colony called Altruria in California! He and his second wife, Ninetta Wiley Eames Payne, later owned and conducted adult ‘summer camps’ that were intellectual as well as healthy physically while camping in the wild and wonderful northern California outdoors.

Other times, health problems- those of other people- are what gave our ancestors jobs:  Edward A. McMurray and his brother Herbert C. McMurray were both physicians, as was John H. O’Brien (a Helbling ancestor), who graduated from medical school in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1832. He settled in western Pennsylvania, still wild and in the midst of a cholera epidemic that was also sweeping the nation; he had his work cut out for him. (It appears he did not get the same respect as other doctors because he was Irish, and this was pre-potato famine.) Lloyd Eugene “Gene” Lee and his father Samuel J. Lee owned a drugstore in St. Louis, as did Gene’s brother-in-law, Claude Aiken. Edith Roberts McMurray Luck worked as a nurse since she received a degree in biology in 1923.

We have had many soldiers who have helped protect our freedom, and we will honor some of those persons on Veterans Day.

We cannot forget the farmers, but they are too numerous to name them all! Even an urban family often had a large garden to supplement purchased groceries, but those who farmed on a larger scale included George Anthony Roberts, Robert Woodson Daniel, David Huston Hemphill, Amos Thomas, etc., etc. We even have a pecan farmer in the Lee family- William Hanford Aiken, in Waltham County, Mississippi, in the 1930s-40s.

Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress.
Lynette Payne, December 1909, wearing a purple and lavender silk dress. (Click to enlarge.)

We must also, “Remember the ladies” as Abigail Adams entreated her husband John Adams as he helped form our new nation. He/they did not, so 51% of the population-women- were not considered citizens except through their fathers or husbands. Many of these women, such as Lynette Payne McMurray, labored to get women the right to vote, equal pay, etc. (Lynette ‘walked the talk’ too- she was the first woman to ride a bicycle in Newton, Iowa! Not so easy when one thinks about the clothing involved.) Some men, like her father, Edward B. Payne, put their energy into the women’s suffrage movement as well. Many of our ancestors worked for the abolition movement too, including the Payne and Burnell families.

A woman worked beside her husband in many families, although she would get little credit for it. Who cooked the meals and cleaned the rooms for the Lee and Parsons innkeepers? Likely their wives, who also had to keep their own home clean, laundry washed, manage a garden and often livestock- many families kept chickens even if they didn’t have a farm. They raised and educated their many children too, sometimes 13 or more. Oh yes, let’s not forget that women truly ‘labored’ to bring all those children into the world that they had made from scratch. (Building a human from just two cells makes building a barn seem somewhat less impressive, doesn’t it?) Some of them even died from that labor.

June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul in their drugstore.
June 1942- Claude Frank Aiken and his wife Mildred Paul Aiken in their drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri.

Working alongside one’s husband could be frightening due to the dangers of the job. A noise in the Aiken family drugstore in St. Louis, Missouri in 1936 awoke Claude and Mildred Aiken since they lived in the back of the store. Claude look a gun and went into the store while Mildred called the police. Claude fired the gun high to frighten the intruder- Mildred must have been very scared if she was in the back, wondering who had fired the shot and if her husband was still alive. Thankfully he was, and the police were able to arrest the thief, who wanted to steal money to pay a lawyer to defend him in his three previous arrests for armed burglary and assault.

 

We applaud all of our ancestors who worked hard to support their family. Their work helped to make the US the largest economic power in the world, and a place immigrants would come to achieve their ‘American dream.’ We hope our generation, and the next, can labor to keep our country prosperous and strong.

 

Notes, Sources, and References: 

  1. There are too many folks listed here to add references, but using the search box on the blog page can get you to any of the stories that have been posted about many of these persons. Of course, there is always more to come, so stay tuned!

 

Please contact us if you would like higher resolution images. Click to enlarge images.

We would love to read your thoughts and comments about this post (see form below), and thank you for your time! All comments are moderated, however, due to the high intelligence and persistence of spammers/hackers who really should be putting their smarts to use for the public good instead of spamming our little blog.
 

Original content copyright 2013-2015 by Heritage Ramblings Blog and pmm.

Family history is meant to be shared, but the original content of this site may NOT be used for any commercial purposes unless explicit written permission is received from both the blog owner and author. Blogs or websites with ads and/or any income-generating components are included under “commercial purposes,” as are the large genealogy database websites. Sites that republish original HeritageRamblings.net content as their own are in violation of copyright as well, and use of full content is not permitted.
 
Descendants and researchers MAY download images and posts to share with their families, and use the information on their family trees or in family history books with a small number of reprints. Please make sure to credit and cite the information properly.
 
Please contact us if you have any questions about copyright of our blog material.