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NH’s Bucolic Doctors

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - August 27, 2012

If you lived 100 or 200 years ago in New Hampshire, you never had to worry about getting to the doctor if you were sick. All it took was a note delivered by a spouse or neighbor to the town doctor and he would fit you into his schedule of house calls.

While modern medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds from the days of country doctors, those old-time physicians still hold a place of respect today. They served as well-thought-of members in their communities and their skill and dedication, often working alone to deal with all sorts of illnesses, was equal to none.

In Tamworth, NH, one family of doctors was beloved. The Remick Country Doctor Museum in the town is a testament to the lives and dedicated work of Dr. Edwin Remick and his son (Edwin Crafts Remick).

The year 1929 was quite important to Dr. Edwin Crafts Remick. Upon graduating from Tufts Medical School in Boston, Edwin Crafts married Marion Miles and moved to a home located at 58 Cleveland Hill Road in Tamworth, joining his father, Edwin Remick, in his medical practice.  It was a whirlwind year for the young couple; Edwin Crafts knew the area well because his father had been practicing medicine there for many years. Edwin Crafts and Marion fit well into the tiny community.

Interestingly, when they resided at the home, Dr. & Mrs. Edwin Crafts Remick lived on the second floor, while their farm crew lived in the rest of the house. Herdsman Cliff Warren and his family lived on the first floor; single staff had individual rooms on the third, making for a very full house!

At the time the senior Dr. Remick (and later his son, Edwin Crafts) lived in Tamworth, he joined the ranks of countless country doctors who lived and worked in remote areas across the country. Anyone could count on Doctor Remick’s skill, whether they were facing a farming accident, influenza, a common cold or any other ailment.

Dr. Edwin Remick, like most doctors of his day, knew everyone in town. He tended to more than one generation of a family and could probably spout off the medical issues of grandparents, their children and their children’s children.

The senior Dr. Remick started serving the Tamworth community in the1890s and not long after, he faced the deadly 1918 influenza that swept the nation. It must have been a terrible and busy time for Dr. Remick, who lost nine patients to the influenza.

Unlike today, a patient depended upon their doctor for everything when they were ill versus going from one specialist to another. Doctors mixed medicines and dispensed it; there were few pharmacies in those days.

In a rural area such as Tamworth, patients went to the doctor’s office if they could. If not, physicians such as Dr. Remick made house calls. If necessary, a doctor and/or his nurse in a remote area would stay for a length of time with critically ill patients. They were also on hand when a baby needed to be delivered.

Even earlier, Dr. John Rogers was serving Plymouth, NH, in the late 1700s. This time and place was even more remote and living was more of a challenge than in late 1800s Tamworth. Rogers saw many patients and made countless house calls. It is said he tended to the health of some of Graton County’s earliest settlers.

Doctors were few at that time, and the services of Dr. Rogers were needed everywhere. He rode on horseback to see patients in Meredith, Center Harbor, Bridgewater, today’s Bristol area and anywhere and everywhere in between. Roads were crude at best, so Dr. Rogers either rode horseback or walked if necessary to visit his patients.

From dispensing medicines to extracting troublesome teeth, Dr. Rogers would see every family member on a typical home visit. Such methods as bleeding a patient were popular and Dr. Rogers was known to use this treatment in his practice.

How and why Dr. Rogers made the decision to practice medicine in such a remote area is unknown. He was a Harvard graduate and a scholar. Perhaps he felt he could do the most good in an area where there otherwise would be no medical help. He fit in well in the Plymouth area and served as a selectman and did legal work as well.

In the 1700s, there was no medical insurance. Doctors took whatever payment for services they could get and that more often than not included meat, milk, cheese and other products from his patients; most were farmers. Other forms of payment were wood or a trade of medical services for a day’s work on Dr. Rogers’ property.

Rogers spent his working life in the Plymouth area, traveling far and wide to help those with medical issues. Although his medicines and methods seem archaic today, he was a top-notch doctor of his day and locals were lucky to have him. When he died in 1814 at age 59, he was succeeded by one of his children, Samuel Rogers, who had also become a country doctor. 

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