Old Time Doctors

Written by Dr. B.F. Mills and read by City Engineer H.E. French

before the Sauk County Historical Society at the annual meeting November 2, 1907.

Doctor's Bag.jpg

Early Baraboo

The writer, Dr. B.F. Mills was born in Watertown, N.Y., in 1821. In the fall of 1845, I left Watertown for the West, came up the Lakes by steamer to Ohio and spent the winter there. At that time there were no railroads west of Buffalo with the exception of two spurs in Ohio, one running from Sandusky to Mansfield, the pioneer railroad in Ohio, and the other from Xenia to Cincinnati. In the spring of 1846, I left Cleveland by way of the Ohio canal to Portsmouth on the Ohio river and then by steamer down the Ohio river to Cairo, up the Mississippi and Fever rivers to Galena, stopping for the summer in Missouri on my way. From Galena, I came by stage to Beloit in the fall of 1846, arriving just before the election resulting in the rejecting of the first constitution submitted to the people of Wisconsin. At that time there were no railroads in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri or Wisconsin. I lived in southern Wisconsin till 1850 when I moved to Baraboo, although I had visited Baraboo and Reedsburg in 1849. I took my first meal in the basement of a hotel where Ruhland’s brewery now stands. Men were engaged in digging out stumps in Walnut street from the river to the location of the present South Side church. On my visit to Reedsburg in 1849, I found the village consisted of the Mill House and Shanty Row occupied by the pioneer settlers, consisting of Messrs. Strong, Rudd, Croswell, McCling, Bishop and others, whose names I do not now recall. These pioneers occupied the palatial row of shanties above mentioned. I was sent to the unfurnished Mill House to sleep, which place, I now understand, was recently torn down.

No Feed For Horse

They had no feed for my horse and sent me to Mr. Babb on Babb’s prairie to procure some and all I could get was buckwheat bran. They furnished me a boy to pilot me there saying Mr. Babb would not let them have any or me either if they went with me. On my way back to Reedsburg the boy run me into a quagmire from which I had a serious time extricating myself and horse. Mr. Babb asked me if I intended to locate in Reedsburg and warned me not to do so as he was building a dam on his creek and this would prevent them from building a dam on the river as he thus had the prior right.

In 1850 I located in Baraboo. At that time the village was called Baraboo and the township was called Brooklyn and the post office was named Adams. The name of the post office was afterwards changed to Baraboo as they thought this name unique and also there was another post office in the state named Adams. The census of the township was taken in 1850 which was then larger than now and included the then unincorporated village of Baraboo and all together the census was only about 800. C.H. McLaughlin took the census at that time, and established the Sauk County Standard, the first paper in Baraboo.

I had been here only about a week, when I was called to Lyons to attend a man named Donelson, who had his skull crushed in on one side with a hand axe. I removed several pieces of the skull bones, which I now have in my possession. Of course he did not recover. I together with my wife, boarded at the hotel called the Sumner House at the corner where A.R. Reinking’s store is now located. The proprietor was Mr. Locke. One day he had trouble with his help and gave us roast pig with blood oozing from the meat. Of course we were disgusted and my wife, together with Mrs. C.H. McLaughlin, who was also boarding at the Summer Home, as was the wife of one of the publishers of the Sauk Co. Standard, which was started soon after, discussed the situation and all decided to move to my old home on the corner of Second and Ash streets, which I had recently purchased, and live together till we could get settled by ourselves. 

As I could not get a cooking stove in Baraboo, my wife and I went to Sauk to get one. On our way back in the night, a severe storm overtook us and the only light we got was from the flashes of lightning and in the darkness we ran into a tree top which had fallen across the road and caused much trouble.

The following sketch of the Doctors of Sauk Co. was read before the District Medical Society which met in Reedsburg in 1897 and which I have revised to date by inserting the Doctors who since have located in Sauk Co.

Doctors of Sauk County

Dr. Chas. Cowles was the first physician located in Baraboo Valley. He came here in May 1846 and Dr. Angle also came in this year. Dr. Cowles was in the prime of life, full of vigor and had a practice which extended many miles. On one occasion at sundown, Jan. 3, 1847, he was called to go 64 miles to visit a lumberman taken with pleuro-pneumonia. On an Indian pony he rode that distance by 4 o’clock the next morning with out dismounting and the thermometer registering 26 degrees below zero, such a feat demonstrating a degree of physical endurance seldom seen in our time. He excelled in quick diagnosis, arriving at quick conclusions and was remarkably accurate as a rule. Under the head “Musical” I find the following: Dr. Chas. Cowles might be called with propriety the father of music in this and other parts of Sauk Co. He taught singing school in the village of Baraboo and neighborhood some 20 years and many who might now be called “old singers” received their first lesson from him.” He died several years ago.

The writer located in Baraboo in June 1850. Dr. Cowles, Dr. Angle and Dr. Crandall were practicing here at that time and I believe were the only regular practitioners in the County. On my way here, I came through Sauk City and Prairie du Sac where they had no physician at that time, although Dr. Woodruff had lived there. He came there in 1843 and was the first physician in Sauk County. 

Dr. Angle came in 1846 but did not practice much after 1850, being engaged in erecting a mill at Angelo a part of Sparta.

Dr. Crandall practiced here a few years only and has since died.

In the winter of 1853, I was called to Newport to attend a man with fractured femur and comminuted fracture of the patella with Dr. Jenkins, an honored member of the profession. The case was on our hands for months and from this association I date the commencement of a warm fraternal feeling towards Dr. Jenkins which I still cherish. He now lives in Kilbourn.

Medical Society

Under date of Jan. 26th, 1852 I find in a record I have the following: “Doctors Cowles, Noyes, Alexander and Mills were members of a medical society organized in Baraboo styled the ‘Baraboo Medical Association. Chas Cowles, Pres., D.S. Alexander, Sec. and Treas.”

When I came to Baraboo, there were no doctors in Reedsburg and I attended patients there and at Babb’s Prairie.

Dr. Ambrose Jones came to Sauk county in 1850, at Delton where he now resides. Dr. Williams located in Reedsburg in the early fifties. I have mentioned the earlier doctors and will now include those practicing later. The number is so great that many names will unavoidably be omitted.

Baraboo—Doctors Alexander, Davis, McKennan, Hall, Koch, Snyder, Cowles, Noyes, Mills, Vittum, Angle, Crandall, English, Riley, Kelley, Gorst, Craemer, Irwin, Cahoon, Beach, Sayles, Farnsworth.
Reedsburg—Doctors Williams, Mackey, Salada, Hall, Hunt, Gillula, Selden, VanBuskirk, Ramsey, Rood, Kordinat, Hulburt, Edwards, Daly, Shelden.

Ironton—Doctors Boother, Bennett.

Prairie du Sac and Sauk City—Doctors Bassinger, Young, Riley, Buehler, Lachmund, Farr.

Merrimack—Doctor Martin.


Spring Green—Doctors Christman, Bossard, Pelton.

Delton—Doctors Jenkins and Jones.

The above list includes all the regular physicians who now reside or have resided in Sauk county that I recall at this time. I may have omitted some but not intentionally, and have written more particularly about the earliest resident doctors and will leave to abler pens to extol the merits of those coming later.