Hidden History: Young doctor’s ‘upward’ attitude brings hospital to Osage City – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Hidden History: Young doctor’s ‘upward’ attitude brings hospital to Osage City

The Star Block, at 520 Market Street, Osage City, center of photo, was once an early day medical center (or doctor’s office), operated by Dr. Roup for a year or so sometime around the early 1890s. Photo thanks to the Osage County Historical Society.

At one time, Osage County was home to not one but two hospitals. Both were located in Osage City and served the surrounding area. Barnes Hospital was owned by Miles W. Barnes, a young Tennessee doctor who operated his hospital in the 1920s and into the 1930s. His building was located at 110 S. Sixth Street. Brown Hospital was established in 1917 on Main Street and operated by Thomas O. Brown, a former Osage County schoolteacher.

Thomas Brown grew up in Lyndon, the son of farming parents. He excelled in school and after graduation became a local teacher at No. 68 (or Jack Rabbit) and Vassar schools. In 1892, Tom married Jessie Jones, of Arvonia, a sister of his good friend. Those that knew Tom Brown knew him to be “a competent and thorough teacher and his motto was ‘Onward and Upward’.” Not only did Tom encourage his students with those words, he followed them himself. It was in Arvonia that Tom crossed paths with Dr. William R. Roup, town physician, and likely decided upon a new career path.

Dr. Roup, like Tom Brown, had a thirst for knowledge that had led him to the pursuit of the expanding field of medicine. Dr. Roup received his medical degree in 1869 from the University of Iowa at a time when the medical profession was largely unregulated. Doctors during this time were generally classified according to those receiving formal medical training, such as Dr. Roup, and eclectic medicine, which utilized botanical remedies and physical therapy. In the early 1870s, Dr. Roup established a practice in Reading. He also practiced in Osage City for a year in the newly built Star Block, and in 1892-94 moved to Arvonia, where he influenced Tom Brown to follow a career in medicine.

An early advertisement in The Reading Ledger, Saturday, Oct. 3, 1896, announces the availability of Drs. Roup and Brown at Reading, Kansas. “Office opposite the school house.”

In 1893, Tom Brown began to pursue a degree in medicine from the University Medical College in Kansas City, Missouri. This school was a newer institution, opening its doors originally in 1881 as part of Kansas City University, with studies in art and law as well as medicine. Tom was not the only Osage County doctor that studied at University Medical College – H. W. Chittenden, of Quenemo, A. F. Harrison and James Cairns, of Scranton, and E. G. Murtaugh, of Burlingame, attended at about this time.

At first the college only emphasized scholarly pursuits, but soon realized a need to increase its offerings and added sports teams. The choice proved to be a good one. The few first years the University Medical College’s Medics team played, they excelled and had winning seasons. Tom Brown played halfback and was one of the star players. The Medics’ record was so good in fact, that they were considered the “champions of the middle west”. One memorable victory was over the University of Kansas Jayhawks, which Tom relished in his recollections.

During his final year of schooling, Tom Brown reconnected with Dr. Roup and joined him at his successful practice in Reading. Dr. Roup passed away the following year, and Dr. Brown assumed his practice. Dr. Brown memorialized Dr. Roup in the Lebo Enterprise as a “fine conversationalist, ready and witty writer, successful practitioner, and possessed many good qualities of mind and heart.”

Dr. Brown remained in Reading for a time, his reputation slightly tarnished by the accusation of performing an illegal abortion.  Around 1915, Brown moved to Osage City and was the acting Santa Fe surgeon for the town. The railroads had started maintaining staff physicians at stops along the rail lines to take care of injuries by rail employees, as well as offer preventative medicine which proved to be a time and cost-effective practice, building a strong and reliable labor force.

By 1916, Dr. Brown was contemplating building a hospital for the town – a good location due to the rail traffic and industry offered by Osage City. Dr. Brown purchased the Hanslip property at 501 Main in 1917, with plans to make it both an office and first-class residence hospital.

At the time of Brown’s establishment of his hospital, the country was seeing a rise of the hygiene movement, which sought to combat diseases connected with overcrowded conditions. Fresh air became a common addition the prescription for good health – seeking an outdoor sleeping space, screened to prevent disease spreading insects. Brown’s hospital reflected these new features. Brown’s hospital, like other small community hospitals, provided more personalized care than big city hospitals, including accessible medicine for all classes. While some small towns had hospitals that were administered by physicians practicing homeopathic medicine, Dr. Brown kept himself educated in the newest medical trends by taking supplemental classes.

When he wasn’t taking care of his patients Dr. Brown enjoyed farming as a hobby. Once he retired from medicine, he continued to find pleasure in working on his farm north of Osage City. Dr. Brown passed away in 1943, and his former hospital was eventually was converted into apartments. Brown’s hospital still stands at 501 Main, across from Osage City Hall, and is used as a multi-family residence.

Still standing at 501 Main Street, Osage City, one of the county’s first hospitals, established around 1917, now serves as a multi-family dwelling. 

wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She lived in Osage County for 20 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.

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