The Washington Times-Herald

Local News

June 14, 2013

A first family of medicine

Celebrating 100 years at Daviess Community Hospital

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

 Asafoetida

A gentleman from Montgomery paid a visit to Doc Bill’s office complaining of terrible sinus congestion. After examination Doc Bill began  the preparation of an Asafoetida bag. This stinkpot concoction of root extracts was contained in a small sack to be hung around a person’s neck. It had the dual capacity, so the erroneous thought of the day, to cure congestion and ward off viruses. What it did, mostly, was prevent your closest friends and loved ones from wanting to come within five feet of you.

Upon completion he hands the pungent necklace to his patient and starts to record the transaction. “That will be 5 cents,” said  Doc Bill.  The patient asked if he could pay after his farm crops come in.

“So your last name is Swartzentruber?” exclaims Doc Bill with a smile, “Keep your nickel. I’ll be hanged if I try to spell Asafoetida and Swartzentruber in the same sentence!”

 Righteousness and Valor

Doc Bill treated all folks the same regardless of skin color.  That could be dangerous in Indiana in the 1920s as evidenced with this account of his true character.  One night Bill, his wife Maime, and their son Jack were at home. A clamor is heard outside and when Bill stepped onto the porch, he saw at his doorstep a dozen torches held by robed and hooded Ku Klux Klansmen on horseback.

They are yelling his name, making threats and demanding that he no longer care for that “n----- and his family!” Doc Bill surveys the maelstrom and recognized the lead rider’s boots thus identifying him as one of his own patients.

 Walking closer to the head Klansman Doc Bill called him by name and said for all to hear, “I will treat all who need my services and neither you nor anyone else can make me do otherwise. Now get out of here right now and never threaten me or my family again or the next time you’re in my office and need a shot you’ll get stuck with a rusty needle!”

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