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June 14, 2013

A first family of medicine

Celebrating 100 years at Daviess Community Hospital

WASHINGTON — For 115 years the McKittrick name has been associated with the practice of medicine in Daviess County. In the early 1870s there were no state medical licensing boards and no requirements of medical school; indeed, no qualifications of any kind were necessary for persons to treat the sick and injured under the label “doctor.”

Oliver Henry McKittrick, M.D.

 O.H. McKittrick, a resident of Plainville, Ind., took it upon himself to attend and graduate from the University of Louisville School of Medicine in 1870. At the time, he was the only medical school graduate practicing in Daviess County. He was, as the movies so quaintly portray, the quintessential “horse and buggy” doctor traveling with his small satchel of medicinal powders and liquids plus a small minor surgery kit. 

 William Oliver McKittrick, M.D.

Two of O.H.’s sons became doctors.  O.K. McKittrick, M.D. became a surgeon and left Plainville for Indianapolis.  The other son, W.O. McKittrick, M.D., graduated with a dual degree in medicine from Purdue University and Indiana University in 1907; the result of a short-lived merger of the two medical schools.

While practicing in Plainville he earned a second degree from the Cincinnati Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat College in 1922. He moved his family to Washington in 1925.  Through his generosity, kindness and good humor, W.O. McKittrick, M.D. became one of the most beloved citizens of Daviess County. Myth has it that he delivered half the county. Whether true or not, he attended to thousands of patients via office and house calls and was lovingly called “Doc Bill” by all. 

Doc Bill would have been one of the first physicians to treat patients at the Daviess County Hospital established in 1913.

 The Flood

It was spring and Elnora was being flooded. Trapped in a stranded house on a piece of high ground surrounded by water was an expectant mother. Knowing she was due and understanding the circumstances Doc Bill ventured to the woman’s aid. Arriving at a farmhouse within sight of the temporary island he commandeered a rowboat. The young woman and her husband were relieved beyond belief to see Doc Bill. He stayed with the young family for a couple of days until the baby was born.  This was not unusual. During the Spanish Flu epidemics of 1918 and 1920, he sometimes didn’t go to his own home for days or even weeks, as he went from home to home staying with patients ravaged by this killer virus. His payment for these services was quite probably a most popular currency of the day, fruits and vegetables, and the blessings of loyal bonds forged in doctor/patient relationships. 

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