The Article I Never Wanted to Write

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:





Author: Peg Porter

On April 8, 1955, I celebrated my 14th birthday. On April 12, four days later in Ann Arbor, just a few miles down the road, Dr. Thomas Francis and Dr. Jonas Salk announced the successful field trials of Salk's polio vaccine. This medical breakthrough signaled the beginning of the end of one of the most feared and destructive illnesses. Each summer brought new outbreaks of the polio virus. Its victims were primarily but not exclusively children. The announcement of an effective vaccine meant an almost immediate reduction in the number of polio cases. The demand for the vaccine in the first few years outstripped the supply. Age limits were placed to determine eligibility. Younger children were the primary target. If you happened to be a young teenager, your chances of being vaccinated were remote, to say the least.

The summer of 1955 was a hot one. Fortunately we had a cottage on Base Lake (aka Baseline Lake). My brother and I spent hours in the water, reluctantly returning to shore to eat. Mother sometimes made us lie down during the hottest part of the day but as soon as we could we went back in the water.

In early August my parents decided we should take a short road trip. My brother and I sat the in back seat of the family’s turquoise Plymouth Station wagon. Baby sister Jane stayed home watched over by her Granny from Canada. Off we went toward Niagara Falls, first on the U.S. side, finally to cross over to the Canadian side with its lovely gardens, tea rooms and the best view of the falls. We rode the Maid of the Mist before heading back west through Ontario. Dad pointed out the signs to Guelph where his Nova Scotian father attended agricultural college. We stopped in Stratford for lunch. The Shakespeare Festival was in its second year with all performances in a tent in the city park.

The last leg of the trip was up to Godrich, Ontario, a pretty town on the northern shores of Lake Huron. There was an old inn on a bluff above the lake. That was where we stayed. As soon as we could, my brother and I were in our bathing suits headed down to the beach and into the cold water. It certainly was cooler than Base Lake. Our swim was short as we had to dress for dinner, an experience mother used to reinforce etiquette. The following day we headed home to Dexter.

Less than two weeks later, I developed a tingling in my legs; by that evening I found myself struggling to go up and down the porch steps. The next morning when I got out of bed, I fell to the floor. My legs could not support me. The crash brought my parents to my room. I could not stand up and was lifted into bed. I heard my parents conferring. Dad was going to summon Dr. Al Milford who had a cottage at Portage Lake. We had no phone in those days. It wasn't long before Dad returned with Al. After a brief examination, I heard Dr. Milford say, "We must take her to University Hospital."

And so my mother made a bed of sorts in the backseat of the Plymouth station wagon. My father carried me out to the car. Off we headed for Dexter then on to Dexter Ann Arbor Road. My head was propped up by a pillow and I watched the familiar scenes flash by. Dr. Milford guided us to the Emergency Entrance. They did a spinal tap. That was the one sure way to diagnose the virus. The diagnosis was what we all expected - polio.

Then I was loaded into an ambulance for a trip down the hill behind the hospital. The Contagious Ward was housed in an old World War I cottage with screened in porches on all sides. If you saw the film "The English Patient" that is what it resembled. I was put in a small room, my body encased in sandbags. It was hot, no air conditioning not even a fan. Staff were gowned and gloved when they entered the room. Their visits were as short as possible. I could see my parents through a small window at the back of the room. This was isolation. My one human contact was the resident physician, a young man with a kind face who spoke with me as if I were a person, not merely a patient. One night I felt I was having trouble breathing. I asked for the doctor, the nurse resisted but finally relented. He came, calmed me down and stayed with me until I went to sleep.

After four days, I was put back in the ambulance, went up the hill to the main hospital to begin rehabilitation. My home for the next two and a half months was Ward 4-C. This was a noisy often raucous place that housed all of the patients who, like myself, had paralysis from polio and were undergoing rehabilitation. We were almost all teenagers and now that we were no longer "sick" did what teenagers do.

There was a TV mounted on the wall. That fall the Mickey Mouse Club made its debut. We watched faithfully and picked our favorites among the Mousketeers. In the evenings we listened to local DJ Ollie McLaughlin. At least once a week he dedicated a song to "my friends at 4-C." We had visits from some of the Michigan football players, including Ron Kramer who I thought was really good looking. We were indulged but for the most part this treatment kept the depression at bay that follows a traumatic illness or accident. That would come later.

Friendships developed in 4-C. Some would last beyond discharge from the hospital. My closest friends were Ellie, a freshman at the University of Michigan from New York, and Sarah, like me, a freshman in high school. She was from Manchester. My parents "adopted" Ellie who started referring to me as her "little sister." Both Sarah's parents and mine were regular visitors: they also supported each other. I was the most severely disabled and the last to leave the hospital. At one point four of us, my two friends and I plus another teenager named Joan, were moved to a women's surgical ward to reduce the overcrowding in 4-C. It was a typical hospital ward of the times, two rows of beds facing each other in a long room. Not an appropriate environment for four teenagers. The move was short-lived. Someone (we never found out who) went directly to Dr. Francis. I heard a commotion at the entrance to the ward. Since we were at the far end, I could not understand what was being said. But I recognized Dr. Francis as he was very tall. Clearly he was not happy. Within the hour we were moved back to 4-C. It seems that Dr. Francis viewed the patients who were recovering from polio as "his." Surely he recognized the irony of the teenagers recovering from polio just months after he joined Dr. Salk in announcing the success of the vaccine.

My therapy consisted of being placed in an "oven" that produced warm steam. Only my head was outside the "oven." It had a timer that I watched; when it rang, I was removed to a table and the stretching began. It hurt but was felt necessary to keep the muscles from contracting. This was followed by some strength building exercises. After six weeks or so I was fitted with a full-length leg brace on my left leg and provided with "Canadian" crutches so I could stand and begin to walk.

My mother visited the hospital and was told to go down to Physical Therapy where a surprise was waiting. She came into the room to see me standing though propped up by the crutches. It was a shock for her. Up until then she had seen me either in bed or in a wheelchair. During that visit she faced what the virus had done to my body. She kept herself together until she reached her car and then broke down in tears. She was sobbing so hard that when she reached Washtenaw, she pulled over. A truck driver saw her and pulled up behind her. He walked to the car and asked if she was alright. It was difficult for her to stop crying long enough to answer him. He offered to call my dad or to drive her home. By then she had pulled herself together, thanked him and told him she was able to drive the rest of the way home.

Now that I had the brace and crutches much of my physical therapy involved practicing walking, sitting down and getting up, and the most frightening of all, climbing stairs. I could go up the stairs but when it came to come back down, I froze. I was taught to put my crutches on the next step down, balance myself and then lower my braced leg first. Of course it felt like I was going to fall head first. I think it was the first time I cried in Physical Therapy. But I had a cheerleader. A male patient with both legs missing sat at the bottom of the stairs in his wheelchair and talked me down.

I've seen this happen in therapy again and again. The fellow patients are very supportive of each other and a camaraderie develops. When one person succeeds the other patients offer their support and congratulations. It is a crucial piece of regaining confidence.

After about six weeks, I made my first home visit. This was just for a half-day but it was an important milestone. I had not been outside since late August. I remember going out the door into the cool autumn air and seeing the first touches of color on the leaves. The two family members who seemed most happy to see me were Muffin, our English cocker spaniel who cried and covered my face with kisses and Janie Lynn my fifteenth month old baby sister. Janie stayed as close as she could.

About two weeks after that first visit I was signed out for a weekend visit. I remember I slept on a pull-out couch in the den; the stairs would be tackled later.

The home visits and the progress I made in Physical Therapy signaled the preparation for release from the hospital. And on a cold day in mid-November, my father's birthday, I left and headed home.
My next goal was to return to school in January. I had been receiving assignments regularly from most of my teachers. Through these I managed to stay on track in my classwork. I was physically ready but I was not mentally ready for the changed world I was going to reenter. I was now a person with a disability. My good friends remained my good friends. I was not however ready for the rejection I would experience.

I began this by stating this was the article I never wanted to write. Why? And why did I choose to do it now?

I was determined to resume my life much as it had been before I contracted the virus. I did not want to draw attention to my disability. It was not me and I was determined that not be defined by changed physical characteristics. To do so would limit my opportunities. But to others, especially those who had not known me before, that is exactly what happened. It was terribly unfair. I experienced what we would now recognize as discrimination although much of it was benign, done in the guise of protection.

The 1950s were a time of conformity. This was particularly true among the young. As a teenager I was sometimes excluded from social activities. I still remember a New Years Eve Party. The first New Year's celebration among my peers. Many of my friends attended but I was not invited. Yet, I was well-liked and involved in numerous activities. When it came time to apply for college my options were more limited than my classmates. I was accepted to one of best private liberal arts colleges in the state but I did not attend as there "was no dorm space." This, I realized later, was blatant discrimination but there were no laws then that prohibited an educational institution from such practices.

I know that my struggles were similar to those experienced by many others with an acquired disability. Yet, most of us try to preserve a positive attitude and to be the best in whatever we do. And many, if not most of us, not just succeed but to do so almost effortlessly or so it seems. There is a term "super crip" used within the movement that recognizes that phenomenon. The demands that we place on ourselves and that others come to expect from us can be exhausting. Those are some of the reasons I chose not to write about my own experience.

Why now? This past year marks a highly significant anniversary. Many view the development of the vaccines as the most important medical advance of the 20th century. There are fewer of us to tell the story, to educate and enlighten not just about polio but to look inward and honestly think about how we view and value other people. In this age of inclusiveness, more attention needs to be paid to how others are excluded. Attitudes and awareness require constant attention.

As the years passed, I became more and more of an advocate and not just on behalf of polio "victims." I learned about deafness, the deaf community or communities. A close friend and colleague of mine, who was diabetic, lost most of her vision and eventually her life. I worked with blind individuals and watched the advances in technology that provided support on the job. I came to understand that various types of physical disability presented their own unique challenges. For example, people with spinal cord injuries function differently than those with cerebral palsy. And perhaps the most damaging of all are the closed head injuries that affect communications and the thought process and often result in outbursts of anger that are frightening to the injured and those around them. All of this is at times overwhelming and yet disability coalitions have been built that have had major impact on the lives of both disabled and TABS (Temporarily Able Bodied) people.

When I moved to Washington, D.C in 1980, Michigan and California were viewed as the states who led the nation in securing rights for disabled people. I was privileged to attend the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act on the West Lawn of the White House in July of 1990.

Previously people with disabilities were treated with a kind of patronizing pity. Now it was the law of the land that disabled people were entitled to full participation in almost all aspects of life. On return to my home state I found that times had changed. In part this was due to the change in political leadership and a struggling economy. Michigan, in my view, was no longer proactive but more reactive. More than once I have pointed out barriers to full participation only to hear "we don't have to do that." The end result is loss: the group or organization loses the potential contribution of people who are excluded and these individuals are denied participation. Most barriers, whether they be physical or attitudinal, aren't the result of maliciousness but have their origins in lack of awareness or lack of knowledge regarding the law. Personally I would rather not have to take legal action but it is sometimes necessary to ensure fairness and equal opportunity.

My own perspective has changed significantly since 1955. In the early years I was defensive, easily hurt while still pushing myself not only to do well but to be better if not the best. Over time, as I experienced some level of success I realized the much larger issues that face so many people. I rejected the role of "victim" and became an advocate and leader. This represents personal growth and a greater level of comfort in my own body. It also allowed me to write this article, the one I did not want to write.

(Editors Note: Peg Porter was born in Ann Arbor and grew up on the west side of Ypsilanti. She graduated from Roosevelt High School and received a Bachelor's and two Master’s Degrees from Eastern Michigan University. She was on the faculty of Central Michigan University, a staff member of Eastern Michigan, a program manager at Macomb County Community College and a consultant with Michigan Rehabilitation Services. She was a Department of Health and Human Services Fellow and a staff member in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. She also is a trained mediator, writer and editor.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Iron Lungs were used when Polio was at its peak in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Photo 2: Dr. Thomas Francis from the University of Michigan and Dr. Jonas Salk, vaccine developer, announce the success of polio vaccine in field trials in April 1955 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Photo 3: Peg Porter holding her sister Jane a few months before contracting the polio virus.

Photo 4: The University of Michigan Hospital in the mid-1950s. The contagious ward was behind the main hospital.

Photo 5: Peg Porter with sister Jane on one of her visits home.

Photo 6: Peg Porter (at right) on her 15th birthday on April 8, 1956. At the upper left is Eleanor Bergeret, a U of M student and friend of Peg during her hospital stay.

Photo 7: President George Bush signs the Americans with Disabilities Act in July 1990 on the West lawn of the White House. On the left is Evan Kemp; Justin Dart, Jr. is to the right; both Republican disability advocates.

Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:






(Note: This article appeared in a 1973 issue of the Gleanings.)

The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, October 6, 1883, contained the following:

“OUR CITY: Last January when the merchants of Ypsilanti came to figure up the result of their year’s business they found that the trade of the City had never before been equaled the sales of the year just past. As this fact was whispered from ear to ear the talk of the town, which for years had been pessimistic, began slowly to change. In the spring the Ypsilanti Paper Company, which, thanks to Mr. Clark Cornwall, has always been an enterprising concern, began to bore for mineral water near their lower mills. After a time the labor was crowned with success and water of unusual strength (and smell) was struck. The water found is strong enough to eat up a tin dipper in a couple of hours’ time, and in color has the appearance of milky water. Immediately all the lame and halt of the town began to bathe in this veritable Poll of Siloam, and when the cures were noised abroad there came a struggle to see who should be first to use the limited accommodations of the town. Then strangers began to flock to the City and such was the potency of the water and so great the number of Strangers who came to be cured of their infirmities that an enterprising citizen, Mr. George Moorman, getting some aid, began the erection of a $30,000 bath house, which is now fast approaching completion. In a short time ample accommodations will be provided for all who care to take the baths.”

Between the years of 1880 and 1917 there were two successful Mineral Water Sanitariums in our city, each supplied with mineral water from local wells. In an article in The Ypsilanti Commercial of December 15, 1883, entitled: “Ypsilanti, a Review of the City and Its Industries, ” we read:

“… The Ypsilanti Paper Company completed a well on their premises for the purpose of obtaining a supply of pure water for use in the manufacture of paper. The well reached a depth of nearly 800 feet, when it struck a vein of water that had a peculiar taste and was acknowledged to possess some medical properties. The real value of the water was not known until several very remarkable cures of cancer, rheumatism and other kindred diseases could be traced to the effects of the water. The reputation of this mineral water spread very rapidly, and hundreds of our citizens can testify as to its beneficial effects. It became the one theme of conversation on our street, and the demand for treatment from this water became more and more apparent every day. Our citizens became interested in the matter, and, seeing it would be a great addition to the city, offered a donation of $5,000 to anyone who would start a suitable establishment where persons suffering from disease could receive treatment from this water. After due consideration the proposition was accepted by George Moorman and Clark Cornwell . These gentlemen began the erection of a building on the eighth of last May. They have pushed its construction as fast as weather would permit. It will be ready for occupancy about the first of January, and when finished, be the finest building in the city…”

In the archives of the City Museum we have the original invitation to the opening of the Ypsilanti Mineral Bath House, (Huron North of Congress (Michigan) . There were speeches given, music provided by the Ypsilanti Quartet Club and refreshments were served by the Ladies’ Library Association. On January 12, 1884, The Ypsilanti Commercial copied a report of the opening ceremonies. The speeches were praised, the Ladies’ of the Library Association were congratulated on the refreshments and it was proudly noted that a reporter from The Chicago Times covered the event for his paper.

Six months later Tubal Cain Owen announced that he, too, had a mineral well and claimed that his “waters” had even more curative powers than that of the Cornwell-Moorman well. The fact that frequent articles concerning the mineral wells appeared in The Ypsilanti Commercial seems to point up the fact that the townspeople, particularly the business men and landlords were keenly interested in the success of the Sanitariums. For instance, on July 26, 1884, there appears yet another article, entitled, “The Mineral Wells.”

…These wells are rendering Ypsilanti famous the world over. The healing waters flowing free from these wells seem destined to be an untold blessing to affected humanity…Ypsilanti has already come to be the center of attraction for the halt, the lame and the blind, the palsied and paralylics. It is by no means a crippled city, but a city of cripples. The cry every day, “still they come.” Let them come! The Hawkins House, the Follette House, the Barton, and all the other hotels and numerous nice boarding houses are full. Ere another season a mammoth hotel may be in the process of erection.

About this same time the paper started listing the names of those registering at the Sanitariums. Helen McAndrew had water from the Owen well piped to her “Rest for the Weary” establishment on South Huron Street. The editor of the paper proudly called especial attention to the names of “guests” of the Sanitariums who came from outside the state.

Tubal Cain Owen, the owner of the Forest Avenue Mineral Well, was not only a good business man but he was a wonderful promoter of his products. He erected a tall building over his derrick and in it established a factory for making soap (“Sapon”), salts, ointments and other products of the well besides bottling hundreds of bottles and barrels of the mineral water, which he named “Atlantis,” the name being in black lettering that reached from the ground to the top of the building. His charged mineral water he called “Paragon.” He had various brochures prepared for the purpose of advertising his products and from one entitled, “Natures Remedy; Natural Mineral Water From the Owen Mineral Well at Ypsilanti, Michigan and the DISEASES IT WILL CURE together with Directions for Treatment.” It read as follows:

“TO THE PUBLIC: The waters of the Owen Mineral Well is on the market to fulfill its errand of mercy, and we wish everyone to know just exactly what he is using, that he may use it intelligently and rationally. We have no myths nor Indian legends to relate to appeal to the public’s credulity. We sank our well on scientific principles in search of HEALING WATERS. We use the most approved modern machinery; we believe that waters of untold value to suffering humanity were below us, and we wanted to bring them to the light of day and utilize them for their legitimate purposes. Our expectations were high, and we believe they have been fully realized. We base the claims for our water upon the medicinal value of its mineral salts as demonstrated by the actual experience and testimony of the highest authorities.”

In the same brochure the treatment of cancer was outlined as follows:

“The water must be taken freely, three or four glasses a day, no matter how nauseating it may be. Sponge the entire body twice a day with moderately warmed water. Apply to the affected part thick cloths saturated with the water at its natural temperature, renewing them as ofter as they become at all dry. After the disease shows signs of yielding, by no means cease the treatment, but continue it faithfully until the cancer is entirely healed. Besides applying the water by means of the cloths before mentioned, the diseased part should be bathed freely and frequently with the water. We cannot impress too strongly upon the mind of the patient, the absolute necessity of drinking freely of the water…”

The cost of the Owen Mineral Water was as follows:
Per Barrel $8.00
Per Half Barrel $4.50
Ten Gallon Kegs $3.25
Pints (per doz.) $3.00
Quarts (per doz.) $5.00

In jugs, five gallons and under, the water will be sold at the uniform price of twenty cents per gallon, and ten cents per gallon for package.

In yet another Owen brochure are listed testimonials from those cured plus a list of local people who claimed cures and the ailments of which they are cured are also listed. Of course, the Ypsilanti Sanitarium (Occidental Hotel) also had its brochure. It was lavishly illustrated with pictures of the building and of its various rooms. The introduction to its brochure reads as follows:

“THE YPSILANTI SANITARIUM was designed especially for the rational treatment of cases which require the constant attention of competent physicians and trained nurses. The natural advantages of Ypsilanti, viz.; high altitude, picturesque wooded country, and what is of most importance, The Ypsilanti Mineral Springs, make it especially adapted for a health resort.

The thorough equipment of its laboratories for research and study and its complete departments for the treatment of various diseases make it particularly desirable for cases that cannot practically be treated at home.

Experienced physicians and professional nurses are in constant attendance.

The Sanitarium will maintain perfectly equipped departments…From all boat lines touching Detroit, it is but a short trip. It is on the main line of the Michigan Central R.R., 45 minutes’ ride from Detroit and a little over 6 hours ride from Chicago. It is the eastern terminus of the Ypsilanti branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern R.R. and its connecting lines viz. the Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor trolley lines. From Ann Arbor on the trolley line it is 30 minutes and from Detroit 1 hour and 30 minutes distant. On the Wabash R.R. Ypsilanti may be reached via. Belleville…”

The interesting question is, why did Ypsilanti’s flourishing and comparatively well known sanitariums close? An article in the Ypsilanti Press for September 9th, 1945, tells us that a Mr. J. M. Chidister ran the Occidental Hotel and Spa for the Cornwell-Moorman group during it first years of existence. Patronage declined and the spa was closed for a time.

“About 1902, however, the mineral industry was revived by Dr. C. C. Yemans, prominent Detroit physician and long time professor in the Detroit College of Medicine. He repaired the well casing, restored the baths and opened part of the old hotel. Hospital equipment was installed and rooms were renovated and furnished for patients. Old students of Dr. Yemans sent patients from all over the country and business flourished. The Hospital, long needed here was filled. However, the hotel part, separately operated was carelessly kept. Patients were admitted without Dr. Yemans’s approval and netted too many dt. victims. Their yells annoyed other patients and Mrs. Yemans. That appeared to be the last straw and Dr. Yemans retired. His successor, a young man whose chief interest was in breeding fancy dogs at Mt. Clemens, spent too little time here and the whole concern soon collapsed. About the time of World War I, Tracy Towner, Bert Moorman, and others again opened the well and the baths with Dr. G. F. Clarke, Bay City, in charge. There were patients but not enough for profit and new trouble appeared when the well casing started to collapse. The cost of 220 feet of casing was considered prohibitive, and again Ypsilanti’s chance of increased income and mineral water fame went glimmering…”

On the decline of the Owen Mineral Sanitarium, operated by Dr. M. S. Hall, the same article states:

“…To utilize the water baths, Dr. M. S. Hall put up a bath house, next to 510 W. Forest Avenue, about two blocks from the well and fitted up the adjoining residence for a hotel. He had a large patronage for several years and amazing cures for many different diseases were reported. About 1890 he sold the buildings to Dr. O. E. Pratt, but he, because of advanced age, finally closed it and sold the building for residences. After Mr. Owen’s death, his son Eber, continued for many years to ship quantities of the Owen water in bulk to Chicago and Boston in response to a steady demand.”

In the closing paragraph of the same article the writer attempts to explain the decline and failure of the spas thusly:

“…Just why Ypsilanti’s mineral water, equal in medicinal properties to other popular resorts, failed to become a permanent municipal asset seems unexplainable. Opinions of older residents brings out two possible factors. 1) Indifference of management including too frequently insufficient regard for comfort and entertainment of patients. 2) Determination on the part of several of the more wealthy and conservative residents that Ypsilanti should remain a quiet residential community and that industry of every kind should be discouraged.”

There are good and valid reasons for the failure and closing of the Sanitariums of Ypsilanti; but something happened in 1906 of nationwide importance which in all probability was the most important factor in tolling the death bell for these centers of miraculous cures. In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act which became a law on January 1, 1907. Stewart H. Holbrook tells us in his book, The Golden Age of Quackery that Harvey W. Wiley, Chief Chemist of the United States Department of Agriculture had been trying since 1883 to have a law passed to regulate the labeling of foods and medicines. “Tell the truth on a label,” said Wiley, and “let the consumer judge for himself.” The legislation of 1906 required honest labels. One of the prime instigators for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Law was Samuel Hopkins Adams who, early in 1906, wrote a series of articles for Collier’s magazine entitled, The Great American Fraud in which he ruthlessly unearthed and named concerns and people who were advertising falsely. The reading public became awakened, and perhaps terrified, when they read Hopkin’s shocking exposes. Common sense forced them to realize that no quick cure salts or waters would replace medical drugs as a cure. In The New York Times for October 8th, 1966, there is a very interesting article about spas which shows that although they have gone from our section there are many still in existence in our country. But the article also points out the changes which have taken place in their make-up. The final passage reads:

“…Spas reached their hayday in the 19th century when their special function was as important as the therapeutic activity. Today the less severe European spas still offer operettas, concerts, balls, parties and casinos to divert guests in search of pleasure with therapy.”

On January 19, 1884, shortly after the opening of the city Mineral Water House, the following poem by “A Farmer” appeared in The Commercial:

Ypsilanti Water

Come all ye weary, sick and sore,
Who want to suffer pain no more,
And take a drink of Cornwell’s bore,
Beside the Huron River.

Let Smith and Sampson keep their drugs,
Fetch on your glasses and your mugs,
Your barrels, bowls and your jugs,
And get the healing water.

If you are sick, just try our cure,
Drink Ypsilanti’s water pure,
That health and life may long endure,
And all your friends rejoice.

Moorman’s put down another bore,
For water, gas and something more,
They say it’s better than before,
To drive woe and pain away.

If you are sad with sickness worn,
And have the headache every morn,
Just come and drink a healing horn,
Of Ypsilanti’s water.

There’s forty new baths agoing,
And all the healing waters flowing,
Better days and health bestowing,
On many a weary one.

If you are growing weak and lean,
Just come and try our healing stream,
And splash till you are pure and clean,
And your troubles washed away.

They will bathe you either cold or warm,
It will do you good and never harm,
And it may come o’re you like a charm,
And double all your joy.

You need not travel far and long,
To drink Saratoga’s water strong,
We have the real thing at home,
Down on the books of Moorman.

It’s true, it has a woeful smell,
But if your stomache don’t rebel,
It’s just the thing to make you well,
And praise up Ypsilanti.


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The Owen Mineral Well, named “Atlantis”, was located on the back of the Eber Owen homestead off Forest Avenue.

Photo 2: Tubal Cain Owen was a great promoter and marketed his products to a wide audience.

Photo 3: Owen called his charged mineral water “Paragon” and advertised that his “Paragon Ginger Ale” was “excellent tonic for the stomach.”

Photo 4: An advertisement for Ypsilanti Mineral Water.

Photo 5: Trademark for Ypsilanti Mineral Water Company.

Photo 6: Claims were made that Natural Mineral Water successfully cured a variety of diseases.

Photo 7: The Owen Sanitarium Company tried to raise $1,250,000 to build the Sanitarium Building shown above.

Photo 8: Ad claiming that “The King of Mineral Waters…is natures greatest remedy for disordered blood.”

Photo 9: Ad for Owen’s Salicura Soap. Also sold were Atlantis Toothpaste, Atlantis Shaving Soap and Atlantis Youth Soap that had “…potent curative properties in every kind of skin desease, burns, bites or poisons, yet so harmless that it will improve the skin of a new-born baby.”

Early Soapmaking

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:


Author: Laura Bien

In the spring of the year the Washtenaw pioneer farmwife prepared for arguably the smelliest, most dangerous, and most tiring chore of the year. Along the way, she could suffer chemical burns, ruin her clothes, or accidentally start a grease fire. The process was hours long, involved seemingly endless stirring, and often failed.

Her first step was to gather scraps of skin and fat left over from last fall’s butchering and the grease and bones saved from months of cooking. Often rancid and mixed with dirt and animal hair, the fats were combined with water in a big iron kettle outdoors and boiled over a fire. Upon cooling, the congealed floating layer of somewhat cleaner fat was skimmed off and saved.

Along with fats, wood ashes had been conserved for some months. Ashes went into the outdoor wooden ash hopper. The hopper was a large V-shaped trough, a barrel with a hole in the bottom, or even a hollow log set upright. A pad of straw at the bottom of any style of hopper helped retain the ashes. Water poured over the gray powdery mass seeped through to become caustic alkaline lye that trickled out into a collection bucket.

Lye was the wild card in this endeavor; upon its strength depended the success of seat-of-the-skirt pioneer chemistry. Lacking pH test strips or a digital scale, the pioneer woman tested the lye by dropping in an egg or potato - if it floated, the lye was thought to be sufficiently caustic. Another test involved dipping in a feather; if the lye dissolved the feathery bits from the quill, it was dangerous enough to be useful. In an era before rubber gloves or cheap safety goggles, even a small spill or splash could cause severe skin or eye damage, with hospitals, if any, perhaps miles distant.

The fat and lye was put in the kettle and heated and stirred for some hours until the combination thickened into a soft brownish soap, a process called saponification. The process sometimes failed. “Much difficulty is often experienced by those who manufacture their own soap,” noted the November 21, 1835 issue of the Rochester, New York-published Genesee Farmer. “Often when every precaution has been apparently taken, complete failure has been the consequence; and the time is not long past when some have even declared that they believed their soap was bewitched.”

Cooled and packed in stoneware crocks or barrels, the soft soap would serve as the family supply for the coming year. Bar soap could be made by adding salt to the cooking soap, pouring it into wooden trays, allowing it to set, and cutting the hardened slabs into bars. Given the added expense of salt and time, most pioneers opted for soft soap. Its slipperiness led to the figurative use of the term to mean “flattery” as early as 1830, per the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.

Considering soap-making’s difficulty, it’s small wonder that larger-scale soap manufactories were among the county’s first industries. As early as 1843, just two decades after a handful of settlers drifted into Woodruff’s Grove, Ypsilanti merchant Charles Stuck was placing ads in the Ypsilanti Sentinel requesting ashes and offering soft soap by the gallon or barrel. In 1844, Ypsilanti storekeepers Norris and Follett accepted ashes, barrel staves, firewood, “and other country produce” as the equivalent of cash for items in their store.

In 1855 Andreas Birk, an immigrant from the onetime German Empire’s southwestern state of Wuerttemberg, established a soap and candle factory on the corner of Madison and Main streets, piping in water from a nearby spring. By 1881, according to Chapman’s History of Washtenaw County, the building was two stories tall and measured 30 by 93 feet. In 1880, he had $1,500 invested in the business, employed four people, and produced $4,000 worth of product (about $94,000 in today’s dollars).

For decades he was one of two Ann Arbor soapmakers, the other being Daniel Millen at the northern end of State Street. In 1880, Millen’s soap and candle works represented a $1,800 investment, employed three men, and produced $2,480 worth of soap and candles ($58,000). Birk’s factory was eventually named the Peninsular Soap Co., and Millen’s the Ann Arbor Soap Works. In the mid-1880s Ypsilanti would-be water baron Tubal Cain Owen also began manufacturing soap, using his much-touted mineral water. He adorned his hefty bars of Salicura Soap with ornate wrappers.

By the late 1880s, new advertisements portended change. The first ads for Cincinnati-made Ivory and Chicago-made Santa Claus soaps appeared in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti papers. In contrast to plainer local ads whose graphic design consisted largely of varied fonts, the new soap ads looked slick and professional, with elaborate images and in Ivory’s case, bubbly doggerel.

One Ivory ad in a September 1889 issue of the Ypsilanti Commercial depicted washerwomen near a clothesline and contained an endorsement by onetime U-M chemistry professor James Langley. He had resigned from the university some months prior. “A direct practical experiment in a laundry has proved to me that the ‘IVORY,’ tested against a certain well-known brand of laundry soap, has the same amount of cleansing power and one and two-thirds the lasting capacity,” wrote the Harvard graduate. “I therefore consider the IVORY a very good laundry soap.”

Others apparently did as well. By 1897, the Glen V. Mills city directory for Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti listed no local soap manufacturers. A state gazetteer of the same year listed eight soapmakers in Detroit, four in Grand Rapids, and one each in Albion, Bay City, Houghton, Jackson, Portland, and Saginaw.

Michigan continued to contribute to the soap industry, though in an unusual way, as the wreckage left behind by rapacious lumbering became a salable product. The September 1, 1892 issue of the American Soap Journal and Perfume Gazette noted, “[T]he manufacture of [wood ashes] is still carried on . . . [in] the forests of Northern Michigan, and in portions of the Provinces of Canada, this substance is still systematically manufactured the year through. The hardwood stump lands from which the timber trees have been cleared are thus made to contribute a second time to the benefit of the settlers.”

Soap was one of the first mass-produced, nationally-advertised products, along with cigarettes, baking powders, and canned foods. Its success allowed such manufacturers as Colgate-Palmolive, the British Lever Brothers (later Unilever) and Ivory manufacturer Procter and Gamble to be early and prominent sponsors of the 1930s radio dramas called “washboard weepers” or “soap operas.”

Modern-day craft soapmaking can be a dramatic production as well. Even given such conveniences as mail-order food-grade lye of a known concentration, cheap-ish Costco canola and olive oil, and library books with time-tested recipes, the aspiring soapmaker must assemble quite a suite of ladles, scrapers, bowls, molds, oils, safety equipment, measuring cups, colorants, essential oils for fragrance, Solo cups for color-mixing, old towels, candy thermometers, a digital scale, a non-aluminum stock pot, a stick blender, a giant tub to keep it all in, and a tolerant spouse. Many items can be gleaned from dollar or thrift stores - bravery concerning the lye must be summoned from within.

The end result in the author’s fumbling foray was a barely-solid slab with a hue less leafy freshness than a moldy pallor. The scented slab, due to a slight measuring error, reeks with a lilac gut-punch that almost makes the eyes water. The eyes of pioneer foremothers, were they to see this saggy soap, would likely water as well, with laughter. No fancified folderol was needed for the resourceful local ladies whose determination transformed moldy bacon and a handful of ashes into a squeaky-clean home, wardrobe, and family.

Note: This story originally appeared in the Ann Arbor Chronicle.

(Laura Bien is a local author and historian and a volunteer in the YHS Archives.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: From U of M’s elite ivory tower, an ardent Ivory Soap Booster.

Photo 2: Ypsilanti merchant Mark Norris, unlike today’s Meijer of Target, accepted wood ashes as cash payment.

Photo 3: Ypsilanti merchant Charles Stuck solicited newspaper readers for ashes.

Photo 4: Ypsilanti mineral water entrepreneur Tubal Cain Owen emphasized that his Salicura soap contained beneficial substances from his miraculous murky water.

Invitation to Visit the Contagious Hospital

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2012,
Fall 2012
Original Images:


Author: James Mann

For many years those inflicted with contagious diseases, such as smallpox, cholera and other easily transmitted diseases were quarantined to prevent the spread of the illness. This often meant placing the residence where the person lived under quarantine, forcing those who lived in the residence to stay in the place and forbidding others to enter until the risk of contagion had passed. The other option was to choose a place in the community, such as a house or other building, as a place where those afflicted could stay separate from others. Here those who were ill could stay until they had recovered, or, as was often the case, were dead.

In Ypsilanti the old city hall at 6 East Cross Street was the contagious hospital, where those who had to be kept apart were housed. Here beginning in about 1913 and continuing into the early 1920’s, the contagious cases were sent to be cared for. It is said, the children of the neighborhood walking to and from school, would cross the street, to avoid walking on the sidewalk in front of the building.

The building was not ideal to the purpose it was then used for. It was built in 1858, as the first city hall and jail. It became the contagious hospital after the city hall was moved into the Quirk House on North Huron Street. To show the public just how bad conditions were in the hospital, Ypsilanti City Health Officer Dr. Charles H. Pillsbury declared Thursday, March 23, 1922 “open day” at the hospital. “We have had no cases of contagion at the hospital for about a week and it has been thoroughly fumigated and cleaned so that no one need fear visiting it,” said Dr. Pillsbury to The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Tuesday, March 21, 1922. “I would be glad to have everyone who has any doubts as to the need of a new contagious hospital, come to the old building next Thursday and see just what the city now has for the care of contagious cases. I think the visit will convince them of a need for the new hospital.”

For one thing, Dr. Pillsbury pointed out, the arrangement of the building made it possible to care for patients afflicted with only one kind of contagion at a time. “Whenever there are cases of different contagious diseases in the city,” noted the account, “private homes often times have to be quarantined and several members of the family kept indoors at the same time.”

“The present contagious hospital,” continued the account, “is comprised of a hall, one front room, which serves to store coal, a place for a cot for a nurse, and kitchen and dining room. The room is several feet below street level. Behind this room is one big room partitioned off into eight little rooms. Every other one of these little rooms has a window. The other four rooms are without windows and ventilation only such as comes in over the tops of the partitions which are built only three-quarters of the way to the ceiling. It is the arrangement that makes it impossible to care for more than one type of contagion at a time. A single wash bowl and one little toilet at the end of a little hall serves all of these rooms. The place is heated by three stoves and even these do not prevent freezing of water pipes in cold weather, according to the city health officer.”

The basement of the building had been used as the old city jail, but because of its deplorable condition was not used as part of the hospital, noted the report.
Dr. Pillsbury told of the case of a four year old girl who contracted scarlet fever while living in a household of 12 to 14 persons, most of whom were employed. “Rather than quarantine the whole house,” explained Dr. Pillsbury to The Daily Ypsilanti Press of Saturday, March 25, 1922, “the child and mother were taken to the present contagious hospital where there were other cases of scarlet fever. After a two weeks’ stay the mother and some of the other patients contracted diphtheria, because of the unsanitary construction of the building it could not possibly be properly disinfected.”

“A few days later,” continued Dr. Pillsbury, “another case that appeared to be scarlet fever was brought in and developed into smallpox and not having any means of isolating this case the mother developed smallpox because the vaccination failed to work, as sometimes happens.”

“This triple infection,” concluded Dr. Pillsbury, “as you can see delayed the quarantine stay very much and deliberately infected this patient and others with two other contagious diseases that they would not have had had they not been sent to this building.”

On open day at the hospital, less than a dozen residents took advantage of the invitation to visit the building. Still, voters approved funding for a new building as the contagious hospital. This new hospital was not built, perhaps because new and better space had become available at the new Beyer Hospital.

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the Gleanings, and a volunteer in the YHS Archives.)


Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Ypsilanti’s old city hall at 6 East Cross Street was used as a contagious hospital beginning in about 1913 and continuing into the early 1920’s.

Abortion for Wicked Purposes

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2011,
Fall 2011
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

Dr. William G. Cox, M.D. was born on April 2, 1831 in Middlebury, Schoharie County, New York. He was born to Quaker parents. He attended school and worked on the family farm until he was 19 years old. Following in the steps of his brother, he decided to pursue the study of medicine. He studied in 1851 in Virginia under the supervision of his brother, a doctor, and taught school to provide himself with income. He was to become a noted homeopathic physician.

In 1854, he settled in Kalamazoo County, Michigan and in 1855 he moved to the Ann Arbor area to continue his tutelage in medicine. In 1856 he entered into the medical department of the University. He moved, while studying, to Ypsilanti to begin the start of his practice. He was a successful physician. He was described in the Representative Men of Michigan (1878) as “...always courteous in manner, genial and sympathetic in nature, he won the esteem of a large circle of friends and patrons.”

William Cox married Josephine S. Bagg, the daughter of one of the pioneers of Detroit, Dr. Joseph Bagg, on December 18, 1862. He then decided in 1871 to move his practice to Detroit. The children of William and Josephine Cox were Charles R. and Jessie (twins) and later Charles E.

The Ypsilanti Commercial of March 15, 1873 had a brief piece which is quoted: “…We are very sorry to learn from the Detroit dailies that Dr. Cox, recently of this city, had been arrested on a charge of abortion for wicked purposes. The Dr. gave bail in the sum of $5,000. We did not allude to the matter last week, in hopes that the report would prove false. We always had a high opinion of the Dr. while a resident of this city.”

The Ypsilanti Commercial received a long explanation of the trial and charges in a piece by Dr. Cox which was published on April 5, 1873. The article cited clarifications and explanations made by Dr. Cox to the people of Ypsilanti. The trial was concerning the death of his patient Mrs. Hoyt. Dr. Cox was alleged to have given her “Ergot of Rye” which induced abortion and her death. Along with the abortion charge Drs. Davenport and Gustin testified that Dr. Cox was guilty of malpractice.

(Note: Ergot of rye is a fungus from the rye plant. This was indeed used by physicians treating pregnant women. Yes, it could induce abortion. In later times ergot was described as a hallucinogen. When there was hemorrhaging or blood flow, the prescribed treatment at the time was lead and opium. Ergot of rye was used for other treatments than abortion by physicians of the time.)

Dr. Cox in his editorial admitted that he had written a prescription but for another patient living miles from Mrs. Hoyt. Finally, the ergot of rye episode was stricken from the record. Again, he states: “…at the time of her death Mrs. Hoyt was NOT pregnant...There was NO mystery in the last sickness and death of Mrs. Hoyt…at the time of her death Mrs. Hoyt was not pregnant and had not been for months or even years prior to her death. She was taken Thursday evening, February 27, 1873 with a violent attack of what is properly called ‘spotted fever…Such is the sum and substance of this great sensation case. It was a case that should have never attracted public attention…it would not have appeared in court…but for the interaction of private parties and private interests.” (Note: Dr. Cox was a famous and established homeopathic physician at the time of this trial).

The Ypsilanti Commercial of March 22, 1873: “The friends of Dr. Cox in this city will be glad to know that. It was proved by competent witnesses of this city, Dr. Tripp and Dr. Baqtwell concerning that the woman who was alleged to have died from the affects of abortion, died from the affects of disease. It was shown that there was no abortion. The trial elicited great interest in Detroit. The Doctor ought to go for the parties implicated, for false arrest. If physicians or any other citizen can be arrested and put to serious inconvenience on such flimsy pretenses, we have come to a curious pass.”

The 1900 United States Federal Census from Precinct 7, Miami, Dade County, Florida shows Dr. William G Cox, Josephine, Charles, and daughter-in-law Addie. He is shown as a physician and owner of a dry goods store. Nothing further is shown of him after this date.

Checking with Highland Cemetery, we find that he bought 12 plots in 1866. There is an
Adeline” listed as interred in the plot. Three other plots are for “others but not listed” and the cemetery is not sure if anyone is buried in the three graves or, if so, who they are!

Thus ends (on a mystery) the story of Dr. William G. Cox.

[George Ridenour is a member of the YHS Archives Advisory Board, a volunteer in the Archives, and a regular contributor to GLEANINGS]

Lamar Kishlar: Blondes Beware

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2010,
Fall 2010
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

In the last issue of the Gleanings I told the story of Lamar Kishlar from Ypsilanti who gained international fame for his work with iron lungs and other devices to medicate the effects of polio, and K-rations. Further information was discovered in the Friday, June 23, 1944 issue of the Cass City Chronicle which seems to indicate that in addition to having a brilliant, inventive mind Kishlar was also somewhat of a comedian.

New Ray Shows Up Peroxide Blondes – But A lot of Nice Things May Come Out of It: “…Dr. Lamar Kishlar is a neat, bespectacled, mustached scientist. He was having a lot of fun with a new black ray of light that brings out the best in interior decorating and the worst in women.

Dr. Kishlar is the research manager of a livestock feed company which also dabbles in breakfast food (Ralston Purina). Dr. Kishlar dabbled in many things including how to make a peroxide blonde’s hair turn green and false teeth show up as phonies with a little beam of light that you can’t see. The black ray is a variation of the ultra-violet ray. Dr. Kishlar thinks that it is going to throw light on a number of things in the future. “One wave-length will produce a nice suntan, without inflaming the more tender areas.” explained Kishlar, “Another wavelength will tenderize any cut of beef. Still another will sterilize an ice-box, or if you want to go into it wholesale, an entire hospital.”

Kishlar’s interest in his invisible ray is chiefly in its effect on food, but it includes its possibilities in interior decoration. People, fabrics, rubies and vitamins glow fluorescent under the ray. Any girl is a glow girl. “Take for instance a cocktail lounge.” said Kishlar, “A hidden ray will make carpets, tablecloths, napkins and cocktail glasses shine – but there will be only a discreet suggestion of actual illumination.

The female customers will shine no matter how dull. Their teeth, eyes, fingernails, rubies and diamonds will gleam. The girl with the sound teeth who drinks milk and gets plenty of calcium will look super-dentaled, but the girl whose teeth came from the dentist had better inquire about the lighting before entering the bar of tomorrow. False teeth look black under Kishlar’s revealing little ray. Peroxide hair may turn a ghastly green under the ray.

(George Ridenour is a volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Lamar Kishlar was born in Ypsilanti in 1894 and later became well known for his work with cooking oils, soybeans and support equipment for the iron lung. He was named President of the American Oil Chemists’ Society in 1943.

Remembering "Uncle Louis" Golczynski

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2009,
Fall 2009
Original Images:

Author: George Ridenour

An Incubator, A Teacher and Penicillin: In the “worst of times” a world war was raging, Ypsilanti was building bombers, and there were shortages and rationing of materials and goods. Few of us remember this was a world where strep throat, venereal disease and eye infections (to name a few) did not respond to sulfa drugs and often led to death. It was a world where the “miracle drug” penicillin was not available to the general public. Only the military were using penicillin and extrac- tion of the penicillin was rare.

This is the story of Louis Golczynski, born July 28, 1897, in Baltimore, Maryland. He volunteered while in high school and served in WWI. After the war he returned to finish high school. Then he attended Ferris Insti- tute in Big Rapids, Michigan, and in 1925 earned an AB degree from Michigan State Normal. He worked part time as a teacher here in Ypsilanti while going to graduate school. In 1928 he received his Master’s Degree from the University of Michigan. He taught at Roosevelt High School and at Michigan Normal/Eastern Michigan University. He was active in teachers’ orga- nizations, taught extension classes in Labor Organization, and published articles on biology in scientific journals. He even found time to be the Scoutmaster of Troop 1 at Roosevelt High School.

Louis Golczynski retired as a Professor Emeritus and died in August of 1966. He was ill for fourteen months and died at University of Michigan Hospital. He left behind his wife Betty (Holmes), three daughters, Dorothy Schmitt, Margaret Scholl, and Charlotte Dickerson, two step-sons Thomas MacKenzie, and William MacKenzie, as well as ten grandchildren. For many that would be a fine life filled with activities, duties, and accomplishments. However, there is another story of Louis Golczynski which caused him rise up, give back, and become an unsung hero.

Here’s the “rest of the story!” The discov- ery of penicillin mold, like that found on cheeses, was attributed to Dr. Alexander Fleming of England in 1929. It would be years before extraction of penicillin would make the drug available to the general public. Professor Louis Golczynski, on his own initiative, saved the lives of several citizens of Ypsilanti through extracting and making home grown penicillin, which indeed was a miracle! Where did this take place, in some lab? No! Did it occur in some pristine building at the University of Michigan? No! He performed this feat in his classroom at Roosevelt High School! The following are exerts found in the Rough Rider (Roosevelt High School newspaper) of March 24, 1944, and the Detroit Free Press of March 21, 1944.

“Using an old icebox, two light bulbs, a dozen glass Petri dishes, and a thermostat (Golczynski) has developed a simple, inexpensive method of making the new wonder drug penicillin - available for external use in every city and village in the country and remote Army posts. The Detroit Free Press cited the following comments by Professor Golczynski: “I’ll be glad to give my formula and technique to any qualified technician ... Adding that he could easily train technicians to produce the drug using his methods.”

Professor Golczynski first made his “brew/ penicillin” when his wife became ill with influenza (a killer at any time!). A physician treating his wife, noticed the improvement, and agreed to try it on other patients he had which had serious illness which were not responding to Sulfa.

“Within 18 hours the patients infected ankle was healed!” Several other patients in Ypsilanti were saved through application of the penicillin made by Professor Golczynski. A girl with impetigo recovered after three days! Another with a back infection which would not respond for 10 weeks responded in 48 hours with his penicillin and cleared up completely!

What is more amazing is that he did all this in the window sill of his classroom at Roosevelt! Here was the formula he used in which he produced a culture medium of brewer’s yeast and injected the “soup” with Penicillium Notatum into eight gauze patches in a Petri dish. The mixture was then put in an icebox and set in the light well of his basement office window, maintaining a temperature in the icebox of 70 degrees. In 12 days you have a drug, penicillin, that is able to be used! Removing the top layer you find a tannish yellow serum, given off by the mold, which contains the drug. The doctor takes one layer of the remaining seven layers and places over the wound or infected area, covers with wet dressing and a cure results!

So in the “best of times” there was a man in Ypsilanti at Roosevelt High School, little known to most citizen of Ypsilanti, who, through his genius and selflessness, saved the lives of patients in Ypsilanti, with an incuba- tor (used icebox from the cafeteria), ther- mostat, and using the well of the basement window of his classroom. History was made in Ypsilanti! Thanks “Uncle Louie.”

Photo caption: Professor Louis Golczynski with the drug cultures he produced at Roosevelt High School.

(George Ridenour is a volunteer in the YHS Archives, conducts genealogical research, and is a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Ypsilanti Gleanings, July 1973: History of Dentistry in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County (1842-1895)

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:




Author: Dr. John Andress Watling

Publisher: Ypsilanti Historical Society

Date: July 1973

Get PDF: ypsigleanings/1973-Jul.pdf

“ALL JOYS I BLESS, BUT I CONFESS
THERE IS ONE GREATEST THRILL;
WHAT THE DENTIST DOES WHEN HE STOPS
THE BUZZ
AND PUTS AWAY THE DRILL
From: “Song in a Dentist's Chair — Stanza I
By: Christopher Morley (1890–1957)

HISTORY OF DENTRISTRY IN YPSILANTI, WASHTENAW COUNTY (1842–1895)
By: Dr. John Andress Watling (1839-1919)
“It seems to me, if a perfect history of the dental profession and its work could be written, it would be of very great interest to future generations. I fear that the time has now gone by for gathering up all details, such as dates, first names, etc. But much may be accomplished still, if the profession will organize itself into county societies as we have done, each of which shall compile its own history. I think this is the first county. The question now arises, who was the first practicing dentist in this county. It was either Dr. Burger, of Ann Arbor, or Dr. Frey, of Ypsilanti, presumably the latter.
I have learned that Dr. Fred was in practice for some years prior to 1842. In that year Dr. R. V. Ashley began to practice in Ypsilanti, having studied with Dr. Frey, and bought his outfit when he moved away. I remember Dr. Ashley very well. He was a man of a good deal of ability, and after being in business for several years, he went to Detroit in 1851 and opened an office at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Griswold Street, and moved his family there in 1852. There he was one of the leading dentists for many years, dying Oct. 6, 1870. Following the removal of Dr. Ashley from Ypsilanti came Dr. Fred Powers, with whom I had my first experience in dental operations, and some of those fillings are doing me good service yet. After he had completed his work for me, he asked me to enter his office as a student, which offer I accepted and made arrangements to stay with him for four years. I, of course, knew nothing at that time of dental colleges, there being but three in existence, and these poorly equipped. After a couple of years, Dr. Carlton became tired of a small country town, and concluded to return to Lowell. I did not wish to go there with him; neither did I feel competent to go into practice, being very young. I was not as well prepared as I thought I ought to be, though probably I was as well qualified as most young practitioners of those days. I began to look around for a place in some office, where I could do plate-work, as I had a good deal of proficiency in that line. I happened into the office of Dr. Knowlton, of Detroit. He gave me a few days' work to help him out. He then advised me to go to Cincinnati and study in the Dental College there, kindly giving me a letter to his brother of the firm of Knowlton & Taft. They gave me employment for two years; I attending the college during the winters and graduating Feb. 22, 1860. I located soon after in Ypsialnti, where I have remained ever since. So far as I can learn, I was the first student to enter a dental college from Michigan, and the first graduate to locate in the state.
During the winter of 1856, Dr. A. F. Barr came to Ypsialnti. He had had a kind of checkered life, being of a roving disposition. He had worked in a great many offices, with men of a good deal of prominence, and was considered a very good plate-workman, and in those days that was the most of dentistry. He at first entered the office of Dr. Carlton and did plate-work, I getting much of my first insturction from him. In the following spring he opened an office of his own, continuing in practice until he died about eight years ago. A Dr. Baldwin was in company with Dr. Barr during 1859, which is all I know about his dental career. In the fall of 1857, Dr. W. R. Cutler, who had had a short pupilage in Rochester, N.Y., located here, and was in limited practice for about six months, when he went to Ionia, where he was more successful, but left dentistry some years ago, and is at the present time engaged in the drug trade. A Dr. Tucker came here in 1858 or 1859 and remained here five or six years; I know nothing further of him. A good sized cyclone struck this county in 1866, when two brothers by the name of Alderman located here. Where they came from I can't say; one of them had some knowledge of dentistry: the younger had none whatever. He was, however, supplied with forceps and materials for taking impressions, and with the aid of a good team, he commenced a systematic house to house canvass through the county. I think I can truly say that in the four or five years they were here, that one of them had solicited in two thirds of the houses of this and parts of Wayne and Monroe counties. Prices and trade offered in pay for their operations never stood in the way of a bargain. I have heard of many amusing episodes that they met with in their career. There is no doubt but they did an enormous amount of work, but they had nothing to show for it when they left town. In the spring of 1870, Dr. W. D. Tremper, a graduate of Ohio Dental College, Cincinnati, came to Ypsilanti, entering into partnership with J. A. Watling, which was continued till 1878, when he went to Portsmouth, Ohio, where he still has a large practice. He is one of those rare exceptions to be found in the profession, as he has become quite wealthy, and is at the head of a large shoe manufacturing company. The next one appearing on the scene was C.F.W. Baldwin, coming about the year 1872 from some of the Eastern States with a very short pupilage. He remained four or five years, then returned East. I don't know what has become of him. Dr. Justin E. Post, a graduate of the class of 1876, located here that year, afterwards moving to Muskegon; from there to Barnwell, South Carolina, where he is now engaged in practice. Following him came one A.B. Bell, who had had one term in the Pennsylvania College. He didn't succeed very well, and the less said of him the better. In 1878 or 1879, a man by the name of Kingsley came here, from some little town in Western New York. He was one of those smoothe oily individuals that worked the Church racket and always warranted his work for twenty years, and cut prices in two, making the point, that he just wanted a little business to keep him out of mischief, and did not care about profit. He found it desirable to go back East in a year, and died in Rochester, N.Y. Some time during the year 1879 Dr. M.F. Finley, a graduate of the class of '78 U. of M. located here and was in practice for a year or two, but yearning for a larger field, he removed to Washington where he has become one of the leading lights of the profession. In the spring of 1884, Dr. L.M. James, a graduate of the U. of M., formed a partnership with J.A. Watling, where he has continued in a successful proactice up to the present time. In 1885, John W. Van Fossen, also a graduate of the U. of M., located here, and is still in successful practice. In 1890, Dr. L.D. Camp, another graduate of the U. of M., formed a partnership with A.B. Bell, which continued only for a short time, when the doctor opened an office on his own account, continuing to thrive here now, as he has done in the past. In 1895, Dr. DeWitt Spalsbury, a graduate of the class of '89 of the U. of M., located here, and has evidently been successful in practice, as well as in a prospective matrimonial alliance. The last to come and the first to go away was Dr. Carrie M. Stewart, a graduate of the U. of M., class of '92, and D.D.Sc. Failing health compelled her to return to a warmer climate. She is at present at Forth Worth, Texas.
*******************************************
The article reprinted here appeared in “The Dental Journal” published by the Dental Society of the University of Michigan for March, 1900.
Dr. John Andress Watling was born in Ypsilanti on June 26, 1839 and died in Washington, D.C. in 1919. He was a grandson of John Watling who had settled in the area in 1831. He was a Professor of Clinical and Operative Dentistry at the University of Michigan and opened an office in 1860 in Ypsilanti.
Dr. Watling married Eunice Robinson Wright in 1864 and they moved into their new home at 121 North Huron Street at that time. Dr. Watling's office was directly next to their home at 119 N. Huron.
Mrs. Watling was very interested in community affairs. In 1868, she started the movement to found a public library in Ypsilanti and, in 1869, was one of the incorporators of the Ladies' Library Association and served as the first secretary. In 1878, she helped found the Ladies' Literary Club and on June 27, 1896, the first meeting of the local Daughters of the American Revolution was held in the Watling home.
A recent gift to the Museum is that of a very old dentist's drill— we believe it once belonged to Dr. Watling.

Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, February 1973,
February 1973
Original Images:










Between the years of 1880 and 1917 there were two successful Mineral Water Sanitariums in our city, each supplied with mineral water from local wells. In an article in The Ypsilanti Commercial of December 15, 1883, entitled: "Ypsilanti, a Review of the City and Its Industries", we read:

…The Ypsilanti Paper Company (1) completed a well on their premises for the purpose of obtaining a supply of pure water for use in the manufacture of paper. The well reached a depth of nearly 800 feet, when they struck a vein of water that had a pecnliar taste and was acknowledged to possess some medical properties. The real value of the water was not known until several very remarkable cures of cancer, rheumatism and other kindred diseases, could be traced to the effects of the water. The reputation of this mineral water spread very rapidly, and hundreds of our citizens can testify as to its beneficial effects. It became the one theme of conversation on our streets, and the demand for treatment from this water became more and more apparent every day. Our citizens became interested in the matter, and, seeing it would be a great addition to the city, offered a donation of $5,000 to any one who would start a suitable establishment where persons suffering from disease could receive treatment from this water. After due consideration the proposition was accepted by George Moorman (2) and Clark Cornwall (3). These gentlemen began the erection of a building on the eighth of last May. They have pushed its construction as fast as weather would permit. It will be ready for occupancy about the first of January, and when finished, be the finest building in this city…

In the archives of the City Museum we have the original invitation to the opening of the Ypsilanti Mineral Bath House, (Huron n. of Congress (Michigan). There were speeches given, music provided by the Ypsilanti Quartet Club and refreshments were served by the Ladies' Library Association. On January 12, 1884, The Ypsilauti Commercial carried a report of the opening ceremonies. The speeches were praised, the Ladies' of the Library Association were congratulated on the refreshments and it was proudly noted that a reporter from The Chicago Times covered the event for his paper.

Six months later Tubal Cain Owen (4) announced that he, too, had a mineral well and claimed that his “waters” had even more curative powers than that of the Cornwell-Moorman well. The fact that frequent articles concerning the mineral wells appeared in The Ypsilanti Commercial seems to point up the fact that the townspeople, particularly the business men and landlords were keenly interested in the success of the Sanitariums. For instance, on July 26, 1884, there appears yet another article, entitled, "The Mineral Wells".

…These wells are rendering Ypsilanti famous the world over. The healing waters flowing free from these wells seem destined to be an untold blessing to affected humanity…Ypsilanti has already come to be the center of attraction for the halt, the lame and the blind, the palsied and paralylics. It is by no means a crippled city, but a city of cripples. The cry is every day, ‘still they come.' Let them Come! The Hawkins House (5), the Follette House(6), the Barton (7), and all the other hotels and numerous nice boarding houses are full. Ere another season a mamoth hotel may be in the process of erection.

About this same time the paper started listing the names of those registering at the Sanitariums. Helen McAndrew (8) had water from the Owen well piped to her “Rest for the Weary” establishment on South Huron Street. The editor of the paper proudly called especial attention to the names of “guests” of the Sanitariums who came from outside the state. Tubal Cain Owen, the owner of the Forest Avenue Mineral Well, was not only a good business man but he was a wonderful promoter of his products. He erected a tall building over his derrick and in it established a factory for making soap, (“Sapon”), salts, ointments and other products of the well besides bottling hundreds of bottles and barrels of the mineral water, which he names “Atlantis”, the name being in black lettering that reached from the ground to the top of the buildind. His charged mineral water he called “Paragon”. He had various brochures prepared for the purpose of advertising his products and from one entitled, “Nature's Remedy; Natural Mineral Water From the Owen Mineral Well at Ypsilanti, Michigan and the DISEASES IT VILL CURE together with Directions for Treatment”-we read:

TO THE PUBLIC The waters of the Owen Mineral Well is on the market to fulfill its errand of mercy, and we wish every one to know just exactly what he is using, that he may use it intelligentally and rationally.

We have no myths nor Indian legends to relate to appeal to the public's credulity. We sank our well on scientific principles in search of HEALING WATERS. We use the most approved modern machinery; we believe that waters of untold value to suffering humanity were below us, and we wanted to bring them to the light of day and utilize them for their legitimate purposes. Our expectations were high, and we believe they have been fully realized. We base the claims for our water upon the medicinal value of its mineral salts as demonstrated by the actual experience and testimony of the highest authorities.

In the same brochure the treatment of cancer was outlined as follows:

The water must be taken freely, three or four glasses a day, no matter how nauseating it may be. Sponge the entire body twice a day with moderately warmed water. Apply to the affected part thick cloths saturated with the water at its natural temperature, renewing them as often as they become at all dry. After the disease shows signs of yielding, by no means cease the treatment, but continue it faithfully until the cancer is entirely healed. Beside apply the water by means of the cloths before mentioned, the diseased part should be bathed freely and frequently with the water. We cannot impress too strongly upon the mind of the patient, the absolute necessity of drinking freely of the water…

The cost of the Owen Mineral Water was as follows:

Per barrell $8.00
per half barrel 4.50
10 gallon kegs 3.25
Pints, per doz. $3.00
Quarts, per doz. 5.00

In jugs, five gallons and under the water will be sold at the uniform price of twenty cents per gallon, and ten cents per gallon for package.

In yet another Owen brochure are listed testimonials from those cured plus a list of local people who claimed cures and the ailments of which they were cured are also listed.

Of course, the Ypsilanti Sanitarium (Occidental Hotel) also had its brochure. It was lavishly illustrated with pictures of the building and of its various rooms. The introduction to its brochure reads as follows:

THE YPSILANTI SANITARIUM

Was designed especially for the rational treatment of cases which require the constant attention of competent physicians and trained nurses. The natural advantages of Ypsilanti, viz.; High altitude, picturesque wooded country, and what is of most importance, The Ypsilanti Mineral Springs, make it especially adapted for a health resort.

The thorough equipment of its laboratories for research and study and its complete departments for the treatment of various diseases make it particularly desirable for cases that cannot pratically be treated at home.

Experienced physicians and professional nurses are in constant attendance.

The Sanitarium will maintain perfectly equipped departments… From all boat lines touching Detroit, it is but a short trip. It is on the main line of the Michigan Central R. R., 45 minutes' ride from Detroit and a little over 6 hours ride from Chicago. It is the eastern terminus of the Ypsilanti branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern R.R. and its connecting lines viz. the Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor trolly lines. From Ann Arbor on the trolly line it is 30 minutes and from Detroit 1 hour and 30 minutes distant. On the Wabash R.R. Ypsilanti may be reached via. Belleville…

The interesting question is, why did Ypsilanti's flourishing and comparatively well known sanitariums close? An article in the Ypsilanti Press for September 9th, 1945, tells us that a Mr. J.M. Chidister ran the Occidental Hotel. and Spa for the Cornwell-Moorman group during its first years of existence. Patronage declined and the spa was closed for a time.

About 1902, however, the mineral industry was revived by Dr. C. C. Yemans, prominent Detroit physician and long time professor in the Detroit College of Medicine. He repaired the well casing, restored the baths and opened part of the old hotel. Hospital equipment was installed and rooms were renovated and furnished for patients. Old students of Dr. Yemans sent patients from all over the country and business flourished. The Hospital, long needed here was filled. However, the hotel part, separately operated was carelessly kept. Patients were admitted without Dr. Yenian's approval and neted too many dt. victims. Their yells annoyed other patients and Mrs. Yemans. That appeared to be the last straw and Dr. Yemans retired. His successor, a young man whose chief interest was in breeding fancy dogs at Mt. Clemens, spent too little time here and the whole concern soon collapsed. About the time of World War One, Tracy Towner (9), Bert Moorman (10), and others again opened the well and the baths with Dr. G. F. Clarke, Bay City, in charge. There were patients but not enough for profit and new trouble appeared when the well casing started to collapse. The cost of 220 feet of casing was considered prohibitive, and again Ypsilanti's chance of increased income and mineral water fame went glimmering…

On the decline of the Owen Mineral Sanatorium, operated by Dr. M. S. Hall, the same article states:

…To utilize the water baths, Dr. M.S. Hall put up a bath house, next each of 510 W. Forest Avenue, about two blocks from the well and fitted up the adjoining residence for a hotel. He had a large patronage for several years and amazing cures for many different diseases were reported. A out 1890 he sold the buildings to Dr. O.E. Pratt, but he because of advanced age, finally closed it and sold the buildings for residences.

After Mr. Owen's death, his son Eber, continued for many years to ship quantities of the Owen water in bulk to Chicago and Boston in response to a steady demand…

In the closing paragraph of the same article the writer attemps to explain the decline and failure of the spas thusly:-

…Just why Ypsilanti's mineral water, equal in medicinal properties to other popular resorts, failed to become a permanent municipal asset seems unexplainable. Opinions of older residents brings out two possible factors.

1. Indifference of management including too frequently insufficient regard for comfort and entertainment of patients.

2. Determination on the part of several of the more wealthy and conservative residents that Ypsilanti should remain a quiet residential community and that industry of every kind should be discouraged.

These are good and valid reasons for the failure and closing of the Sanitariums of Ypsilanti; but something happened in 1906 of nationwide importance which in all probability was the most important factor in tolling the death bell for these centers of miraculous cures. In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act which became a law on January 1, 1907. Stewart H. Holbrook tells us in his book, The Goldern Age of Quackery that Harvey W. Wiley Chief Chemist of the United States Department of of Agriculture had been trying since 1883 to have a law passed to regulate the labeling of foods and medicines. “Tell the truth on a label”, said Wiley, and “let the consumer judge for himself.” The legislation of 1906 required honest labels. One of the prime instigators for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Law was Samuel Hopkins Adams who early in 1906 wrote a series of articles for Collier's magazine entitled, The Great American Fraud in which he ruthlessly unearthed and named concerns and people who were advertising falsely. The reading public became awakened, and perhaps terrified, when they read Hopkin's shocking exposes. Common sense forced them to realize that no quick cure salts or waters would replace medical drugs as a cure. In The New York Times for October 8th, 1966, there is a very interesting article about spas which shows that although they have gone from our section there are many still in existence in our country. But the article also points out the changes which have taken place in their make-up. The final paragraph reads:-

…Spas reached their heyday in the 19th century when their special function was as important as the therapeutic activity. Today the less severe European spas still offer operettas, concerts, balls, parties and casinos to divert guests in search of pleasure with therapy.

View an image of the Atlantis Owen Well in our Gleanings image gallery.

Note: For the most part the research material for the "Mineral Well" article was all found in the Archives of the Museum.

Footnotes:
1. Ypsilanti Paper Co.-finally merged with Peninsular Paper Co.
2. George Moorman (1823–Orleans Co, Y.Y.-1895 Ypsi) Came to Ypsi. in 1853 and engaged in grocery business.
3. Clark Cornwell (1843 Foster's Mill, A.A.Twp-1903 Ypsi) Pres. Ypsi. Paper Co, School Commissioner, Alderman and Mayor
4-Tubal Cain Owen (1843-Ellery, N.Y.-1913 Ypsi) Came to Ypsi. after attending M.S.U. and engaged in milling business, acquiring interest in Ypsi. Flouring Mills and then owner of Atlantis Mineral Well.
5-Hawkins House-Congress (Mich) between Washington & Adams
6-Follette House-13 E. Cross 7 Barton House-cor. Washington & Adams.
8 Helen McAndrew (1825-Kilsyth, Scotland-1906 Ypsi) First woman M.D. in Washtenaw Co. Also interested in woman's suffrage.
9 Tracy Towner (1864-Ypsi-1943-Ypsi) Local lawyer-Mayor 1910–12

10-Bert Moorman (1856 Ypsi-1932 Ypsi) Son of G. Moorman. Pres. Moorman-Huston Co-hay and grain.

* * * * * * * * * *

On January 19th, 1884, shortly after the opening of the city Mineral Water House, the following poem by, “A Farmer” appeared in The Commercial



Come all ye weary, sick and sore,
Who want to suffer pain no more,
And take a drink of Cornwell's bore,
Beside the Huron River


Let Smith and Sampson keep their drugs,
Fetch on your glasses and your mugs,
Your barrels, bowls and your jugs,
And get the healing water.


If you are sick, gust try our cure,
Drink Ypsilanti's water pure,
That health and life may long endure,
And all your friends rejoice.


Moorman's put down another bore
For water, gas and something more
They say its better than before
To drive woe and pain away.


If you are sad, with sickness worn,
And have the headache every more,
Just come and drink a healing horn,
of Ypsilanti's water.


Theres forty new baths agoing,
And all the healing waters flowing,
Better days and health bestowing,
On many a weary one.


If you are growing weak and lean,
Just come and try our healing stream,
And splash till you are pure and clean,
And your troubles washed away.


They will bathe you either cold or warm,
It will do you good and never harm,
And it may come o'er you like a charm,
And double all your joy.


You need not travel far and long,
To drink Saratoga's water strong,
We have the real thing at home
Down on the books of Moorman


It's true, it has a woeful smell,
But if your stomache don't rebel
It's just the thing to make you well
And praise up Ypsi lanti.

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