Sunday, September 28, 2003

The headstones of Pine Ridge Cemetery tell only a small hint of the interesting stories of the Bay City founders who rest there. Dr. C.T. Newkirk is worthy of notice.

Hero Physician was St. Williams native

An unedited transcription of an obituary published in the 23 Sep 1909 Simcoe Reformer. [Most paragraph breaks inserted by the transcriber.]

Death of Dr. Newkirk of Bay CityDr. Charles T. Newkirk, a prominent physician of Bay City, Mich., was found dead in his bed at his home at 6.30 o'clock last Thursday morning. The cause of death was heart disease, from which he had been a sufferer for some years, having contracted it in Cuba during the Spanish-American war.Dr. Newkirk had lived in Bay City for 37 years. He is survived by a widow and two children, Dr. Harry Newkirk, of Iron Mountain, Mich., and Mrs. Delores Crockett of New York city, besides two grandchildren and two brothers, Dr. M. F. Newkirk, of Bay City, and Dr. Moses Newkirk, of South America. His widow, to whom he was married in 1862, was Miss Mary J. Anderson of Woodhouse, a sister of Mr. J. E. Anderson of Port Dover.Dr. Newkirk was born in St. Williams, Norfolk County, December 10, 1841. He early manifested his desire for study, but there being a large family to support and educate, his early opportunities were somewhat restricted.Acting upon the advice of a friend, he taught school when but 14 years of age and, with the money thus obtained was enabled to finish his literary course at the high school at Hamilton, Ontario. He afterwards studied medicine with Hon. John Rolph, and in the twenty-first year of his age was graduated from the university of Victoria college, at Toronto, of which his preceptor was dean.He practiced his profession for a short time in Canada, when, with his family he removed to South America. He spent nine months learning the Spanish language, and immediately on passing his examination, was appointed by the governor, director of the province.He was also made a doctor to the Argentine hospital, which position he resigned in three months to accept a similar one in the Brazilian army. He afterwards became first surgeon with the grade of captain. This position he held for three years when he returned to Canada.After a brief visit among his friends there he again went to South America and at Assumption in Paraguay, began the practice of medicine in connection with the drug business. He passed through several epidemics of small pox, yellow fever, and cholera. Of the first mentioned, his brother, Dr. Daniel Newkirk, with whom he was associated in practice, died. This event, together with the constantly failing health of his family, so disheartened him that he determined to return to Canada, and engage in but quiet practice.With this intention he closed up his business in Assumption; but, on arriving in Buenos Ayres, where he had engaged passage, he learned that the yellow fever had broken out there in the most malignant form. Hundreds were dying daily, and those of the citizens who were able, fled the city. Only a small number of the resident physicians could be induced to remain.Dr. Newkirk, with a degree of heroism and self-denial characteristic of himself, decided to remain. Having sent his family on to Canada, he again devoted himself to the work of saving life and alleviating suffering. He was in constant communication with the authorities for the prevention of the spread of the disease; and, by his advice, many sanitary precautions were taken which doubtless cut short one of the most frightful epidemics ever known.An idea may be formed of the danger which Dr. Newkirk was compelled to face from the fact that 26,000 persons died in twenty-five days of this disease alone. He was engaged four months in Buenos Ayres during this plague, rarely working less than eighteen hours daily.His heroic conduct during this time was highly applauded by the press of Buenos Ayres, and the commission of Montsorrat [sic] presented him with a splendid album in testimony of his services to the sick. The ovation paid him upon his departure was a most distinguished compliment.On his way home he stopped a short time in Rio Jansiro, where he was warmly welcomed by the old army officers and surgeons with whom he had served in Paraguay.Immediately on arriving home he set about finding some good location in which he could again enter upon the practice of his profession. After visiting New York, Chicago and other places, he decided to settle in Bay City. His previous experiences soon secured for him a good practice.

No comments: