Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sutton's mid-20th Century Health Care System

Three Memorable Gentlemen

I’m addressing a certain group of Sutton folks here who grew up over a specific period of time. You’ll know soon enough who you are.

Now, by show of hands, who had Dr. Pope for a dentist? Who was a dental patient of Dr. Ochsner? Who was ever treated by Dr. Nuss? Better yet, did Doc Nuss deliver you? Or your parents? Your kids?

Beulah and Doc Ochsner
Personally, Dr. Ochsner was the only dentist to auger in my mouth before my first permanent assignment in the Air Force. Dr. Nuss was my only doctor not counting Dr. Foote in Hastings yanking my tonsils when I was five. And yes, Doc Nuss delivered my early one morning after a night he still recalled many years later.

These three gentlemen constituted Sutton’s health care system for quite some time. And to a great extent, they were three of a kind.

All six of their parents, William and Katherina Popp, John and Margareta Ochsner and Christian Jr. and Hannah Nuss were born in Russia. All three fathers were farmers near Sutton. All three were younger children in the family, two extremely so. Herman Victor Nuss was the fourth of six children; David J. Pope was fourteenth of fourteen; and Herbert Ochsner was ninth of nine. Mrs. Popp and Mrs. Ochsner had both lost a child by 1900.

Heck, darn, even their last name initials are sequential letters.

The three were born locally in a ten year span, left for medical or dental school, returned to practice nearly all their professional lives here and all are buried in the Sutton Cemetery. How common was that?

We’ll start with the oldest; David J. Popp was born April 14, 1895 to Katherina and William (Wilhelm) Popp the youngest of 14 children, of which 13 lived. Wilhelm and Katherina immigrated from Russia taking the German ship Suevia from Hamburg to New York via La Havre, France. Only their oldest son Georg were with them when they arrived in New York on July 18, 1877, fourteen days out from Hamburg.

With them on the Suevia were several of their extended family: Heinrich and Catherina Giebelhaus, Wilhelm and Catherina Brehm, Conrad and Catherina Brehm and Conrad and Catherina Pop, all headed to Sutton. Dr. Pope’s parents were listed as Wilhelm and Catherina Pop on the passenger list for the Suevia.

O.K., two things. First, note the spellings: Pop, Popp and Pope. Pop appears only on the ship’s manifest; don’t worry about it. Popp was the proper German spelling of the name. According to family legend, an early teacher told the Popp kids that if they pronounced their name that way, the proper English spelling would be Pope (the long vowel preceding a silent “e” thing). The kids adopted that spelling and in his will Pop (as in Dad) indicated he was all right with that spelling.

Secondly, did you notice any pattern in the wives’ names in that group? Catherina’s all. Why would that be? If you have any Germans from Russia heritage in your background and can’t come up with a good explanation, we need to talk. The answer is part of who you are.

The Popp family farm was the extreme southeast quarter in Sutton Township appearing in the 1886 plat maps in the same section as farms belonging to Conrad Popp, Conrad Brehm and L. Brehm. Nine children were still at home in 1900 ranging from age 19 to 5 year old David.

David registered for the World War I draft on June 17th 1917. He was a student in the Lincoln Dental College but listed himself as a private with three years in the Nebraska “malitia” then preparing for the Dental Reserve Corps. The 1920 census found Dr. D. J. Pope back in Sutton with wife Lydia and four-month old Maxine. Suzanne and Olive would follow, the three being ’37, ’41 and ’42 Sutton High grads.

Dr. Pope appeared in the list of 1921 Sutton businesses in the History of Hamilton and Clay Counties book by Burr & Buck. He bridges a time when the first of Sutton’s medical men were still around and the later time we are heading toward. Joining Dr. Pope were such fellows as Dr. D. W. Dulaigh, a dentist; Griess & Griess, dentists; Dr. Jesse L. Hull, an older physician; H. W. Kellogg, early chiropractor; Dr. J. W. Thompson, physician and Dr. M. P. Yokum, dentist. Those numbers were not sustainable.

One-year old Herbert Ochsner appearing in the 1900 census as the youngest son of John P. and Margareta Ochsner, both 1874 immigrants as young teenagers. Mrs. Ochsner would have one more son in 1902.

John Ochsner’s farm was in east part of Lincoln Township, later renamed Eldorado.

I did not find Herbert Ochsner in the ’20 census. He was 21 at the time, likely in college or dental school in a boarding house or apartment – a challenge to locate but in 1930 Doc and Beulah were residing on Cedar Street, he proclaiming his parents birthplace as Odessa, Russia, she listed as a school teacher.

By 1940 they’d been joined by Shirley and Janet, ’51 and ’56 local grads. Doc was 40, Beulah was 35 with many, many more years to come.

Doc Nuss was the youngest of these fellows born on August 22, 1905 one of six of Christian Nuss Jr. and Hannah; she also indicated a child lost before the 1900 census.

Dr. H. V. Nuss, long time Sutton physician, sole doctor for much of the time.
Christian Nuss Sr. and his wife “Margr” (as indicated on the passenger list) arrived in New York on June 17, 1875 with two kids, Christian Jr., Doc’s dad and a daughter also listed as “Margr.” They came on the Suevia, the same ship the Popp family would take two years later. Listed with them were an “Adam Trautman” age 16 and another Nuss family, Ana and Magdal with seven more including another Margr, probably a sister and kids down to 11 months of age. A New York Times article noted that the Suevia carried 79 cabin and 491 steerage passengers on that voyage.
The Nuss farm was in western School Creek Township not far from the Ochsners. Herman was a doctor in an Omaha hospital in the 1930 census (listed as Herman Nus) living in an apartment on Howard Street with wife Mildred and one-month old son Richard.      

Janet, Sutton class of ’50 and Victoria, ’54 would arrive by 1940 when the good doctor had returned to Sutton.

Everyone I spoke with about this article had great things to say about Dr. Nuss, his skills and his importance to our town. He probably delivered about 2 ½ generations of us. I mentioned earlier that he remembered the night I was born. Three of us Sutton babies were born that night, Bob Mohnike, Wanda Hornbacher and me. Mrs. Hornbacher was at home here in Sutton. Mrs. Mohnike and my mother were in the hospital in Hastings. All three were dragging out the process that night. Doc Nuss would lean back, squint a bit and tell of driving back and forth checking progress from evening until well after midnight. Finally in Hastings, Bob was born. I wasn’t ready so drove back to Sutton, again. Doc drove. Doc drove like a bat out… you get the idea. Wanda arrived. Then back to Hastings where I checked in at 5:15 AM.

Doc had lots of stories like that but he delighted in telling me that story in a manner that to this day kind of makes me feel responsible for his lost night.

Dr. H.V. Nuss nursed the image of an old-school country doctor. But I can picture him in a spare moment deep into the latest journals and technical publications staying at the top of the field for us.

So what have we done here? A few things. We’ve pointed out the similarities between the three fellows who constituted the health care system for Sutton for several years: second generation Germans from Russia, local farm kids, went off to study and came back to their home town to work their chosen profession.

These are not definitive biographies but I’d like to see them start a conversation. We invite you to add your memories and stories of these three gentlemen and to comment on any material on the blog. That’s how these systems work best.

We did not find a good picture of Dr. Pope but did find a photo of the freshman class in the 1912 annual. Let's have some fun...

Sutton High School Freshman Class in 1912, the class of '15. Dr. David Pope is in this picture - anyone see him?

There were 28 in the 1912 Freshman Class and the school annual kindly printed their names, even if the order does not appear to have anything to do with  the accompanying photo.

So, there you have it. Your quiz for the day. Good Luck and fill in your guesses in the comment section.


Sue said...

Hugo Miller,my uncle. I have never seen a of picture of him. Still don't know which one he is.
Great to see that.

Kathy Johnson said...

Anyone else ever have Doc Ochsner work on your teeth on a Saturday with the Big Red game on? I swear he played the whole game in my mouth yard by yard. Still have one of those gold fillings - the other was intact when the tooth had to be pulled - 50 years! And Doc Nuss-remember house calls? Brother Bill says I stuck beans up my nose and that's why Doc had to come to the house to cauterize my nosebleed.

Sheila Nuss said...

I am a descendant of Christian Nuss and ran across this while looking for Nuss geanology. Thank you!

Wanda LaPage said...

I found this article today...I am Wanda Hornbacher. Doc Nuss delivered me on June 23, 1943 as the article states. I was a patient of Doc's for a long time but only saw him a few times over the course of growing up in Sutton. As for Doc Pope...well I saw him more. My strongest memory of him was when he called me a nasty name in German. I knew exactly what he called me and I bit him. He kicked me out of the office without filling my tooth and my Mom took me back, made me apologize and then Doc. finished filling my tooth. Oh, how I hated to apologize after the name he called me, but Mom made me do it.