Bowersville’s Ream was special doctor


Dr. Ream was an old-time country doctor who actively practiced medicine in Bowersville for more than 50 years. On the occasion of his 50th anniversary of practicing medicine, he stated that he had planned to retire, but there were not many doctors in the area in the 1940s so he decided to continue in active practice as long as he was able.

The doctor was born in Centerfield, Highland County in 1866, the son of the village blacksmith.

He, along with his two sisters, attended a one-room school equipped with the usual slate and chalk, Ben Franklin stove, wood box and water bucket, and of course an outhouse.

After finishing grammar school, he attended a normal school in Hillsboro.

When he was just a lad, folks would ask him what he wanted to do when he grew up and his answer without fail was, “I want to be a doctor.” His role model was Dr. Holmes, who came to the house to treat various illnesses.

Going to medical school was going to be very expensive, and the family did not have the means to pay for this kind of education. Undaunted, he began to work toward his dream of medical school by taking the teachers’ exam following his graduation from normal school.

For the next five years, he taught in various schools in the county, saving as much of his income as he possibly could toward his goal.

The young teacher had no transportation and had to walk about two and one-half miles each way to school, where his pupils ranged in age from ages five to 22. Sometimes the older students presented major challenges, but he continued to teach, hoping that in time he could reach his goal.

Finally, at the age of 24, he was able to enroll in the National Normal University in Lebanon where he earned his B.S. in 1891. From there, he went to Cincinnati to become a student at the Eclectic Medical School, graduating in 1894. He continued his education during the summer months when school was in recess by studying with a cousin who was a doctor in Jeffersonville.

After completing medical school, he inquired about a doctor in Milledgeville who was planning to retire. He offered to buy the practice but was informed that one of his classmates had inquired earlier and had obtained the practice. The doctor kindly suggested that there was a need for a doctor in Bowersville.

In September 1894, the young doctor hung up his shingle in Bowersville and was in business.

As was often the case, being in a small town, he was often invited to social gatherings. At one such party, one of the guests was a young woman named Carrie. She was about his age, and he found her most attractive. He asked if he could “see her home” after the party, and she agreed to the escort.

However it would be an additional three years before she accepted his proposal of marriage. Perhaps she anticipated being the wife of a doctor in a small town might have challenges.

After they married they had two boys, one became a farmer, the other, like his father, a doctor.

He often shared stories about the challenges of being the town doctor. He could be and was called upon at all hours of the day and night to attend a patient. During the time he was relying on horse and buggy or in many cases, a sled.

He purchased his first car, a Ford touring car, in 1910 for $995. The Dayton salesman drove with him as far as Jamestown; instructing the operation of the car. Beam managed to get to Bowersville on his own. Unfortunately, he was not instructed adequately about the brake and spent some time driving in circles in his barn yard yelling “Whoa!” He finally got the gist of the thing and subsequently purchased 42 more Fords over the years.

It was not unusual for the doctor’s fee to be paid in wheat, corn, or butter, but that was fine with the doctor. He and the family could made good use of those items. He recalled one patient in particular who owed a rather large bill. The man moved to Wilmington before settling the bill and the doctor assumed that he would never see the money and wrote it off. One day, the man came to his office to pay the full amount. He had walked the 14 miles from Wilmington and then walked back after paying his bill.

As most old-time country doctors, he had many adventures and during his long career and treated everything and performed surgeries. He was “always there” when needed and was not only the family doctor, but the family friend.

Ream observed that “God and the doctor are alike because just at the brink of danger both are sought out but when the danger is past, often God is forgotten and the doctor slighted.”

Greene County was blessed to have so many doctors like Ream who would always leave the supper table or the bed in order to treat their patients.

When asked about his career as a physician, he made the following statement: “If I had it to do over again, I would choose a country practice because a country doctor has more intimate relations with his patients than a city doctor.

Medicine has changed over the years. Most doctors see their patients in an office setting, and not in a room of their home, but the desire to help heal the sick remains as it has for centuries.

Remembering Dr. Andrew Davidson

Dr. Andrew Davidson was the first physician to practice in Greene County. He came to the county in order to open his practice in 1805. The county was two years old. There were approximately 150 people in Xenia so the doctor had to seek additional means of support by working as a tailor and a merchant. There is no record of previous formal medical training, so it is assumed that he “read” medicine with another doctor before declaring his status as a doctor.

— Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.

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