Millinocket's Early Physicians
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
Many physicians have practiced in Millinocket in the 122 years Millinocket has been a town. Dr. Matthew Ryan was probably the first. He built a house in 1901 on the corner of Central Street and Highland Avenue (no longer standing, on the lot facing Highland Avenue near the GNP Guest house). Unfortunately, he died soon after during the typhoid epidemic. The museum has his black doctor’s bag and a stained-glass window from this house.
Dr. Paul W. Cody came to town during the epidemic after the death of Dr. Ryan. Cody built a home across from the Ryan house (1903) and opened an office there. He later sold the house to Dr. C.S. Byrant. In 1902, the town appointed a board of health made up of Drs. Cody and Bryant and Deputy Sheriff Benjamin Bragdon. This was because of the number of typhoid, diphtheria and smallpox cases in the area. The committee had the duty to inspect where livestock was kept in town and also deal with “privy problems.” The museum displays a map showing the location of cases of these diseases in Millinocket. Dr. Bryant is also said to have been the first person in Millinocket to own an automobile.
Dr. Charles Sawyer Bryant had come to town right out of Harvard Medical School to become the GNP resident physician. Bryant shared his home for a time with the Bowler family (Dorothy Laverty’s family). Bryant treated patients there and served on the board of health mentioned above until he went to serve in WWI doctor at an Army field hospital. Upon his return to Millinocket, he turned the home into a private hospital, and he and the Bowlers moved to 4 Hill Street. The Bryant Hospital had 8 beds, an operating room and an X-ray machine. His obituary states, “an old school doctor who never refused a call, in winter’s snow or summer’s heat, driving through deep snow when a call came from an isolated section of town.” The museum has a set of architectural plans for the first and second floors and basement of this residence, prior to its being a hospital.
Dr. Ludger I. Pelletier, MD held office hours in his office in the Warren Block on Penobscot Avenue. A museum photo shows a winter scene with the doctor in a horse-drawn sleigh out on a house call. The sleigh is pulled by his horse, Maud. The back of the photo is dated 1919 and states that the doctor died in 1923 at age 39.
Other doctors treated the ill in Millinocket’s first couple of decades. Listings can be found in early local newspapers and many had ads in school yearbooks and as sponsors in event programs. The museum has a number of copies of prescriptions from local doctors and a large number of medicine bottles (from local drugstores and pharmacies) and photos of some of the doctors. Stop in and check out the display!
Photo shows Dr. Cody/Dr. Bryant house on left and Dr. Ryan house on right.