Doctors of Arivaca (and Oro Blanco and Ruby)

by Mary Kasulaitis

Next month we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Arivaca Clinic, for which current Arivaca Area Health Services past Board President Julie Beal has produced a most interesting history. (Let her know if you would like a copy). But before the present day, there were any number of doctors who lived in this area. Some did not practice here. In more or less chronological order, they are:

Dr. Charles Lord (b 1832) was from New York State. He was a surgeon in the Union Army and came to Arizona to be the surgeon at the Cerro Colorado and Enriqueta Mines near Arivaca in 1866, probably because the mine manager was also a New Yorker. He served as Postmaster there in 1866. Shortly after that the mines closed down and he removed to Tucson where he began a long career as a partner with W.W. Williams in a large wholesale and retail merchandise business, which included lumber from the Santa Rita Mountains. Subsequently he became Territorial Auditor and Postmaster in Tucson, which he served from 1869 to 84. In those days, Tucson had no bank, so Lord received the appointment of Depository, so that Lord and Williams served as a bank for the southern part of the state. That relationship lasted from 1867 to 1881 when several banks opened separate from businesses. After some serious financial difficulties, Dr. Lord went to Mexico, where he was reported to have died (but perhaps didn’t).

Dr. Reuben H. Wilbur (b. 1840 )came from Massachusetts in the early 1870s. He had a medical degree from Harvard. In 1877 he claimed some land 3 miles northwest of Arivaca where he built a house. His primary interest here was mining, and his medical practice was in Tucson, where he specialized in women’s ailments. He married and had three children, whose descendants retained their property in Arivaca until just a few years ago. While here, he spent most of his time filing mining claims. He also spent time in Mexico. He caught some kind of fever, probably malaria, and went back to Massachusetts where he passed away in 1882.

Dr. Martin Gerould (b 1841) was from New Hampshire and had served as a Civil War Surgeon (Union) aboard an ironclad, the USS Eastport, along the Mississippi. but while in Arivaca he worked as mill manager for the Arivaca Mining Milling and Commercial Company with headquarters a mile or so northwest of Arivaca. During his tenure he was into mining, but I expect he had to do some doctoring, given that he was the only doctor here. After about five years in Arizona, he went to Missouri where he spent the remainder of his life and practiced medicine.

Dr. Adolphus H. Noon (b 1837) received his degree at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco. He had a medical practice in this area from 1879 until 1898. During that time he was the only doctor in the area, with headquarters in Oro Blanco. In 1898 he and his family moved to Nogales where he helped found the Santa Cruz Medical Society. He continued to practice there until he died in 1931 at the age of 94. Dr Noon left medical journals and articles that illustrate what a medical practice was like on the Southern Arizona frontier. He delivered dozens of babies, including 23 of his own children and grandchildren. He was adamant that delivery be done in as clean an environment as possible. He made useful suggestions for treating bites of rabid animals. Gunshots and accidental injuries made up a large part of his practice, besides the ever-present fevers such as typhoid and malaria.

Dr. Joseph H. Ball came to Arivaca for his health in about 1900. Born in Alsace-Lorraine, France in 1860, he received a University degree in Dublin. He came to the United States and took another degree in operative surgery at the University of New York from which he graduated in 1891. After practicing for some years in the East, he developed asthma and went west for his health. Dr. Ball came to Oro Blanco first and then Arivaca, to recuperate and set up a medical practice. He homesteaded a short distance west of Arivaca in the early 1900s, proving up on the homestead in 1910. He built two buildings on the little hill in the center of his property, the ruins of which can still be seen southwest of First Baptist Church. One building was a house and the other a medical office. For at least nine years he was the only doctor in the area, and delivered many babies, including my aunt and uncle. He sold his property to the Jarillas Ranch and retired to Tucson in 1919. He passed away at the age of 73 in 1933.

Dr. Julius H. Woodard was the most beloved physician at Ruby during the 1930s. Considerate and kind, he is one of the reasons that former Ruby residents look back on that period of time in their lives with such good memories. Dr. Woodard and his wife Pauline came to Ruby with the Eagle-Picher Lead Mining Company in 1930. He was from Missouri, as was the Company. Between 1000 and 1500 folks had moved into the area. This included mine or mill workers and their families and those who provided services to the miners. One of those services was medical, since a mining operation is hazardous at best. In the 1930s there were no doctors in Arivaca, so people from there and the surrounding ranches and mines would travel to Ruby to be treated by Dr. Woodard. Whether it was mine accidents, horseback accidents, gunshot wounds, or eating too many peaches, no ailment was too small to ignore. He delivered at least 40 babies.

Born in 1900 in Missouri, Dr. Woodard graduated from Washington University Medical School in St. Louis when he took a position with the Company. However, he contracted TB, and came to Ruby because it offered a drier climate for his recuperation, while maintaining a medical position for him with Eagle-Picher. It seems that when he arrived, a local curandera, the grandmother of Sammy Rosthenhausler, provided him with a local herb to speed his recovery. She attributed his shorter rest cure time to this treatment.

Those were the days when doctors provided personal attention and made house calls (or in Ruby, tent calls) and Dr. was nothing if not conscientious. Fortunately, he was licensed to do surgery, anesthesiology, pediatrics and just about anything else he needed to do while so far out in the hills. Dr. Woodard maintained a clinic with as many as nine beds. Or perhaps as many as he had filled at any given moment. The facilities included an adobe building with an attached porch, covered with canvas, where patients could stay overnight. However, Dr. and Mrs. Woodard frequently took patients to their home if they needed to be watched overnight. Mrs. Woodard was a nurse and also worked in the office, which was tiny, as was the examination room. Another of the nurses was Anne Worth, wife of machinist Norman Worth. Katherine Grover Duff, also a miner’s wife, served as anesthesiologist. The Ruby community was like a family, and that included the medical team. Dr and Pauline inspired devotion in their patients. The first baby he delivered in Ruby, Maria Jackson, went on to become a nurse in his office in Tucson. Frequently Dr. Woodard would recommend that patients go to a specialist for help, and just as frequently the patient thought he could handle it just fine. Sometimes he could.

In 1935, Dr. Woodard helped organize a Boy Scout Troop at Ruby with 15 members. He belonged to the Santa Cruz County Medical Society. It might be good to point out that Dr. Woodard was a stutterer, but he never let that have an effect on his capabilities as a physician. When Ruby closed in 1940, Dr. moved to Tucson and practiced at St Mary’s hospital, with an office at 188 N. Church. He died suddenly of a heart attack at the young age of 54, and left behind a host of sorrowful patients and friends.
Historically, the greatest amount of time that medical service was NOT available in the Arivaca area was fairly recently, in the so-called modern age, 1940-80, during which time you had to drive to Nogales or Tucson over dirt roads. At least one woman almost gave birth while waiting for a wash to run down. So it was very nice when the opportunity came for medical service nearby.

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