Heavy on the Muggy, Light on the Mayo


125 years before I decided I wanted no more hot muggy summer days (maybe hot but definitely not MUGGY), another guy named Bill left Lafayette, Indiana. Bill was born in England but immigrated to New York in 1845. He had studied chemistry and medicine in England so he took a job at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, working as a druggist. Bill was known as an impulsive and independent guy, so when someone told him there was no tailors in Lafayette, Indiana, he headed there in 1848 and opened a tailor shop called “The Hall of Fashion.” He had a partner, Alphonso Roach, and they became quite successful immediately. They added a third partner within months and moved to larger quarters at Third and Main in Lafayette. One of Bill’s customers was a leading citizen of Lafayette named Dr. Elizur Deming. Dr. Deming discovered through their conversation that Bill had studied chemistry and medicine and worked as a druggist and he talked Bill into becoming his medical apprentice.

So, one year after opening a successful tailor shop, Bill sold his interest and began a medical career in Lafayette. Within a few months, Asiatic cholera spread through the Wabash Valley, killing 300 Lafayette citizens in two months. Bill was not a full-fledged doctor but was forced into practice to help stop the spread of the dreaded disease. It was written that Bill had “fortunate” success with the disease. Dr. Deming encouraged Bill to get his medical degree, so Bill enrolled in Indiana Medical College and received his medical degree by the end of 1850. He worked in Lafayette for the Hart Drug store as a druggist, physician and surgeon.
However, once again impetuous Bill disappeared in 1851. His worried friends found him, newly married to a lady in Galena Woods, Michigan. He returned to Lafayette, but sued the Hart Drug store people, asking for “$1000 for work, labor, care and diligence.” After many weeks of bad press in the local papers, Bill dropped the charges. Dr. Deming offered Bill a partnership in his practice. Bill joined Deming and they opened a new family medicine warehouse at the corner of Second and Columbia in Lafayette. The warehouse was set up to promote some “secret remedy” medicine that Dr. Deming invented.
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The Indiana Medical College where Bill received his medical degree had shuttered its doors, and Bill talked Dr. Deming into forming a partnership and re-opening his old alma mater. Shortly after both invested hundreds of dollars apiece, the school’s building and all its equipment were destroyed in a fire. At the same time, the doctors recognized that their large family medicine warehouse was not making any money. Bill’s wife opened a millinery shop on Fourth Street to help with the family finances. Financial problems never bothered Bill and in 1853 he left Lafayette and again became an assistant to Dr. Deming who had become a faculty member of the University of Missouri. By 1854, Bill had earned a second medical degree and decided to head back to Lafayette to his wife and child. After battling with another big cholera epidemic (this one killed over 600 Lafayette residents), Bill said he was tired of the hot, muggy Lafayette summers and he hitched up his horse and buggy and drove off, leaving his wife and child behind.

Bill drifted around Minnesota and tried his hand at Indian fighting and then tried to get into politics. Nothing worked out well. After moving all over Minnesota, he decided he liked Rochester. He returned to Lafayette to get his wife and child and took them back to the then un-settled territory around Rochester, Minnesota. His wife finally put her foot down and said the wandering around was over and Bill was to stay put. He agreed.

In 1883, Rochester was devastated by a tornado. A local nun, Mother Alfred of the Sisters of St. Francis, convinced the 63-year old Bill to help open a hospital to care for the injured. He agreed and this time he used his last name on the front of the hospital. He called it the Mayo Clinic. He trained his two sons to be doctors and we all know what they did with the small town clinic as they expanded it into the Mayo Clinic we know today.

Humid, Hot, Muggy…yeah, glad you left here Bill…or we would have all been walking around in finely tailored Mayo suits.

About bakoheat

Writer/Musician
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