LIFE AND TIMES OF THE EARLY VET: B. E. Stauffer by Dorothy H. Joseph

Benias Elias Stauffer, better known as Ben to his family or later on as Dr. B. Elk was my grandfather.  He came to North Manchester in 1889 with a wife and three children and here set up his practice which lasted to the time of his death in 1911.

Although born near Reading in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, he came to Indiana as a child, the fourth in a family of seven children.  They lived on a farm in Elkhart County near Wakarusa.  He was 28 when he married my grandmother, Marguriete Ellen Blake in 1881.  Two years later they moved to Chicago where my grandfather entered a school of veterinary medicine.  The school had just opened, so he was a charter member along with eight or nine other students.  My mother from whom I received all the information on my grandfather did not remember the name of the school, but Dr. H. F. Terrill of the North Manchester Veterinary Clinic told me that there is still a Chicago School of Veterinary Medicine in existence for many years, so that could have been the school Ben Stauffer attended.

He received his degree after two years.  The first year was enough to set up in general practice, but Ben went the second year to become a surgeon.  Mother did not know how many years or the type of formal education he had had before.  Whether he farmed or took care of ill or injured animals without benefit of a formal education or degree, I do not know.  He was never interested in farming but always seemed to enjoy the care of domestic animals.  As to the courses of study, there had to be various sciences offered, such as anatomy, chemistry, and perhaps bacteriology.  Materia medica  would make use of chemistry and mathematics.  He was familiar with aseptic technique, so he must have had some bacteriology.

I have wondered about the financial situation, since he was not working for two years and had family responsibilities as my grandmother came back to Indiana during this time for the birth of their first child.  After receiving his degree, he set up his first practice in Elkhart County, although they returned to North Manchester after two years with their family of three children.

Practice in North Manchester

The year  was 1889.  There had been a veterinarian in this area, a Dr. Alber, who apparently had retired.  It is possible the Stauffers returned so soon because Ben knew that that practice was available.  Two more children (mother is the youngest of the family) were born in the 1890’s which completed the family of five children

Dr. Stauffer had several different office locations.  The first was at the J. B. Williams Drug Store on East Main Street.  This “office” was a desk on the main floor of the drugstore.  Later it was at the Willis Livery Stable at the southeast corner of West Main and Maple Streets.  This was more suitable and offered more room for him and accommodations for horses.  Another location was on North Mill Street in the Thrush Buggy Works (east side between Main and Second Streets).  The Thrushes had come from Pennsylvania where they had had a successful buggy works that was widely known.  Later a blacksmith shop was added to the north side of the building that was run by Sewell Thrush and Alvin Bugby.

When the family first came here they lived in “the Pocket” west of Front Street and south of Main Street, west to the old West Ward School.  My mother was born in this area.  When she was ready for the fourth grade, the family moved to Riverside (South Market Street), although she had spent her first three years at West Ward, two under Martha Winesburg who years later was my teacher at Chester School.

The Formula That Burned Down the Lab

Dr. Stauffer made many of his own medical formulas in the building behind the house.  One concoction, a thick black liquid called balsamic oil, helped ease indigestion in horses.  This had to be cooked over a coal oil stove and had to be watched very carefully so that the highly flammable mixture would not boil over.  This happened twice and both times the “lab” burned down!

Mother called these buildings a shed or an old chicken house, but to my grandfather they were his labs.  After much work he devised a way to make a more effective balsamic oil without cooking it.  Mother said the neighbors were delighted, too, as the first method caused a foul odor over the neighborhood and everyone knew Ole Doc Stauffer was making his medicine.  He made other medicines, too, including one for sore throat which attracted my mother because it was a large clear ball resembling rock candy.  He received a patent for this new method.

Since horse and buggy was the principal mode of transportation at that time, the practice of veterinary medicine was mostly horses.  Cattle and pigs were treated too, but small animals were a small percentage of the practice.  Hence the name “horse doctor” given by lay people.

A tour of a modern veterinary facility would surprise Dr. Stauffer for the differences in conditions are astounding.  Stauffer must have known about aseptic technique though it must have been almost impossible to apply that knowledge with the few facilities he had.  He probably did boil his instruments after cleaning them.  Whether he had rubber gloves to protect not only the patient but also himself, I don’t know.

Although general anesthesia had been known for some time, Dr. Terrill said at one time animals were hung up and tied into position, unable to move, and then operated upon without anesthetic.  It is of little wonder that very little surgery was performed.  As cruel as it may sound, humans were not treated much better until after the Civil War, although chloroform had been used as an anesthetic since the late 1840’s.

Mother often accompanied her father into the countryside when he went to attend animals.  She never bothered to watch the treatment but played with the farmer’s children or amused herself.  Of course, animals were not taken to the doctor as they are today.

In the spring Dr. Stauffer was busy with the castration of many animals.  A Dr. Nance from Milford came down and assisted my grandfather who must have returned the favor.  The practice continued to grow and in 1907-1908 Dr. Jake Cook came to this area and joined my grandfather as a partner.

Stauffer mentioned in his diary in 1905 that his legs were swollen or that he felt poorly or had the “jimmies.”  Sometimes this comment was made after he had to be out with a sick animal all night or perhaps had a fairly busy day afterwards without proper rest.  Other notes in the diary concern formulas for various medicines that he used.  He mentioned different customers, such as Dr. Balsbaugh, a Mr. Frey, J. W. Patterson, a Mr. Winebrenner, Suede Williams, son of J. B. the pharmacist, and Ezra Boocher, to name a few.

In his day-to-day entries he wrote that some days he had little to do, so he attended to accounts, much of which he collected in food rather than hard cash, and took care of correspondence.  He mentioned writing to a veterinarian dental school in Detroit and another time wrote that he “dressed” a horse’s teeth.

About a year before he died,  Stauffer bought a DeWitt car and was pleased to think that he would reach his patients sooner.  The car vibrated so badly and apparently grandfather had angina pectoris which the vibration aggravated.  One time someone found him lying along the road and having a painful heart attack.

Another boon in speeding up the treatment of animals of course was the telephone which came into this area about 1899.  Stauffer’s phone number was “6” so he must have been the sixth person to receive a telephone.  My mother remembers that J. B. Williams and the Sheller Hotel received their phone at about the same time.

Dr. Stauffer died in October 1911, and Dr. Jake Cook maintained the practice here for many years.  Dr. Cook’s son, Gene, and I graduated from high school together.  Gene went into the field of medicine as an M.D. and I as an R.N.  I am sorry I did not know my grandfather as he died when I was less than a year old.  He would have been proud to know that I also went into the field of medicine.  Now my grandchildren, were they so inclined, could write about the days of yore when Grandma entered nursing and the changes that have occurred since then.  I have a granddaughter who may enter into the field of nursing, so it goes from one generation to the next.


A picture donated to the North Manchester Historical Society of one of the literary societies of Manchester College sparked interest in the story of those unique activities of student life.

The first was the Excelsior Literary Society which existed for a year and one term during the first year of the college, 1895-1896.  Meetings were held on Saturday evenings and, according to a student publication of that year, the “hall is filled to overflowing each meeting by students and citizens of the town.”

By November 1896 it was apparent that two societies were needed.  The catalog for that year lists the Adelphian Literary Society and the Lincoln Fraternity (later know as a society).  These were for “literary culture and improvement in speaking, reading, and the conduct of deliberative bodies.”  Work in these groups was required for graduation.

The Adelphia motto was “Lux et veritas” (Light and truth), and the Lincoln motto was “Usus clavis ad perfectum”  (Practice is the key to perfection.).  Each society had officers consisting of president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, critic, sergeant-at-arms, censor, librarian, and chorister.

In the early days literary productions and vocal music comprised the first part of the program.  Poets, debaters, essayists, and orators were encouraged to produce.  A special point was made to develop talent among the members.  Many bashful freshmen found themselves confronted with the  requirement of participation in these programs, and many of them developed into competent speakers through these experiences.

After the program section of literary and musical productions, a social intermission of 15-20 minutes was enjoyed; this was followed by a strongly contested debate or a thorough drill in parliamentary procedure.  In later years the social intermission was reserved for an after-society get-together, and the debates gave way for the most part to impromptu speeches.  Often a student fearfully awaited the “awe-full” announcement of the impromptu assignments and, again a student was surprised at the stage ease which came to him as a result of this painful phase of literary society training. 

After some years instrumental music, not allowed at first, became a popular addition to the programs.  Reading of both serious and humorous nature, cuttings from historical or literary masterpieces, and mock trials added variety to the weekly productions.  An evaluation of each by an official critic encouraged a high degree of excellence.

Townspeople still attended in large numbers.  Inter-society  debates and oratorical contests added enthusiasm and ardor to the rivalry.  Such statements as the following from the 1911 Aurora  were characteristic of the rivalry:”Although the victory was to the Adelphians, there was great praise for the masterful Lincoln speeches.”

By 1912 the college enrollment had increased so much that two societies did not meet the needs of the students.  Accordingly, Majestica, a new society for students of college standing above  the freshman year was formed.  While this society made a distinct place for itself on campus, it was without a rival, it had no hall of its own, and many of its members had difficulty transferring their loyalties from the former groups.  Majestica dissolved in 1919 and four new societies were formed, two for women, Philomathea and Philolethea, and two for the men, Philorhetoria and Philophronia, each with a membership of approximately 50.  For the next 20 years these were a significant part of student life.

Lincoln and Adelphia continued until 1922-1923, when the Academy enrollment was so low that the two groups united into one, and for a second time the name Excelsior was chosen.  There were only about 35 members holding programs each Saturday morning at 7:30.  This society was short-lived, however, for at the close of that school year the Academy was discontinued.

Pride in one’s literary society and fierce loyalty stimulated sharp rivalry through the years from 1919 to 1939.  Mathea and Rhetoria adopted the motto, “Give to others something, receive something.” While Lethea and Phronia worked under the inspiration of “Strength united is stronger.”  Competition for membership of the incoming freshmen knew no bounds.  Teams from each group vied with each other in meeting trains and buses to sign up new members, some going to Wabash or Warsaw to outwit others.  Friday nights became eventful with their literary and music programs followed by social gatherings around the fountain, on the front campus, in the old social room in the administration building basement, and in the parlors of Oakwood Hall.  Some of the most outstanding social events of the year were the two annual banquets of the joint societies.

Many alumni rank the literary societies very high as factors which contributed most to their personal development on Manchester’s campus.  But times changed and the old literary societies no longer challenged the new youth.  In 1939 the “Old Four” were dropped and three new groups for freshmen only became a compulsory part of student activities.  Each society now included both boys and girls; competitive factors were largely absent and other organizations were constantly forming.  After much experimenting with names and programs, in 1945-1946 the literary societies gave up the struggle for existence and gave way to other activities 50 years after the initial group began.
(Adapted from “Literary Societies,” by A. R. and Gletha Mae Eikenberry, in Manchester College: The First Seventy-Five Years, 1964.)

MEMORIES OF Harry Weimer   [continued from last issue]

The last years at Manchester were fairly quiet, busy work-filled days.  For nine years he participated in a summer National Science Foundation Program for 30 gifted and recommended second, third, and fourth-year high school students from all over the U.S.  It was a rewarding, time-consuming, and often frustrating experience.  Eight weeks of seven full days a week, 24 hour-day supervision, brilliant minds to be taught, entertained and kept from homesickness, boredom and mischief.  Dr. Steven Grossnickle, an ophthalmologist in Warsaw, was one of our students.

During the world-wide period of student unrest and a few hot spots on Manchester campus, Harry was often called on for help.  He had an uncanny rapport with students and always more counselees than the normal load.  If a student asked, he was never turned aside.  “Harry listened, considered, discussed and tried to find workable solutions.  He was firm but just and sometimes did say no. One of the standing campus jokes was seeing him, with a student in tow, dog-trotting (he never took time to walk) across to the Dean’s Office.  Harry was never a patient soul, more in evidence as he grew older.  Another standing joke was when he was in such a hurry to get off that he backed into a passing police car.  We always lived within four blocks of the campus, yet he never walked: he didn’t have time.”

His day began at 7:00, one half hour before his 7:30 class and being late to an appointment or committee meeting was a cardinal sin.  His meetings began on time, lasted the prescribed time, and then were dismissed.

Everyone liked Harry.  He had loads of friends yet he rarely wrote letters or seemed to work at it.  He enjoyed groups but wasn’t much on participation.  He was a good conversationalist but best in a small group, since in a larger unit he tended to drift into the instructor roll.

Harry was generous to a fault with both his time and money.  Money to him was simply something to be shared.  Every beggar on the street seemed to know him.  He never asked questions; he gave.  If I protested that he was too easy or being imposed upon, he merely smiled and said, Probably,” but he would rather give three times needlessly than to deny a real need once.  Dishonesty by intent, however, was something different.  This he would not stand for.

That Harry inherited a share of the so-called “Weimer temper” there was no doubt.  This the workmen on the Hall of Science found out when they tried to put in non-acid resisting drains. He did learn to control his temper, however, except under very trying circumstances.

The Science Hall was much of Harry’s planning and thinking, a bit of a dream come true for him.  One of his biggest problems was the name, Holl-Kintner Hall, in honor of the two men under whom he had studied.  He was very proud of it.

Harry never really had a sabbatical leave in all his years.  Dr. Helman almost forced him to spend part of one spring term visiting other science departments of this college association for Manchester.  He did take refresher courses on his own during a few summers, to Pennsylvania State University in 1958, to the University of South Carolina at Durham in 1960, and the University of Oklahoma at Stillwater in 1963.

Harry held memberships in several organizations, the American Chemical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Sigma XI, the honor society Phi Lambda Upsilon of Phi Beta Kappa, and the Indiana Academy of Science.  He was listed in American Men of Science.   Locally he was a Kiwanian, was in the Masonic Blue Lodge, and he held the York Rite degree of Masonry.

His knowledge was broad.  At various times he had taught math, physics, geology, as well as chemistry.  This is why his Memorial Scholarship Fund includes all of the sciences.  At Manchester College he was chairman of the Department of Chemistry and head of the entire science division.  At the time of his death he was working up to adding a computer section.  This was new at the time but he felt it was a must.

He had broad contacts with both schools and industrial plants through his work on the Manhattan Project.  Both he and Dr. Holl had had remarkable success with pre-med students.  Placing a Manchester graduate was never a problem.  His staff of four young Ph.D.’s were also achieving enviable records.

But Harry was growing tired and beginning to look toward retirement.  He had a large and valuable stamp collection, begun when he was nine years old, that he had little time to enjoy.  He also wished to do more with his lapidary hobby.  We had dug, cut, and polished gem stones from every state except Hawaii as well as made slides and charts for geological study.  He wanted to build this into a sizable department for Manchester but he had so little time to spare.

I realized he was ill those few days before the Christmas break in 1970, but he refused to see a doctor at the time for there was still a bit more to do and one exam to finish.  His students had honored him with a surprise birthday party just the week before.  The children were coming home for Christmas and a big new colored television, which we purchased for a combined gift, had just been delivered.  Yes, in a day or two he could sit and watch the ball games!  But his heart said no.  He died a contented man.

OUR SALOMA AND THE WOLVES  [Contributed by Mrs. Harry R. Weimer]

In 1934 I had the rare privilege of talking to Mrs. Sarah Saloma (Dillman) Meyers, born October 29, 1829, a nearly 105 year old widow, who now lies buried in the South Pleasant churchyard beside the empty gravemarker of her husband, Peter, whose body was never recovered during Civil War days.

Mrs. Meyers lived in Pleasant Township with her 85 year old daughter, Mrs. Catherine Drudge.  The home was a tiny log cabin a short distance west of Hwy. 15.  My aunt, Miss Lulu Gamble, a retired R.N., was helping to nurse her.

Aunt Salomie, as she was known, must have been feeling pretty perky that morning [3 weeks before her death] for she beckoned me to her bedside and asked in a barely audible voice if I would like to hear a real true wolf story.  Mrs. Drudge did most of the talking but Mrs. Meyers with beaming eyes, would smile and nod and even interrupt at times.  It was her favorite childhood recollection.

She was about 5 years old when her father had to leave the family and ride horseback over a rough wooded trail to “Elkhart Town.”  He carried sacks of corn and a little wheat to be ground and some would be exchanged for other needed supplies to see the family through the winter.  She recalled vividly that the settlers were not nearly as afraid of the Indians, some of whom lived in a small village nearby where Saloma often played with the Indian children, as they were of the wolves.  Dr. Dillman left early on the long two-day trip and the little family barricaded their one window and door to await his return.

They heard the wolves early in the day and that night they kept them awake howling and snarling around the cabin.  The father was welcomed home at early dark next day and shortly after a large wolf pack arrived.  They circled the cabin snarling and howling in a very determined manner.  Mr. Dillman grew quite concerned over the fate of two young calves which were shut in the nearby stable.  He was afraid the constant lunging of the pack might break in the stable door.  Saloma was most glad her father had made it home before real dark.

Mr. Dillman fired shots down from the loft window, but it did no good.  The wolves seemed determined critters.  Even though they made their own bullets [ammunition was expensive and hard to come by] they kept a good supply of fagots.  These were dry sticks with one end cut into a brushy mass which they could light and hurl out of the upper window onto any too-venturesome animal.

He managed to hold the pack off for a bit, armed with these burning sticks, while he opened the door and ran to the stable before the snarling pack closed in.  The door was more heavily secured but he had to remain there during the night to calm the frightened animals.  To the mother and children in the house it was a long, dangerous and never-to-be-forgotten night.

The area just this side of Akron is still low and swampy.  Then it was known as wolf-den hollow.  Organized wolf hunts were held each year until the wolves died out.  The last recorded hunt was held in 1910.