Volume 2, Number 9, Fall 1966
When I first knew him, he was an elderly man and I was a child. He wore glasses, chin whiskers and was slightly stooped. He walked with a weary gait, for he had traveled many miles by day as well as by night. He was looked upon with admiration and respect by all who knew him. He was Dr. Francis Valentine Baldwin, physician, surgeon, business man, and minister of the gospel.
Dr. Baldwin was born in 1863 near Shenandoah, Iowa. He was the son of Dr. Van Ransler Baldwin. He is believed to have received his early education in the common schools of his native state of Iowa. When his father moved to Taney County in the late 1870s, he brought with him his son who met and married Delacy Burdett, the lovely daughter of Dr. K. L. Burdett.
The young Mr. Baldwin, both brilliant and conscientious, became interested in medicine. He was no doubt encouraged by his father-in-law, Dr. K. L. Burdett, who was a prominent physician enjoying a lucrative practice in Taney County and adjacent areas.
Dr. Baldwin is believed to have completed his formal medical training in an early Kansas City Medical College. But his education did not end there. He had the advantage of practicing medicine with Dr. K. L. Burdett, his father-in-law, where he no doubt learned much. But in his own right Dr. Baldwin was a life-long scholar. He was a close observer and was always eager to learn of new medical findings and practices that might improve his knowledge and skill as a physician and surgeon.
Somewhere in his early training he developed a high degree of professional ethics and a philosophy that mans physical illnesses were often related to mans mind, conscience, and soul. Dr. Baldwin believed in doctoring the whole man and not his isolated parts. He soon became a prominent doctor and enjoyed an extensive practice. He was devoted to his profession, his family, and his community. But his success story does not end there, for Dr. Baldwin was a man of many attributes. He was a man of many letters, a man of wisdom, a man of medicine, and a man of God.
To the people of Forsyth and community Dr. Baldwin was far more than their family doctor. When administering to the sick he often knelt at their bedside and sincerely prayed that God might heal the body and comfort the mind and the heart. From the pulpit of the community church he often delivered their Sunday morning sermons which might be described as spiritual therapy for those in need of an unseen but uplifting hand. To the sin-sick patients he offered the healing power of the Savior and the wisdom of the prophets. At weddings the doctor sometimes read the nuptial vows and righteously counselled the newly-weds. When his services were needed to bury the dead, he was well qualified to conduct the funeral and comfort the bereaved. All this was proper and fitting, for Dr. Baldwin was a minister of the gospel.
Dr. Baldwins life was dedicated to serving his fellowman. He meant many things to many people. To the mother of the new-born babe he offered practical advice for the care of herself and the little one. To the old and infirm he gave all that medical science could then offer and, in addition, a full measure of sympathy and compassion. So successful was he in the application of the arts of medicine and religion that he gave ambition and confidence to the young; comfort, happiness, and a sense of worth to the aged. In fact, the very presence of this man of medicine and pillar of Christian faith gave hope to the hopeless and life to the lifeless.
Dr. Baldwin was one of the first doctors in the area to diagnose appendicitis and remove the cause by surgical means. One of his early patients suffering with appendicitis was young Charles W. Ingenthron who lived some five miles north of Forsyth. Charley, as he was called, became seriously ill and was in great pain when Dr. Baldwin arrived. He soon diagnosed the illness as appendicitis and recommended surgery. The painfulness of the malady soon brought the consent of the family, and Dr. Baldwin summoned another doctor to assist him. After due preparation Charley was taken to the kitchen table where the operation was performed. A ruptured appendix was removed and in due time the patient recovered. Charley, who is now past his fourscore of years is one of many living testimonials to Dr. Baldwins skill as a surgeon.
In the prime of his career Dr. Baldwins practice covered a wide area. He kept two teams of horses to accommodate his needs. He traveled both day and night, as sickness was no respecter of time and the doctor was not one to neglect his duties. The nights were never too dark or too cold to prevent the doctor from visiting the sick.
In addition to being a doctor and a minister of the gospel, Dr. Baldwin was known as a business man. He was probably more successful in the prac-
Dr. F. V. Baldwin - Physician, Surgeon, Business man and Minister of the Gospel.
tice of medicine than in his business ventures. It is quite probable that money earned in the practice of medicine was lost in his various business enterprises, for he did not die a wealthy man. However, his many business endeavors contributed much to growth and development of the community and the general welfare of the people.
In the business community Dr. Baldwins name was associated with farming, the towns drugstore, the river ferry and the growth and development of the regions telephone system. While in the drug business he sold coffins, probably manufactured locally and thus fulfilled to some extent the services now rendered by funeral homes. During the first decade of the 1900s he was the licensed owner of a ferry boat at Forsyth. He was also instrumental in bringing telephone service to the region. The Baldwin-Brazeal Telephone Company, sometimes called the Forsyth-Kirbyville telephone Company constructed a line and established telephone services between the two towns. His name was even associated with the postal system. He sometimes won mail-carrying contracts by being the low-bidder. His river bottom farm across the river from Forsyth produced corn, cotton, tobacco, and livestock. Aside from his medical practice, all his business endeavors were operated by hired help.
Dr. Baldwin held a good command of the English language. He usually used precise English. His enunciation and articulation left a distinctiveness about his speech quite unlike that of other people with whom he was associated. This sometimes proved a source of humor without any disrespect to the doctor.
Once Dr. Baldwin had a good crop of tobacco to sell from his farm. A fellow, noted for being a poor credit risk, sought to purchase the crop and pay the doctor at some future time. To his proposition the doctor replied, "There are some people to whom I would sell my tobacco to on credit. And there are some people to whom I would not sell my tobacco to on the credit. You are one of those to whom I would not sell my tobacco on credit."
Due to his obligations to the church and his obligations to the sick and suffering, Dr. Baldwin probably worked harder on the Sabbath than any day in the week. This was once observed by some members of the congregation who inquired of the doctor if he didnt believe in keeping the Sabbath day Holy, thus reminding the doctor that the Sabbath should be a day of rest. To them Dr. Baldwin replied, "If the ox is in the well, it should be removed from its dilemma even on the Sabbath. But one should not push the ox into the well on Saturday in order to get it out on Sunday."
Dr Baldwins farm often produced a good yield of corn. While on a visit to his farm one day, he observed an abundance of rats around the corn crib and barn. Within a few days he was attending a farm sale where a number of rats were escaping from the corn crib as the corn was being removed by its purchaser. Recalling his own problem at the farm, the doctor said. "Rats! Rats! thats my problem, too many rats." To his remarks a young man replied. "Why Dr. Baldwin, Ill killem for you for a penny apiece." The doctor immediately accepted the proposition and said, "Well! young man you have a job of killing rats." Then the young man said, "Well, just catchem and bringem up and Ill sure killem." To that the Dr. replied, "Well! now if I have to do the catching of them I had might as well kill them myself." Thus ended the conversation.
Due to the methods of travel and other circumstances, Dr. Baldwin often ate in the homes of the people he visited. One of the favorite canned fruits of the region was pickled peaches. They were usually peeled cling peaches, sometimes Indian peaches, with the seed still intact. The doctor, apparently a bit surprised to find the seed still inside the peaches, removed the seeds from his mouth with a spoon and laid them on the side of his plate saying, "Now if you dont mind I do not believe I will swallow the stones."
Dr. Baldwins mind possessed the powers of concentration, and he deeply penetrated the subjects of his studies. When trying to diagnose a complicated case he sometimes appeared in a pensive mood, hardly aware of his environmental surroundings. Once while his mind was absorbed in deep study at medical school he went for his mail. When he called for his mail a new postal clerk failed to recognize him and asked what his name was. He stood in bewilderment for a few moments and without saying anything walked out upon the street. There he met a friend who greeted him with a "Good Afternoon Mr. Baldwin". To that remark the Dr. said, "Thats it, Thats it, Baldwin is my name." He then returned to the post office for his mail. There are many such incidents associated with his life that people still recall, but always with admiration and respect.
Dr. Baldwin took his Hippocratic Oath seriously. Even though he stood for good principles he never refused his services to anyone, be he good or bad. He often doctored the poor and unfortunate without compensation. He gave freely of his time to the upbuilding of the community in which he lived. Few people in the upper White River Valley ever did so much for so many. The zenith of his career came during the 1890s and early 1900s. But by the end of 1917 he was leg weary and worn and badly in need of rest and a change. He sold out his business interests and moved to Loveland, Colorado.
The December 27, 1917 issue of the "Taney County Republican" took note of his departure. Among other things the "Republican" said, "The many friends of the doctor will regret very much his leaving. It will seem like the removal of a landmark from our midst, but the very best wishes of his townsmen go with him to his new home."
Little is known of his life in Colorado, but it is certain to have been marked with worthy endeavors.
Dr. Baldwin had been in the White River country too long to ever forget its enchantment. He no doubt longed for the hill country and its people which had become a part of him. In late October or early November 1924 he and his family returned to Forsyth where he resumed the practice of medicine on a limited scale. Once again his uplifting presence was felt among his people. Once again Dr. Baldwin seemed happy and contented, for he and his devoted wife had raised five children to adulthood in the Forsyth community. They were by name and order of birth: Charles Wm., who is buried at Loveland, Colorado; Lula, who is buried in East Liverpool, Ohio; Elza, who is buried in the Snapp Cemetery south of Forsyth; and the two younger sons, Kenneth and Jack, who are now believed to be living in Lisbon, Ohio.
In addition to the five children who reached maturity Dr. and Mrs. Baldwin have two infant daughters buried in the Snapp Cemetery and one infant son buried in the Burdett Cemetery near Ava, Missouri. Dr. Baldwin reportedly died in 1929 while living at Forsyth. He and his devoted wife are buried in the Burdett Cemetery near Ava.
He was a man with knowledge and wisdom,
That seemed touched with heavens own fire.
He labored with faith and patience
To lift man and the world up higher.
Copyright Ó White River Valley Historical Quarterly
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