Dr. Joseph Warburton rolled out the welcome wagon for newcomers in Mogadore.
As the lone physician in a rural village, he delivered more than 4,000 babies in the early 20th century. He hitched up a horse, grabbed a black case and drove a carriage to the countryside to greet the newest additions to farm families.
At every possible hour in every type of weather, Warburton made house calls.
He practiced medicine for more than 60 years before retiring at age 88. By then, he was the oldest practicing physician in Summit County.
Warburton, the son of English immigrants, was born in 1874 in Greentown in Stark County. He grew up on a farm near present-day North Canton, graduated from New Berlin High School, attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in St. Louis and received his medical degree in 1901 from Ohio Medical University (now Ohio State).
In 1902, he began practicing in Tallmadge, a remote territory that included Randolph, Atwater and Kent. He never forgot having to slog through knee-high mud to reach a desolate farmhouse where he delivered his first baby. A frightened 12-year-old girl met him at the door and ushered him to a bedroom, where her older sister was about to give birth.
“I gave the young mother a whiff of ether and delivered the child, a perfectly healthy baby,” he recalled decades later. “I turned and handed him to the terrified little girl.
“There was no nurse, no conveniences, no hot water. Today a doctor would be scared to do a job like that.”
Because there were few nurses in rural areas, Warburton often enlisted a grandmother from the neighborhood, wise in the ways of childbirth, to help him with deliveries.
“They were wonderful women, those old grandmas, many of them as good as modern-day nurses,” he said.
In 1903, the doctor married Myrna Munn of Macedonia. He delivered all four of their children — Francis, Richard, Joseph Jr. and Mary — at home.
According to William Doyle’s Centennial History of Summit County (1908), Warburton belonged to the Summit County Medical Society, Ohio State Medical Society, Knights of Pythias and Order of Maccabees. “Politically, he is a Republican, but is only active so far as becomes a good citizen,” Doyle wrote.
In 1909, Warburton moved his practice to Mogadore because the village of 1,500 didn’t have a doctor at the time. One old physician had retired and a younger doctor had run off with a fellow’s wife, he said.
Warburton set up an office on Mogadore Road, but moved it three years later to 50 S. Cleveland Ave., where he remained the rest of his career. He and his family lived in a house that was connected to the office by a carriage porch.
“I got my first auto in 1912, but I didn’t give up the horse and buggy until 1920 for there were many homes I couldn’t reach in a car because of bad roads,” he recalled.
On a typical day, the doctor rose at 6 a.m., held office hours from 8 to 9, went on house calls from 9 a.m. to noon, ate lunch, held more office hours from 12:30 to 2 p.m., made more house calls, ate dinner and then finished up with office hours from 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Some days, he worked 16 to 20 hours. He saw patients around the clock with every malady imaginable.
“In those days, they thought nothing of calling doctors out at night,” he said. “People who’d been ailing for a week or more would get scared and call you. The doctor always hitched up and went out, regardless of the hour, the weather or his own health.”
He charged 50 cents for office visits and $1 for house calls, and that included medicine.
Initially, Warburton didn’t charge widows out of courtesy, but they grew suspicious that they were receiving second-class treatment, so he reluctantly made them pay, too.
Warburton was known for his calming presence and endless patience. He seldom lost his temper or got excited.
He attended medical lectures and read journals to keep up on the latest advances.
He was proud to have met Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, a Canadian obstetrician, who delivered the Dionne quintuplets in 1934.
“He’s a country doctor, too,” Warburton said. “We had lots in common.”
Warburton’s wife, Myrna, helped in the office. Neighbor May Darrah handled bookkeeping. Former patient William Black became Warburton’s chauffeur for house calls.
Because pharmacies weren’t on every other corner, Warburton didn’t just prescribe medicine. He dispensed it.
His shelves were stocked with potions and powders. His black cases — all six of them — were packed with equipment and ready to go.
“Dr. Warburton sits at a huge walnut desk filled with innumerable cubbyholes — where prescriptions and papers of all kinds are filed away,” Beacon Journal reporter Helen Waterhouse wrote in a 1948 profile of the Mogadore doctor.
“Behind him in the next room, rows upon rows of vials and bottles proclaim the fact that he mixes his own medicines. After examining his patient and determining what is wrong with him, the doctor peels off his coat and goes to work as a pharmacist.”
Warburton liked to tell the story of how he once gave a vial of tablets to a farm family and carefully explained how often the medicine should be taken. Hours later, the embarrassed family called back: “Doctor, about those pills: Should they be rubbed on or swallowed?”
Although Warburton’s four children contemplated becoming doctors, all pursued other career paths.
“I don’t blame them, either,” he said. “They know it’s a killing life and they frankly told me they didn’t want to work as hard as their father did. Had they entered the medical profession, I’d have advised them all to specialize.”
Other doctors opened practices in Mogadore. Warburton eventually began to deliver babies in Akron hospitals. He practiced medicine for so long that he delivered the grandchildren of his first patients.
“Up until a year ago, I kept on with night calls and maternity cases and everything,” Warburton said in 1948. “Now I’m playing with the idea of retiring. I may decide to do it in a year or two.”
Widowed in 1956, he continued to see patients into his 80s. He marveled at the arrival of wonder drugs and miracle vaccines, thinking doctors had it a lot easier in the modern world.
Dr. Joseph Warburton finally packed away his stethoscope in April 1963, retiring at age 88 after 61 years of practice.
Only two months into retirement, he unexpectedly took ill and died. The county’s oldest-serving doctor was buried next to his wife in Northfield-Macedonia Cemetery.
For generations, he welcomed newcomers to Mogadore — and he left behind a legacy of caring.
Copy editor Mark J. Price is author of The Rest Is History: True Tales From Akron’s Vibrant Past, a book from the University of Akron Press. He can be reached at 330-996-3850 or email@example.com.