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Dr. Gale Honored

Dr. GH Gale.jpg

“Doc” Gale Observes 50th Anniversary Today as Member of That Fast Vanishing Fraternity—the Country Doctor

Newspaper clipping, no date shown

Retirement? Not for Doc!

            Dr. George Hays Gale of Newport observed his 50th anniversary today as an active member of that fast-vanishing fraternity—“The country doctor.”

            During this epochal period of change and rapid modern development, the 72-year-old white-haired medico—known affectionately to many hundreds in Ohio and West Virginia as “Doc”—has treated thousands of cases covering all forms of ailments, delivered three generations of babies, averaging 35 per year for a grand total of 1,750 infants, including 20 sets of twins.  This astounding figure is equal to nearly four times the population of his home town of Newport. 

Some Figures:

“Doc” Gale, during his 50 years of practice, has worn out 6 harness horses, 2 sleds, 2 harness buggies, and 26 cars, including 2 Hupmobiles, 10 Fords, 3 Dodges, 2 Buicks, 1 Oldsmobile, 2 Chevrolets, 4 Plymouths, and 2 Chryslers. 

“I sported a linen duster in the summer time,” said the “Doc,” “and leather leggings and a heavy fur-lined coat with a high collar in the cold months.  There was supposed to be roads, but they were nothing but a sea of mud.  I have seen the time when I couldn’t make over three miles an hour.”

In payment for his services, “Doc” Gale has received everything from tommyhawks to catfish, and from spearheads to turnips.  He has covered a territorial radius of about 70 miles: Pleasants, Ritchie, Tyler, and parts of Wood counties in West Virginia; Washington and Monroe counties in Ohio, all representing a total population of about 30,000 people.  “To quote David Harum,” said the “Doc,” “I have treated people for everything, from ring bone to ‘disapinted’ affections.”


            His lonely jaunts in all kinds of weather under all kinds of conditions—from the horse and buggy days to the automotive era—have taken him to such out-of-the-way places as Whiskey Run, Horse Neck, Fish Pot, and Friendly, in West Virginia; and to Dog skin, Trail Run, Spindle Top, Fly, and Pine Ridge, in Ohio.  It was in such isolated locales that “Doc” Gale delivered one baby in a garden, and another in a corn crib.  “I have been consulted on many occasions on things not pertaining to medicine.” Said the “Doc,” “you have to be not only a doctor, but a friend, and a family adviser, as well.”

            During his 50 years of service to humanity, “Doc” Gale has operated on and treated patients both under gas and electric lamps in hospitals, houses, cabins, shacks, shanty boats, corn cribs, and even in the wide-open spaces.  “And through it all,” said the “Doc,” “I have enjoyed every minute of it, especially my contacts with people and the many friends I have made.  If I had it to do over again, I would not change one single line.”

Although, after some reflection, the “Doc” chuckled and said: “there have been some exceptions or course. There were the times when people called me at all hours in the night, claiming to have some terrible elaborate ailments.  But when I got there, after a lot of time and trouble, I found out they were not sick—they were just plain drunk.”

Third Generation

“Doc” Gale represents the third generation of Gales in Newport who have been practicing medicine uninterrupted for over a century and a quarter.  It began when the Gale family came over from Ireland in 1799, headed by Captain George Gale, formerly of the British Army.  Captain Gale settled in Virginia and taught school. 

His son, George Washington Gale—“Doc” Gale’s grandfather—studied medical books by Benjamin Rush, the only medical man to sign the Declaration of Independence.  (“Doc” Gale now has those books in his possession at his office in Newport.” George Washington Gale came to Newport in 1821 when the place was a mere hamlet of scattered cabins and houses.  He practiced medicine on the Ohio River between Moundsville and Marietta until his death in 1879, leaving six girls and six boys, five of whom became doctors. 

One of the six brothers—“Doc” Gale’s father—Dr. George Thomas Gale, served Newport and vicinity for sixty-one years before retiring in 1935, and passing on in 1946, at the age of 94.

The present senior “Doc” Gale went into partnership with his late father in 1906at the age of twenty-two, after graduating from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, the second oldest medical institution in America.  The “Doc’s” brother, Dr. Larrey Richard Gale, practiced eight years with them, from 1915 until 1923, when he died of heart trouble.  But from 1906, onward, “Doc” Gale has served and continues to serve West Virginia and Ohio, up to this date.  He will be seventy-three years old on November 6, 1956.  To quote one of his patients: “‘Doc” Gale is known to us as a friend and as a charitable man who has never neglected his profession or ever turned down a request for help.”

In Dad’s Footsteps

“Doc” Gale’s son, Dr. Larrey Bernard Gale, graduated from the same college as his father, on the same minute, on the same day, 42 years later, on June 6, 1948, and began practicing with the “Doc” at Newport in 1950.  This latest edition adds up to four generations of Gales practicing medicine in Newport and environs over an uninterrupted period of one hundred and thirty-five years. 

And one might well describe the senior “doc” Gale as the last 100 per cent country doctor of the lineage.  In the early days of his career, it was a hard life of exposure, long hours, loss of sleep, poor communications, almost impassable roads, and a river full of floating ice which sometimes would take one hour to cross in a row boat. 

But, nowadays, with improved roads, automobiles, bridges, telephones, electricity, lights—the picture has changed considerably.  “Doc” Gale put it like this: “At the best we had boats, trains, and horses when I began to practice.  Automobiles were a curiosity and very unreliable.  Today, the passenger boats have gone with the wind.  And the olden days’ schedule of sixteen full passenger trains a day passing through from Kenova, W. Va., to Pittsburg, has been reduced to one passenger train carrying one coach.  Automobiles, airplanes, and buses have taken over.”

In a 50-Year Span

In the span of his 50-year-career, “Doc” Gale has witnessed a complete revolution in the healing and treatment of internal cases and methods of surgery.  Said the “Doc”: “In my early days, pneumonia was called the great killer and the old man’s friend and carried the highest rate of mortality in this climate.  Today, new medical discoveries have almost eliminated this disease as a killer. 

“The once dreaded diphtheria, typhoid fever, and small pox all are practically things of the past, due to the development of modern preventive medicines.  Chest surgery and surgery on the heart are very commonly done at the present time, but they were unthought-of of in my horse and buggy days.”

For another sharp comparison, “Doc” Gale pointed out that the primary tools of the old days consisted of a pocket case of instruments and saddle bags, carrying from fifteen to twenty different medicines.  “Today, “ said the “Doc,” “the country doctor, what’s left of him, carries a blood pressure apparatus, a stethoscope, an otoscope, a tongue depressor, applicators, sterile dressings, gloves, antiseptics, drugs for easing pain, and a hypodermic syringe with some emergency remedies and a needle.”

Fast Disappearing

Are country doctors disappearing from the national scene?  “The answer is definitely yes.  This is because the young doctors all want to go to urban or city centers where they have hospitals and many convenient facilities which the country doctor does not have.  This makes the work easier for the new generation of doctors.  Their hours are shorter and they are less exposed to hardships, and have more time for recreation.  Also, there is the fact that most young physicians nowadays want to specialize in one branch of medicine, rather than to practice all branches, as the country doctor has to do.”

To demonstrate the decline of country doctors in this area, “Doc” Gale said that when he first began to practice in 1906, there were fifteen country doctors at work within a radius of twenty miles.  “Today, in this same vicinity, there are six country doctors carrying on the same work, but with a rising population.  That ought to give you an idea of the signs of the times.”

On the hopeful side of the rural area of America, from a medical standpoint, “Doc” gale disclosed that there has been a drive in recent years to persuade young doctors to settle in small towns.  Said the “Doc,” “It has been successful to an extent.  Some young doctors have responded and are now supported by fast cars and efficient hospitals in nearby urban centers.  As a result, the country trips that used to require hours to make, now take only a few minutes.”

For More than a Century

The Gales have maintained a medical office in Newport for over 100 years, since 1838.  The original office was washed away in the 1913 great flood.  The present office, now occupied by “Doc” Gale and his brilliant son, Bernard, was constructed immediately after the flood. 

“Doc” Gale enjoys courtesy staff associations at the Memorial Hospital in Marietta, and at St. Joseph’s in Parkersburg.  He is a member of three major medical associations, including Washington County, Ohio State, and the National American. 

In addition to his profession, “Doc” Gale has dabbled successfully in oil for a good many yeas, commercially.  During World War One, he served as Chairman of the Newport Township War Board and volunteered and was commissioned a first lieutenant with orders to sail for France when the conflict ended.  He was a member of the School Board for twelve years, and is now past president. 

His hobbies are hunting, fishing, harness horses, and the collection of Indian relics.  The “Doc” has bagged many a deer, squirrel, rabbit, and grouse in the forests of Ohio, West Virginia, and Canada.  His fine collection of Indian relics, of which he is justly proud, consists of arrowheads, spear-heads, tommyhawks, husbandry instruments, and fragments of Indian bones. 

“Doc” Gale married Miss Carolyn McGrew thirty-eight years ago, April 24th, 1918.  They have five children: George, Carolyn, Kathryn, Larrey, and Nina—all married except Nina.

Retirement Not for “Doc”

When queried about his plans for retirement, “Doc” Gale had this to say: “I have no such plans at the present time, at least not as long as I am able to work.  A fellow is far better off doing something instead of just sitting around all day doing nothing.”

Dr. and Mrs. Gale are leaving Newport on June 12th for a trip to Philadelphia where he will attend the fiftieth reunion of the Jefferson Medical College, class of 1906, on June 13th and 14th.  Out of the original graduating class of two hundred, only sixty-four are alive today.  And Dr. George Hays Gales of Newport, Ohio, is one of them. 


A “Country Doctor” Is Honored

From an undated newspaper clipping

Ralph Edwards’ large televiewing audience got a first hand look at a vanishing breed of man last night and liked what it saw—not that the shy, retiring and visibly embarrassed “subject” particularly cared one hootenanny.

It was Newport’s gentle and kindly Dr. George Hays Gale, described as a “country doctor,” but more of a friend, counselor and good Samaritan to his legion of friends and patients in this part of the valley.

A full and rewarding lifetime of serving his fellow man passed in parade across the nation’s television screens in the 23 minutes Hollywood’s master of ceremonies was able to overflow the studio stage with Doctor George’s children, relatives, old friends, classmates and patients.

There was Mary Heeter, long Dr. Gale’s secretary and receptionist, sons Dr. Larry Gale and George Gale and daughters, Mary, Katherine and Nina and Mrs. Gale, the former Carolyn McGrew.

“I rather suspicioned all this,” the doctor grinned after Edwards introduced him to the “This Is Your Life” program with the remark that he never had such a difficult time luring a subject to California. 

In rapid order Dr. George was introduced to his cousin and boyhood companion, the Rev. Cecil McCray of Indiana; Col. Edgard [Edward?] C. Jones, of Rokeby Lock, O., a classmate at Jefferson Medical College; Mrs. Earl Baxter of St. Marys, W. Va., the first baby Dr. Gale brought in the world when he began his practice in Newport in 1906; Dr. Lynn Nicholas, former Newport superintendent of schools and now president of Wayne State University; and finally, old patients, William DePuy, Martha Schneider, Marie Edgell, Elmer Riggs Jr., George Locke and three generations of Keisters.