Historically, country doctors practiced and lived in the same town, generally a rural community. Their patients were local townspeople and visitors to the town. A country doctor often tended to several generations of the same family and addressed a wide range of medical issues, encompassing a patient’s physical and emotional health.
House calls were a major component of a rural doctor’s work. If it was impossible or not practical for patients to travel to the doctor, the doctor went to them. Frequently, doctors or nurses serving rural areas would stay for extended periods of time in the homes of patients who were critically ill or were waiting to deliver a baby.
Country doctors needed a broad range of practical knowledge and skills and good old-fashioned ingenuity. They developed strong relationships and trust with their patients and the community.
Early on, doctors mixed, rolled, cut and dispensed medicines themselves; a patient need not go to a separate pharmacy for the pills or tinctures he or she needed to get well. Later, doctors purchased medications from pharmaceutical companies and had them available in their office to dispense to patients.
By the 20th-century, much of the rural medical profession was well organized, regulated and forward-thinking.
Tamworth’s Country Doctors
Dr. Edwin Remick (1866–1935 | above, left) and his son, Dr. Edwin "Doc" Crafts Remick (1903–1993 | shown with one of his harness racing horses, Mighty Gem, circa 1950), provided Tamworth and surrounding communities with continuous medical care from 1894–1993. They administered medical care to patients in almost every area of their health: prenatal care to delivery, winter colds to vaccinations, and even minor surgery.
The elder doctor Remick was confronted with the 1918 influenza epidemic, which caused the death of nine people in Tamworth and accounted for 41% of all the town deaths that year.
A good rural doctor also needed the skill of intent listening. As recounted by many, Doc Remick’s patients were asked to be focused listeners in return: Doc, being an avid harness racing fan, perpetually urged patients to listen to his favorite tape of a particularly exciting horse race.
Directly after graduating from Tufts Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, Doc married Marion Miles Remick (1906–1980 | shown above with Doc, circa 1935) and joined his father’s practice. The practice was located within the Captain Enoch Remick House, Doc’s boyhood home and where his father and mother resided. When the home is open for guided tours, you can walk through the original office, see medical artifacts and visit the medicine room within the house. The Doctor’s Office exhibit, located in the Museum Center and open year-round for self-guided tours, has many medical and personal artifacts as well.
As newlyweds, Doc and Marion moved into a nearby farmhouse, a wedding and graduation gift from the elder Dr. Remick. They lived on the second floor; farm herdsman Cliff Warren and his family lived on the first floor and single staff members had individual rooms on the third floor. The farmhouse and attached barn are now part of the Museum Center and you can walk through Doc and Marion’s apartment during your visit.
Learn about our Health Care Past & Present Lecture Series!