LIMA — Nearing the end of her training in nursing at a Cincinnati hospital in 1895, Emmaline Maud Stines Crockett wrote that she “began to investigate territory that looked favorable for a trained nurse.” She set her sights on Lima.
In the waning years of the 19th century, Lima was approaching 20,000 in population, possessed a wealth of railroads and industry, and sat atop what was at the time the country’s most productive pools of crude oil. What it didn’t have was a single registered nurse or, even, a hospital.
“I fully determined to start a hospital of my own and wrote three physicians (in Lima) Dr. D.W. Steiner, Dr. E.S. Hiner and Dr. F.L. Bates in regards to locating here and received very favorable replies from each of these gentlemen,” Crockett recalled in the reminiscence written in the early 1930s about her early days as a nurse in Lima.
She arrived in Lima two days after Christmas in 1895, prepared to stay no more than a few days because, she wrote, “I had other prospective locations in view.” She would never leave.
“After I had dinner at a boarding house run by Mrs. Richard Jones at 222 N. Elizabeth St. and engaged a room (which I never occupied) of Mrs. Jennie Neff,” she wrote. “Dr. Steiner called in regards to a case he was very anxious for me to help him on. And at about four o’clock I found myself on my first case, in the home of J.C. Easley, West Wayne Street.
“From that time,” she added, “I was kept busy sometimes attending three patients in different parts of the city making my calls on my bicycle with my long dress skirt flapping in the wind.”
Crockett was born Aug. 15, 1868, in Greenville, the daughter of Samantha Barkalow and Obadiah Stines, a Civil War veteran who survived the Confederacy’s infamous Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Less than a year after arriving in Lima, on Oct. 29, 1896, Stines became Mrs. Charles Crockett. Crockett was a machinist by trade but a musician at heart. Together, the Crocketts would immerse themselves in the city’s cultural life, particularly music. The couple welcomed a son, also named Charles, in 1897.
Crockett soon discovered her dream of a hospital was not shared by a majority of Lima residents. “The general impression being about what we have today of the death cell in a penitentiary and not without just cause,” she wrote. “At that time (with the exception of the large cities) there was only one patient in a hundred who was taken to a hospital that was not nearer dead than alive when they arrived.”
Despite this, as well as concerns about the cost and opposition from some doctors, a movement for a hospital eventually took root, although Crockett noted in her reminiscence, old fears remained. “One day I dropped into a furniture store to inquire about equipment,” she wrote, “but when the clerk learned that the furniture was for the prospective hospital, he lost all interest in his sale … and related how doctors had experimented and butchered someone he had heard of that might have been living if they had stayed away from the hospital.”
On April 1, 1899, the Lima City Hospital opened on East Market Street on the site now occupied by Lima Senior High School.
Crockett, however, continued in her private nursing practice. “It was a case with me of going from a certainty to an uncertainty,” she wrote. “I was busy and had more calls than I could take care of …” She began working for $12 per week.
Crockett found the reality of Lima far different from what she had encountered in training. “It was a disheartening proposition for a nurse to leave a training school where all modern equipment was furnished and locate where the field was new and adjust herself to rural surroundings and crude implements,” she wrote.
“In order to perform an operation when I came to Lima there must be kitchen tables hunted up and scrubbed, scoured and scalded for operating tables. In order to be on the safe side the nurse must sterilize the room for the operation. This task could not be trusted to unskilled people.”
Once, Crockett recalled, it was the patient who needed scrubbing. In that case, the house was “scrupulously clean” while the patient, a woman having a difficult pregnancy, was filthy. Using a small basin she found in the home, Crockett was able to bathe the woman.
“As I was leaving,” Crockett wrote, “a wagon load of relatives, men, women and children … drove up, apparently to celebrate the arrival of a son. A few came in the gate but the majority either climbed or vaulted the fence. I tried to explain the seriousness and danger excitement would cause the patient. I was informed by the mother if there was any ill effect it would be my fault caused by giving her daughter a bath.
“It was before the eighteenth amendment (Prohibition) was enforced and I made a retreat before a skirmish began,” she added.
Crockett had many interests outside of nursing. She, like her husband, was an early member of the Lima choral society, a charter member of the Buckeye State Button society and a member of the Allen County Historical Society. She often combined her interest in buttons with her work in the historical society.
On Sept. 5, 1943, The Lima News noted that Crockett was seeking buttons from the uniforms of Axis (German, Italian and Japanese) soldiers or sailors to fill out a collection of uniform buttons she intended to donate to the historical society. The collection, the News reported, “includes buttons from uniforms from a number of railroads, those from uniforms of members of the Union army during the Civil War, those from soldiers and sailors attire in the Spanish-American War and World War I as well as Army and Navy of the present conflict and Boy Scouts.”
She also took an interest in the welfare of birds, forming a bird feeding club among pupils at Franklin Elementary School where she served as a room mother for fifth-graders in the late 1920s. ”Members agree to feed the birds whenever snow or ice covers the ground, and in token of the promise, they wear a white string in their buttonholes,” the News wrote on Dec. 23, 1929. More than 1,000 pupils eventually joined the club.
Eighteen years later, during a winter storm in December 1947, Crockett rallied the troops. “Most of you are married now and have your own families,” she said in a story in the Dec. 19, 1947, edition of the News. “Years ago you were children in school and you wore a piece of string on your coats showing that you were members of our bird feeders club. Because of the ice, Lima’s birds are starving today. Please feed them.”
Crockett died at the age of 86 in August 1955, 21 years after her husband, and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Next week: war brides
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.