Township's Dr. Prideaux
honored for 50 years' service
DEMOCRAT JULY 18, 1949
Prideaux to be honored for 50- year ________
Rocks Doctor to Receive State Society Plaque Thursday
Worn Out 26 Cars, 10 Horses During Half Century in Medicine
Ira D. Weigle Democrat Staff Writer
Hundreds of broken bodies mended, 4,000 babies, a bushel
of teeth, 350,000 miles of ‘Thundering’ over back roads, 26 worn out jalopies,
10 broken-down horses and a strong sound body at the age of 76.
Those are just a few of the major highlights in the 50-year
practice as a country doctor of Dr. William Albert Prideaux of the small Cambria
County mining community of Twin Rocks.
In those 50 years of tending the sick and injured, the
robust, jovial doctor has served as souse-keeper, blacksmith, auto mechanic, druggist,
dentist, ‘oculist’, obstetrician and at times a horse doctor.
A half-century of 24-hour duty of devotion to more than,
10,000 patients has left the veteran physician with a grave sense of understanding,
a keen sense of humor, a truly sparkling jovial disposition and a moderate income
for the rest of his life.
I have worked hard, long hours, overcome hardships, disappointments
and sorrows and I am happy, declared the gray haired bespectacled physician yesterday.
* * *
Dr. Prideaux will be honored for his untiring efforts in the medical profession
by the Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania at a luncheon-meeting Thursday
in Somerset Country Club. He will be presented a plaque by Dr. E. Roger Samuel,
Mt. Carmel, president-elect of the state society, for outstanding achievement
during half-century as a member of this organization.
Born in the small village of Smithmills, Clearfield County, Dr. Prideaux started
his practice in his native town in 1899 after graduation from Medico-Chirurgical
College, Philadelphia. He is the last of five children born to Thomas A. and Margaret
(Houseman) Prideaux. His father was a dentist and druggist in Smithmills for many
* * *
After one year’s practice in Smithmills, the doctor located in Cherry Tree, Indiana
County, and pursued his profession there until 1907 when he and his family moved
to Twin Rocks.
When he located in Twin Rocks and took over the task of caring for more that 2,000
coal miners and their families, Dr. Prideaux really had a change to put to practice
the experience he gained ‘doctoring’ in the rural areas of Cherry Tree.
* * *
Even though he saw hundreds draw their last breath of life, Dr. Prideaux recalls
that the most trying and hectic period of his entire career was
during the dreaded ‘flu’ epidemic of 1918.
“People died like flies and I had to look on helplessly.” Sighed the kindly old
gentleman. “It was terrible. Entire families were stricken. I couldn’t answer
all of the calls even though I knew some were dying. For nearly six weeks I started
out making calls at 10 o’clock at night and would return home at daybreak ready
to start out for another day.
“I recall vividly of one family.” He said, ”where a father, mother and two children
were stricken. It was deathly cold and there was no one to tend the fire in the
small farm house. I went to the home late one night to find the father lying in
bed, stiff as a board, dead. His wife lay in a bed less that a foot away with
a fever well over 103. The house was ice cold and the children were trembling
with chills and fever. Then I turned housewife. I made fire, prepared food and
moved the mother to a downstairs room. The father lay dead in that house for three
days before a neighbor mustered up enough courage to bury the body.”
“I remember that case so well.” smiled the doctor, “because, as I was preparing
to leave, the wife turned her drawn white face to me and said: “Doctor, I believe
Everett has enough money in his pocket to pay if you will go up and get it.”
“Turning to the woman I remember replying, I never took money from a dead man’s
pocket yet, and I’m not going to start now.”
* * *
He then related how he and coal company officials ‘licked’ the epidemic by establishing
an emergency hospital in the Twin Rocks Grade School. School seats were replaced
with cots and in five weeks we treated 140 patients and lost only eight, he recalled.
Much of the credit for combating the epidemic was given by the doctor to Mrs.
Mary (Mardis) Davis, wife of the late Dr. B.P. Davis of Belsano. Mrs. Davis, a
nurse, worked for weeks with Dr. Prideaux without leaving the emergency hospital.
“She was more than a nurse,” Dr. Prideaux relates. “She was doctor, custodian,
and cook all at one time.”
* * *
Even though he believes he has treated almost every kind of known disease and
injury, the doctor says there has been nothing in his life as horrible and pathetic
as the ‘flu’ epidemic.
When he was 32 years old and in practice only six years, the veteran physician
was faced with a grave decision. Eight-year-old Mary Curley of Greenwich, near
Garmantown, lay dying of a ruptured appendix. An operation might work, but the
child’s parents were skeptical and declined to grant the doctor permission.
After hours of persuasion the parents consented. The girl was placed on the kitchen
table under which set an old cluck on a next of eggs. With another doctor administering
the anesthetic, Dr. Prideaux performed the delicate operation by the pale, flickering
yellow light of a kerosene lamp.
“I put in two drains, one in the back and one in the front.” (They don’t do it
that way now). “Then I said a little prayer and left. Next day I was afraid to
go back. I was sure she would be dead. But I went. I looked into a window and
saw she was breathing. Boy, that was a relief.”
“Today”, he said, “that girl is married and living in the Indiana County Village
of Wehrum. She often calls on me and we talk over the events which followed my
first major operation.”
* * *
In Talking of delivering babies, Dr. Prideaux smiled and said: “In the old days
I delivered between 25 and 30 each month, and everyone at home too. Today I have
only five or six maternity cases a month.
Since the miners welfare plan went into effect most of the mothers go to the hospital.”
“Why,” he said, “I’ve delivered mothers, daughters and grand-daughters as well
as fathers, sons and grandsons. I see them walking along the streets or working
in the fields every day.” He estimates he has brought about 4,000 babies into
* * *
physician spent about 20 minutes ridiculing women of the earlier days for refusing
to take care of themselves before and after they bore children.
“I have gone into homes to deliver babies and been unable to find a clean piece
of cloth a foot square,” he said with a shudder. Dr. Prideaux recalled of one
case where he brought a baby into the world at 3 o’clock one morning and returned
to the home about 8 a.m. to check on the mother and found her out sweeping the
* * *
“Few people,” he declared “have the opportunity of seeing how the other half really
lives. But a doctor does, I have been forced to make deliveries using cold water
and a little soap.”
Adding a bit of humor to his obstetrical career, Dr. Prideaux told of the lean
years for physicians during the depression in the early 30’s.
“One day,” he related, “I met another doctor in Nanty Glo (Dr. M.C. Dunnick, now
of York County). The doctor asked me: “How much are you getting for babies these
days?” I replied, “ 50 cents.” “Your lucky I’m doing two for a quarter.”
* * *
Many times, he said, he was called to farm homes to treat men and women with broken
limbs. “I just took the mattress off the bed, sawed up the slats for splints and
placed the patient on rough boards until the fracture healed. Sometimes I had
to prop up the leg by using bricks or rocks for weights.”
As physician for four coal companies, the aging doctor still is kept busy about
12 or 14 hours a day. “But, my gracious,” he exclaimed, “I’m only working half
as hard as I used to”.
Dr. Prideaux currently is physician for Imperial Coal Company, Rochester &
Pittsburgh Coal Company at Twin Rocks, Commercial Coal Company and McFadden Coal
Company. In addition to serving some 2,000 employees and their families of those
companies, the physician has patients in Belsano, Strongstown, Nolo, Nanty Glo
* * *
The physician’s three-room office is packed with bottles,
jars, vials, tubes and cans of medicines and drugs of all types and descriptions.
“Every country doctor must have his own supply of medicine.” The physician remarked.
“I guess I have about 350 different kinds of medicine and drugs.” He explained,
“And, I use them all too.”
In addition to taking him to farm fields, woodlands, hospitals, emergency wards
and clinics, Dr. Prideaux’s practice has taken him deep into the bowels of the
earth. On numerous occasions he has been called upon to go into the coal mines
to give emergency treatment to a seriously injured workman.
* * *
Dr. Prideaux recalled that while he was practicing in Cherry Tree he kept three
horses. “I fed, watered and cared for them myself.” He added. “There always was
one of them ready to be hitched into the buggy when a call came to hurry to some
farm home to deliver a baby or fight a bad case of fever.”
It was not until 1912 that the physician mustered up enough courage to purchase
his first automobile. It was an old Franklin, with a right had drive. “There
wasn’t a mile of paved road in the Twin Rocks area then and that old car sure
took a beating,” he joked. Since that time Dr. Prideaux has worn out 26 automobiles
and only recently purchased his 27th one.
* * *
In his spare time he finds time to serve as president of the Blacklick Township
School Board of which he has been a member continuously since 1911. He has been
president of the board for the last 12 years.
“And, I’m not through yet,” he said. “I am a candidate for reelection on the Republican
ticket at the coming election.”
* * *
Dr. William Albert Prideaux and the former Anne Maude Grumbling were married in
1901 in Cherry Tree. She passed away in June 1939.
The physician is the father of five children, four of whom are living. They are
Mrs. Evelyn Smith, at home with her father: Dr. William Prideaux, who is practicing
in Claysville: Mrs. Mary Blackman, home economics instructor in Blacklick Township
High School and Mrs. Dorning Jenkins, Greenville, N.C. There are five grandchildren
and one great-grandchild.
* * *
Dr. Prideaux is an active member of the Cambria County Medical Society and served
as president of the group in 1932. He also is a past master of Ebensburg Masonic
Lodge and holds membership in Williamsport Consistory and Jaffa Shrine, Altoona.
The veteran doctor, who has been a constant pipe and cigar smoker since he was
27 years of age, said he never has taken a drink of intoxication beverage in his
life. “Maybe that’s why I feel so dern good.” He remarked.
As he stood in the doorway of his office, the doctor remarked: “You know one time,
about 30 years ago, I was going to come to Johnstown and practice. But I like
it here and here’s where I guess I’ll die.”
from The Johnstown Democrat
Aug. 11, 2007 by Barb Hakanen of the
Tri Area Museum and Historical Society