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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • Local History: Recalling Dr. George T. Rodman

  • One of several Hawley physicians practicing in the early to mid-20th century was Dr. George Teeter Rodman. Well known, Dr. Rodman's medical career stretched 70 years.
    He was said to have delivered 2,142 babies in his seven decades of practice.
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  • One of several Hawley physicians practicing in the early to mid-20th century was Dr. George Teeter Rodman. Well known, Dr. Rodman's medical career stretched 70 years.
    He was said to have delivered 2,142 babies in his seven decades of practice.
    "He was my doctor when I was born," said June (Ellingsen) Strait, who just turned 93. "My mother had me at home." She believed it was also Dr. Rodman who was there when her younger brother came into the world, at their house high up off Spruce Street.
    She and her three sisters were sent over to the neighbors that morning. After their brother was born, Dr. Rodman said, "You can go home now, your mother has a nice surprise for you."
    The surprise of course was their newborn brother Ralph. June ran upstairs for her doll and brought it down to compare, and saw that her doll was only a little bit bigger than the baby.
    Early days
    Dr. Rodman was born June 28, 1864 in Hawley to George H. and Susan H. (Longstreet) Teeter. His father worked as a brakeman for the Pennsylvania Coal Company Gravity Railroad. He served in the Civil War and in 1865 went to Murphysboro, Illinois for employment on the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. His wife and little boy joined him the following year. His mother quickly grew sick of consumption (tuberculosis), and returned to Pennsylvania with her son in May of 1867. She died in August.
    His father remained at work in Illinois, where he was killed in a railroad accident in 1877. George was legally adopted by his aunt and uncle, Katurah (Longstreet) and James T. Rodman, who had no children of their own. The child was given their name of Rodman.
    He was reared in their home and up to the age of 15 assisted in his adopted parents' drug store.
    George attended their private "select" school at the corner of Keystone Street and Chestnut Avenue. James Rodman arrived in Hawley in 1855 as an educator. He and Katurah were married in 1860, and for 18 years ran the private school. In 1864-65, James served in the Union Army during the Civil War. James was justice of the peace, 1888-1891 and from 1893 to 1896 James served as burgess (mayor) of Hawley.
    The doctor's Aunt Katurah was highly educated and spoke seven languages.
    Starting at 14 years of age, George worked as a telegraph operator at the Delaware & Hudson Canal office on Hudson Street in Hawley. He later opened and took charge of the telegraph office in Port Jervis, and then worked in a telegraph office in Scranton. Afterwards, he went to work as a railroad messenger in Illinois.
    In 1951 he received a gold badge for being the last living Erie telegraph operator from the 1880's. He proudly wore the badge on his lapel.
    Page 2 of 4 - He returned to Hawley where in the fall of 1882 he took up the study of medicine. He read with Dr. H. B. Stevens of Hawley, and afterwards entered the Medical Department of the University of New York. He worked his way through medical school as a telegrapher for the Erie Railroad and the Associated Press in New York.
    He received his M.D. on March 6, 1886. Four days later he opened his office in Hawley.
    An account in the 1927 History of Hawley states, "He commands an extensive practice in Hawley and surrounding country, enjoying an enviable popularity among both his professional brethren and fellowmen, by whom he is held in the highest esteem as a physician and as a man."
    He was credited with organizing the first board of health in Hawley before the turn of the century.
    The 1906 Pennsylvania Medical Journal refers to Dr. Rodman in attendance at a meeting of the Wayne County Medical Society, held in Hawley, May 17th. The group voted to make a donation for the relief of physicians suffering loss in the recent San Francisco earthquake and fire.
    An election was held and Dr. Rodman was picked as Treasurer.
    Horse & buggy days
    In the early years, Dr. Rodman made his rounds in Hawley in a horse and buggy. During his 70 years of practice, he used 30 horses and 18 automobiles, traveling a radius of 25 miles from Hawley to treat patients.
    Accompanying the doctor on his rounds in the buggy was his beloved dog. The collar on the animal read, "I am Dr. Roman's dog; whose dog are you?"
    During the influenza epidemic in 1918, he went 22 days without going to bed. "I was the only doctor here who wasn't sick," he told a gathering for a testimonial in in honor in 1954. "I had the whole territory in my hands... I had three chauffeurs, eight hour shifts. That was the time a man had to have nerves of steel to carry the load."
    He is said to have witnessed the first appendectomy performed in Wayne County.
    The Wallenpaupack Historical Society has a set of apothecary/pharmacy scales believed to have belonged to Dr. Rodman. They are displayed at the Society's Williams House museum in Paupack and were found in the attic. The doctor maintained an office and boarded at the Williams' farm in the 1930's. It is thought that Dr. Rodman measured out his own compounds for his rural patients rather than send them to Hawley.
    During his stay there, Dr. Rodman was known to have played the pump organ for Charles Williams, who was very ill.
    He is said to have delivered all those babies without ever losing a mother. His last delivery was in 1943.
    His last major surgery was in 1934.
    Page 3 of 4 - His family
    Dr. Rodman was married four times.
    His first marriage was to Sarah Sharpsteen in 1887; she died in 1893, leaving him one child, a daughter Mabel S. In 1894, Dr. Rodman married Mary H. Sharpsteen, who was his first wife's younger sister.
    The 1912 Hawley directory lists Dr. Rodman and his wife Mary residing on Church Street, near Maple Avenue. They had four daughters, Silvia A., Mildred H., Susan L. and Dorothy A. Rodman.
    At this stage, Dr. Rodman was listed as active with the I.O.O.F. and the Order of the Macabees. He was associated with the Methodist Church and was a Republican.
    In the 1920 Census, Dr. Rodman and his second wife, Charlotte B., are listed with children Friend G. Hazleton and Guerdon Hazelton. Their home was at 416 Church Street.
    June Strait recalled delivering chickens and eggs to Dr. Rodman's wife at this address, when June was a teenager. The Ellingsens had a large poultry farm off Spruce Street, and June would help by carrying orders to homes on foot.
    The 1935 directory places Dr. Rodmam at 508 Keystone Street and Mrs. Charlotte Rodman at 416 Church.
    On Sept. 17, 1936 he was married to Arabelle "Belle" (Pierson) Compton. They resided at 829 Oakland Street.
    His doctor's office by this time was at the First National Bank Building at Main and Keystone- most recently known as Torte Knox and as of June 2013, an Italian restaurant.
    His office was on the second floor and entered from the Keystone Street side, Art Glantz recalled.
    Their were a few other doctors in town as well. June Strait said that they later switched to Dr. Arno Voigt, who was also practicing a long time. Other local physicians included Dr. Holbert Owens (who coincidentally also lived at 406 Church Street after the Rodmans), Dr. Dick Porter and Dr. Wallett.
    Tom Sheridan said that Dr. Rodman was their family doctor, who would call on them at their house on Hudson Street. Tom had a brother and a sister and recalled when one was sick. Dr. Rodman would check them all out- for one price.
    Dr. Rodman delivered all three of the Sheridans at home.
    He recalled his appearance as a man of medium build, about 5' 9" and with a rounded face.
    "He was a very, very gracious man," Sheridan said of Dr. Rodman. "He was not pretentious, he was a humble, common man." He was also very pleasant with patients and their families, soft spoken and not gruff in his manner. "He treated everybody with great dignity," he said.
    Community honored him
    On July 14, 1954, the community honored the aged Dr. Rodman at a testimonial dinner held at the Tudor Manor- now known as Settler's Inn. There were approximately 170 people present. Among them was the first and last persons that he had delivered. The first was Herman Lord, ages 68, born Oct. 6, 1885 and the last was John Ciccone, age 11, who was born July 27, 1943. Both were seated at the speaker's table.
    Page 4 of 4 - Attorney J. Wilson Ames was toastmaster. Rev. Walter Frederick, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, offered prayer. Dr. Russell T. Wall, surgeon of Scranton, spoke of the unusual record of 2,142 baby deliveries held by Dr. Rodman.
    Dr. J. William White, Chief of Staff at Wayne Memorial Hospital offered reminisces and credited Dr. Rodman with saving his life at the age of five from Bright's Disease.
    Dr. Rodman, in his remarks that evening, said, "Beginning back to the 1880's I saw several operations in my student days performed by the first time by brilliant surgeons of their day, which at the time was considered wonderful. But now days are everyday work and nothing thought about it: that's progress in surgery. In medicine greta progress has been made and continues in improvement.
    "The young doctors of today know nothing of the hardships of the horse and buggy days, having nice warm cars in winter, roads plowed out. Everything to make medicine a pleasure."
    He spoke of his time he was operating surgeon at Scranton State Hospital and Thompson's Private Hospital. "I always felt that I was an instrument of God's hands to relieve suffering and have my patients come back to health and happiness."
    He continued office hours until a few months prior to his death. He was the oldest practicing physician in Pennsylvania.
    Dr. Rodman died on June 13, 1956 - he was nearly 92- and was laid to rest at Walnut Grove Cemetery, Hawley.
    Sources
    • Commemorative Biographical Record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, 1900
    • History of Hawley, 1927 by Michael J. McAndrews
    • US Census, Hawley street directories, personal accounts
    • Wayne County Historical Society files

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