Dr. R.L. Osborn
was city health
In today's column, I'd like to make a few notations and take a few quotations about the history of the City of Clarksburg Health Department. Mrs. Pliny (Jane Linn) Rogers, the only child of Dr. Robert Linn Osborn -- he was the founder of the city health department -- made a few observations for me. Perhaps many are not aware of the following fact, but she said the city and county health departments were separate at one time.
She said Harrison G. Otis was city manager at the time her father founded the City of Clarksburg Health Department back in 1921. Robert Linn Osborn had served a considerable period of time in the U.S. Army and rose to the rank of colonel.
Mrs. Rogers pointed out that because of his military experience, he took a brief hiatus from his position as city physician to become superintendent of the West Virginia State Police under the administration of Governor William G. Conley.
"Some people called him Doctor Osborn and others called him Colonel Osborn," she recalled fondly. He resumed his health department role a few years later. Mrs. Rogers said he had two grandchildren -- Robert Maxwell of Harrison County and Dr. Linn Maxwell, PhD, a professor at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi.
I became curious to learn more about the health departments in the area, so I looked in the Dorothy Davis book, "History of Harrison County," published in the 1970s. Mrs. Davis wrote, "Men other than Dr. Osborn who served as city physician included Dr. B.F. Matheny, Dr. J. Edward Stephenson, Dr. Lawrence H. Mills, Dr. Earl N. Flowers and Dr. C.O. Post. In 1923, Mr. James H. Heavener was named sanitary inspector and continued in the same work with the city health department until it merged with the county department on July 1, 1953."
Mrs. Davis wrote that before 1924, the portion of Harrison County lying outside the city limits of Clarksburg had meager public health services.
"A newspaper in 1923 reported, 'In making up its annual budget several months ago, the Harrison County Court, in response to a widespread demand throughout the county, made provision for engaging the services of a full-time physician to direct the public health work of the county.' The Harrison County health Department opened its doors on January 1, 1924, with Vinton A. Selby, M.D., D.P.H., as the first health officer, two nurses 'trained in public health service,' and a clerk-technician."
The author further wrote that upon the death of Dr. Selby, he was succeeded Nov. 1, 1931, by Dr. A. Judson Kemper, who served as county physician until July 1, 1952, when poor health forced his retirement. She stated that Dr. Kemper instituted a venereal disease clinic with Dr. Ben Hodge as clinician. Dr. L.E. Neal followed Dr. Hodge, serving until 1955, "when lack of funds and a scarcity of patients caused him to retire. Mr. C.O. Snider, senior sanitarian, was administrator of the county health department after Dr. Kemper's retirement."
I'll have more on the health department in Monday's Bob'n'Along. I should point out that my decision to give a brief history of the health department in my column arose from an error I made some time in the past, when I apparently misidentified the founder of the city health department. I'm glad I was able to clear this up.
Speaking of clearing things up, let me quickly state that I'm glad Gary McAllister of Salem pointed out to me that Shortline Elementary School -- which I announced Wednesday in Bob'n'Along as being located in Pine Grove -- is actually located in the community of Reader, about four miles away. Both towns are in Wetzel County. Thanks, Gary.
Have a great weekend, one and all.
Exponent-Telegram Editor Bob Stealey can be reached by phone at (304) 6261438 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.