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Memories of a Country Doctor

By E.R. Cooper, M.D.
As told to Willa Jane Loftis

Dr. Everett R. Cooper on horseback, circa 1925. Photograph courtesy of West Virginia State Archives, Dr. E.R. Cooper Collection.

Everett R. Cooper was born in Gilmer County in 1889. He graduated from Glenville Normal Teachers College in 1904, studied in Cincinnati for a year, then transferred to West Virginia University. He graduated from West Virginia University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Baltimore, in 1912. There were seven in his class.

Dr. Cooper set up general practice at Webster Springs. Six months later he accepted the job as physician for the Pardee & Curtin Lumber Company in Leivasy, Nicholas County. In 1914 he set up an office in Troy, Gilmer County. In 1934 he moved to Glenville but later accepted a position as medical doctor at Weston State Hospital.

During his tenure at Weston, he became interested in psychiatry. So he went to Marion, Virginia, and studied under a prominent psychiatrist there. Upon completion of his studies, he went to Spencer State Hospital and later moved to Gallipolis, Ohio, and worked in the mental hospital there. Sometime later, Dr. Cooper moved back to Weston to work at Weston State Hospital. He and his family lived in a physician’s apartment in the main building on the hospital grounds until he reached retirement age.

After several years of retirement, Dr. Cooper was asked to come back to the hospital to continue working. As his sight was failing, he had a special secretary to help him until he finally retired in 1961, at the age of 82. He passed away in 1976.

In 1967, he was interviewed by his granddaughter Willa Jane Loftis at his home in Troy. Willa Jane graciously shares Dr. Cooper’s memories with GOLDENSEAL. –ed.

I started to practice medicine in Nicholas County in 1912. The first morning I was on duty, I had scarcely finished my breakfast when they brought in a man who had fallen about 25 feet. Examination showed that he was not seriously hurt. I had scarcely finished with him when they brought in another man who had fallen in the same place, and he was not seriously hurt.

I was not done with him when I got a call to go about two miles to see a woman who got her clothes burned off her. She was making apple butter outside and got her clothes afire. She had a girl helping her, but the girl got scared and could do nothing. The woman ran one way a little distance and then the other way a distance. Then it occurred to her there was a little pool of water nearby. She jumped in that and rolled over and extinguished the fire. She was burned over the greater portion of her body, but nearly all the burns were superficial. There was much fear among her people lest the fact she got in water would make her burns worse. That proved to be unfounded, and she made satisfactory recovery.

In March following, I was called about two miles on a Sunday morning to attend a childbirth. The patient was a young woman, unmarried, and was in convulsions before I was called. I told the family of her serious condition and that I ought to have help. Fortunately, a nurse had been employed nearby and had finished her case and was ready to leave. They asked me if she would be any help to me, and I said she certainly would. We got her, and she was much help. I treated this patient with veratrum viride, which was approved treatment for such cases at that time. After several more convulsions, the baby was born. The baby did well and the mother did not die. That was better than average of such cases.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.