13. KNOXVILLE AND ST. PAUL
The man who goes to bed to save candles begets twins. Old Chinese proverb.
Gaylord’s Rensselaer letter continues.
A year at the agency brought little Grace up to school age. I now had two years of experience and had acquired some practice in surgery and for various reasons we resolved to make a change in residence. I had some acquaintance in Iowa and we drifted in that direction. I left the family in Iowa and went to Chicago for a postgraduate course on the eye and ear. When there a few weeks, I was called home. Teddy had died and owing to the nature of his illness was buried before my arrival. I returned to Chicago to complete my course of study. In December 1901 we settled in Knoxville, Iowa.
By the fall of 1901, Gaylord had spent a year at the agency. In November 1901, Gaylord registered as a “regular physician” in Hardin County, Iowa, the resident county of the Dales. The EENT course Gaylord attended took about three months. His son Richard took notice of this in his writing, The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met.
Some years after finishing medical college Dad went back to the Chicago Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat College and took a graduate course on the eye and ear and among other things he learned how to fit glasses. This proved to be a valuable asset in addition to his general practice. He sometimes put a small ad in the paper showing a new trend in spectacle frames, which resulted in many being fitted to a new pair of glasses.
The “nature of the illness” to which Teddy succumbed is still not known, although it is known that victims of cholera were buried as quickly as possible in an effort to contain the plague. Family member Jane Morgan knows that Gaylord was more than a little distraught. “In his opinion,” she said, “the only medical person in the area was incompetent, maybe even an alcoholic or drunk at the time. It took him seven years to get over it.” Gaylord’s letter continues:
Before investigating the Iowa town, I knew of but one Knoxville in the United States — that one down in Tennessee. So many things to learn after we leave school. So many fine little cities like Rensselaer and Knoxville, Iowa in this great country that few of us ever see or hear of. There was Knoxville, a beautiful city of nearly 3,500 people. The county seat of a rich and prosperous county. The city had just pride in many things — its fine dwellings, school and public buildings, parks and paved streets. It was slightly famous as the “Cherry Town” because it shipped the fruit in car loads, and also as the home of the three Robinson brothers — the giants who once traveled with Barnum’s show.
Gaylord does not give us any clue as to why or how he became interested in Knoxville, Iowa, as a place to start his private practice. Whatever drew his attention originally, the choice was serendipitous. First it was in Iowa, about 100 miles or so south of Iowa Falls, where Elsie’s parents lived. Second it was also the home of James William Worstell, Gaylord’s cousin.
James William, known as Will, was the fourth son of Henry Worstell, the brother who went to California with Thomas, Gaylord’s father. James William was born August 16, 1866, and on September 19, 1888, he married Ella Easlick of Harrison County, Ohio. In 1889, Will purchased a farm and home valued at $8,500 near Knoxville, where he and Ella made their home. He also acquired 320 acres of land in Canada. Four children were born to Will’s family before Gaylord and his family moved to town. Their first-born was a son, Ralph Floyd. All that is known about Ralph is that he lived in Red Oak, in the southwestern part of Iowa, and was a coal merchant. He may have died young, as Frank McGuire remembers Eva, Will’s second child, being the eldest.
Eva was born December 9, 1890, and married Eliphalet Benton Rinehart January 26, 1916. E. B. Rinehart served overseas in W.W.I, and then acquired a farm of 442 acres near Knoxville. Twins, Wilma and William, were born to Rineharts on May 26, 1920. William was an Able Bodied Seaman in the Merchant Marine, W.W.II, and Wilma became a teacher. She was dating a doctor when she committed suicide. Eva and E.B. had a son, Harold Reese, born in 1923, who died at age 8.
James William’s third child was Beulah, born March 1, 1893. She married Frank Harvey on March 14, 1917. Their only child Robert Dale Harvey, born July 16, 1918, served in the U.S. Navy in W.W.II. Beulah was a teacher and a nurse; her husband died when he was only 41.
The fourth child was H. Paul Worstell, born August 9, 1899, a little over a year before Richard, Gaylord’s son, was born. Paul served in W.W.I, after which he graduated from college and received his medical degree from the University of Iowa at Iowa City in 1928. In 1930 he returned to the University of Iowa for additional work. Paul was a Commander, Medical Corps, serving overseas in W.W.II. He married Emma Jane Victor June 3, 1927. They had four children: Gretta Marie, Nancy Ann, Paula Jane, and John Victor.
Will and Ella had not had any children for nearly seven years when Harold William, known as Pete, was born Mar. 5, 1906. Harold got his Civil Engineering degree from Iowa State College at Ames and married Eunice Speed on June 6, 1942. He was a Lieutenant in the U. S. Army and served overseas during W.W.II. No information about any children is available. Sometime after Eunice died, Pete remarried. This second wife, Sarah, recalled having heard the name Gaylord mentioned in family conversations and thought possibly Gaylord had attended the birth of Pete.
Frank McGuire remembers this family frequenting the family reunions and visiting relatives back in Ohio on several occasions. He wrote, “This whole family closely resembles both the Easlick[s] and Worstell[s]; I could identify them anywhere.” It was through Ella, Will’s wife, that Doris Cox, Frank McGuire’s correspondent, was related to the Worstells.
The Worstells moved to Knoxville in October 1901. A Valparaiso publication, The College Current, summarizes a letter from Gaylord:
...Has settled in a field where competition is sharp, but the outlook is favorable. Makes specialty of diseases of the eye, ear, etc., but general practice improving all the time....
Dr. Worstell’s brother-in-law, John Dale, and wife, Dollie Bishop Dale, spent the Fourth with the Doctor’s family at Knoxville. Florence Hale, [Gaylord’s sister-in-law] who lives at Staceyville, Ia., is also contemplating a visit.
Says he has met Dr. Callahan at the State Medical Association meet. He is located in Des Moines.
Dr. Worstell had been telling a neighbor about the little hard coal stove he used at Valpo. and said neighbor insists that he find out for him the name of the stove and where it may be had.
About those Knoxville years, Gaylord’s letter continues.
In a short time we were settled in our new home. My business was satisfactory and our lives were going along in a conventional way. Grace was in school and Richard was playing about the house.
Gaylord, now 41, purchased a house valued at $1,300, records the Knoxville, Marion County, formerly part of Washington County, Iowa, census for Ward 3. Richard retained a poignant memory at this age of making a repeated request of his father, “‘og, Papa, ‘og.” That desire for a dog went unfulfilled until the late 1940s, likely because the desire had waned over the years. He also remembered that he first learned to read at his mother’s knee, he on the floor, looking at a book upside down in her lap. Toys were a rarity for the children.
As an Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist, Gaylord took out small ads in the Knoxville Journal, usually in the Business and Professional Directory, in the form of his business card. The first one appeared on December 6, 1901, as follows:
Offices over Knoxville National
Dr. Gaylord Worstell, Physician and Surgeon
Special attention to diseases of the
Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat
Glasses properly fitted
A similar ad June 20, 1902, in the Personal and Social section of the paper read, “If your eyes trouble you, consult Dr. Worstell. See card on page six.” There the card size ad was printed. He used the column of “Looney the Hatter” to have printed the one line, “Dr. Worstell, Eye, Ear, Nose, Throat.” The occasional ads continued during 1903 and 1904 and only rarely thereafter.
Will Worstell also placed ads from time to time such as the one that read, “Hay for sale — timothy or clover, bailed or loose. Inquire of J. W. Worstell.”
Political news centered on the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The official ballot was printed in the paper and included those running for president: Theodore Roosevelt, Republican, Alton B. Parker, Democrat, ___ Swallow, Prohibition, Eugene Debs, Socialist, and Thomas Watson, Peoples Party. And there was news of perennial interest: Feminism — women running for public office in Wisconsin; Race — a colored murderer in Oskaloosa applied for a new trial on grounds the county attorney quoted the Bible in his address to the jury; Religion — Nebraska outlawed Christian Science, and War — the Russo Japanese War.
Gaylord and family would have received news by letter from friends and family back home in Ohio. His uncle Henry P. Worstell was on the central committee in 1904 and various members of the Pittis family were delegates to the Republican convention. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition was in progress. Preparations for this fair had been in progress since 1898. It was the largest world’s fair held up to this time. Supported by both the city of St. Louis and the federal government, it was a financial success. Gaylord’s cousin Etta, Henry’s daughter and still single at age 30, attended, as did Frank McGuire’s father, who found the Ferris wheel an attraction at this fair. Of course there were Pittises who attended. With Gaylord’s propensity for fairs, he may have found an opportunity to attend, also.
The paper made note of more local news. The 1905 Knoxville census showed its population was 3,172. There were announcements of special religious meetings such as Revival Time at the Church of Christ, and the appearance of Rev. W. I. Cole, the missionary evangelist, at the Baptist Church. The paper noted Rev. Cole began his career as a lawyer and advised the young people not to miss his sermon titled “An Exquisite Love Song.”
Smallpox was reported in January of 1905 and the town determined to follow strict quarantine procedures. In May, the paper noted Gaylord’s attendance, along with Doctor Cornell Braun, at the meeting of the State Medical Society in Des Moines. Dr. Webber, another EENT physician in Knoxville, ran occasional advertisements.
The paper also carried a short story about a social event at which Josephine Retz gave recitations. These recitations were largely humorous and were received with delight by the audience — especially “The Little Boy’s Bear Story,” (better known simply as “The Bear Story”) by “The Hoosier Poet,” James Whitcomb Riley. Gaylord’s son Richard may have been old enough to enjoy this rendition of a piece written by one of the family’s favorite authors. This story would become a beloved family tradition for at least three more generations. Gaylord’s family owned the 1898 edition of the book titled Riley Child-Rhymes with Hoosier Pictures. Will Vawter drew the little pen and ink illustrations. Richard Worstell’s family acquired a later collection titled “Little Orphant Annie,” which was also illustrated by Will Vawter, but with watercolor illustrations, copyright 1923.
Gaylord’s social activities during these Knoxville years included his membership in the Odd Fellows.
Had he been a couple of decades older, Richard, who married Wilda Augustine, might have been interested in the personal notice about a certain P. Augustine of Flagler who “has gone to Los Angeles.”
The reader will have to decide if Will Worstell would have appreciated the following story. It was titled something about Landophobia and Panhandleitis, is undated, but reads as follows:
The latest Panhandlers are John W. Overton and Dr. Bucklew who took a hike for the Great Staked Plains Treasure after bidding farewell to J. W. Worstell and Tom White, who had been seized with the Canadian Chill and were being drawn into the vortex which has Milestone, Sask. for the center of the operation.
The author apologizes for not recording more of the story, if there was more, and the date. Milestone, Sask., is near Moose Jaw, in the southern part of the province. This was undoubtedly the time and place that Will acquired his Canadian property mentioned above. According to the short biography of Gaylord written by his son, Richard, Gaylord also succumbed to the “Canadian Chill” and purchased a quarter section of land in Milestone.
Life for Gaylord would not always be so “conventional.” An event occurred in the spring of 1905 that would resonate through the years, giving pride, sorrow, love, and despair to Elsie and Gaylord for the rest of their lives. It was reported in one sentence plus a second elsewhere. The date of the paper is March 29, 1905.
Born to Dr. and Mrs. Gaylord Worstell, Friday, Mar. 24, a pair of twins — girl and a boy.
Mrs. Lola Gail of Fremont is visiting at the home of Dr. Gaylord Worstell.
Gaylord wrote in his story:
So far as I knew the family was complete and contented. However, one summer’s day, upon my return from a medical convention, I was met at my door by a strange nurse. She raised a warning finger and cautioned me to come in quietly. She had just that moment gotten the twins to sleep. I tiptoed on in and looked around. Sure enough, there they were in little baskets, Ben and Fern.
Attending physician was a medical doctor whose signature appears to be Connell. The Worstell’s address was 517 Robinson (1st Ward). According to Gaylord’s writing on the back of a family picture, the twins were named Gaylord Dale and Elsie Fern. Six or seven months later the baby boy’s name appears as Benjamin and he was called Ben. Fern’s name was also changed. She became Fern Bernice (Bernice was a name from Elsie’s family) and was called Fern.
Memories, details, verification, and truth. All can be hard to come by. Many years later Elsie was faced with what she perceived as a life threatening experience when she was with her daughter, Fern, in Fern’s car. Fern was trying to teach Elsie how to drive on the hills of Bellingham or Seattle, Washington. The brakes appeared to Elsie to be giving out and in her fear she cried out, “Stop it! Stop it, Fernie! It’s possessed. I’m being punished for my sin.” On a certain occasion Gaylord was reported as saying, “She won’t have sex again.” These comments refer to the conception of Fern and Ben and, for the children of Grace and Fern, they give credence to the following story — and in the telling give it legs.
Elsie had an affair, so it’s said, with a visiting French evangelist that ended in sexual relations. Within a day or so, Gaylord and Elsie had intercourse. Elsie got pregnant. The pregnancy ended in a premature and difficult delivery of twins. Those telling the story say that one child, Ben, was the Frenchman’s and the other, Fern, was Gaylord’s. Further that it was a difficult birth and Ben suffered some from the delivery. According to a slightly different version, Elsie and Gaylord had not had intercourse for at least a month prior to the adultery, and Fern was full term and Ben was actually a month premature. They also say Dr. Worstell performed a complete hysterectomy on Elsie and that the procedure included the necessary surgery to make sexual relations impossible for her.
Someone said the birth occurred in Big Sandy, Montana, while Gaylord was away at the school in Chicago. The Knoxville paper reported the twins were born in Knoxville. Gaylord was in school in Chicago in 1901, when Teddy died, not 1905. Although, Gaylord admits returning from a medical convention. Facts. Details.
As to the possibility, consider the following. Medical conventions take place somewhere all the time. Gaylord exhibited a practice of traveling around the country and taking advantage of professional training. Itinerant/traveling evangelists were frequent in every community. Elsie would have opportunity to meet the missionaries and others who came to the churches in town. During her lifetime, Elsie exhibited a strong religious bent and she was a witness for her faith at every opportunity, although some say she became more religious after this experience. This part of the story could be true. It was also reported that Elsie found sex emotionally very difficult for her and that she would get on her knees to pray after each experience. Was this always the case and would someone like that have an affair? Can twins have different fathers? Scientific evidence says yes. Sperm can survive for up to forty-eight hours in the female genital tract. If a woman ovulates twice — as she would with ordinary fraternal twins — and has sex with two men within this period, the eggs can be fertilized by different men. This phenomenon is known as heteropaternal dizygotic twinning. Ordinarily it takes a blood test to identify these unusual half-twins, but sometimes all that’s needed is a simple look. There have been cases in which one twin was white and the other one black. However, a month apart would be something totally different. For example, one recent (2001) television show documented the prenatal development of a pair of twins. Their development was normal for six or seven months, after which one twin started growing twice as fast as the other. There have been other programs concerning this phenomenon.
Would a doctor perform such surgery as is suggested for Elsie? A modern-day, high-profile trial in San Luis Obispo, California, charging just such action and motive, was chronicled in the town’s local newspaper. Does the reader find this family tale believable? Would Elsie tell her own story to a favorite daughter perhaps? Will the rest of Gaylord’s story lead to a conclusion or only more speculation?
By the time the 1906 Polk city directory was published for St. Paul, Minnesota, Gaylord had a combination office and rooms at 387 Endicott Arcade. Elsie and the children may have stayed in Knoxville until Gaylord got better accommodations, or they may have stayed with her parents in Iowa. It was October 16, 1906, when Elsie’s father, William Dale, died. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and his headstone has on it the shield for a Civil War Veteran. The Worstells may have been able to attend a funeral or memorial service for William Dale and be of help with the burial arrangements. There is reason to believe that Mary did not live by herself after the death of her husband, due either to financial or health reasons. At various times during Worstell’s stay in St. Paul and Belle Plaine, Iowa, Mary lived with Elsie and Gaylord, with John P. Dale, her son, in Hobart, Oklahoma, with her daughter, Florence May Hale in Hays, Kansas, and possibly with relatives in Ohio or Georgia. Gaylord would later testify that he “knew her in Minnesota,” implying she was in St. Paul while they lived there.
While Gaylord and family were living in St. Paul, Gaylord’s Uncle James, the Civil War Veteran, died on September 11, 1907.
The 1907 and 1908 St. Paul city directories list Gaylord’s office as 390 Endicott Arcade and residence as 429 Bidwell. The 1909 directory read, “Worstell Gaylord moved to Belle Plaine,
Iowa.” It is not known where Elsie’s unmarried brother, Oak, was living during this period. It could be that he, or some other relative, possibly a member of Mary’s mother’s family, was living in Belle Plaine, Iowa. Five years at most is what the family spent in Knoxville. Nothing is known about the family’s short time in Belle Plaine. Gaylord’s only comment in his letter was, “...We lived more than six years in Iowa and three years in St. Paul, Minnesota.”