Davis, Dr. Byron Bennett

Dr. Byron Bennett Davis was one of McCook’s first physicians. Born in Wisconsin in 1861, he first came to Nebraska with his parents in 1869. He was graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1881 and the Minnesota College of Medicine in 1884. After a year of postgraduate training in New York City, Davis established his first practice in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the spring of 1885. Not only was there stiff competition from established physicians, but Davis soon discovered that new doctors attracted “the deadbeats. . . . who make it a practice to go to every new doctor as long as he will trust them.” He decided to relocate, and chose McCook, arriving on May 28, 1885, some three years after the town was founded.

Dr. Davis practiced medicine in McCook from 1885 to 1893. Through hard work and his willingness to take on difficult cases, he soon earned an excellent reputation. Davis’s letters to his fiancee, Sopha Myers of Beatrice, reveal the quality and extent of his practice and the inherent difficulties faced by frontier doctors. On June 18, 1885, he wrote: “The past ten days I have had a fearfully bad case on my hands. A young man at the hotel was probably snake-bitten, though no mark was found, in the hand while swimming. The hand and arm became frightfully swollen . . . . He was very low and now have opened the arm in five places and get out something like a pint of pus three times a day. Think he will recover.”

Several months later, on September 17, Davis wrote of several female patients, including “an old lady almost 70 years of age who is having a siege of Typho-malarial fever. For about a week I despaired of her recovery but now it looks a little more encouraging. Have another bad case in the person of a young lady with inflammatory rheumatism [scarlet fever] with the heart trouble which so often accompanies that disease. For some reason in the short time I have been in McCook, it has been my luck to have quite a number of very hard cases on my hands. Luck has favored me and I have yet to record the first death.”

After leaving McCook in 1893 Davis studied medicine in Berlin, Germany, for several months before settling in Omaha, where he specialized in surgery and became head of the Department of Surgery at the College of Medicine there in 1930. He died in April 1939.

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