06-27-2019 Tri-City Area History Page

The Paw Paw River Journal


Hartford’s pioneer dentist If you have ever toured the Van Buren County Historical Society museum, you have no doubt seen the replication of Dr. W.S. Hinckley’s office in the old bank building at Hartford. That’s just the way it was! And if you’ve never seen it, you should! He kept that office for years and years, only closing it after passing the age of 100 years. He was in business so long. I can tell you a little story to illustrate. One day when he was about at that century mark, as he was going into the bank building to open up for the day, one of Hartford’s pioneer fruit growers came up to him and said, “Say, Doc, I’m glad I caught you. That filling you put in for me came out this morning!” Looking a little startled, Dr. Hinckley said, “I don’t remember doing any filling for you… are you sure?” When the farmer assured him he had, “Well, come on up to the office and I’ll take a look at it.” When he got the guy in the chair, he examined it and said, “Well, I see where it was. Gold leaf that I hammered in, but the tooth has worn down so far the filling fell out! How long ago did I do that?” When the farmer replied it was about 50 years ago, Doc thought a moment, then said, “Well, if it lasted that long I guess I can give you another one.” And he did. Back in the day, Doc used to keep a jug of whiskey nearby for customers who needed to work up the courage to have their teeth fixed. One time an old Hartford resident came to his office. Famous for his bouts with John Barleycorn, the old guy was in pretty sad shape… had the shakes. He said, “Doc, I got a tooth that is hurting something awful! Will you take a look at it?” Doc told him to hop in the chair, and as he did so the old guy said, “Don’t you have a little something to numb the pain?” Doc handed him the jug, and the old-timer tipped it up and took a good long drink. Then looking around and shrugging his shoulders, he said, “You know, that’s not hurting nearly as bad now. Think I’ll just wait and see what it does.” Grabbing his hat he scooted out the door! Dr. Hinckley loved race horses. He had a beauty and every fall entered the harness racing contests at the Hartford fair. He drove himself, and I can’t remember his winning ever. But he was always in the middle of it! He must have been at least in his sixties and seventies at the time. Doc lived in the stone house south of Kellogg’s hardware, built by his father-in-law from the big old stones north of Hartford. I’ve written about them before. He and his wife had one daughter, Phyllis. She married Howard Curry and they owned the grocery store next to Manny Oppenheim’s Clothing. Just north of Dr. Hinckley’s home was a little building that housed the veterinarian’s office. As far as I know Dr. Elgas was Hartford’s only animal doctor. He and Doc Hinckley were friends I’m sure. Doc Elgas also owned and raced horses at the fair. His office had trophy animal heads mounted around on the walls. One of Hartford’s humorists wondered if they were Doc Elgas’ former patients. All of those years, Doc Hinckley practiced dentistry up in the bank building. In later years when winter snows coated the streets, he walked across South Center every morning and instead of a cane he had an old broom with the bristles worn off. His family thought it was unseemly to be using that old broom. He said, “Nonsense! It works a lot better than a cane! The last time I saw Doc Hinckley we had gone up to a nursing home to visit one of Marion’s aunts in South Haven. I told Marion I’d heard he was a patient there and I was going to look him up. I found his room, and entered… there he was in his wheelchair sitting at the table. I sat down opposite and looked at him. He stared back at me with a level gaze. I smiled, and he said, “Say, whatever happened to that guy who moved to Ann Arbor?” I laughed and pointing at me said, “That’s me, Doc!” And then he recognized me. We had a great time visiting about (what else?) horses and horse racing. That had just always been the love of his life! Later on I told his daughter, Phyllis, about that. She laughed and said, “Whenever I visit him, he always calls me ‘Rosie!’ I don’t know where he got that from!” She also said he loved to talk with her about horses. One time in the middle of the conversation he broke off and said, “You know, Rosie, somebody has taught you a few things about horse racing!” One time when the University of Michigan ran a story about their oldest graduates from their School of Dentistry, Marion got in touch with them. She told them about Dr. William Hinckley who was still practicing in Hartford past the age of 100! The U of M got on that and wrote his story up. Doc was so pleased. We don’t have too many people with that much pioneer grit and stamina. And we can be proud to have the golden threads of his life woven into the Great Tapestry of Life in these storybook towns along the Paw Paw River!

Watervliet Library News Teen Table Projects: June Do-it-yourself whenever you’re at the library! All supplies provided. This month – vote for the best or least worst answer to their crazy questions, all month long! Library Book Sale One week only! Ends Friday, June 28. All large print books – buy one get one free. Library will be CLOSED on Saturday, June 29, 2019 due to July 4th Parade. Michigan Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP) Monday, July 1 – 6:30 p.m. Mistelle Sleigh, MMAP Regional Coordinator, presents information about this free service for Michigan residents. UFO’s Over Michigan Monday, July 8, 7–8 p.m. Michigan has some of the biggest UFO cases on record. Join Bill Konkolesky, the State Director of the Michigan Chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, as he tells all about it. Yoga Monday 9 – 10 a.m., Wednesday 7 – 8 p.m., Friday 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.; Chair Yoga – Wednesdays 6 – 6:30 p.m. Library Garden Park Purchase a Legacy Walk brick and celebrate a memory! Bricks are $75; 13 characters, 2 lines. Pick up a form at the library. Call 463-6382 with questions on any Watervliet Library activity.

Coloma Library News Summer Reading Program Coloma Public Library’s 2019 Summer Reading Program is off and running for kids, teens, or adults. Online registration is currently available on their website, www.colomapubliclibrary.net. Book Club The Coloma Public Library Book Club is meeting on Thursday, July 11 at 5:30 p.m. The title to read before the discussion is “Calculating Stars” by Mary Robinette Kowal. The book club regularly meets every other Thursday. New members are welcome. Michigan Activity Pass Get free or discounted admission to hundreds of Michigan’s beautiful cultural and natural destinations including state parks, campgrounds, museums, trails, and more with a Coloma Public Library card. Visit the link on the Library’s website and follow the prompts to print a pass. Call 269-468-3431 or stop at the front desk for more details.