Boone County Kentucky Historical Society

Dr. Frank Sayre's Widow Tells of Early Medicine in Boone County

Mabel Sayre, Widow of Country Doctor
Tells of Early Days in Boone County
Kentucky Times-Star April 2, l952
Describing her three-score years as a Boone County resident "the happiest days of my life," Mrs. Mabel G. Sayre, former Florence town clerk and widow of Dr. Frank Sayre, widely known physician, recently read her autobiography to members of the Boone County Historical Society.
Mrs. Sayre, 80 years old, is scheduled to present another paper, entitled "Rough-and-Ready Practice of the Saddlebag Doctor," an account of her husband's experiences in Boone County at a future society meeting.
With modesty usually found among the aged who are called to tell younger generations of their adventures, Mrs. Sayre begins her account like this:
"I must apologize for the frequency of the first person, singular, I, in this paper; but if it is my story, I don't see how else I could write it."
"My family moved to Florence in June, 1888, when I was 16 years old. It was not the Florence of today, for you had to stretch your counting to get 250 people."
"But this was not my introduction to Boone County, for a sister Caroline Johnson, had married Ephraim K. Tanner, who owned a farm on the Burlington Pike, about a mile from Florence. Even before I was old enough to go to school in Cincinnati, where I was born, I frequently made long visits to the farm. Consequently, all happy memories of my childhood are connected with Boone County."
"When we first moved here, we lived in the house now owned by A. M. Yealey and stayed there until it was bought for a parsonage. The Catholic Church was then located at the corner of Shelby and Center Streets. We then moved to an old brick house on Shelby Street."
"Our family consisted of my father, mother, sister Sallie and a 6-year-old nephew, Ed Arrison. We were all Methodists and moved our membership from Cincinnati to the Florence Methodist Church, which was then on Banklick Street."
"We had Sunday school in the afternoon and frequently stayed afterwards to sing. I had a rather high soprano voice, which seemed to charm a young man named Frank Sayre, who also attended the Methodist Church."
         "Frank and I soon became very good friends, a bond which endured till his death in 1928. We were married in July, 1891, and he graduated from the Miami Medical College in Cincinnati in March, 1893 while I lived with his parents."
"My sister and I worked in Cincinnati, she at the Methodist Book Concern, and I as a stenographer for Prof. John L. Shearer who operated a lecture bureau."
"We caught the early commuter train which left Erlanger at 5:50 a.m., and we rode from Florence to Erlanger at that time in the winter morning in a bus, which someone had aptly named Conrad's Summer Kitchen."
"After Frank became Dr. Sayre he began looking about for a place to practice. Dr. Dick Gordon was leaving Hebron so we concluded that was a good place. (Today, going to Hebron still means going home to me). We moved on May 2, 1893."
"We had rented a three-room cottage and all our furniture was hauled on a hay wagon. I was 21 years old and Frank was 29 and life began to really unfold for us. The practice was hard (mud roads in all directions) and money mighty scarce."
"About three weeks after he quit practice Dr. Gordon went to Chicago to the World's Fair. He was killed in a streetcar accident and brought back to Hebron for burial. On Sept. 14, 1893, our son, Frank was born and everybody seemed interested in the baby."
"My first introduction to surgery occurred in January, 1894, when Charles Castinetta of Constance got his hand caught in the chains of a corn shredder and mangled it so badly that three fingers had to be amputated. The operation was done in our office."
"Someone had to thread the needles and it is too late at night to go out for anyone. They had laid the amputated fingers on my marbletopped table and I had to reach across them to get the surgical needles. It was not a pleasant job."
"The winter practice was very hard. There were no pikes except the one from Constance to Petersburg and much of the time the mud roads were so bad you could not use a buggy, so the doctor went horseback. We had a great big bay mare named Fannie and she was a good riding horse. Dr. Sayre would start out about 9 a.m. and travel that way all day from patient to patient. Sometimes it would be late at night before he got in for supper."
"About two years after we went to Hebron I moved my church letter to the Lutheran Church there and my associations with that congregation were of the happiest. We lived in Hebron 24 years and joined the Grange at Bullittsville. Later one was organized in Hebron and I was its secretary. I was also secretary of the county Grange and in 1905 was made secretary of the state Grange."
"In December, 1916, the Hossmans, who owned the house we were living in, wanted it for themselves so we came back to Florence to take care of Mrs. Sayre. It turned out we had done wisely, for in August of 1917 she sustained a hip injury and had to be cared for until her death in October, 1925."
"Dr. Sayre had been a sufferer from hay fever since he was four years old and in his later years, went to Michigan to escape it. In 1928 he had three bad sick spells, one from which he did not recover."
"I felt that my life work was ended. But my son had me move to Turtle Creek, Pa., to make a home for him. We moved back to Kentucky in 1929 to find our house converted to a tourist home, so we rented an apartment on Monroe Street in Newport and lived there till 1930, when we came back home."
"In February, 1938,1 was appointed town clerk and held that office for ten years. Altogether, my life in Boone County has been active and full."
"I must mention my affiliation with the Red Cross, the Lloyd Society, and the Homemakers. The Red Cross Chapter was organized by the Rev. Edgar Riley in 1917, when our boys were going into the Army for World War 1. The headquarters were in Burlington with fourteen auxiliaries over the country."
"I acquired my reputation of being a good doctor by doing much of the office practice. From the beginning, Dr. Sayre talked over his cases with me, explaining what he did for certain sets of symptoms and what results he hoped to get. Consequently, when similar symptoms showed up, I knew what he would have done for them. So, if he were busy or away from home, I took over and gave patients what I knew he would have given them. I helped in all the surgical work and went with him to obstetrical cases."
"Many of the babies in Hebron and Florence neighborhoods are my babies and many of them still call me Aunt Mabel."
Typed by Tami Paul
Edited by James Duvall, M. A.