SEYMOUR’S FIRST DENTIST
SEYMOUR’S FIRST DENTIST
When Dr. George Libby retired in 1951 after serving Seymour area residents for 55 years, both the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Appleton Post-Crescent published an interview with him. The following article includes excerpts from both papers. Dr. Libby’s recollections provide an insight into what life was like in the area during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
After his graduation from Northwestern University, Dr. Libby returned to New London to work in the dental office of D. W. Haskell. It was then he made his first trips to Seymour carrying his dental instruments in a grip. A room to serve as an office was reserved for him at the White House Hotel on North Main St. After a few months he opened an office in the Stewart Building on South Main Street. In 1898 he moved his office to the newly opened Falck Hotel (Hotel Seymour). Ten years later he opened an office above the State Bank (Don’s parking lot).
Dr. Libby said he was he was the first dentist to serve Seymour and was the only dentist for 20 years. In the early years he drove his team to Bonduel where he had an office in a private home. He also traveled to Marion where his father operated a general store. In six years he only missed two trips. “At times,” he says it was 30 below zero, there were no snow plows and I had to gauge the road by the fence posts.”
Before railroads were built, Dr. Libby, as a boy, used to go with his family from New London to Oshkosh by steamboat on the Wolf River. He remembers too, the stage that went from Green Bay to Shawano carrying mail and passengers. He speaks of the old military road that went from Green Bay to Superior. It was the practice in those days to use corduroy or logs in swampy places along the road, which made traveling exceedingly tough.
In discussing the social life of Seymour during the early days, Dr. Libby says dancing was very popular during the winter months. There were two local dance halls and orchestras were hired from Green Bay, Appleton, and Oshkosh. Traveling German bands played in taverns in communities through which they passed. As soon as word got around that one was in town they were hired for a dance that night and a crowd was rounded up. Costume parties were held and Dr. Libby, possessing a keen sense of humor was the inspiration of more than one merry event.
The Winninger Brothers of Wausau traveled about in the early days giving stage shows, he recalls. They produced a different show every night during their stay in a community and they were so popular that everyone turned out. For many years they appeared annually at the Seymour fair. Dr. Libby never missed a fair and in the old days he said it was all horse races and big pumpkins.
When he first came to Seymour there were no telephones, no paved streets, no waterworks, and no electric lights. All trips were made by horses or on the train which came through town twice a day on the Green Bay and Lake Pepin Railroad.
He remembers the old fire engine in Seymour called Fire Strife no.1, which was operated by men pumping on either side. Seymour had many fires in the old days and everyone had to help fight them. As he recalls, the largest fires were the old school building, which burned in 1903, the Stewart flour mill, the Munger livery barn, and the Seymour woodenware plant.
Seymour used to have wooden sidewalks and an old town pump, which was located in front of McCord’s drug store. On a warm summer day this old pump was the most popular place in town.
The village used to be lit by kerosene lamps which were set on posts on street corners. Every evening about dusk they had to be cleaned and lighted. Dr. Libby remembers a young lad named Fred Wolk used to make the rounds on an old white horse which would stop at each lamp while Fred cleaned and lit the wick. When electric lights were first introduced in Seymour the power was turned off at midnight. If a party was in progress around midnight, everyone rushed to get home before the lights went out. For a small fee the lights could be left on for an extra hour and that was often the case according to Dr. Libby.
Dr. Libby said there have been many improvements in dentistry through the years. Instead of the old time drill that had to be pumped by foot, electric motors now do the work. There have been great improvements in dentist’s chairs and the coming of x-rays greatly aided in the preservation of teeth. He recalls the first set of artificial dentures he made, which were then called “false teeth,” and he remembers the name of the lady for whom they were made. Years ago false teeth were made from rubber, or porcelain.
Time to go Fishing
Recently Dr. Libby sold his practice and equipment to Dr. Erdmann, who will continue to practice in the same office in the State Bank building. Dr. Libby loves to fish and for years owned a cottage on Loon Lake. He and Mrs. Libby have one son, Dr. Robert Libby, who is married and lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. When cool weather comes, they hope to spend the winter with their son and his family.