Friday, February 1, 2008

Stella Beatrix Whitney/Walker (1881-1962)

The following article is a first attempt to describe the life and work of Stella B. Walker. I would appreciate any additional information anyone would care to contribute.

Writing about the life of Stella Walker, one of my early friends in Cedar Vale, Kansas, will entail several twists, turns, and detours to encompass a life that covered a wide range of both residence, and pursuits.

Stella Beatrix Whitney was born in 1881, the second daughter of Dr. Perry N. Whitney. The earliest record I have found for P. N. Whitney is the 1880 Federal Census. In 1880 Perry Whitney(1865-?) was living in Union Center, Kansas with his wife, Mamie (1856-1926) and infant daughter, Ethel. He listed himself as a farmer on that census form. By the 1885 Kansas Census the family had expanded to include Stella, age 4, and Francis, age 2.

Sometime in the next ten years, Perry, Mamie, and family must have moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where Perry attended the Eclectic Medical Institute and graduated with an M. D. degree. “Eclectic Medicine” was a branch of medicine that enjoyed considerable popularity in the mid-nineteenth century. While it is now listed among the so-called “Quack Medicines” by the Food and Drug Administration and the American Medical Association, Eclecticism vied in the nineteenth century with allopathy, homeopathy, and other lesser-known philosophies, such as hydropathy, phlebotomy, and spiritualism. Eclectic physicians practiced with a philosophy of “alignment with nature,” learning from and using concepts from other schools of medical thought, along with observation of the use of medicinal plants by the Native Americans. There was considerable controversy between the allopaths, who believed in prescribing medicines to fight illness and homeopaths, who believed in prescribing minute amounts of the causes of the illness to boost the immune system to fight the illness. Furthermore, allopaths were divided between the advocates for “botanical medicines” and advocates of “mineral medicines.” Mineral medicines became pharmaceutical medicines, and botanical medicines became the province of herbalists, naturopaths and the like. There is no need to tell you who won that battle.

The eclectics, who included Dr. Whitney, tried to remain above the fray, preferring to pick and choose among all the methods of treatment. They often compounded their own medicines from combinations of “botanical” and “mineral” sources and created specific medicines for particular illnesses. The many preparations that Mrs. Walker compounded from Dr. Whitney’s recipes and sold over the counter at Whitney Drugstore, were typical eclectic medicines used by eclectic physicians.

By the 1895 Kansas Census, Dr. P. N. Whitney was living and practicing in Cedar Vale, where he had moved after graduating from the Eclectic Medical Institute. The 1901 history of Cedar Vale relates that “for the past four years he has had the leading drug business in the city. His daughter, Miss Ethel, is a very clever artist in oil painting; and another daughter, Miss Stella, who is studying pharmacy, is very expert in crayon portrait work.” Stella Whitney was in the very first graduating class from Cedar Vale High School (1896) (see photo). The 1900 Federal Census lists the entire family (which now included another daughter, Dorothea) living at home. Ethel was “at school” and Stella (age 19) and Francis (age 17) were saleswomen at the Whitney Drug Store. Sometime during the period, Stella attended the University of Kansas, where she was one of the first women to graduate from the pharmacy school.

Shortly afterwards, Stella met and married Reuben Gerald Walker and the couple moved to Mounds, Oklahoma. The 1910 census shows them living in Mounds, where Reuben lists himself as a “retail merchant and druggist.” Stella was not working during this period. Reuben had come from Highland, Kansas, where he had worked as a hired man on the Rolls Hunter farm.

Nothing is known of the couple for ten years. When we next meet them in the 1920 Federal Census, they are living in Dublin Gulch, Montana, where Reuben is employed as a miner. They have two children, Julia Irene (age 3) and William K (age 1) and Stella has no listed occupation. During this period, Stella lost several babies, either early in life or before birth. The Cedar Vale Cemetery lists a plot with the designation “Infant children of Reuben & Stella [Walker] (no names, no dates).

In 1929 Stella moved back to Cedar Vale with her children, which now included Marcella (b. 1923) and Althea (b. 1925). There is no evidence that Reuben came back with them and there is no record of what happened to him after 1920. Stella is listed as the head of the household on the 1930 Federal Census. She was sharing responsibility with her sister, Ethel Whitney/Crabtree in running the Whitney Drug Store. Both women were registered pharmacists.

Stella’s son, William attended the University of Kansas, graduating with both a pharmacy and an M. D. degree in 1945. He then served in the U. S. Army until 1948, before returning to Cedar Vale to take up the practice of medicine. In 1955 he moved his practice to Sedan, where he remained until his retirement in 1988.

Ethel Crabtree died on October 25, 1951 and Stella became the sole proprietor of the Whitney Drug Store. When I worked there around that time I never remember Ethel taking part in the operation of the business. Stella Walker continued to run the Whitney Drug Store until her retirement in the late 1950s. She then moved to Sedan to be with William and his family until her death on October 19, 1962.

Stella B. Walker was an important figure in medicine in Cedar Vale, Kansas. While she was thoroughly trained in modern pharmacy, she maintained the eclectic remedies that her father P. N. Whitney brought to the town. Townspeople depended on Dr. Whitney’s medicines for many of their ailments, and they missed Whitney Drug Store when it closed.


Phil Foust said...

Gary, this factual and informative account of one of Cedar Vale's premier ladies is simply outstanding.

Not only did I visit "Whitney's" for what is now known to be ecletic remedies ... but to duck in on occasion to say hello to an employee of the establishment. (That ecletic girl turned out to be my wife.)

Dick Williams said...

Gary, remember the time you were working at Whitney's and some guy came in that was giving you a hard time. He ordered a malt and you began to fix it. Using your brain instead of your brawn, you slipped a spoonful of ex-lax in the malt and mixed it in. My question is, was this fact or fiction? If fact, how many others felt your wrath?

Gary White said...

I don't recall that incident. Perhaps it is similar to your memory of the CV football player?!!

Gary White said...

And on a a similar note, I don't recall CVHS EVER having an undefeated football team!

wayne woodruff said...

Was Marcella Walker the same Marcella Cable of later times??

Dick Williams said...

CV never had an undefeated football team during my school years. I was just using CV as an example to make the joke more interesting. I could have used a team in Texas, Okla., etc. And Wayne, this wasn't about me. I never considered myself a star anything.

Gary White said...

Yes, Wayne, Marcella Walker is Marcella Cable.

Diane Archer Bradbury said...

Two of Stella Whitney-Walker's grandchildren were in my class in Cedar Vale. Bruce Whitney Cable, son of Marcella and Harold Cable; and, Grover Walker, son of Alene (Miller) and Dr. Wm. Walker. Bruce is still living in Cedar Vale. Grover was killed in an explosion on his job as a chemist somewhere in Ohio, I think, about 20 years ago.

You may remember Grover's other grandparents, Hallie and Grover Miller. Hallie liked to be in charge of games at grandson Grover's birthday parties, introducing those scintilating games of "Spin the Bottle" and other provocative games!

Bruce, though not on line, may have information, stories, etc. about his grandmother Stella. I believe he can be reached using just Cedar Vale as an address, Zip code 67024.

wayne woodruff said...

Bull-s--t, Dick. You were a star quarterback, star center on a great basketball team, and a star pictcher and catcher on a really great CV baseball team. Don't sell yourself short. WE all thought you were a star.

DFCox said...

An excellent and carefully researched entry. Stella would be proud of you Gary, but probably wouldn't be effusive about it. More likely, she would leave you wondering.
One memory of Stella--When I came back to Cedar Vale with my brand new diploma and license to practice Veterinary Medicine, I needed a few basic supplies and medications. One of the things I needed was Chloral Hydrate. it is a powerful sedative and is/was used to drop horses so one could work on them. I went in and asked Stella for 1/2 pound and she gasped and said "I couldn't possibly give that amount ot anyone and furthermore what are you going to do with it" Remember that Choral hydrate was used by some to spike drinks (mickeys). Stella did not recognize me immediately, and it took some explaining who I was and why I wanted it. When she realized, she was somewhat embarrassed and sold me the drug.
Stella's ashes are in the Columbarium of Epiphany Episcopal Church in Sedan. She was also a pioneer in using cremation in these parts.

Gary White said...

I'm sure she would leave me wondering. She ALWAYS did!!

DFCox said...

An addendum; Julia Higgins is still alive and in the Sedan Nursing home. She is the resident photographer and is quite alert and aware.

Ethel's husband, Dougle Crabtree was another character of those days. He was an excellent carpenter/cabinet maker and he was also very devoted to the Masonic Lodge. It was he who always lead Masonic funeral rites when thay were requested.

Gary, can you confirm the name "Dougle" It may be a nickname.

Gary White said...

Dougalad is what the census reports say.

Connie said...

For Gary White:

I found a death certificate for Stella's husband Reuben. He died 18 Sep 1941 at Butte, Silver Bow, Montana at Murray Hospital. He was hospitalized for 10 months (from Dec 1940 until his death in Sep 1941). He died from Myelogenous Leukemia. His death certificate lists him as MARRIED, with Stella's name as spouse is on the death certificate. The informant was Albina M. Gunther of Emporia, Kansas. Reuben was buried in White City, Kingman, Kansas at White City Cemetery.

Reuben and Stella must have been married sometime in 1910 before April 27, as they are on the 27 Apr 1910 census indicating years of marriage "0" zero.

Hopefully this sheds some light on why Reuben remained in Montana - perhaps for medical reasons.

Granddaughter of Doris Pack-West of Cedar Vale.

Glenn Alsup said...

Stella was my grandmother and she died when I was 5. My mother (Alathea) would often tell me stories of her mother's relationship with Reuben (who I never met). I know they moved around a lot in the Montana area and my mom was born in Missoula. My guess is there wasn't much money or work and Stella went back to Kansas for help from her parents (Perry and Mamie). My mother couldn't eat bean soup because it reminded her of the trip from Montana to Kansas.