Monadnock Moments No. 14: Dr. Emerson of Fitzwilliam
The new Fitzwilliam history, entitled “Fitzwilliam, the Profile of a New Hampshire Town, 1884-1984,” tells us of the town’s well known physician Dr. George S. Emerson.
George Emerson was born in Hampstead, New Hampshire in 1871. He graduated from Baltimore Medical School in 1897 and came directly to Fitzwilliam. He stayed in Fitzwilliam and practiced medicine there for the next 60 years.
When we hear the tales about Dr. Emerson, we picture the country doctor who was on call day and night and always ready to get out of bed to go to the home of an ailing patient in the back woods of Fitzwilliam or any of the eleven neighboring towns that he covered. Many of these housecalls were not paid for except with a few vegetables or similar payment. One bill from 1906 shows that Dr. Emerson charged $1.00 for a housecall and 5O¢ for an office visit. He received $10 for a maternity case. One story tells of a man who argued that Dr. Emerson simply didn’t charge enough. The man promptly wrote the doctor a check for $5, which, unfortunately, bounced.
Dr. Emerson performed operations that earned him the respect of eminent physicians and he eventually became one of the oldest active doctors in the state. He passed away in November of 1958 at the age of 87.
Perhaps most amazing to us today is Dr. Emerson’s record of deliveries. He admitted that he had delivered “3,000 or more” babies during his career. Marguerite Davis, the district nurse, claimed that “the number was nearer twice that.” If we accept Dr. Emerson’s estimate of 3,000, this is an amazing record, averaging one child delivered each week throughout his 60 years as a physician for Fitzwilliam.