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News & Press: History of the Osteopathic Profession

Emma & Sherman Morris, DO - History of the Osteopathic Profession

Friday, April 12, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: John Stiger, DO
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Emma Caruthers Morris, DO April 7, 1873-November 9, 1961
Sherman Grant Morris, DO 1867—1941

 The author recently had the opportunity to interview the grandson of the Morris’s, Dick Strom a lively 89 year old that had inherited a treasure trove of information about these doctors.  The couple was originally from a town in Ohio called Upper Sandusky, Crawford County, Ohio.  As was common at the time Sherman Grant Morris was named after the civil war heroes while Emma’s last name was Caruthers a family that recently emigrated from Ireland.  An interesting side note is that the Caruthers were on a ship that hit rocks and was expected by the captain to sink taking all aboard to their deaths.  As a final gesture he passed around his bottle of whiskey to those on board.  Fortunately all survived settling in the upper Sandusky area on a farm.  Besides Emma there were several other sisters and a brother.  It is not clear when she met Sherman but the couple was married and had two children by the time that Emma heard about osteopathy and decided to enroll in the American College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, Missouri.  Early on, Emma established herself as the family dynamo and leader and Sherman was more the follower.  A pattern that continued throughout their careers.

 At the time there it was the practice of the American School of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville to accept most applicants.  A college education was not required and most cases a high school education or even less was often sufficient.  The curriculum was devoted primarily to anatomy and to osteopathic methods.  A.T. Still a former MD himself insisted that all of his graduates were equipped to practice in small towns including training in obstetrics and some surgery; enough to equip them for what they might encounter in their practices especially if they were in a frontier area.  After completing the two-year curriculum they graduated in 1904 with their DO degrees.

It is not clear where the couple practiced after graduation but in 1906 they heard of a spa/hot springs in Port Townsend, Washington.   So the young DO couple and their two children boarded a train and headed west to Washington.  This would have been a long and arduous journey with many stops, some overnight as they made their way West.  One stop was at the bustling timber town of Chehalis, 
Washington.  At the time there were no paved streets with plenty of rowdy loggers and sawmill workers and their families.  More bars by far than churches!
For whatever reason the couple decided that Chehalis was a better opportunity and so they got off the train and started their practice as osteopathic physicians.  What an adventure!

Soon the young doctors had established themselves and before long they had a highly successful practice.  Emma became famous for her skill in delivering babies and over her career delivered nearly 3000, all home deliveries!   At times they used their home as shelter for unwed mothers.   Emma would deliver the mothers and then find homes for the unwanted babies. As DOs they were never allowed to practice in the local hospital but found that they were perfectly capable of attending their patient’s obstetrical needs and minor surgeries right in their office.  Like most DOs of the time the main emphasis of their practices was the application of osteopathic methods of including osteopathic manipulative treatment.

 After a time they built a large residence in the town with the lower level devoted to their OMT practices while the upper level was for the family.  Initially Emma made her house calls in her horse and buggy. Later she bought a car and in one amusing story she would pull back on the steering wheel (as on the reins of the horse) to stop the car.  Emma was ahead of her time in prenatal care and was the first to give her expectant mothers vitamins.  Since she was not allowed to prescribe medication she obtained the vitamins from a supply house in the East.

 In the mid 1920s Sherman and son in law Roy Strom (Dick’s dad) opened a Willys car dealership on the property where the clinic was located.  Apparently they did well for a time until the great depression of 1929.  No one had the cash to buy the automobiles so the partners were forced to accept guns and other items as payment.  The clinic building was converted to a residence and still stands at 1030 Market Street in Chehalis, Washington.

The couple attended and were active in the local Methodist Church where Emma served on the board of directors and taught Sunday school for many years.  The couple served the people of Chehalis faithfully for many years. Sherman passed in 1941 and Emma in 1961.  Two children, Ben and Beulah, four grandchildren including Beulah’s son Dick Strom and six great grandchildren. 

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