First doctor in area fought many epidemics

Before Dr. J. S. Gibson set up his practice in Green Lake Village in 1869, people needing medical assistance had to go either to Forest City or St. Cloud, a long trip for people who weren’t sick, but sheer torture for many people who desperately needed the help of a true physician. Gibson filled that order. He was born on Ayr, Ontario, in 1842, the fifth child of William and Martha Gibson.

The first 10 years of his life. James spent in the out-of-doors as much as possible. Then the family moved to West Union, Iowa and some yeas later made another move, this time to a farm near Mantorville, Minnesota.

Young Gibson spent several years on the farm, before becoming the leader of a group of farm laborers who worked throughout that area. At the same time he was keeping up as well as he could with a formal education —- first in a country school near his home farm, and graduating from Owatonna. He continued his education at Northwestern College in Wasioja.

At that time, literary societies and debate clubs provided entertainment for people of the area, and James Gibson was active in both.

He and Evaline Libby of Owatonna were married in 1866, moving immediately to Chicago where he enrolled in the Chicago Medical College, from which he graduated in 1869.

That summer he opened the first medical practice in this area at Green Lake Village, a move which was welcomed by a great many people in this area.

The next year he moved to New London and, in 1873, he set up practice in Atwater, where he lived until his death.

That was the time of great epidemics and this part of the country had its share. Diphtheria, small pox, scarlet fever, pneumonia and tuberculosis were the most serious infectious diseases at that time, and they were all very communicable. Treating those diseases at a time in which anti-toxins were unknown, was made ever more difficult by the Scandinavian custom of “Soul Singing.” When a person died friends, relatives and neighbors gathered in the home of the deceased to sing the funeral hymns of the “old country.” Those homes were, generally, small, over heated in winter, and unventilated — ideal conditions for passing on the cause of the death which they were observing.

In an especially large diptheria epidemic in 1894 to 95, Dr. Gibson treated 175 cases with only four deaths.

Dr. Gibson continued actively pursued his profession until near his death in 1910.

He and members of his family are buried in a small, private, overgrown cemetery in the north shore of Pay Lake, just north of Atwater.