LINCOLN -- The Arkansas Country Doctor Museum is one of only two museums in the country that celebrates and honors the selfless service once provided by country doctors to their communities.
The Arkansas museum, which was established in 1994 by Dr. Harold Boyer, offers visitors the chance to experience the "good ole' days," when doctors would make house calls to take care of their patients.
Boyer, a dermatologist, was the son of Dr. Herbert Boyer, a country doctor. Dr. Harold Boyer wanted to honor his father and the other country doctors in the state.
The museum is located at 109 N. Starr Avenue, and is open 1-4 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
The museum is located in the clinic and the private home complex used by three doctors who lived and worked on the premises from 1936-1973, according to a history about the museum.
The Lincoln Clinic started in 1936 when Dr. John Lacy Bean and his second wife bought two lots near downtown Lincoln, constructed a four-room building and began practicing medicine there. These four rooms today are used as the reception area, museum office and doctor's bedroom.
Bean practiced in the Lincoln Clinic for 10 years. Dr. Karl A.M. Bergenstal practiced in the clinic during 1945-46, and Dr. Herbert Boyer purchased the clinic in 1946, and it was used as his home, office and clinic until the early 1970s. Boyer died in 1976. His wife, Ruby, continued to live in the complex until her death in 1987.
The Arkansas Country Doctor Museum has a 15-member board of directors and a 10-member advisory board. All serve as volunteer members. John Mitchell of Cane Hill serves as president. Other officers are Jean Helm, vice president; Amanda Jo Lee, secretary; and Mike Allen, treasurer.
The museum has two paid staff members, including officer manager Nicole Hager, and all others who help in the museum volunteer their time.
Presently, the museum is accepting donations for its next goal, a building that will be used to store and preserve its artifacts, according to Mitchell. The board of directors voted to purchase the building next door. This structure has been torn down and will be replaced with a new building.
The mission of the museum is to "honor, preserve and educate about the history and heroism of country doctors in Arkansas, the unique history and culture of the Arkansas area, and the history of medical theory and practice," according to a brochure about the museum.
Some of the features of the museum include an 1886 doctor's buggy and 1924 Model T Ford automobile. Harold Boyer purchased the 1924 Model T because it closely resembled the car driven by his father in the early days of his medical career.
The complex now includes the Harold L. Boyer Education Building, completed in October 2004. Harold Boyer passed away on Sept. 4, 2010, at the age of 84, and the museum board dedicated the new building to his memory.
The education building is used for board meetings, social events and educational programs. The museum was expanded again in March 2013, with a Memorial Room to provide space for artifacts and information about country doctors. Another expansion provided more parking space.
Visitors on a tour of the museum will be able to see a herb garden. Early country doctors did not have pharmacies available but relied on herbs from a garden patch and old remedies that had been proven helpful.
The master bedroom has the original curtains and furniture and many of the hats collected by Ruby Boyer over the years. Another hallway highlights Ruby Boyer's collection of sale and pepper shakers. This collection spanned over 40 years and the shakers were given to Ruby by friends from their travels. As a country doctor's wife, Ruby was not able to travel but helped her husband in the clinic.
Other rooms in the museum include an optometry room to showcase artifacts from the optometry field of medicine, a nursery for babies, a women's recovery room with an area dedicated to nursing, a doctor's office and a waiting room or reception room.
The museum also has a men's recovery room, a surgery room and a delivery room.
The Memorial Room is home to a iron lung, which was used by patients during the height of the polic epidemic.
This room tells about Peggy McCormack, who lived in an iron lung for 31 years. She painted by holding the paint brush by her teeth and painted as a way to support her faily and help with some of her medical bills. McCormack, also an accomplished poet, died at the age of 46.
The Wall of Honor, established by Dr. Joe B. Hall, features information about country doctors who served in Arkansas. Hall founded Fayetteville Diagnostic Clinic and researched and conducted oral interviews on old country doctors for possible induction in the Hall of Fame.
Mitchell, who has volunteered for the museum for 27 years, now conducts the research for the Hall of Honor and said he probably puts in about 12-15 hours each week working on the project.
Each country doctor in the Hall of Honor has a separate three-ring binder filled with information about the person. This hall includes nine families of doctors who served as country doctors. Presently, the Hall of Honor recognizes 125 country dcotors.
Mitchell has a personal interest in the Hall of Honor because his grandfather was a country doctor in Union Town. He remembers many of the stories told by his dad about his grandfather.
"My dad would drive him to see his patients," Mitchell said.
Betty Battenfield is another person who volunteered many hours on Hall of Fame research. She has stepped down from that role, but she was responsible for the induction of more than 75 doctors. Battenfield has been named the winner of this year's Edwina Walls Mann History of the Health Sciences Advocacy Award, given annually to a person or organization that has demonstrated a sustained commitment to promoting the history of health sciences in Arkansas.
The museum continues to seek new volunteers to help in the museum or serve on the board of directors or advisory board.
"We welcome anyone who shares the interest to be a part of the board and wants to learn how to give a tour," Mitchell said.
The museum also is open to small groups for tours and is still taking some precautions because of covid-19.
For more information, contact the museum, (479) 824-4307; [email protected] or go to the website, www.drmuseum.net
Definition Of A Country Doctor
• Practiced in the same general area of Arkansas for 20 or more years.
• Showed compassion and commitment.
• Lived a life of integrity.
• Served the community.