Carroll County Biographies

Dr. Joseph Benjamin Schreiter

Dr. Joseph Benjamin Schreiter, Illinois Doc­tor of the Year (1952), was born in 1875 in Darlington, Wisconsin, the son of a German immigrant harness maker. He attended the local schools graduating from high school at the age of 14, entered the University of Wis­consin and received his medical degree from Rush Medical College, Chicago at age 21. He also trained at Cook County and Presbyterian hospitals.

When looking for a place to locate after his graduation in 1896 he considered Janes­ville, Wis., Rockford, Ill. and Savanna, to which an old friend was urging him to move. His father strongly advised Savanna "because the smaller towns offer less temptation to lead a young man astray morally." The young doctor chose Savanna and never regretted his choice.

On September 30, 1903, Dr. Schreiter mar­ried Besse Beaver, daughter of a shoe mer­chant of Mt. Carroll. She was educated at Mt. Carroll Seminary and was music supervisor in the public schools of Marshalltown, Iowa. Their only son, Jesse, was born in 1910.

Dr. Schreiter opened his office in the Howe building on Main street, with living quarters in the rear in July 1896. In 1912 he moved to larger quarters. When he settled there Savanna had a population of about 3,000. There had been five physicians but one had died and another moved away. There was no hospital; the nearest was at Clinton, Iowa, twenty miles away. There was a substantial floating popula­tion of railroad workers and a high percentage of accident victims.

The roads were unspeakable. Dr. Schreiter's prosperous father had set him up, buying his instruments and equipment and establishing bank credit for him and also gave him a beautiful team of three-year old driving horses. But the roads were so bad the young doctor sent them back refusing to subject good horses to the mud and gravel. His father sold them in Milwaukee for $500 and Dr. Schreiter used a team from the livery stable until he got his first car in 1910.

His father made him a special garment, a pair of fleece-lined leather trousers with boots attached, big enough to fit over his overcoat and fastened about the waist. They were especially designed for winter buggy-riding and Dr. Schreiter wore them for years. There was no telephone system in this part of Illinois and patients either came to him or sent a neighbor.

Next to the roads, the Mississippi was his major travel problem for frequently calls for help came from the Iowa side and there was no bridge. Dr. Schreiter made many perilous trips back and forth in canoes, rowboats, sail­boats and naphtha launches and finally on a ferry between Savanna and Sabula. A college oarsman, he often rowed across the three­ quarter mile stretch of the main channel. Flood-time and a call to deliver a baby in a cabin hidden in the sloughs meant a tough time for the doctor. Dr. Schreiter said he never experienced the usual difficulties in establishing a practice. The first month he took in $100 and has never taken in less.

He did "dinner table" surgery in homes. Most homes contain a pull-out dining table capable of being extended with extra leaves. By pulling the table apart and laying the pa­tient on a single leaf stretched across the gap, he found he could stand in the gap close to the patient from either side. Dr. Schreiter helped establish the first city hospital in a large old converted residence in 1920 and served as chief of staff when the new hospital was opened in 1942. He was local surgeon for both the Milwaukee and Burlington railroads for several decades, caring for accident and industrial cases and performing the annual physical examinations mandatory for all operating employees. He served as coroner of Carroll county, first elected in 1900, re-elected eleven times, each for a four-year term, so that he held the post for 48 Yrars, which is believed to set a record for tenure. He was largely responsible for obtaining passage by the Illinois legisla­ture of a law forbidding the moving of bodies of individuals dead under circumstanc6s war­ranting investigation by the coroner.

Much of his work was in obstetrics; he delivered close to 5,000 babies. He is said to have handled the greater proportion of local obstetrical work for many years. One year he delivered 150 babies, almost three a week. From 1896 to 1910 he did not have a maternal death. His territory covered some 18 miles north and about 12 miles south of Savanna, six or so miles east toward Mt. Carroll and across the river to Sabula and other Iowa towns. Minor surgery and even leg amputations were done in his office.

Source: A Goodly Heritage

Savanna - Many of the 4,000 babies Dr. Joseph B. Schreiter delivered during his 55 years of practice honored him today. Thousands from Carroll & surrounding areas counties gathered for "Doc Schrieter Day" in honor of the 76 years old physician.

Prominent among Dr. Schreiter's babies and among the invited guests was Wayne King, the band leader, a native of Savanna.

Every shop in town is closed from 12 until 2 for a big picnic in Old Mill Park and a parade. The Illinois State Medical Society, to whose 50 years club Dr. Schreiter belongs, sent Andy Hall of Mt. Vernon as principal speaker. Dr. Hall, 86, was named outstanding general practioner of the nation for 1950. Dr. C. Paul White of Kewanee and Dr. Harold Camp of Monmouth, president and secretary of the state medical society, were among the guests.

Dr. Schreiter was born in Darlington WI Jan. 4, 1875 and was graduated from the Rush Medical College at Chicago in 1896. He married Miss Bess Beaver of Mt. Carroll and they have one son Jesse, a mathematician at Ohio University. Dr. Schreiter has been Carroll County Corner for 48 years having been first elected in 1903. He is chief of staff of the Savanna City Hospital.

The Dixon Telegraph 8 August 1951

Monmouth IL - Dr. Joseph B. Schreiter, 76 of Savanna yesterday was named Illinois outstanding general practioner of the year by the Illinois State Medical Society. Dr. Schreiters neighbors announced they would hold a congratulation party in front of his home at 19 Park St. at 8 p.m. tonight. Bernard O'Brien managing editor of the Savanna Daily Times Journal, head of the Lions Club Committee staging the party. The street in front of Dr. Schreiter's house will be blocked off and a Savanna Fire Truck will floodlight the area.

The Dixon Telegraph 22 October 1951

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