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Dr. Martin Henry Calkins
Born 15 September 1828


M. H. CALKINS, M.D., the first physician in Wyoming, Iowa; was born September 16, 1828, at Mexico, Oswego Co., N.Y.; his grandfather, James Calkins, was from Sharon, Conn.; his father, John Calkins, was born in Eastern New York in 1802, and, when a boy, moved with his parents to Oneida Co., N.Y., where he afterward married Caroline Halbert, daughter of Asa Halbert, of the same county; he soon after located in Oswego Co., and engaged in farming for half a century, and died at the age of 72 years, in 1874; his widow then came to Wyoming, where she now lives at an advanced age. Dr. Calkins, the subject of this sketch, attended the district schools of his neighborhood, and taught school in the town of Mexico and city of Oswego, from the age of 17 to 24, and during that time studied medicine with Drs. Bowen & Dayton, of his native town. He attended one course of lectures at Geneva, N.Y., and one at the University of New York City; he commenced the practice of medicine in the spring of 1853, at Constantia, Oswego Co., and, after a short time, removed to North Bay, Oneida Co., where he was married, November 8, 1855, to Miss Lucinda Louden, daughter of Charles Louden. In the spring of 1856, he came West, and, June 14, he located at Wyoming, Jones Co., Iowa, where he has since resided; he has a large practice in the city and surrounding country, which, with the superintendency of his farms, makes his life one of constant activity; for some time he was engaged in the drug trade; in 1868, he received the honorary degree of "M.D." from the University of Iowa; in 1862 and 1863, he was one of the State Commissioners to take the vote of soldiers in the field, and, in that capacity, traveled 3,000 miles; he was the first Mayor of Wyoming, being the union candidate of all parties; he has no taste for political office. He has two daughters—Elva T., born November 15, 1861, and May A., born December 13, 1865; both of these girls are now attending Mount Carroll Seminary, Illinois; these girls have neither uncles, aunts or cousins, an unusual circumstance. Politically. the Doctor was a Democrat until the commencement of the rebellion, from which date he has been a loyal Union Republican. His wife is an acceptable member of the Presbyterian Church, but the Doctor is an "outside member of all the churches, in good standing." He is standard historical authority in this vicinity, and wields a ready pen on general topics. Anniversaries and social gatherings, without the Doctor, would be devoid of a large element of success. Professionally, competent and faithful; financially, responsible and liberal; socially, genial and witty; personally, solid and reliable. The Doctor is highly valued as a citizen, a physician, and a friend.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1879, page 600.

Dr. Martin Henry Calkins, whose life record covered the intervening years between September 15, 1828, and September 27, 1909, was born near Mexico, Oswego county, New York, and was the second son of John and Caroline (Halbert) Calkins. His only sister died in 1852 and his only brother perished in a watery grave in 1865. He was a lineal descendant of Thomas Cushman, who preached the first sermon ever printed in America; of Mary Allerton, the last survivor of those who came in the Mayflower; and of Hugh Calkins, who came to America from Wales in 1638. He was also descended from Sir Thomas Kinne, who was knighted in 1618 and one of his Kinne grandfathers, Thomas Kinne, served in the war of the American Revolution. He attended the schools of his home county and became a successful teacher. He was teaching in Oswego, New York, when the first train of cars came to that city. When ringing bells and blowing whistles announced the approach of the marvel of the time the young schoolmaster said "School is out," and hurried away with the children to gaze upon the wonder which was then more marvelous than the flying machine of today. He held in 1851 one of the first state certificates issued by the educational department of the state of New York, his being number six.
He read medicine in the office of Doctors Bowen and Dayton in his native town and first attended lectures in the College of Medicine in Geneva, New York, and finished in the University of New York City. For three years he practiced in Constantia and North Bay, New York, and then came west, locating in Wyoming, Iowa, June 14, 1856, where he continued in the active practice of medicine until failing health in 1903 no longer permitted him to respond to the calls for his professional services. For forty-seven years he administered to the people of his vicinity in one of the closest, confidential and holiest relations in social life and into that life was so woven his cheery ways, sympathetic impulses, tenderness and helpfulness that he became a part of the collective whole bound by ties that time cannot efface. His presence at the bedside of the sick and suffering was often more potent for good than his powders and potions and the devotion of his patients was a natural sequence following the sunshine of his presence. He was thoroughly allied with the pioneers' life of this vicinity and there were no journeys too long for him to make on horseback, or on foot sometimes when roads were impassable, to alleviate suffering. For forty-seven years he practiced in this vicinity and but few there are who are not indebted to him for some kindly service. Probably no physician in Jones county has done more work gratuitously. He was devoted to his family, a loyal friend and good citizen, and as such will always be remembered. He served his fellow man with unbounded charity and kindness and was ever responsive to the dictates of duty. In the words of Dr. McClaren: "He did his best for every man, woman and child, year in, year out, in the snow and in the heat, in the dark and in the light, Without rest and without holiday for more than forty years."
Dr. Calkins was united in marriage with Miss Lucinda Louden, November 8, 1855, at the home of the bride's parents in North Bay, Oneida county, New York. Lucinda Louden first opened her eyes to the light of day May 15, 1839, in North Bay. She was the eldest child of Charles and Hannah (Cockett) Louden. One of her sisters died at the age of eighteen and the other sister died in infancy. She attended school in Cooperstown, New York, and also Ft. Plain Seminary. Mrs. Calkins brought the first musical instrument, a melodeon which she still possesses, and rendered the first vocal selection to an accompaniment ever given in Wyoming. Mrs. Calkins' grandparents came from Manchester, England, to America in 1810 and located in Cooperstown, New York, where the grandfather engaged in manufacturing cotton goods.
Dr. and Mrs. Calkins came west in 1856. Twelve lots in what is now the heart of Wyoming with a little house built of black walnut lumber became their home. In 1868 the little house was replaced by a house which has been their home since. Two daughters were born to Dr. and Mrs. Calkins. These daughters have neither aunts, uncles nor cousins as both of their parents were the last of their house and name. Elva T. is the wife of William E. Briggs, of St. Paul, Minnesota, and Mary A. is the wife of Edward D. Chassell, of Le Mars, Iowa.
In 1862 Dr. Calkins, acting as an official for the state of Iowa, administered the oath to eighty-nine loyal citizens who assembled under the historic oak tree in Wyoming and were by him duly enrolled as members of the state militia, afterwards forming the majority of Company K, Twenty-fourth Iowa Volun teer Infantry, in the war of the rebellion. Six of the surviving soldiers were in attendance at the funeral service of Dr. Calkins. In the same year and again in 1863 Dr. Calkins was commissioned to take the vote of Iowa soldiers in the south. Upon his return he rode in a sulky from Wyoming to Des Moines, where he made his report.
Dr. Calkins was an active man in the community and imbued with liberal public-spirited sentiments. He was never an officer seeker but was more of a leader and an inspirer of progressive public sentiment. When the town of Wyoming was organized he was unanimously chosen the first mayor, being the candidate of all parties. For many years he was local surgeon for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad and served for a number of years as a member of the board of pension examiners. In 1881 he was accorded the unusual honor of being elected to the legislature from Jones countv without opposition, there being no candidate against him. Two years later he was reelected, though a very able and popular democrat opposed him. In the latter campaign in his home township of Wyoming two hundred and eleven votes were polled and an even two hundred of them were cast for Dr. Calkins, showing the hold he had on the affections and confidence of the people among whom he had then resided nearly thirty years. A well educated man, of practical sense, good judgment and conservative, he became one of the most efficient members of the nineteenth and twentieth general assemblies. He was made chairman of the committee on public health and, as such, worked through the house against seeming unconquerable opposition one of the most prominent and important bills before the legislature, which had been prepared by the state board of health to regulate the sale and use of kerosene oil and oil used by miners in illuminating coal mines, by a system of rigid inspection. Several states had similar laws and it was found that illuminating oils which did not pass their inspection were shipped into Iowa and were rapidly becoming a menace to human life and property from their explosive nature and low standard of safety. The bill provided for a higher standard and more rigid inspection than that of other states. Immediately on the introduction, opposition from the Standard Oil Company became apparent on the ground that it was an interference with their business and the process of inspection unreasonable.
The house was composed of fifty-one republicans, forty-five democrats and six greenbackers, or populists. The populists vehemently opposed the bill on the ground that it was solely a scheme to provide for a lot of officers to prey on the public treasury; the democrats opposed it on general principles, as did. some republicans. Its progress was obstructed at every step by every dilatory motion that could be devised, until late in the session, when Dr. Calkins became satisfied that under the most favorable conditions it would receive but a bare majority. In the meantime Senator Larrabee had worked it through the senate by a vote of thirty-two to eight, and sent it to the house as senate file 305. It was placed on file after a second reading. Dr. Calkins decided to let it rest.
On the last day and last hour of the session, with every member in his seat and making ready to leave, in the hubbub usual at that time, the doctor very quietly called up senate file 305, instead of the house bill, and when the clerk reached in his desk for it was missing. He notified the speaker, who instantly ordered all doors leading from and to the house closed and locked and then announced that the bill had been stolen from the clerk's desk.
There was at once great commotion throughout the building. Members began searching their desks, committee rooms were ransacked and after an hour's vigorous quest the bill was found tucked away in a drawer in the northeast corner of the building. It was returned to the house, hurriedly read, and passed without a negative vote, not a member being willing to go on record against it.
It has been in force since, has proved one of the best hygienic measures on the statute books, brings to the state treasury from twelve thousand to fifteen thousand dollars in excess of expenses annually and gives the state of Iowa greater protection against injury to human life and property than any other state. Dr. Calkins was one of the fifty-two who voted for the prohibitory law in Iowa.
In 1907 he prepared an extensive paper on "Recollections of the Nineteenth and Twentieth General Assemblies," which was read at a meeting of the Pioneer Law Makers in Des Moines. Dr. Calkins wielded a ready pen. His writings were original, witty and personal. But his personalities were more likely to be eulogistic than censorious. As a public speaker he was in demand for orations on the 4th of July and Decoration day. He was wonderfully useful in a field where few men are willing to give time and labor. He was the historian of Wyoming and gathered for public addresses and publication a large amount of exceedingly valuable data and his "Early Reminiscences of Wyoming" which he gave in 1878 in a home talent lecture course appears in this history of Jones county.
Dr. Calkins was a man of large mental endowment, of scholarly culture, of racy genial humor, a man healthy in body and never fearing to speak the truth; diligently he did his work and discharged his duty with contentment, cheerfulness and resolution. He possessed a vigorous personality whose broadly generous impulses coupled with sound judgment and independence of thought and action made him beloved to a degree seldom realized in human experience. Dr. Calkins is survived by his widow and daughters and three grandchildren: Martin Calkins Briggs; Walter Charles Briggs; and Mary Briggs.

Source: History of Jones County, Iowa, Past and Present, R. M. Corbitt, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, 1910, p. 352.

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