DEATH OF DR. OXFORD HEARLDS END OF ERA FOR CAVE-IN-ROCK
The family doctor is becoming extinct. The death of Dr. Seba E. Oxford,
October 22, closed an era of medical service for Cave-in-Rock, Illinois and
the surrounding area. Gone are the days when a telephone call or a "fast
ride" brought the doctor to the home to deliver a baby, set a broken bone,
probe a bullet, diagnose a contagious disease, prescribe pills, or pronounce
death. Fading from the scene also is the comforting family cousel and the
sound community advice people sought from the best educated citizen in town.
Small towns are in dire need of general practioners. In a recent statistical
report, Southern Illinois scores 800 people per doctor while Norhtern
Illinois rates 742 inhabitants. If the population explosion continues the
ratio is bound to climb higher. With the trend toward specialization in
medicine, the forecast for an increased number of general M.D's is dim,
Cave-in-Rock citizens mourn the passing of their last and only doctor. For
instance, the funeral director wonders how he will ever manage his problems
with death certificates and other similar red tape without the aid and advice
of a town doctor.
Dr. Oxford's medical service dates back to 1918 when he served as a Medical
Corp First Lieutenant in World War I. Soon after his return from the War he
moved to Cave-in-'Rock to hang out his shingle for medical practice. The
place was known to white men in the early 18th centhry and mentioned in the
"History of New France" in 1744. In later years with relentness effort by
citizens such as Dr. Oxford, this area became a state park. With the most
primitive of equipment and with no hospital facilities, he directed himself
to the adventurous business of bringing human souls into the world and
preserving them from premature death. It was a job for a rugged man and a
natural philosopher 2nd. and Dr. Oxford was both. His modes of
transportation for the coultless house calls comprised horseback, horse and
buggy, boat, foot, Model T Ford, plus other outdated models of automobiles
over dirt, graveled and finally paved roads. His "Office" hours spanned
time, any where, his pay was low. No one knows him ever sending a bill for
Doc answered emergency calls promptly and emergencies do have a way of
happening at the most inopportune times. For example,the author vividly
remembers a hot, late afternon in August when a brother broke a left arm
above the elbow and at the same time dislocated the elbow joint. Doc worked
with perspiration streaming from his forehead and without the aid of
anesthesia to set the bones. The task was difficutl for when the humeral
bone was in place the elbow joint would slip again and vice versa, but
somehow he managed. The accident, adding diappointment to tragedy, cancelled
the annual family outing planned for the following day at the Shawneetown
Fair, a big event in those days.
A doctor of medicine may think one thing and feel another. It takes both
thought and feeling to make his philisophy of life. The first he developes;
the other is largely hereditary. Doc was a strong believer in Mother Nature,
which if left at liberty to defend herself would do better than drugs. He
took no drugs himself but practiced healthy principals of living, which paid
off in a long life for him. Previous to his becoming a doctor, Dr. Seba
taught school in Hardin County. To quote three of his pupils:" he was the
best teacher I ever had."
"He possessed the most brilliant mind, I believe, I ever encountered. He
made learning an exciting process. When school was in session he taught and
we learned, but during recesses and noon he played as hard as we did. He was
a wonderful teacher."
"Doc taught me the first year I attended school and I've been 'Little Annie
Green' ever since. I loved him."
Doc Seb believed in education His alma maters include Oakland City College
and St Louis Medical School. He served as a school board member for a number
of years. His two sons, Lowell and Glen are college graduates; both star
athletes in school they chose coaching and second school teaching at home.
Lowell remains legend in Southern Illinois for his successful basketball
temas in spite of no gymnasium and the limited choice of a small enrollment.
Glen is now both principal and coach of Cave-ion-Rock High School with a gym.
Moreover, he and his lovely wife Barbara carry on the family tradition of
community service. As a proud grandfather, Doc beamed when he reported the
progress in school of his granddaughters, Christy and Dixie.
With the passing of Seb the Hardin County Oxfords, which date back to 1841 to
the settling of James R. Oxford with his six sons and two daughters in Rock
Creek Township, lost its staunchest supporter. Doc Seb's father, James A.
Oxford of Rock Creek and the grandson of the original James R. maintained a
joyous homelife for his quartette of sons: Charley, Seb, Herbert and Arza.
His mother Aunt Florence, never knew how many extra guests she would have for
breakfast until the counting. His father fed and saddled many a horse not
only for his own four boys but all who visited. Home, however, was never the
same during World War I when three sons were drafted. Whereas, like Seb. the
clay soil and rolling hills of Rock Creek "from whence cometh my strength"
continue to be hallowed ground for the reamining members of the family.
Of the two original Oxford girls, Rebecca married Arch Rutherford and Hannah
eloped to far-away Eagle Creek to marry Samuel G. Patton. So including the
Rutherfords and Pattons, the Oxford family may seem large. However,
according to geneological records the family is considerably small and are
all related. The early ancestors, named Oxenford, from fording oxen across
streams in England, hailed from Oxfordshire, which was named for the family.
Doc Seb not only knew all of the current family members but he delivered many
of them. He delighted in saying he could tell an Oxford when he held it by
As life is made up for the most part, not of great occasions, but of great
occasions, but of samll everyday moments, it is the giving to those moments
one's greatest peace, pleasnatness, and security that contributes most to the
sum total of human good. In other words, it was the simple little things Doc
did and said which meant so much to so many people. His kind deeds lifted
heavy loads from weary shoulders, soothed hearts, and banished pain. His
gallant personality and gay conversation contributed to laughter, to
excitement, and often to memories of earlier days.
Doc's efficient wife Edna lent a supportive role with his patients, community
service, friends, and family. Her pleasant and always gracious manners
greeted the many callers at their home. Countless people will remember
joining the "family circle" for a jolly evening chat or a longer memorable
visit in front of their home located in the main part of town.
Whether as teacher, doctor, friend, brother, husband, father, grandfather, or
other kin, to know Doc Seb was to love him. Although this attempt to
euloglize Dr. Oxford has been expressed, words are inadequate to "honor a
physician with the honor due unto him."
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