Donald Bowen, M.D., Logging Camp Doctor

Dr. Donald Bowen Exhibit: Journal, Brown Company Logging Camp, Magalloway, Maine, 1941

July 1995 Press Release: “Brown Company Woods Doctor Donates Journal to Rangeley Logging Museum”

Dr. Donald Eyre Bowen, M.D., of Weston, Massachusetts, recently donated his thirty-five page journal to the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum of Rangeley, Maine.   Written during his days as doctor for the Brown Company at Magalloway, Maine, in 1941, the journal, with its twenty-one photographs, catalogues his activities from February 4, 1941 when he first arrived at the Berlin, New Hampshire, mill until the time of his wedding the following June.  Dr. and Mrs. Bowen lived in Magalloway until he was inducted into the United States Army Air Force medical service in July of 1942, and an epilogue to the journal brings readers up to date on that period of his life.

Dr. Bowen, a 1939 graduate of Tufts Medical School in Boston, was interviewed for the position of Brown Company camp doctor by Mr. Perly Churchill on January 29, 1941.  And on February 4th, he reported for work.  That night, Dr. Bowen wrote in his journal: ABought a woods outfit consisting of cap, mackinaw, stockings, pants, boots, inner soles, and flannel shirt to the tune of $24.76.  Advised as to what to get by Roy Woodworth and Bert Corkum, a Camp overseer of the Brown Company Lumber Camps and who lived in Milan, New Hampshire, here his wife Josie ran the telephone exchange.”

The work of a woods camp doctor took Dr. Bowen to many varied situations: hospitals, mills, woods camps, steamboats, and private homes.  Dr. Bowen made rounds with Dr. Garrish at the St. Louis Hospital in Berlin. He saw patients at Berlin Mill office and did physical exams there.  On a typical morning, like that of February 10th, he would complete forty exams.  And, with Frank Surrett, his hospital orderly, he examined patients back at the Brown Farm.

Dr. Bowen’s primary patients were the men of the region’s woods camps.  On May 22nd, he wrote in his journal, “Drove to Kennebago Lake and saw Jack Kingston who got slapped in the chest by a pickpole handle.  Strapped his chest. . . . Had supper and drove to Errol wangan to see a man who had put a pulphook in his shin.”  He examined men in the Pickney and Nadeau Camps in Millsfield and Dixfield.  With Mr. Harold York, he regularly drove the twenty-two miles from Cupsuptic to the Dumas Camp to examine men, often fifty at a time. He also saw patients at lumber camps on Dennison Bog, Beaver Pond, and Larry Brook.   He traveled to Seven Islands Camp and camps on Kennebago.  And, on March 4th, Dr. Bowen used a snowmobile to cross nine miles of Richardson Lake to get to Lee Thurston’s camp. In the company of Frank Mariner and Captain Hoar on the launch “Dorothy,” Dr. Bowen went to Upper Dam on Upper Richardson Lake, then to the steamer “Rowell” where examined two men on May 8th.

As he traveled from camp to camp, he watched the loggers at work.  On April 22nd, he drove to Dennison Bog Road to watch the men drive the brook with a head of water.  There, he took a photo of the log jam at the landing that had reached seventy-five feet in height.  He was also at  Upper Dam on May 8th to watch them sluice the first boom.

After the United States entered World War II, fewer American men were available to work in the woods, and the Brown Company began bonding men from over the border in Canada.  Dr. Bowen traveled to Jackman, Maine to do pre-employment exams, checking the men’s hearts, lungs, blood pressure, and looking for any obvious physical defects.

Since Dr. Bowen was the only physician within a radius of forty miles from the Brown Farm, he was often called to see local Maine and New Hampshire residents.  On February Th, he prescribed emagrin, soda bicarbonate, and fluids to one-year-old Alvin Gross, sick with enlarged tonsils and a 103 degree fever.  And on the evening of March 20th, just as he had crawled into bed, Dr. Bowen was called to the home of Mrs. Florence White in Errol for a home delivery.  When he got there, however, he found that the baby was coming breech, so he drove Mrs. White to Berlin’s St. Louis Hospital and delivered her baby boy there at five in the morning.  His journal for the next day mentions, simply, “Slept until noon.”

Cases of impetigo in Wentworth Location and measles among the Emerson children in Magalloway Plantation kept him busy, too.  Dr. Bowen also treated Magalloway’s hermit, Don Perry, for bronchitis.

The Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum is proud to add this journal to its collection and invites the public to meet Dr. and Mrs. Bowen at the Museum’s Festival Days on Friday and Saturday, July 28th and 29th.  Dr. Bowen’s journal and photographs will also be on display for festival goers to enjoy.

— Peggy Yocom, Folklorist and Curator, Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum, 1995.

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