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Out of the Morgue
Great Bends First Car and Its Owner
otm vlc Dr. Meade pic
Here, a photo of Dr. Meade in his military days. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, along with wife Gertrude. - photo by courtesy of the Barton County Historical Society Museum

This week, Out of the Morgue welcomes guest writer and Barton County Historical Museum historian Karen Neuforth. This is an updated article from Village Crier, June 2008.

Since I do a considerable amount of research in old newspapers now and then, there are times when an item will catch my eye and curiosity gets the better of me. Then, off I go, chasing after stray geese that may have flown far from the fields and skies of Barton County.

The March 18, 1915, issue of the Great Bend Tribune featured an automobile section and included the following story:

“The first motor car in Great Bend that attracted much attention was Dr. R.H. Meade’s “Queen” or “Elk’s Special” which the doctor ran about town and which the Elks took in hand in later years. This Olds car was a going scamp and even in her old age -- after Clyde Yeo engineered a lot of future Elks about town in the thing she was not to be laughed at.

“The rear of the old Queen opened and passengers stepped in and took a seat on either side. The driver had a side seat in which another passenger might sit. This old car is remembered by every person in Great Bend over ten and under forty years of age.

“In late years no one claimed to own Queen but she was simply a town pet. A.R. Friedeman’s tender heart was touched and it is said that he burned the old car and has the ashes in an urn at his place of business. No one dares to talk directly to him on the subject -- his heart being tender and touched by the rough handling the old girl received before he had a chance to stop the cruelty to the semi-human automobile.”

Over the years, I’ve heard stories of various Barton County physicians and their modes of transportation, but I had no heard this particular story. If it’s to be believed (and occasionally our early newspaper reporters tended to embellish things just a wee bit), we know the fate of the car. But, whatever happened to Dr. Meade?

First, I checked the federal and state census records and located Dr. Meade and family in Great Bend beginning in 1900. Next, I started looking in local biographical books and found an entry about Dr. Meade in A Biographical History of Central Kansas, published in 1902. Amid the sometimes-florid prose, we learn that Reginald H. Meade “was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1870, and is a son of David Mead [sic], D.D., whose successful life permitted him to live in quiet retirement during his last days. He died in 1889, at the age of fifty-nine years.” The biographical sketch details Dr. Meade’s education at St. Louis Medical College and Beaumont Hospital Medical College (Class of 1896), followed by his initial practice of medicine in St. Louis. He worked there until 1899, when he moved to Great Bend.

Dr. Meade’s wife was Cora, daughter of Joseph Hoppie of St. Louise and, at the time this sketch was written, they were the parents of one son, Arthur Heber Meade. Missouri marriage records show that Reginald H. Meade and Cora F. Hoppie were married in St. Louis on 20 July 1896, shortly after his graduation from Beaumont.

The good doctor was also active in various fraternal organizations, being a Mason and Odd Fellow, as well as a member and examining physician of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, the Modern Woodmen, the Maccabees, the National Aid, Woodmen of the World and Royal Neighbors.

That took care of things through 1902, but what happened after that? The 1905 Kansas State Census shows Dr. Meade, his wife Cora, their son Arthur and the doctor’s sister Helen. However, later that year, Cora (Hoppie) Meade died the evening of 19 November 1905 was buried in Section Q of Great Bend Cemetery.

The 1910 federal census shows that Dr. Meade had a new wife, Gertrude, and the doctor’s brother Prentiss had joined the household in the 2200 block of Broadway. By 1912, the family had disappeared from Great Bend.

It took a while to locate the family using the 1920 federal census, success coming when I searched for Gertrude, rather than under the doctor’s name. You see, for whatever reason, the census taker listed him as “Richard” rather than “R.H.” or “Reginald”. Anyway, there they were at 2008 Forest Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, with two more sons added: Eason and Richard (or maybe he was Reginald, too).

Now, knowing that I needed to look in Missouri, I started checking biographical resources for that state and located an excellent piece, accompanied by a portrait of our subject in uniform, in Centennial History of Missouri, published in 1921:

“Dr. Reginald H. Meade, who has shown well merited progress in the practice of general surgery in Kansas City and who made an exceptional record as regimental surgeon in France during the World War, was born in Louisville, Kentucky, March 19, 1873, a son of David and Nancy (Chenoweth) Meade, who were natives of Oldham county, Kentucky. The father became a Methodist minister but preached only at intervals. He spent most of his life in railroad work. He very active during the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1878-9.”

The biography repeats Dr. Meade’s educational history and practice as a physician, stating that he moved from Great Bend to Kansas City in 1911, “where he has since specialized in the practice of general surgery, and is very able in the profession, being known as one of the leading surgeons of the city.” It continues:

“In 1917 Dr. Meade enlisted for service in the World War, becoming a captain of the Medical Reserve Corps. He went to Fort Riley for training and was there attached to the Three Hundred and Fifty-fourth Infantry of the Eighty-ninth Division. He was promoted to the rank of major in September, 1917, and in May, 1918, was sent to France., becoming regimental surgeon in his division. He was on active duty at St. Mihiel, in the Meuse Offensive and the Meuse-Argonne and was sited [sic] for exceptional meritorious and conspicuous service April 19, 1919. He was gassed September 26, 1918, but remained with the organization until after the armistice.”

After his return to civilian life, Dr. Meade was on the staffs of Kansas City General Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital. In 1918 he was made a district examiner of the United States Public Health Service. He was a member of the American Legion and various medical associations, plus being a Mason, 32nd Degree Scottish Rite, Mystic Shrine, Elk, Odd Fellow and Knight of Pythias.

This sketch reveals that Dr. Meade was married in 1909 at Kingman, Kansas, to Gertrude Esor (although other records spell the name Eson or Eason), daughter of E.D. Esor, a druggist from Kingman and later of Littleton, Colorado. Dr. and Mrs. Meade’s children are listed as: Arthur H., Reginald Esor, and Richard Kidder.

According to his death certificate, Dr. Meade died soon after this biography was published, succumbing to angina pectoris (complicated by bronchitis following his exposure to mustard gas during the fighting in France) on March 10, 1922. He was initially buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City, but his remains were moved later that year to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His widow, Gertrude, died 9 December 1966 at Arcata, California, and was interred beside Dr. Meade at Arlington four months later.

And that answers the question of “Whatever happened to Dr. Meade?” but still leaves us wondering, “Whatever happened to the Queen Olds’ ashes?”