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Doctors Reuben and Homer Matthews

The first to open a medical practice in Red Rock was Reuben Matthews, son of Osee Matthews, Sr. He was later joined by his brother Homer who had also “read” for his medical training, and the two were known as “Old Doc” and “Young Doc”. The two Matthews brothers were indeed pioneer doctors. No real roads existed, only trails, and when called out at night, whichever doctor who went carried a lighted lantern in his buggy in order to see those trails. On the way back the horse was often allowed free rein as he knew the way home, thus allowing the doctor to get a much needed nap.

The doctor had a few medicines with him packed in a leather bag strapped to his chest to treat for the most common ailments. He generally carried castor oil, calomel, quinine, and often an instrument to bleed the patient, a common remedy for various diseases, and pliers to pull teeth. The doctor acted also as a dentist. Often the household visited had a supply of home remedies which ranged from herbs, bark and cherry tea which the wife or grandmother had gathered from the woods as the indians had done before them. Reuben left Red Rock in 1852, off for the California gold rush. Homer moved westward to Nebraska and opened a practice there.

From: Red Rock, Iowa, Annals of a Frontier Community 1843-1969 by Harriet Heusinkveld

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