Newton Digital Collections

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Marian Hanna Interview


Marian Hanna Interview


Newton, Kansas - History


Life as the child of Dr. John Thomas Axtell and Dr. Lucena Chase Axtell of Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas


Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas




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Newton Public Library, Newton Kansas, “Marian Hanna Interview,” Newton Digital Collections, accessed April 21, 2024,

A.W. Holt


Marian Hanna


Mrs. Marian Hanna
Dr. Lucena Chase Axtell and Dr. John Thomas Axtell
30. JUNE, 1977

INTERVIEWER: Today is June 30. 1977. and I’m talking with
Marian Hanna. Mrs. George Hanna. I’m Ann Holt.
Mrs .Hanna when were you born and where?
MRS. HANNA: I was born October 4, 1902. in Newton, Kansas.
INTERVIEWER: And who were your parents?

MRS.H: My father was Dr. John Thomas Axtell. My mother was Dr. Lucena Chase Axtell. My father was born in Roseville, Illinois, in 1856. My mother was born in August of 1965 in Elsie, Michigan. My father came to Garnett. Kansas, in a covered wagon. “His father had purchased farmland, lured as many others by the hope of finding a better life in the new territory, “did I say – that was in ’64, 1864 when they came to Garnett.

INTERVIEWER: O.K. Thank you.
MRS.H: My mother came to Kansas from Michigan in a most unusual way. As far as we’ve ever found out, they were the only ones who ever came to Kansas in a freight train. My grandfather had hoped to get government land as he was a veteran and there had been a recession after the civil war
He’d had a small store in the town of Elsie, but it had been affected of course by the-recession, so he hoped, as I’ve said, to get some government land. But when he came to Kansas, he found that the desirable land had already been taken up. So he bought some from the Santa He railroad. That was - north of Burrton. So my grandmother was left with the four children to get to Kansas by herself. So she got all their belongings in this freight car. And she set up housekeeping and
1 Dr. J.T. Axtell, A Tradition, by Theron Glover Sills, June 1960 (not published)

cooked for the train crew as they came through the country.
So, it was a most unusual way to arrive. By that time the railroad had cone to - 1874 was the year of the grasshopper invasion. And the people, the farmers around them had lost everything. And my grandmother had bought quite a little store of commodities, flour and sugar and things of that nature. But she was a very generous woman and very soon she had given everything away, so they had no more than anybody else. My father "came to Newton in May of 1878, riding a white horse, and ate his first meal on the Sand Creek.” 2 He,(I don’t know why he picked Newton to settle) got different
harvest jobs, lasting through summer, and then in the fall, he got a position teaching school, in the Newton Schools. “During his first winter of teaching”, he decided he wanted to study medicine. And it was quite a usual practice for a young candidate to read medicine with another doctor. Dr. J.D. Hartley took him as an apprentice. He was a very wily man, and used ny father as an errand boy, I think, to a large extent.
They slept together in a room, and if the doctor had been out on a call, the story was that when he’d come back, he’d say, "Axtell, you’re on the wrong side of the bed.” and he’d move him out of his warm nest and he’d get in it. Then, he obtained "rooming quarters in the home of Ichabod Chase," and here he learned to know Lucena, their youngest daughter. In order for him to get enough money to go on to real medical school, he got
an appointment with a firm selling maps, and he traveled
around the country selling maps. He earned enough to go up to Ann Arbor to medical school. He was there several years. He was a classmate of Dr.Will Mayo {and he was, who Dr. Mayo} was his inspiration all of his life. But, he went on, awhen he came back to Ann Arbor, he had to start teaching again in order to earn enough money to go on with his medical school. He married my mother, and they moved to Hunnewell, which was on the border between Kansas and Oklahoma. It was where the cowboys brought in Texas cattle. One night, the story was told was that the cowboys came knocking late at night and demanded my father to go out take care of a cowboy who had broken his leg. The fact that they took him at gunpoint was one reason why he felt he must leave his young wife and go. They returned him in good shape the next morning, so evidently the cowboys were satisfied with his treatment. Then by the end of the year,

2 sills, p. 2.
3 Sills. p. 3.
4 Her own paraphrasing.
he was ready to go to New York to Bellvue Hospital Medical School, which was a recognized institution for the study of surgery. They stayed there two years and he got his Medical degree from Bellvue Hospital. He returned to Newton in 1883. He set up practice, although, by that time. Newton was not such a hectic place as it had been earlier. There were still many saloons and dance halls. The “Alamo, The Mint, and the Gold Room were still doing a thriving business.”5
But the cowboy and his girlfriend was not too much in evidence, because "as the railroad had moved on, so had most of the transient people."Farm population was rep1acing the railroad 1abor and the cowboy"6 citizens. Newton’s families even took the train to Florence to the Harvey House to eat their dinners.
INTER.:(How many children were in your family?)
HR. H.:There were two daughters born of the --my
mother always said she had two families, because there were two daughters, and then after she went to medical school, there were two more daughters.
Naturally, they would have liked to have had a son.
And I was, seemed to have been the last hope. And my father must have been rather vocal about this because, before I was born, there was a notice in the Newton Kansan that Dr. Axtell had cut the trees in front of the hospital to make way for a son and heir. So I was the last disappointment.
My father returned to Bellvue for graduate study in 1887.
And when he returned, he brought three lots on East Broadway, with the idea of building a hospital. This was the fifth general hospital in the state of Kansas, and the first hospital established by a private practitioner. This first frame building had room for six patients, and operating room, "nurse’s dormitory and a kitchen in the basement.”7 At this time, my mother went to medical school at Kansas, it was. Called in Kansas City. She went in 1893.
While she was there, the two little girls were with them and my father lectured on orthopedic surgery, while she was there. She graduated at the head of her class in medicine. They started announcement of the opening of a. nurse's training school. And that was probably

5 sills, p. 5.
6 Sills. p. 5.
7 Sills. p. 6.

The first nurse’s training school in Kansas. Instruction was given largely by Dr. Axtell, buy when my mother joined him here, she did a lot of the lecturing, and was really the head of the nurses.
INTER.: Did she have any specialization area?
MRS.H.: Women and children. The “early nurses had not only patience and endurance, but (also) a true attitude of devotion, for their hours were not defined”8 I think it’s interesting, at this time that there was a little notice in the Newton Kansan of Axtell hospital, 207 East Broadway “private room with board from five to ten dollars a week. Trained nurses in attendance”9 at all times. At a time of soaring hospital costs, I think that is hard to believe!
INTER.: It’s refreshing.
MRS.H.: Our rooms were on the first floor, on the east wing of the frame hospital. We had four bedrooms and three living rooms. We ate our meals in the nurses dining rooms with the nurses. My mother was always very busy with the patients and I was a very jealous child of sharing her with other people, so I would hold her hand and go from, sit down outside her room while she went to visit, make the morning call every day. But, in spite of the fact that we had a furnace in the house,
I’m always amazed at how much clothing I wore when I was a little girl, wool underwear, then black sateen bloomers on top of that; a wool petticoat, a wool dress and a white pinafore on top of that, long stockings that were part wool. And that was in a heated house.
Now why, I just can’t imagine why so many clothes were put on a child. That’s always been a puzzle to me.
I noticed in some of your questions to other people you asked about the, if there were paved roads. And I distinctly remember there were not on East Broadway.
I remember my mother picking up her long skirts when she crossed the street there, on the corner of Broadway and Oak. And picking me up under her arm, with the other to go across the street. The sidewalks were wood, wooden.
They were later replaced by brick. ~ the hospital, were the big kitchens. And the butter was churned in an old- fashioned churn. There was lots of fruit canned in the
8 Sills. p. 6
9 Ibid

Summertime. My father liked cooked fruit. And I think my mother would buy large quantities of fruit in the summer. We had two cooks in the basement, and I can remember liking butter very we11 and sampling the butter. And one of the cocks whose name was Minnie Kannaniezer picking me up and spanking me because I took some butter.
INTER. : Your father was ins instrumental in an new era of hygiene.
MRS.H. : Could you talk about that.
MRS.H.: The operating room was a model for its time,
and the utmost care was taken to insure its cleanliness at all times, “Accor ding to a book Lamps on the Prairie, which was written about the early nurses, 1 Dr.Axtell, who had been trained at one of the best schools of the day and had interned in a hospital of high reputation, was especially careful of his operating room. Its painted walls were washed. (Hand scrubbed with a stiff brush, according to Dr. J.L. Grove)10 after each operation and a white muslin shielding the skylight was also replaced”11 Then he used long fish kettles for sterilizing his instruments The scrub up, at that time,was “the most important part of any surgical procedure.”12 for the “use of rubber gloves, by Dr. Halstead at Johns Hopkins was still a few years away. In 1906, Dr. Axtell became one of the first doctors in the area to use these gloves.” uDr. Axtell insisted on a routine procedure of 15 minutes scrubbing, using green soap and a rough brush, ten times on each finger and ten times for each nail was his required”13process.

INTER.: would you talk about your mother’s practice as
well, and how she managed to be a mother in addition to the practice.
Grove, Dr. John L. "Sketch of History of Harvey County Medical Society” Original Manuscript, unpublished.
Writers’ Program of the WPA. Lamps on the Prairie. Emporia, Emporia Gazette. 12
Sills, p.9
13Sills, ibid.
HRS.H.: I’ve always wondered how she managed to make each
of us feel that we were special, because she was a very busy woman. Because we never felt neglected, and she managed to raise us all so that we at least were not a detriment. Maybe I shouldn’t say ---
INTER.: That is an understatement ("detriment").
MRS. K.: But, one of the amusing stories, I think, about
my mother, she was a, there was a, ‘course, the ear1y days, it was quite a thing to have a horse to ride in the evening. A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Leopold Horst, he was the Santa Fe agent here, for many years, came and picked up my mother and took her for a ride on their new horse. They were on Main Street. The Santa Fe train cane and blew its whistle and the horse ran away, threw my mother out of the carriage. And the ladies, at that time, if they did’t have sufficient hair to have quite a bouffant - well to look like they had a lot of hair, they used a switch, which, that was the term of extra hair. When my mother was thrown out of the carriage, her switch came off. She’d broken her ankle, but she crawled on her hands and knees to pick up the switch and put it, stuffed it in her shirtwaist. She was on crutches for quite some time, which I remember. But, in spite of all that, how she had time to do china painting has been a puzzle to me. But the ladies at that time did china painting, and my mother did, too. And we have several pieces that we still have. She sent one piece of rosejar (a china jar for potpourri) that I am happy to have to the St. Louis fair and had got a prize on it. So that’s a treasure I have. Years after she stopped practicing, I would, I drove her around a good deal to do errands,
and people would come up to her and say, "Oh, Dr. Lucena, surely you remember me. I was so sick and doctor thought that I would surely not live. But you came and stood beside me and held my by the hand and it made me feel so much better.”14
That was the phrase that always was reiterated, "You held me
by the hand and I felt so much better." And I’ve thought
many times maybe some modern doctors don’t use that as much as---
And it was evidently a great help to the patient.

"In 1913, a_three-story and basement fire-proof structure was built."15
It had an elevator and a fire-proof shaft and this structure has been enlarged many times since.

Mrs. Hanna quoting.
Sills, p.12

then. It. was a very fine building. It was built for the ages. They discovered when they wanted to put in air conditioning they had a terrible time, because it was so well built, they just could hardly get the air conditioning apparatus installed. It was one of the first institutions in the state to buy a supply of radium.
It was, they bought 100 milligrams. It was valued at approximately $100.00 a milligram. And sometimes they removed the radium and one of the nurses failed to realize the value of the radium. And it was removed with the soiled dressing and thrown away with the regular waste and taken to the incinerator. When they discovered that the radium, was missing, "it required the services of a physicist from Kansas University using an instrument similar to a Geiger counter to locate the radio—active material in the ashes. Two barrels of these ashes were sent to Pittsburgh, where the radium was recovered, and processed. More than 90 per cent of the radium was recovered, and this was restandardized, placed again in the platinum needles and returned for use in the hospital."16
“..again showing the foresight which was so much a part of his character. Dr. Axtell realized the hospital services were becoming too complex, extensive and costly to be operated as private institution, and that the privately owned hospital, so helpful to the earlier days of medicine, would soon be the exception." So on "February 10, 1925, the Axtell Hospital was transferred from Dr.J.T. Axtell and Dr. Lucena C. Axtell to the Kansas Christian Missionary Society. Perhaps one factor influencing his decision to give the hospital to this group was the desire for his work in life to be perpetrated by a charitable and religious organization.”17 While Dr. Axtell’s medical work was a major role, it was “Bv no means the limits
Of his interest”18 or activity. Because he came from a farming family, he was always very interested in farms and owned quite a lot of farm property and was "especially interested in the raising and improvement of livestock.”19 He always loved fine horses, and; in the early days, the horses were what he relied on to take him for country visits. So he was also a "horse and buggy doctor." He had a large stable of horses, "including the locally famous Gambriel and the record-holding trotter and

Sills, p.14
Sills, p.14
Sills, p.15.

namesake, Axtell. When trotting horses went out of style he moved into the field of Percheron horses. “In 1905, he held one of the biggest horse sales in the state of Kansas at Wichita. And that evening, he bought back about $15,OOO”20 and since the banks were closed, they put the money under my grandmother1s mattress. He thought that nobody would go and disturb an old lady*s sleep in the middle of the night. "He was also interested in cattle, and went to Wisconsin to bring back registered Holsteins and Guernseys, the first in Harvey County." He had "long recognized the abortive tendencies of Bank’s disease and insisted that all infected cattle be destroyed.
He was also "interested, concerned I should say, with tuberculosis in cattle. And on "night calls, his only accepted food was milk-toast." It not only provided nourishment, but it helped to pasteurize the milk." He was "always active in medical societies and was one of
the earliest members of the Harvey County Medical Society.”21 In 1904, he served, and in 1910 as second vice president and as its president in 1911. "He worked as associate editor for the Journal of the Kansas Medical Society
from 1926 to 1934." He was "one of the founders and first president of the Kansas Hospital Association, and for many years, served as secretary." Served for a number of years on the I Kansas State Hoard of Health, on the
Medical Examining Board and during the First World war as one of the three men on the State Board of Exemptions for the draft; "One of the real pleasures in his life was has duties in holding an adult Bible class in the congregational church. He is remembered as a wonderful teacher, and one who loved to spend many hours quoting and arguing passages from the Bible."22 I do remember him studying his Sunday school lessons very hard on Saturdays. He seemed "to take great pride in watching something grow and improve through his efforts. This is shown in his works with the hospital, the various organizations she joined and in his farming. As part of his interest in growth came the City of Newton, and he played an
Important part in the construction of many of the business
and public buildings."23 I don’t know whether he built
Sills, p.16
Sills, p.16
Sills, p.17

some of those buildings. He owned several of the different ones. But whether he, he was part owner of the hotel, the Ripley Hotel and helped with the construction I remember. I remember that.
IlifER.: (That was supposed to be a fine hotel.)
MRS. H.: Yes, it was. He owned several buildings,
but I really don’t remember whether he built them or whether he bought them.
"The foundation laid by Dr. Axtell and other city founders had proved sound. Newton’s doctor and patient bed ratio to the population is one of the best in the state. Influx of industry had greatly expanded the boundaries of the town. The community owes much to this breed of man who established not only the physical structure of the town, but also set the intellectual and spiritual standards, and today their spirit is felt in all walks of activity in Newton”24
INTER.: Thank you.
Quoted material by permission of Theron G. Sills.

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