doctors in Gillespie
County didn't keep regular office hours. Many of the earliest
doctors didn't even have offices. Doctoring, more often than not,
was done at the home of the patient. Middle of the night house calls
were routine. A physician could be called into action anytime.
Dr. William Keidel, born in Hildesheim, Germany, came to Galveston,
Texas in 1845. From Galveston
he traveled to New
Braunfels and then to Fredericksburg
where he was the Vereins doctor, the Adelsverein having promised the
emigrants medical services in their contracts.
Dr. Keidel lived on Bear Creek, but on certain days he would see patients
in town. Whether there was one or two patients or a whole roomful
he received a $1.50 an afternoon for treating them.
Even Indians came to Dr. Keidel for treatment. Their way of paying
him was to sneak up during the night and leave a dressed deer carcass
or a wild turkey hanging from a tree in the yard.
At first Dr. Keidel traveled everywhere on horseback, but around the
start of the Civil War he bought a buggy made by a wheelwright and
upholsterer in Fredericksburg.
The buggy had a black oilcloth top and was fairly waterproof.
People knew the days Dr. Keidel went to town. On those days they would
bring sick friends and family members out to meet him, and he would
treat them there along the side of the road.
Dr. William Keidel's grandson, Dr. Victor Keidel, (born in Fredericksburg
in 1882) borrowed money from Henry Klaerner to buy his first horse
and saddle. Later he bought a "gig"- a light 2-wheeled wagon with
a forked drawbar pulled by a single horse. A gig was high enough off
the ground to clear most big rocks and stumps and ford most creeks
without getting the driver's feet wet.
| Dr. Victor Keidel
Courtesy Fredericksburg Standard
| Dr. Victor Keidel
liked to hunt, but doctoring took up most of his time. Sometimes he
tied his hounds to the axel of his gig and took them along so he could
do a little hunting between house calls.
Dr. Victor Keidel was the first Gillespie
County physician to own a car. He delivered over 3,000 babies
in his 50-year career and couldn't afford to be slow in races with
His first car was an Overland, and it was the 5th car purchased in
the county. The car number, today's equivalent of a license plate,
was number 5. He kept the number 5 until the state law regulating
license plate numbers changed.
A salesman sold Dr. Keidel on the idea of buying a car by telling
him he could go out on a midnight call and be home in time for breakfast.
But a car had its drawbacks. Dr. Keidel's car once sat in a mud hole
for 2 weeks, bogged up to the axels, before the ground dried enough
to drag it out.
One night Dr. Victor Keidel made a house call to a sick man in
Willow City. Woman's intuition told Mrs. Keidel (Clara Stieler)
to go along.
On a particularly dangerous part of the road the headlamps on the
car went out so Mrs. Keidel walked ahead of the car with a lantern.
Then a storm came up, and a heavy rain put the lantern out.
Without a lantern, visibility was zero. Sitting in a car that dark
and stormy night was like standing in a dark closet or at the bottom
of a well.
To keep the car out of the ditch Mrs. Keidel ran ahead as far as she
could at each flash of lightning and called to Dr, Keidel who drove
to the sound of her voice. Then they would wait for the next lightning
flash to go a little farther down the road.
Once when the river was out, Dr. Victor Keidel drove his car across
the Pedernales railway tressel to reach a critically ill patient on
the other side. His passenger decided the crossing was too risky and
Doctoring in the early days of Gillespie
County was always an adventure. Sometimes getting there was an
adventure in itself.
Fredericksburg Standard, July 28, 1938. An entire edition dedicated
to the Keidels and the new Keidel Hospital.
"Community Mourns Death of Dr. Victor Keidel," Fredericksburg Standard,
November 12, 1952.