The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Doc Pearce's name worth remembering

 

March 29, 2018



The next time you are waiting to see a doctor or nurse practitioner in Clovis or Portales, here’s a name worth remembering: John Sidney Pearce.

Better known as Doc Pearce, this Roosevelt County pioneer physician came to eastern New Mexico about 1900, setting up practice in Portales while New Mexico was still a territory.

He was a pillar of the medical community for the next 40 years, remembered in numerous local historical accounts.

Pearce’s house was one of the first dwellings constructed in Portales, according to Portales City Councilman Oscar Robinson, who owns the home and lives there today.

But here’s the really remarkable thing about Pearce, a fact almost impossible to fathom in 2018: For the early years of his practice, he was the only doctor — the one and only doctor — in a region that stretched from Roswell to Hereford.

In an entry for the book “Early Settlers of Roosevelt County, New Mexico,” Pearce’s daughter, Mrs. Sidney J. Stone, wrote that her father owned two buggies and three teams of horses, and made house calls up to 100 miles away.

“When a trip was too long or too far,” she wrote, “the ranchers would lend him fresh horses to go on.”

Penicillin didn’t come along until 1928, so for much of Pearce’s practice he worked with limited resources in a vast territory.

“No night was ever too cold or too bad for him to go,” his daughter recalled. She said her father also prided himself on never directly asking a patient to pay, although “lots of people took advantage of this.”

Pearce was a few weeks shy of his 75th birthday when he died in early 1941 after being hospitalized at Clovis Memorial Hospital for about a week with what the newspaper accounts called “blood poisoning.”

Robinson has a framed collection of newspaper clippings about Pearce’s death and funeral. Those accounts credit the pioneer doctor with assisting with 6,000 births during his lifetime, although in her version, Stone says 3,000.

Whatever the actual number, there was no question of his status as a beloved member of the community.

“Like many doctors, he was often called upon to give men and women of this county advice on matters outside of the medical field,” according to one of the framed newspaper clippings. “His word was final with them. No man in Roosevelt County was more universally loved and respected.”

In our 21st century world of hospitals and emergency rooms and acute care clinics, it’s hard to believe that only a century ago, we had one dedicated man taking care of this whole region without much more at his disposal than a generous heart.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not willing to give up the advances of modern medicine. But I sure wish I had known old Doc Pearce. I’m certain I would have liked him.

Betty Williamson can’t even imagine riding 100 miles in a buggy. Reach her at: pepnm@hotmail.com

 
 

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