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William S. Webb and Judith Webb Greenan.

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DR. WEBB

Dr. William Stephen Webb, 1879-1952

Written by William Stephen Webb, Jr. 

The community referred to him as their "family doctor," but their esteem in which they held him showed clearly that they considered him more "family" than "doctor." All his life, "Doc" Webb's patients came first, last, and always. He never ceased to give the best he had or look for the best in others.

The son of Dr. William George and Louisa (Atkinson) Webb, he was born in Cameron, Ohio, January 1, 1879, the youngest of five children. He received his early education there and was a graduate of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Baltimore, Maryland, Class of 1904. [See The Webb Family of Monroe County, Ohio]

SCHOOL

Cameron School, Cameron, Ohio, circa 1940

Most of the male members of this proud family, from the American Revolution to the middle 1800s, were in the tanning business, or worked as saddle makers or blacksmiths. They were taught by their elders and, in general, followed in their footsteps. But unlike the other males of several generations, Dr. Webb followed the path of his father, who started to practice medicine in 1861 in the small Southeast Ohio town of Cameron.

Cameron

Cameron, Ohio, circa 1900

Cameron

Dr. William George Webb (1836-1915), circa 1910

Shortly after graduating from medical school, Dr. William Stephen Webb married Emma Lisle Brock. They were married in 1904 in a small ceremony in Miss Brock's home in Cadiz, Ohio, in the presence of close friends and family. They first made their home in Cameron, living with Dr. Webb's father until he secured a position as a Physician and Coroner for Belmont, Pleasants County, West Virginia.

Dr. Webb practiced medicine in Belmont, West Virginia from 1904 to 1909, until encouraged by a colleague, Dr O. D. McCoy, to move to the Ohio County, West Virginia town of Warwood, "a growing community," and practice medicine.

The impact Dr. Webb made on the residents of Belmont is evidenced by the following news article published in the local paper in 1909:

“Despite the efforts of the host of friends of Dr. Webb to dissuade him from leaving Belmont, he has gone to continue the practice of his profession in Warwood, W. Va., a suburb of Wheeling. He has left a vacancy here that will be hard to fill. By his more than ordinary skill as a practitioner, his pleasing personality and the instincts of the true gentleman, which are always in evidence in his kindly, courteous treatment, to rich and poor alike, he so endeared himself to those whom he came in contact that it is small wonder our people tried to keep him from leaving. With them go the best wishes of many friends they made during their three years stay in this place, and all that will be necessary to insure a bright career in the Doctor profession is patronage commensurate to his ability.”

Warwood

Warwood, West Virginia, 1920

Three children were born to the union of Dr. Webb and Emma. The first, William Lisle, born October 3, 1906, died two days later. The second child, Margaret, was born in Warwood June 1908, and died in Connecticut in 1972. The third child, Martha, was born in Warwood in 1917 and died in 2004 in Cadiz, Ohio.

Webb House

Dr. Webb's Home & Office, Warwood, W. Va., 1917

Dr. Webb built his home and office in 1917 at 1705 Warwood Avenue in Warwood. His office consisted of three rooms that were located on the right side of the house. One room was a patient waiting room, another was for medicines, and the third room was his examination room and office. A large S-shaped roll top desk located in one corner of the examination room and the examination table was located in the center. The front of the house had a large front porch that patients used when it was warm, or when there were too many patients for the waiting room.

Dr. Webb's office hours were early afternoon and early evening. Many patients would be there early, and some remained after the scheduled closing hour. All were seen. Early morning hours were devoted to hospital rounds and home calls. He also visited patients after his evening office hours, if called upon.

Elizabeth Webb

Elizabeth Ahart Webb (1908-1975), R. N., 1929

The death of Dr. Webb's wife, Emma, occurred in 1935. Two years later, Dr. Webb married Elizabeth Louise Ahart in Charleston, West Virginia. Elizabeth was a registered nurse at Wheeling Hospital and they shared similar interests. She had graduated from the Wheeling Hospital School of Nursing in 1929. To this union two children were born, both still living in 2010. - MORE ABOUT ELIZABETH

Dr. & Elizabeth Webb

Dr. Webb and Wife, Elizabeth Ahart Webb, circa 1940

Dr. Webb volunteered as the Warwood High School Physician from the inception of the school until the day of his death. He also provided his services to the Ohio County Draft Board as a member of the U. S. Volunteer Medical Service Corps for World Wars I & II. He was a member of the Ohio County Medical Association, West Virginia Medical Association, the West Virginia State Gladioli Association and the American Rose and Peony Society. He also served as a director of the Bank of Warwood, a member of the Warwood Boosters Club, and a member of the First Christian Church.

Regardless of race or social stature, Dr. Webb provided care to everyone in the community. His interest was personal and intimate, with a deep desire to care for his people before any concern for his own financial gain. Many times a patient would have trouble getting him to accept his rightful fee. Sometimes his advice was, "Don't pay now; it's cheaper if you wait for a bill." Then he would often "forget" to send a bill. If a patient could not afford his or her medication, he would pay for it himself. If a family was having financial trouble, he made sure they had food on the table.

Elizabeth assisted her husband in the care of the patients, doing lab work, etc. She also did the book work, sending statements to patients. Dr. Webb had been sending all the lab work to outside labs, which caused delays and was costing a great deal. Considering her training as a nurse and her laboratory education, she decided to convert the medicine room to an in-office lab, which saved time and money. Dr. Webb was far from being mercenary so she did not share with her husband the fees she charged for the lab work. She felt that her husband would not approve of charging his patients, as many of them were of limited means, and many times he would not charge them for his services. Elizabeth saved the money she received for doing the lab work.

An interesting story related to the fees charged for lab work: Dr. Webb had a patient that died during a winter snow storm. After the storm passed, the body had to be carried from the house, as the farm lane had drifted shut. In the early spring, after the spring thaw, Dr. Webb was doing a house call with the widow and she mentioned that her farm would be the ideal place for him to grow his flowers. He mentioned this to his wife, Elizabeth, and expressed that he would like to buy the farm but they could not afford it. Elizabeth confessed that she had been saving the money that she charged for the patients' lab work; the farm was purchased in 1946. A major part of the purchase price was paid in cash, and the remainder was paid through a loan.

Dr. Webb never lacked appreciation of the earth's beauty or failed to express it. He was a devotee of growing exquisite flowers, especially gladioli and roses. He produced prize-winning blooms that brought inestimable delight to everyone who passed his home. He constantly worked to create a new vision of beauty through the hybridization of numerous species of gladioli, peonies, roses, lilacs, and iris. His award winning hybrids brought him great notoriety in horticultural circles. His most famous hybrid, the "White Symphony" gladiolus, won the highest award given by the National Council of State Garden Clubs.

In 1950, Dr. and Mrs. Webb attended a Gladiolus Show at the Oglebay Park Pine Room in Wheeling. They entered one of their seedlings which won First Prize (Best In Class) on the first and second day of the show. This success carried over to the following year in which the seedling ("White Symphony") won the same awards again. They contacted a commercial grower, Alfred Moses, and he introduced the gladiolus to other enthusiasts. The proceeds paid the remaining debt for the farm.

Elizabeth shared her husband's interest in horticulture. She soon discovered the expense of purchasing new varieties of flowers and decided to do her own hybridizing. She even experimented in using radiation (x-rays) to alter the genetic composition of seeds exposed to low doses of radiation. She did have some success in developing a double gladiolus but it did not survive. They had several thousands of peonies, iris, lilacs, roses, dahlias, etc.

BACKYARD

Dr. and Mrs. Webb's Backyard, circa 1940

Dr. and Mrs. Webb also hybridized peonies and iris, naming one of their peony seedlings after the renowned opera singer, Eleanor Steber.

STEBER PEONY

Photo of the "Eleanor Steber Peony," taken by George Kossuth,
a friend of Dr. Webb, in 1947. Handwritten on the
lower left: "A Beautiful Peony is named for a great American singer. W. S. Webb"

The farm they purchased in 1946 was known for many years as the “Webb Farm.” It was purchased by the Archdioese of Wheeling in 1962, and is now known as “Paul VI Pastoral Center.” PHOTO & ARTICLE

Dr. Webb practiced medicine in the time when doctors still made house calls. He answered his patients calls at all hours of the night, in all kinds of weather. In fact, he did this without regard for his own health even to the end, for his last act was to answer the call of a patient, barely make it home, and take to what proved to be his deathbed.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Articles & Document Related to Dr. Webb

Elizabeth Ahart, Student Nurse

"White Symphony" Gladioli, 1950

Dr. Webb with "White Symphony" Gladioli, 1950

William Webb Bible, 1815
(Settled in Wheeling early 1810s; son of John, b July 3, 1739, England; died 1807, Hardy County, (W) Va.)

James Webb Bible, 1815
(Brother of William; b 1784; lived & died in Hardy County.)

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Web Page by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.

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