I wrote an article about Dr. Young a while ago. Some people asked me why I didn’t write on another East Greenwich doctor who was equally known and liked, Dr. Fenwick Taggart.
I tried to explain that I didn’t know Dr. Taggart as well, though my family had done business with him as well as Dr. Young. We also went to Dr. Baute, occasionally. We tried to spread our dollar around in those days in an effort to help everyone. So, Dr. Taggart got my share, and my sisters’ share, of colds and flus, and the like.
He was OK too, but came across a little bit harder and sterner to me, and I guess, I bridle some against that type of personality, though I’ve been told I am a bit stern and hard myself. Oh well, that’s for those head doctors to figure out.
Anyway, I can read and research with the best of them, even though I don’t like to, and with a little bit of help here and there, I managed to come up with just enough of a story to give old Dr. Taggart his due.
In his own way, Dr. Taggart was as unique as Dr. Young was. Like I’ve said before, we had a lot of special people here in this little burg of East Greenwich, long before we were “discovered” by outsiders and big city folk came here to show us “boondockers” how to do things right. The special people here knew what to do, and they did a lot of great, little things. And, some Big things also.
Dr.Taggart came to East Greenwich in 1904. It was a dark, snowy, cold Sunday night when he arrived. He walked down Main Street just to look the town over. He didn’t plan on staying long as he was just here to fill in for one of the town’s doctors, who was sick in bed with the flu himself.
Fenwick Taggart was fresh out of the University of Vermont Medical School, and a New York post-grad medical experience. He figured on staying in East Greenwich for a week or so. Well, that doctor, you know, the one with the flu? He died. So, Dr. Taggart unpacked his bags and started serving the people of East Greenwich.
Those bags stayed unpacked for more than 50 years!
Dr. T was well liked, and like many general practitioners in small towns, he performed all kinds of medical services. He figured he delivered over 2,500 babies and cured thousands upon thousands of colds. He patched up accident victims and athletic injuries and a few hunting and fishing wounds.
The hardy souls in East Greenwich at the time, the quahauggers, fishermen, firemen and athletes didn’t always have the time to take off and go to Providence for care, or for operations. A lot of times they’d show up at the office, show Dr. T their injury, and jump right up on his kitchen table so he could perform the operation right there.
One local man who had to go to Boston for an operation, insisted that Dr.Taggart be there with him. Dr. Taggart said he would, so he traipsed up to Boston a day early. He couldn’t get a hotel room so he slept in North Station for the night and was at the hospital “just to be there.” He didn’t operate, or do anything else. He just kept his word and was there for his patient and friend. That is a great example of the things we were used to in this small town. Imagine a modern day doctor doing that. Doubt it.
In his early days, when telephones were a scarcity, and a luxury here in old E.G., people used to come into town from Frenchtown with a horse and wagon to pick up the good Doctor and take him out to the “boonies” to tend to his patients.
Dr. T had his own horse and buggy when he first got started and he used to drive it around town when making the rounds to visit his patients. He made those rounds rain or shine, as dependable to his people as the U.S. mail. Maybe even more so.
Dr. Taggart was born in Charlotte, Vt., in 1876, the son of John and Mary Taggart. After getting a pharmacist’s degree and going to med and post grad school, he came to East Greenwich as was aforementioned.
While here he met Edyth Smithies. They were married at the Little Church Around the Corner in New York. They had one daughter.
He served in the Spanish-American War and also WWI. He was so eager to serve in WWI that he quit smoking for a year to get into condition. He was accepted and became a major, serving in France and Germany. He tried to enlist in WWII but they said he was too late. He had just turned 65 nine days before he presented himself to the recruiting board. Can you imagine that happening today?
When he first came to East Greenwich he had his office in the Masonic Building. Later he moved to the house on the corner of Main and Montrose Streets.
Besides his regular duties, he busied himself with examinations of local school kids at Eldredge, high school athletes and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in town.
He was also an active member of many of the town’s social and civic groups including the Lions, Varnum Continentals, Greenwich Club and the American Legion, along with many medical associations.
He came to East Greenwich in 1904. He never planned to stay. Over 50 years later he was still here, and we were the better for it. Another great addition to a great, little town. He became just one more local legend in a town with more than its share of legends and lore. He was just one more story to tell that needed telling.
And now it has been told.
One night in the fifties, Vinnie Putnam and I ducked into the alley beside the Greenwich Theatre. Putnam wanted to get out of the wind so he could light his cigar. Some people may remember that as a teenager he often smoked cigars—either expensive ones that came in a glass tube or super cheap Parodis that looked like a dried twig and smelled worse. On this night he had an expensive one. After it was lit he held the glass tube in front of him with both hands as if he were going to break it.
“These tubes are so strong,” he said, “you can’t break them.”
I grabbed the tube. ”Of course you can. It’s just glass.” And with little effort I broke it, not only in half, but into many shards, some of which tore through the webbing between the thumb and forefinger of my left hand. Blood squirted everywhere. Holding it tight with my right hand, I ran into the theatre. My plan was to go into the men’s room and stanch the blood with toilet paper.
Mrs. Forest was selling tickets that night and screamed at the sight of all the blood. She gave me some hand towels, which I have o admit worked much better than toilet paper. Then she dragged me a couple of doors south to Dr. Taggert’s house, where he also had his office. I didn’t want to go because of the expense. His day had long been over, but he calmly sized up the situation and took me into his surgery where he cleaned the wound and put in a couple of stitches. I never did get a bill.
That was my only professional encounter with Dr. Taggert, but I still have a fond memory of the man.
We always went to Doctor Taggert. For some reason even as a toddler I hated going to the doctor. I would sit on the examining table while Dr. Taggert sat on his stool and I would kick him over and over and over. Each visit I would kick and he’d grab my knees to stop me.
During one visit I started to kick and he grabbed both my knees harder than usual. Looking straight into my eyes he said, Carole if you kick me again, I will kick you right back.” I didn’t kick him then or ever again.
From then until he retired I was always polite and respectful to him. He was a good doctor and knew how to treat a very stubborn little girl.