The story starts in 1854 when Dr. Wiltse and wife Phebe arrived in lower Iowa from French-speaking Canada. His relative already lived there in a cabin in the dense woods near a small town. Everyone had to be strong, brave and hard working so their families didn’t starve.
The historical involvement of the Civil War (1861–1865) and when Lincoln was assassinated at age 56 (1909–1865) really connected these people’s story to reality.
Dr. Alex Wilste was a “Doctor” but with only minimal and basic training, no actual medical school, which was true of all the doctors then. They worked with the few crude instruments they had until after the Civil War. Doctors who served in the war were given more surgical tools which they could take back to their small-town offices.
The author takes us to many tragedies the farmers suffered from animals and falls and equipment. We also saw cholera kill many. Women had babies; some lived a full life while others died in childbirth or of some disease.
Doctors from many miles around gathered regularly to discuss things. One doctor was never invited, and was left out. There was some “bad blood” between him and others, which came to a shocking ending in that small town—one doctor attacking the other. Dr. Wilste had an unexplainable interest in murders, and in the area surrounding his office, there were many.
When the doctors finished treating the humans at a farmstead, the farmer always had an animal or two that needed fixing, so the doctor became a veterinarian for the afternoon.
You will fall in love with these people and want to know more about their life. I sure did, and find myself telling friends about the plight of Dr. Wilste.
The Wilder Memorial Museum and the Strawberry Point Public Library co-sponsored author Betty Brandt Passick at the library on Wednesday, Oct. 13. Betty is a native of Fairbank and currently resides in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Betty is the author of Gangster in Our Midst (2017), which she presented at the museum in 2019. This was her first historical novel that takes place in “Oxbow,” a town similar to Fairbank.
Betty recently announced book two in her Gangster Series: “The Black Bag of Dr. Wiltse, Murder on the Prairie.” The storyteller of this historical novel is Dr. Alexander Wiltse, who served the Colesburg-Strawberry Point area between the mid-1850s until his death in 1876. Dr. Wiltse and Dr. A. B. Ward of Oxbow become fast friends and join forces as pioneer physicians in providing medical care to their respective communities—including murder investigations.
The narrative includes the names of real historical people from the Strawberry Point and Fairbank area — and actual crimes. Among the area’s most horrendous murders in the 250-page book is one that took place in 1856. This novel is well researched and a period piece for those interested in early Northeast Iowa history.
Frederick Scott, 98, of Strawberry Point was a beta reader for The Black Bag of Dr. Wiltse to aid Betty in telling Strawberry Point’s history. Jo (Wiltse) Bodeker was also a beta reader, and reviewed the book as it pertains to Wiltse family genealogy.
For more information, contact Betty at www.BettyBrandtPassick.com. The book will be available on Amazon.com soon.