Is there a Doctor in the Family?

ytomgxzjcA while back, I wrote about my Great-Great Aunt Emma Reinhardt.  When doing research on her, I decided to search for her first husband.  There was so much information on him that I decided to write a separate post about him.  If you like you can go back and read my previous post about Aunt Emma’s two lives.  She married Dr. Frederick L. Orsinger on 2 September 1910.[1]  He was 33 years older than Emma.[2]  He had five children with his first wife, Lena, some older than Emma.[3]  His first wife Lena died in 1903.[4]  I can remember my grandmother would say with disgust in her voice, “Aunt Emma married that old Doc Orsinger.”  As a child I never questioned it.  I knew by my grandmother’s tone of voice she did not like him, but never asked any questions.  It really didn’t matter because this was long before I was born.  The Aunt Emma I knew was a kindly old woman who was now married to a very nice man.  When I went to enter her information into my family tree software, I wanted to be as accurate as possible, so I started looking for “Old Doc Orsinger”.  Well, between Ancestry.com and Google, I came up with a lot of information.  Of course, I always would like more.  “Old Doc Orsinger” seems to be a colorful character to say the least.

“Frederick L. Orsinger was born in Baden, Germany on 8 March 1852.  At four years old he started attending school in his native town until age 14 under the priests of the parochial school.  At age 15 he went to Austria where he studied for a year.  He later spent a year and half in school in Switzerland studying medicine in Zurich.  In 1870 he completed a course in medicine and surgery in Zurich, Switzerland, and from there went to Paris, where he studied for six months. In 1871 he came to the United States and landed in Chicago on 9 October 1871 the same day as the Chicago Fire.  He decided not to stay in Chicago because of the destruction caused by the fire.   He headed for LaSalle, Illinois where he worked in his Uncle’s bakery.  While in LaSalle he purchased a drug store and engaged in the practice of medicine.  He realized that college training in America would prove valuable to him, and studied five years at the college of physicians and surgeons in Chicago, from which he graduated.  He gained experience during a year at Cook County Hospital”.[5]  Sounds like quite a resume doesn’t it?  But then I started to find articles in periodicals about Dr. Orsinger starting about 1903.

Here are some of the articles I found:

  • The Medical News: A Weekly Journal of Medical Science Vol 83, No 1, (New York) Saturday, July 4. 1903, Pg. 274. “Injunction secured by Dr. Orsinger – Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger has secured an injunction restraining the State Board of Health, Justice Chott and his constable from causing imprisonment or enforcing judgement of $100 and costs secured against him for violation of medical Laws.”[6]
  • Journal of the American Medical Association – Medical News Vol 44, April 1, 1905. Pg. 104 “Fined for Illegal practice – Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger on March 24 was fined $200 for practicing without a license. The prosecution was undertaken by Chicago Board of Health.”[7]
  • The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol 44 Jan – June 1905 Pg. 1124 (Chicago: American Medical Association Press, 1905) “Sues state board – Dr. Frederick L. Orsinger, formerly of LaSalle, who claims to be a graduate of Zurich, Switzerland, 1870 and has a diploma from the eclectic institution of April 1904, has asked the state board of Health be compelled by writ of mandamus to issue him a certificate to practice medicine in the state. On March 24 the appellant was fined $200 for violation of the medical practice act.”[8]
  • Bulletin Vol 6 Numbers 1-5 January-May 1910. Dr. F. L. Orsinger Makes New Move in Fight for License. Physician Refused Permit to Practice after Failing in Examinations. Dr. Frederick Leo Orsinger’s long continued fight to be permitted to continue the practice of medicine in Illinois without a state license took a new turn yesterday, when he obtained from Judge Walker in the circuit court a temporary order prohibiting the State Board of Health from prosecuting him.  The question of dissolving the order or making it permanent will be argued today. The Order was issued upon the recommendation of Master in Chancer, Albert W. Brickwood, who according to Attorney Charles G. Hoffman, representing the State Board of Health is the attorney of record for the plaintiff in two actions recently instituted by the National Medical University against the Board.  Sues to Compel Recognition. One of these is a suit for $500,000 damages because of the Board’s refusal to recognize the University.  The other is for a writ of mandamus to compel such recognition.  According to Dr. Orsinger’s bill of complaint, he has been practicing medicine in Illinois since 1872 and is a graduate of the medical schools of Zurich, Switzerland, and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago.  In July 1908 he secured a writ of mandamus directing the State Board to issue him a certificate entitling him to practice.  Board refuses to obey. The board refused to obey the writ, and during last February the mandamus order was vacated and the court held against Dr. Orsinger.  His appeal now is before the Appellate court. “Dr. Orsinger has twice taken the state examination,” said attorney Hoffman, “and has twice failed (Chicago Tribune April 17).  Dissolves Restraining Order.  Court Ends Temporary Injunction Granted Dr. F. L. Orsinger against State Health Board. In the circuit court yesterday Judge Walker dissolved the temporary restraining order which he issued last Friday against the State Board of Health upon the petition of Dr. Frederick Leo Orsinger.  It was held by the court that Dr. Orsinger’s fear of being prosecuted by the Board for practicing medicine without a license was not sufficient reason for issuing an injunction.  Dr. Orsinger was allowed five days in which to amend his petition (Chicago Tribune April 18).[9]
  • Illinois Medical Journal: the official organ of the Illinois State Medical Society Vol 18, July to Dec 1910. Pg. 262, George N. Krieder, M.D., editor “Dr. Fred L. Orsinger, 750 W. Congress, who is said to have fought the State Board of Health for thirty two years against taking out a license to practice medicine, was indicted by the June grand jury of Cook County on the charge of having performed an operation on Pauline Sproc, which resulted in her death.”[10]
  • June 16, 1910, Mrs. Paulina Sproc, a 35-year-old immigrant from Bohemia, died in a Chicago home from an abortion that had been performed on June 5. W.L. Orainger (F. L. Orsinger) was held by the coroner’s jury. The source document doesn’t indicate that the case ever went to trial.  George N. Krieder, M.D., editor [11]
  • March 13, 1917 – From the Chicago Police Department Homicide Records 1870 – 1930. Schofield, Mannie L. Age 33 – died from an abortion at 325 Robey St., operation performed by Fred L. Orsinger, who with F. Schofield (her husband) were held by the coroner 3/15/17.  5/8/20 Orsinger acquitted.[12]
  • X-BUTCHER, NOW DOCTOR, IS HELD FOR WOMANS DEATH. Dr. Fred L. Orsinger, who the Chicago police say, is a former butcher and an ex-convict, was held last night after the death of Mrs. Minnie L. Schofield, 325 South Robey Street Physicians at the county hospital say she died from a criminal operation and Identified Dr. Orsinger shortly before she died. Thomas F. Schotield, husband of the victim, also was held. He admitted introducing Orsinger to his wife, but denied knowing of the alleged operation. Chicago Livestock World[13]

These articles raised more questions about the doctor.  Was his complaint against the Board of Health legitimate or did the Board of Health have a legitimate complaint against the doctor?  Was he a fraud?  Did he really go to medical school in Switzerland and the College of Physicians and Surgeons (now the University of Illinois College of Medicine)? Why could he not pass the State Board Exam with his education and experience practicing Medicine?  To be fair, when Dr. Orsinger started practicing medicine no license was required.  Over the years the states started requiring licenses and raised the standards to practice medicine.  This was probably a big change for some doctors and they might not have liked being regulated.  Change is always hard and some people take it harder than others.  This also was taking away his livelihood.   “Illinois started requiring doctors to be licensed in 1877, and Medical licensing boards’ enforcement powers forced fundamental changes in medical school curriculum’s, purged unlicensed ignorant practitioners and outright frauds, reduced the number of non-medical school graduates, marginalized midwives, revoked the licenses of abortionists, and unified the best of both regular and irregular medical practitioners.”[14]   One article said he fought the Board of Health for the past 32 years, which means he started fighting the board around 1877 at the time Illinois started requiring licenses.

Two women died after he performed an abortion which was not legal at that time.  The one article calls him an ex-convict. Does that mean that he was convicted of the first woman’s death in 1910?  I have been unable to find out if he was an ex-butcher.  The 1880 Census has his occupation as a saloon keeper.[15]  The 1894 city directory lists his occupation as real estate and saloon keeper.[16]  In the 1898 and 1904 city directory he is listed as a physician.[17]  According to the 1920 Census Emma and Fred are not living together, however Emma still uses the surname Orsinger.[18]  I assume they were still married, but separated.  He died in 1923.[19]

Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst

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[1] Chicago:  Its history and Its Builders

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Injunction secured by Dr. Orsinger.” The Medical News: A Weekly Journal of Medical Science Vol 83, No 1, Saturday, July 4. 1903, (New York) Pg. 274.

[7] “Fined for Illegal practice.” Journal of the American Medical Association – Medical News Vol 44, April 1, 1905. Pg. 104

[8] Simmons, M.D., George H., editor, “Sues State Board.” Jama:  The Journal of the American Medical Association Vol 44, Jan – June 1905, (Chicago: American Medical Association Press, 1905) Pg. 1124.

[9] “Dr. F. L. Orsinger Makes New Move in Fight for License. Physician Refused Permit to Practice after Failing in Examinations.” Bulletin. Vol 6 Numbers 1-5 January-May 1910.

[10] Krieder, M.D., George N., editor.  “Dr. Fred L. Orsinger.” Illinois Medical Journal: the official organ of the Illinois State Medical Society Vol 18, July to Dec 1910. Pg. 262.

[11] Website: Cemeteryofchoice

[12] Chicago Police Department Homicide Records 1870 – 1930. Illinois Regional Archives Depository, Ronald Williams Library, Northwestern University, 5500 N. St. Louis Avenue, Chicago, Il 60625-4699

[13] Chicago Livestock World, 14 March 1917.

[14] Sandvick C. Enforcing Medical Licensing in Illinois: 1877-1890. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2009;82(2):67-74.

[15] 1880; Census Place: La Salle, La Salle, Illinois; Roll: 223; Family History Film: 1254223; Page: 294D; Enumeration District: 069; Image: 0110

[16] Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

[17] Ibid.

[18]1920; Census Place: Chicago Ward 13, Cook (Chicago), Illinois; Roll: T625_322; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 758; Image: 281

[19] Ancestry.com. Illinois, Deaths and Stillbirths Index, 1916-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Aunt Emma’s Two Lives

Emma age 19

Emma age 19

My grandmother had three Aunt’s, Aunt Emma, Aunt Liz, and Aunt Agnes.  Each one had an interesting life.  I wrote about Aunt Liz in my blog dated 4/13/2013.  Today I am writing about Aunt Emma.

Emma Reinhardt was born on June 6, 1885 in Illinois.,[1] [2]  Emma was raised in Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois along with her two brothers and four sisters.  Not much is known about Emma’s early life.  In 1910 at age 25 she married Dr. Fredrick L. Orsinger[3] who was 33 years her senior.[4]  He had been married before and had five children with his first wife who died in 1903.[5]

Fredrick L. Orsinger came to the United States from Germany in 1871.  He arrived in Chicago on the same day as the Chicago Fire.  He decided not to stay in Chicago at this time and went to LaSalle, Illinois to work in his Uncle’s bakery.  He later opened a pharmacy in LaSalle and practiced medicine.  He studied medicine and surgery in Zurich, Switzerland and Paris, France.   He later spent five years studying medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Chicago, and later had a years experience working at Cook County Hospital. [6]   He had quite a colorful life too.  I am not going to write about it at this time as I would like to concentrate on Emma’s life.  I will write about his life in more detail at another time.

My grandmother had told me that the Reinhardt’s and Orsinger’s were friends.  I know there was an Orsinger’s Bakery in Ottawa.  I don’t know if they had another one in LaSalle or if the source is wrong about the location of the bakery.  However, Emma would have not been born yet when he came to LaSalle County.  By the time she was old enough to get married he was living in Chicago.  So how they got together is unknown.  I’m guessing that they knew each other because the families were friends.  I still can’t help but wonder how her family felt about the age difference, and how his children felt as some were older than Emma.  My grandmother would say with disgust in her voice, “Aunt Emma married old Doc Orsinger.”  They lived in Chicago and he practice medicine in Chicago. Dr. Orsinger died in 1925.[7]

In 1933 Emma married Iber Mataway in Chicago.[8]  He was from Iran and changed his name when he was naturalized from Isaac Abraham to Iabry Abraham Mataway.[9]  They must have led a quiet life.  I can’t find them in many records.  He was 12 years her junior.[10]  She went from some way older than her to someone quite a bit younger than her.

I’ve had a hard time finding them on any census records.  I do know they lived on a farm in Wisconsin.  I also know they lived in an apartment in Chicago, Illinois.  My mother loved Aunt Emma and she would stay with her sometimes in Chicago and on the farm in Wisconsin when she was young.  I believe they lived in Chicago, then moved to the farm in Wisconsin, and then moved back to Chicago.

I have a letter that Emma wrote to her sister Liz.   I will try to transcribe it as written with mistakes and all. 

Sat Mch. 1 – 1947 

Dear Eliz,

            Just a few lines, as we are trying to get ready to go to Saxon to shop.  We got your package yesterday.  Everything was swell.  And thanks so much.  So what do I owe you for groceries.  The shirts will come in handy this summer at laying time. Even good enough to go to town in as you don’t have to dress up so much around here.  Gosh, I’ve been rushing around, the oil man came first thing this morning, I was just about out of bed.  Iber was milking, then I had to look after him.  By the time he filled all the tanks and checked them, Iber came in for breakfast, and now I just got thru with the dishes, milk pails, and strainers.  Iber has been hauling hay everyday.  He got 4 or 5 tons of hay very cheap, but has to haul it himself.  It keeps a person busy, but it isn’t bad.  Well, I don’t know if you can say March came in like a loin or not.  It was quite warm this morning, but now it has turned a little cooler and is snowing that fine snow.  So I hope it doesn’t get too bad until we get back at least.  Well, I was so surprised at that article of Fred Orsinger.  It was funny, I opened the box and I thought it was just some paper you stuck in for a filler.  Then a couple of hours later, I was straightening everything up, so I looked again and was looking at the man with the alligator.  And, I said to myself that man reminds me of Doc.  He combs his hair just like he did.  So I threw it in with the rest of the papers.  When Iber came in he happened to see it, and asked me what he was doing with an alligator.  I said oh I don’t know let me see.  Well, when I read it, I started to laugh.  No wonder he minded me of Doc.  That was so funny.  He is quite a big shot.  Gosh he is getting old.  I figured he would be about 70. 

I suppose you received my last letter.  I too wish poor Tim could at least be able to go into the other room.  I may be down sometime in the middle of April if nothing happens.  Then he had better get up or I’ll pull him out of bed.  I hope Mrs. Fox is home by morn, poor soul.  I suppose she feels quite alone since he is gone.  Is she going to stay there in the apartment.  Have you heard yet from Mark.  Iber says to tell Tim to keep his chin up.

I do wish Iber could make a trip to Chicago.  Well, we’ll see how things turn up.  He needs a change.  I feel guilty when I go all the time.  I guess Clara is going to stay in her apt. for a while.  Well, if I have forgotten anything I’ll write it next time.  I must get ready.  Iber is almost thru shaving. 

Love to you both and God Bless you as ever.  Emma & Iber 

The Fred Orsinger she mentions in the letter is the son of her late husband.  I am posting the original letter here.

Letter from Aunt Emma 2

Letter from Aunt Emma 3

Letter from Aunt Emma 1Letter from Aunt Emma 4

I remember visiting Aunt Emma a couple of times in her apartment in Chicago.  She made a doll bed for me out of a wooden cigar box.  I wish I had a picture of it.  She painted it white and it had a headboard.  The legs were cloths pins (the old fashioned wood ones) cut down so only the top curved part was used for the legs.  She made a little mattress and pillows.  She made a blanket and crocheted a bedspread for it.  I loved it and had it for a long time.  I found instructions for making one on the Internet, and also found pictures, but none that looked as good as mine.  Mostly what I remember of Aunt Emma was a very nice old lady and the doll bed.

I think the first half of her life was probably more eventful than the last half.  Being married to “Old Doc Orsinger” must have been very eventful from some of the things I have read about him.  Like I said, that is for another time.  The second half of her life being married to Iber, her life was quiet.  Reading the letter, her life was just about the ordinary every day things like the weather, washing dishes, milk pails and strainers.  The exciting time was going to town.  I wish I knew more about her life.  As far as I know, she never had any children to carry on her legacy.  I hope I helped a little to carry on her legacy today.

Aunt Emma, my mom, Aunt Liz 1943

Aunt Emma, my mom, Aunt Liz 1943

Emma died on August 18, 1956, and Iber died in 1974.

Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst


[1] Emma Reinhart’s birth date June 6 came from Helen Kaiser’s (her niece) date book.

[2] 1900 United State Census entry for Emma Reinhardt.  Original data:  United States of America, Bureau of the Census.  Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900.  Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration 1900 T623 1854 rolls.  Ancestry.com 1900 United States Federal Census.  [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry Operations, Inc.,2004.

[3] Joseph Seymour Curry, Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth, volume 4 (Chicago:  The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912), Pgs. 624 – 628. Digitized by Google.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Find-a-grave website at www.findagrave.com

[8]Ancestry.com.  Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1920 – 1960  [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

[9] Naturalization Record for Iabry Abraham Mataway name chanced at naturalization from Isaac Abraham. Ancestry.com. US Naturalization Record Indexes, 1791 – 1992 (Indexed in World Archive Project) [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA:  Ancestry Operations, Inc., 2010.  Original data: Selected U.S. Naturalization Records.  WashingtonD.C.: National Archives and Records Administration.

[10] Ibid.