Dr. Joseph Ralph Wagner


Dr. Joseph Ralph Wagner




Joseph Ralph Wagner, born on May 16, 1870, in Newman, Illinois, was the son of Dr. John Marquand (Marquin) and Sarah Ellen Wagner He attended public school in Newman, and was graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago. He began his practice in 1895 in Newman. About 1902 he moved his family to Crowley, Louisiana, and farmed rice for a couple of years . In 1906, they moved to Palacios and bought a farm, intending to raise rice. He soon found that Palacios needed a doctor, so in June, 1907, he took the Texas Medical Examination and opened practice. In the early days Doc had an ad each week in the Palacios Beacon, "DR. WAGNER'S PHONE IS #13," and, of course, his phone number was very important to a lot of people!

Doc was a typical "country doctor" of the era, beginning his practice with a horse and buggy, but advancing to an automobile in 1909 At times his car would not go where he was needed, so someone would meet him with a buggy to take him over muddy roads to the sick person. He said , "All of the roads around here were muddy in those days, and I have been stuck in every danged one of them." He practiced in the days of the "house calls," and for much of the time, without the benefit of a hospital. Often he was paid with gratitude and admiration instead of cash. He said , "I've had a lot of success with medicine, but I'm a financial failure. If I had it to do over again, I would pay more attention to business." But, as stated by John H. Moore, a Houston Post correspondent, "everybody who knows "Doc," and that means everybody in this vicinity, knows that his remarks about wishing he had paid more attention to making money are just so much hot air."

In the winter of 1928, Doc was called to deliver a baby of a woman who lived more than twenty miles in the country At that time there were few hard surfaced roads in the county, and certainly none to the house to which he was called . He drove as far as he could in his car. A friend of the expectant family met him, with a buggy, at the end of the good road and carried him, piggyback, across the muddy areas to the buggy. Doc liked to arrive as clean as possible when he was to deliver a baby! The child, a boy, was named Ralph Wagner in his honor.

Doc practiced medicine fifty-four years. During those years he delivered some four thousand babies. In November, 1949, about one hundred of these "babies" joined friends and patients in paying tribute to Doc for his long years of patient, faithful, service to the people of the Palacios area. Of the "babies" present, Estelle Elder Alley was the oldest, and the six-month old son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Ragusin was the youngest.

John H Moore writes of him, "It is doubtful that anyone enjoys just plain everyday living more than "Doc" Wagner. He enjoys talking to his cronies, and listening to the radio, and eating, and traveling, and puffing on cigars--he enjoys everything he does. His hobby is poker--stud , draw or deuces wild--and he enjoys it whether he wins or loses. He is almost never seen without a cigar stub sticking out of the corner of his mouth. He has another way of smoking cigars around the house. He filters the nicotine through a long-stemmed pipe, stuffing the cigar into the bowl as if it were a pipeful of tobacco. This method of smoking a cigar is fascinating to watch once one gets used to it."

Dr Wagner was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and a charter member of the Rotary Club. For thirty-nine years, he served as City Health Officer He was a Mason for sixty-seven years, becoming one at the age of twenty, which required a special dispensation. He served as a school board trustee.

He was married three times, first to Mary "Minnie" Isabella Wagner (March 2, 1874-May I, 1911), who is buried at Palacios Cemetery Their children were: John Thomas Wagner (July 10, 1903- July 15 , 1984) who is buried at Palacios Cemetery; Helen Wagner, who married first Lum Twilliger and second Roy Bell, and lived in Houston, and Ina Wagner, who married Carl Nelson.

Dr. Wagner's second marriage to Harriet B. Jennings ended in divorce. His third marriage, in 1918, was to Emylee Bonner Wagner (September 27, 1889-December 26, 1983), who is buried at Palacios Cemetery.

Emylee had previously been married to Harley Bonner and had two children, John Harlan Bonner and Opal Bonner Williams. Emylee's mother was Emily H. Jones (May27, 1840-January4, 1931) who is buried at Palacios Cemetery. Doc died on May 28, 1957, at Bay View Hospital in in Palacios and is buried at Palacios Cemetery In 1960 a new hospital was built in Palacios. The town voted to name it Wagner General Hospital in honor of "Doc."

Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pp. 547-548



Marker photos courtesy of Renee Huff

This was moving week for Dr. and Mrs. Wagner, who are now located in their new home, the former Winona House, which is being transferred into a beautiful home. The C. W. Nester family have moved to the rooms above their store, vacated by Dr. and Mrs. Wagner and Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Studeman and son, of Eagle Lake moved into the Nester residence.

Palacios Beacon, February 16, 1933

Dr. Wagner Dies at 87 In Palacios

PALACIOS--Dr. Joseph Ralph Wagner, 87, prominent Matagorda County physician and civic leader, died at the Bayview General Hospital here Tuesday morning.

Dr. Wagner had practiced medicine here from 1906 until four years ago when ill health forced him into retirement.

The tall, powerfully built physician was one of the few remaining country doctors of this area. During the early days of his practice he made his rounds in a horse and buggy and later in a Model T Ford.

Oldtimers can still recall the big doctor slogging through the mud to attend patients after the Model T bogged down.

Dr. Wagner was born May 16, 1870, in Newman, Ill, the son of a doctor. He was graduated from Rush Medical School and began practicing in 1895. He moved to Palacios in 1906.

A Mason for 67 years, Dr. Wagner was active in public affairs. He was a former city health officer and school board member, and a leader in a number of civic organizations.

Funeral services will be held at 10:00 AM Thursday at the Palacios Funeral Home with the Rev. John Branner, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Palacios, and the Rev. Logan Cockrum of Corpus Christi officiating. Burial will be in the Palacios Cemetery.

Surviving are the widow, Mrs. Emylee Wagner of Palacios; two daughters, Mrs. Roy Bell of Houston and Mrs. Carl Nelson of McAllen; one son, John Thomas Wagner of San Francisco, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Mrs. T. C. Williams of Washington, D. C.; a stepson John Harlan Bonner of Houston; six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

The Houston Post?

Death of Mrs. J. R. Wagner

Mrs. Wagner, wife of Dr. J. R. Wagner, died suddenly at an early hour Monday morning from heart failure, which had been superinduced by a severe attack of the measles but a short time before. The news of Mrs. Wagner's death came as a great shock to all the people of the city, and deep sorrow was felt in every heart over this sudden summons to one who was held in such high esteem by all who knew her, and who was so much admired and beloved for her many noble qualities had gained for her a warm place in the affections of the whole community. Sorrow for her loss was measured only by the depth of the great sympathy that went out to the bereft husband in particular who is numbered among the most esteemed of the good citizens of Palacios, as well as to the entire family. Just when Mrs. Wagner died is not known, but it was some time after the hour of midnight, and the death angel came while she slept, for when it was discovered that she was dead she was lying in bed in her natural pose when sleeping. Dr. Wagner was away from home attending a professional call, and did not return to his office in the city until the early hours of the morning, and was again called before he returned to his home. It was while he was on this last visit that Mr. Wagner's two youngest children who were alone at home with her mother, discovered that she was dead. After much telephoning the word was made known in town, and Dr. Moore hastened to advise Dr. Wagner of the great loss he had sustained.

Mrs. Wagner's maiden name was Mary Isabelle Shaw, the daughter of Mr. Thos. Shaw, of Newman, Ill., and was born at Tuscola, Ills., March 2d, 1874. She was married to Dr. Wagner December 25th 1895, to whom four children were born, three of whom survive the mother. They are Ira D., aged 14; Helen LaVerne, 12, and John Thomas, 7. Beside her husband and children Mrs. Wagner is survived by her father and mother, Mrs. and Mrs. Thos. Shaw, of Newman, Ills. She was an active and devoted member of the Presbyterian church of Palacios, and has been a faithful member of that denomination since  her twelfth year. Hers was a model Christian life, and she was a most devoted wife and mother.

Short funeral services were held at the family home north of the city at one o'clock this afternoon, conducted by Rev. Green, pastor of the Presbyterian church, and the public service was held at the Presbyterian church at three o'clock, under the auspices of the local chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, of which Mrs. Wagner was a beloved and most esteemed member. This service was conducted under the direction of Mrs. J. L. DuMars, of Angleton, deputy Grand Worthy Matron of Texas.

The services at the church this afternoon were attended by a large company of the friends of the family, the large auditorium being filled to overflowing, many having to stand both on the inside and outside the church at the windows. A quartet furnished beautiful music, and the scripture lesson, prayer and discourse by Dr. Green were comforting to the family and friends. He read a brief biography of the deceased and paid a most beautiful tribute to her life and lovely character. The ritualistic ceremonies by the Easter Star were most touching and impressive, and the tribute to the memory of their departed sister found a tender response in every heart. The floral offerings were many and most beautiful, completely covering the casket. The pall bearers were members of the Masonic lodge, of which Dr. Wagner in an honored and esteemed member. After the services the remains were followed to their final resting place in the city cemetery by one of the largest processions ever seen in Palacios.

No words from the Beacon can add to the evidence already given Dr. Wagner by the sorrow felt by all in the loss of his devoted companion, or of the depth and sincerity of the sympathy that goes out to him and his family and all the relatives and nearest friends from all the people of this city.

Beside Mrs. Wagner's father, Mr. J. M. Wagner, father of Dr. Wagner, also of Newman, Ills., came to attend the funeral.

The Palacios Beacon, May 5, 1911 

John Thomas Wagner

John Thomas Wagner, 80, died July 15, 1984 in San Francisco, CA. He was the son of Dr. Joseph and Minnie Wagner of Palacios. He was born July 20, 1903 in Crawley, Louisiana.

The Wagner family moved to Palacios in 1906, where he attended Palacios public schools. At the age of 16 he enlisted in the U. S. Navy where he spent six years.

Upon returning to the United States, he established residence in San Francisco. He took an active part in union organization and was for many years a business agent of the pile Drivers' Union. Upon his retirement, he lived in Trinidad, CA for several years and returned to San Francisco three years ago.

Interment was held in the Wagner plot at the Palacios Cemetery.

Survivors include his wife, Andree Wagner of San Francisco; one sister, Helen Wagner Bell; two nieces, Anita Bell Massey and LaVerne T. Brown, and one nephew, Lum E. Twilligear, all of Houston.


At Dr. Jennings’ office last night (the last day of the old year) at nine o’clock, Rev. Owens, the Christian pastor, performed the ceremony uniting in marriage, Dr. J. R. Wagner and Dr. Harriet B. Jennings, both prominent physicians of this city. This announcement will come as a decided but most pleasing surprise to the many friends of the high contracting parties, who will heartily join with the Beacon in extending congratulations. Dr. Wagner is one of Palacios’ pioneers, and is perhaps better known all over the county than any other of our citizens. Dr. Jennings came to Palacios nearly two years ago, and by her splendid ability and skill as a physician has built up a large practice, and at the same time gained a wide circle of warm and admiring friends. This makes it true that the family physician of many of our people has now become a family of physicians, as both the doctors will continue their practice.


Palacios Beacon, January 1, 1915 


Nelson – Wagner

Mr. Carl W. Nelson, son of Mr. A. Nelson, and Miss Ina D. Wagner, daughter of Dr. J. R. Wagner, sprung a very complete and happy surprise on their many friends by getting married at 7 o’clock Wednesday morning at the Wagner home, Rev. Shepherd, pastor of the Presbyterian church, performing the ceremony. There is not a better known or more esteemed young couple of the city than Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, and the expectant good wishes of all for their happiness and prosperity through a long and useful life go with them.

Mr. and Mrs. Nelson left on the 7:30 Wednesday morning train for San Antonio where Mr. Nelson has a position and where they will make their home for some time at least. Though the time set for the wedding was kept quite a secret, a few of their friends “got wise” and were at the train to see them away, and the usual shower of rice was more in the nature of a cloud burst.

Palacios Beacon, November 12, 1915


Miss Helen Laverne Wagner, daughter of Dr. J. W. Wagner of this city, and Mr. Lum E. Twilligear local manager of the Grant Lumber Company, were united in marriage in Houston, Saturday, June 21, at 5:45 p.m., Rev. Ewell of that city officiating.

The happy couple spent a few days in Houston, after which they went to Alvin, from where they were accompanied home by Anita Belle, the little daughter of Mr. Twilligear, and they are now at home to their many friends in the Ellis residence in the east part of town.

There are popular and estimable young people and have many friends with whom the Beacon joins in wishing them a long and happy wedded life.                    

The Palacios Beacon
, June 27, 1919

Nuptial Vows Taken Early Sunday Morn

A wedding of sweet simplicity and charm took place Sunday morning at the home of Dr. and Mrs. J. R. Wagner, when their daughter, Miss Opal Bonner, was united in marriage to Mr. Eugene Hunt.

The ceremony was performed by Rev. Carroll B. Ray, pastor of the First Baptist Church, and was witnessed by only the immediate family and a few friends. The vows were taken beneath an arch formed of fernery greens and white crepe myrtle with floor baskets filled with green foliage and white zinnias forming a back-ground, making a most beautiful setting for the wedding party. The bridal music was furnished by Miss Joe Beth Robinson, who wore a dress of orchid organdy. Miss Lucille Bowen was the bride's attendant and wore a dress of green organdy. The bride was lovely in pure white and entered on the arm of her brother, John Harlan Bonner, who gave her away. The groom was attended by his brother, Glenn Hunt. The impressive and beautiful ring service was used.

Following the ceremony and extending of congratulations, cake, sherbet and coffee were served.

The happy couple then left for Houston for a short honeymoon, returning to Palacios Tuesday evening. Mrs. Hunt's going away costume was of blue suede crepe, beige hat and shoes, with accessories to match.

The bride is one of our most popular young girls. She was reared here, attended our schools and was a member of this year's senior class. She is admired and loved by a host of friends who wish for her a long and happy wedded life. The groom's home is in Cleveland, Texas. He is employed by the Humble Oil Company and has been a member of the crew stationed in this community the past several months, during which time he has made many friends among our people.

The newly weds will make Palacios their home during the next few weeks, or until the company sends them to a new field of work.

Out-of-town guests for the wedding were, John Harlan Bonner and Oliver McCall of Houston; Glenn Hunt and Miss Katherine Kline, of Bay City.

Palacios Beacon, August 24, 1930

John Wagner Nelson

John Wagner Nelson, 13 year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Carl W. Nelson, and grandson of Dr. and Mrs. J. R. Wagner, died at the home of his parents in McAllen, Texas, Saturday at 8 p. m. following an extended illness.

The remains were brought here Monday evening and taken to the Palacios Funeral Home where services were held Tuesday morning at 10 o'clock conducted by Rev. Brooks I. Dickey, of San Antonio, and interment made in the Palacios cemetery. Six uncles, M. R. Nelson, of McAllen; C. F. Nelson, Houston; Ernest Powell, Mission; L. E. Twillegar, Houston, John Bonner, Houston and J. E. Pybus, Velasco, were active pall-bearers.

The body lay in state in the Martin-Nelson Funeral home at McAllen until Monday morning when the funeral cortege left overland for Palacios.

John was a former newspaper carrier boy and grade student and was well known throughout his home town. He was a member of the Boy Scout Troop No. 12, and a beautiful service was held for him on Sunday afternoon by the Scouts. During his visits in Palacios he made a host of friends and when his illness became known and its serious nature our citizens were as much grieved as if it had been one of our own. We will miss his friendly visits and the interest he took in our work. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the bereaved parents, brother, Ralph, grandparents and other relatives.

Relatives and friends here for the funeral service, were Mr. and Mrs. M. R. Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. Scott Martin, of McAllen; Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Powell, Mission; Mrs. Mabel Pybus and Mr. and Mrs. J. E. Pybus, Velasco; Clarence Nelson, Mr. and Mrs. John Bonner and Mr. and Mrs. L. E. Twillegar and family, of Houston.

Palacios Beacon, March 19, 1936

Watch Palacios Grow

How is this for a record? Show us the town of the same size willing to break it? Dr. J. R. Wagner reports the following births for the first ten days of September--all good clean, healthy, American stock, too. To Messrs. and Mesdames

L. E. Liggett, Collegeport, boy
G. Nichols, Collegeport, boy
A. C. Walker Blessing, boy
W. W. Griffith, Francitas, girl
J. H. Wiggins, boy
D. H. Stewart, boy
G. A. Jones, boy
Raymond Guidry, girl
I. W. Kinard, girl
Roy Gillespie, girl

Palacios Beacon, September 14, 1923

Palacios Beacon, June 29, 1939


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Jan. 7, 2014
Jan. 7, 2014