ROBERT WALKER HALE, M. D.
Dr. Robert Walker Hale, of Thermopolis, whose high professional standing is indicated in the fact that he is now occupying the presidency of the Wyoming State Medical Society, his position, moreover, indicating the warm regard entertained for him by his professional colleagues and contemporaries, was born in Scotland county, Missouri, near the town of Downing, July 24, 1869, being the youngest in a family of ten children whose parents were Lewis and Sarah Hale, natives of the state of Tennessee. On the 1st of January, 1849, they left their native state and removed to Missouri, traveling by boat down the Ohio river to Cairo, Illinois, thence by flatboat up the Mississippi to Canton, Missouri, where they landed because of the fact that they had no funds with which to travel farther. The father cut cordwood in order to get money to purchase provisions and when he had done so walked to northern Missouri, where he borrowed an ox team and a lynch pin wagon and returned for his mother and grandmother, who had accompanied him, and a negro woman whom they had brought with them. They located near the old homestead upon which Dr. Hale was born and after a few years made selection of their present home and have since resided on that farm, covering a period of about sixty-two years. Mr. Hale was one of the pioneer settlers of that region, experiencing the hardships and privations incident to pioneer life. He was of Scotch-Irish descent and of the hardy pioneer type. He supported the family by working for fifty cents per day, accepting his pay in meat, grit and the food that could be had in those days, scarcely ever receiving any money for his work. The clothes of the family were home made. Mrs. Hale weaving the cloth. In the course of time Mr. Hale acquired five hundred acres of land and it was upon that farm that the Doctor was born and worked until he had attained his majority, it being the law at that time that a man was not a man until he reached his twenty-first year. The school advantages offered farm boys in those days were in many instances very limited. It was necessary to clear the timber from the home farm and this made much hard work for the father and sons, there being three brothers older than Dr. Hale. Farming, as it was done in those days brought out all there was in a boy. The Doctor was drilled in that work from early life and at the age of twenty-one years he was strong, rugged and active. As his older brothers took up their abode upon the home farm there was not room for him and it became necessary for him to leave home and choose some other line of work. He decided upon the medical profession and in September, 1890, he entered the Missouri Medical College at St. Louis, Missouri, and on March 27, 1893, was graduated from that institution with high honors.
After returning home for a short visit Dr. Hale located in Macon county, Missouri, at a coalmining town called Ardmore, where he spent the first year and a half of his professional career. He was in the employ of the Kansas & Texas Coal Company. On the 7th of October, 1804, he bade good-bye to his parents and friends and boarded the train for Sheridan, Wyoming, where he arrived on the evening of the 9th. When the Doctor left home his mother asked him if he intended to return. She had buried all of her children at that time but three sons and she felt that she was almost giving up another one in having him go so far. Four daughters and one son of the family had been victims of tuberculosis. The mother may have thought Dr. Hale feared the disease and, not wishing to speak of it to her! was going west on that account. Among the last words which she said to him when alone were: "My boy. no matter where you go, no difference where you are, always do right and the world will respect you." On the way to the train the father said: "Did you ever think of connecting yourself with a good secret order? In your business it would do you no harm." The father himself had been an honored member of the Masonic fraternity for over forty years. This advice Dr. Hale heeded and fully appreciated in later years. His father continued: "My son, if you never return to live among us. I wish to say to you, never make an agreement you know you cannot keep. Keep your credit above reproach and you will never see the time you cannot get all the financial aid necessary to properly conduct your business. Be honest, be faithful, be true." Mr. Hale was a man of sterling integrity whose word was ever as good as his bond. Early in life he inculcated in his children the necessity of being honest. His advice was ever found to be useful and Dr. Hale in later years has come to a full appreciation of the fact that no man was ever born of better parents or received better advice. His father and mother were truly types of their time. Like giant oaks of the forest, they set examples worthy of all mankind. The father spent seventy-eight years in a most useful career and the mother still survives, having reached the age of eighty-six in September, 1917.
Arriving in Sheridan. Wyoming, Dr. Hale was advised to visit the Big Horn basin with a view of locating there. He rode a cow pony over the Big Horn mountains by way of Dome lake and to Hyattville, to Bonanza and to Otto, where he decided to locate and engage in practice. He returned to Sheridan, ordered his books, instruments and supplies shipped at once and while waiting for them to arrive the snow fell to such a depth that he could not cross the mountains that fall, for it was late in October. He then reshipped his supplies to Billings, Montana, and found on arriving there that the only way to get into the basin was by freight. In those days many people from the basin went to Billings for their winter supplies. During the time he waited to catch a freight outfit he was invited to visit the Billings Club in company with Dr. J. H. Rhinehart. He visited the club and made the aquaintance of such men as Otto Frank, who was then the owner of the Pitchfork Cattle Company on the Greybull river in Wyoming, above Meeteese; Henry Lovell, who owned the M. L. Cattle Company on the lower Big Horn river, and many others of that type who had helped make this country habitable. They employed many men in the conduct of their cattle ranches and many of their punchers were afterward patients of Dr. Hale. In conversation with the Doctor in Billings Mr. Lovell gave him some discouraging advice by saying: "Young man. you will starve in the Big Horn basin trying to practice medicine. Several doctors have located there and all have given it up." After waiting seventeen days Dr. Hale was able to get a freighter to load his goods and they started for the basin. It was cold by this time, about the 1st of November. Dr. Hale had never camped out and slept on the ground in the snow but had hitherto occupied a feather bed. After eight days of travel he landed twenty-five miles above the present site of Cody and after a month got a man to take his goods to Otto. He purchased a pony that the owner called Twenty and paid twenty dollars for him, a pony that at one time belonged to the Seventy-one outfit that in the early davs ranged its herds on the Powder river. Long before the time of this transaction the pony had been given his freedom and turned out on the range to make food for the coyotes. Dr. Hale, having faith in his friend, who had been so kind as to haul him from Billings, asking him to live with his family until he could get to Otto, believed the pony was a bronco but he soon proved his age and it required three days to make the journey from the ranch to Otto. The pony gave out and one day Dr. Hale met a man who was going to where Twenty had ranged and the latter gave the man five dollars to take the pony back and turn him out so he could die among friends. Soon a man came along who loaned Dr. Hale a horse called Croppy that afterward made many notable trips and carried the Doctor across the Bad Lands in the Big Horn basin to see many a sick or injured patient. A horse of that kind seemed almost human. It would graze around wherever you dropped the reins and was never known to buck. Croppy could swim a river like a duck. He would also raise his head high in the air, strike a long, swinging lope and carry his rider at the rate of ten miles per hour for hour after hour, never seeming to tire or to weary after his trip to the bedside of a suffering mother or a sick child or a crippled cow puncher. Dr. Hale certainly appreciated the use of that animal and the kindness of the owner who had loaned him. From the head waters of the Big Horn river and its tributaries this horse carried the Doctor from east to west, north to south, where his services were needed. For two years he alone covered that part of the great American desert on the back of the horse in answer to the call of duty.
Dr. Hale did not starve, as Mr. Lovell had predicted, for he did not belong to the type of men who starve. Later he made the acquaintance of Hon. J. L. Torrey, who was then president of the Embar Cattle Company, located on Owl creek, above Thermopolis. Colonel Torrey said: "If you need any assistance in your work, a horse or men when you are trying to reach the bedside of a sick man or woman or an injured puncher, use the whole Embar outfit if you need it and if you kill a horse under such circumstances it is already paid for." This one incident alone will account for the fact that men and women coming from the east to the west seldom care to return to their native state. During the years of his residence in the basin, from 1894 until 1917. these acquaintances made under such circumstances, have lasted in many instances and are valued beyond price.
Dr. Hale located in Otto and as there were only a few log shacks and no accommodations to be secured it became necessary to accept what he could get. Lou Blakesley edited the Otto Courier in one of these log huts, his family lived in another, and Mr. Blakesley offered the Doctor sleeping room in the Courier office, so he accepted it. The room was twelve by sixteen feet, the roof was of dirt, the walls were daubed with mud. It seemed that the mud supply ran short, for there were many spaces where one could see through, it being unnecessary, to go to the door or window to know who was passing. You could look out between the logs. The door was made with upright boards and lacked several inches of reaching the floor. The bed was a tick of straw, none too smooth, but it was the only thing that the Doctor could secure. When morning came the bed was shoved under the case containing the type used in the printing of the Courier. True to western hospitality, no charge was made for the use of this bedroom. The Doctor was invited by Mr. Bakesley to take his meals with them and did so. All of this unsolicited hospitality was much appreciated by him and showed the goodwill of the people, who were glad to have a doctor locate among them. Frank S. Wood built a drug store building for the Doctor in the summer of 1896, it being the first frame building of the town, and the establishment became the first pioneer drug store of the basin.
On the 28th of September, 1898, Dr. Hale was married to Eltie May Faust, of Otto, who lived only until August 25, 1899. In October of that year the Doctor returned home to visit his parents and on the night of the 17th the drug store and his residence were destroyed by fire. Nothing was saved. The building was uninsured and the labor of years was thus lost in a few moments. The Doctor afterward returned to Otto, closed up his business and in May, 1900, removed to Thermopolis, where he has since resided. The day following his arrival in Thermopolis, May 13th, Martin McGrath, who was then mayor, appointed him city health officer and this position he has filled since May, 1900, and as long as Thermopolis was a part of Fremont county he was appointed from time to time to act as county health officer. When Hot Springs county was organized he was appointed by the state board as county health officer. Dr. Hale was again married December 24, 1905, when Coral B. Bowman, of Macomb, Illinois, became his wife. Soon after taking up his residence in Thermopolis, Dr. Hale organized the Thermopolis Pharmacy, which he successfully conducted until 1906, when he sold the drug store to devote his entire time to the practice of his profession. He built up a splendid practice, which at times involved making some of the longest, hardest calls to distant points ever made by any physician in the state. He handled the work on the construction of the Burlington Railroad from Kirby to Thermopolis and at the same time was company physician for the Crosby coal mines and the Wyoming Sulphur Company, besides doing much work both in Thermopolis and the surrounding country. While thus engaged he had found time to make frequent visits to his parents and to the post-graduate schools of the eastern cities. He has never been a candidate for office, although frequently declining nominations when offered them by his friends. He has been closely identified with Thermopolis and has invested extensively in its real estate. He owns a splendid residence and an interest in a business house, besides much residence property.
Dr. Hale has identified himself with the Modern Woodmen Camp, the Knights of Pythias and with Malta Lodge, No. 17, A. F. & A. M., at Thermopolis. He has taken the degrees of the York Rite and of the Mystic Shrine. In politics he is a democrat and, true to the religious faith of his ancestors, he believes in the doctrines of the Cumberland Presbyterian church, of which his parents were members before the Civil war. He has enjoyed the honor of appearing before various select audiences to deliver addresses upon a number of questions. At the present time he is a member of the county board of selection and draft, is a member of the state medical board of sanitation, is health officer for Hot Springs county and was by appointment the first county physician. He is a member and president of the State Medical Committee of National Defense and was appointed by Governor Kendrick on the state board of medical examiners. At Douglas on the 9th of May, 1917, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a physician in his state was given to Dr. Hale when he was chosen president of the Wyoming State Medical Society, an honor fully merited by reason of his personal worth and marked professional attainments.