Dr. Simon Riddle (1870-1956) was a man of many talents

By Bob Weaver

Dr. Simon Riddle was a Calhoun character that practiced medicine at Mt. Zion, Arnoldsburg and Grantsville for 50 years, making house calls by horse, on foot and later in a dilapidated Model T Ford.

Born in 1870, he served in the Spanish-American War and died at age 86 in 1956. He is buried in Bethlehem Cemetery.

Ollie "Bill" Umstead said that Riddle had the first hospital in the county at Mt. Zion, likely in the IOOF Lodge Hall building. "It was not much as hospitals are known today, but Doc had patients," wrote Umstead, the hospital had steam baths.

"Doc had some kind of metal boxes into which he would put a patient, turn on the fire with only their heads sticking out. He would cook them for a while," Umstead said, saying the steam treatment helped lots of people in the community.

The Doc would keep people in his hospital for two weeks for $25, which included meals, medicine and the doctor's attention.

Umstead admitted in an article he did in the 1970s, that he liked visiting the hospital to "keep the pretty young nurse company."

"He did surgery on Lawson Stump in the crude hospital, and he lived to be 90," said Umstead.

He recalled the doctor was a jack-of-all-trades, "a good mechanic, carpenter, and above average artist."

"He loved good horses, good bird dogs, and guns," Umstead said, treasuring his memories of hunting and going on calls with the doctor,

Cpl. Simon Riddle, 1898 Spanish-American
War, Co. A, 2nd W. Va. Volunteers
(Norma Knotts Shaffer Photo)

"The doctor's old Model T was a lemon. I sometimes cranked on it until I was blue in the face," he recalled, "when I was not shoving it."

"Doc was not a temperance man, by any means," said Umstead. "He liked his julep."

A well-worn story about Dr. Riddle involved him taking a nap in a casket stored in the hospital building. A patient was looking for the doctor to be startled by finding him "sleeping it off" inside a coffin.

Umstead, who spent much of his youth with the doctor, concluded "He was a great fellow, delivered and saved many lives."

Riddle married Hettie Wolverton and had three children, James, Clyde and Forrest (Pete).

After the Civil War, most every Calhoun community had a "doctor," but many of them obtained a short-order license from a so-called medical school, while some of them actually did graduate from a medical college.

Exactly what Riddle's status was is unclear.

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