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November 8, 2005 > Centerville Physicians

Centerville Physicians

Centerville always seemed to have its share of physicians. Dr. J. M. Selfridge, who lived in Centerville, was the first Alameda County physician. He presented his first bill for $20.00 for examining two insane persons in 1853 and was said to be the first physician to take up regular practice in Washington Township. His house was reported damaged in the 1868 earthquake.

An 1867 business directory listed H. D. Howell, Robert B. Hall and W. E. Ellis as Centerville doctors, but we have little information about them. Dr. Hall kept a few drugs for sale before there was a drug store here. This is also the year that Cyrus H. Allen came to regain the health he had lost as a surgeon in the Civil War. He spent most of his life tending the sick, even fording streams in his buggy. He became the most beloved physician in the area, and the Allen home was the scene of many social events, such as the Literary Club. Dr. C. H. Wills became his associate about 1904. He owned a Comet automobile that was winning races in 1909 and creating considerable excitement, but his daughter, Helen, created the most excitement with her world famous tennis play.

An 1879 directory listed S. H. Buteau and Dr. Allen, noting that D. L. Fonseca was a physician and druggist. Fonseca moved to the C. J. Stevens homestead in 1880. An 1887 article recorded a surprise party by Centerville residents for the Buteaus on their 25th wedding anniversary. The Buteaus had a new residence on the Centerville road in 1879. Charles Shinn observed that Dr. Allen accompanied Dr. L. G. Yates on many of his explorations. The local paper noted that he was summoned by telegraph to aid an injured woman in 1879.

Centerville reported several physicians in 1904. Besides Dr Allen and Dr. Wills, doctors DuBois Eaton, Cabral, and Dr. H. W. Emerson lived there and had active practices.

Dr. Emerson had an early automobile that was both a help and a problem. He crashed into a cart in Irvington. A month later the car stalled on railroad tracks in Oakland and was hit by a train. Dr. Emerson wasn't hurt, but the car was badly damaged. Dr. Emerson was an active promoter of the Masonic Hall built in 1911.

Dr. Eaton owned property next to Fred Dusterberry. He sold a 60-foot lot to Joseph Mowry in 1914. Dr. Elon A. Ormsby came about 1914 and practiced in the area for 28 years. He advertised office hours of 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dr. G. S. Holeman succeeded Dr. Emerson and advertised an office opposite the Centerville Garage. He installed new equipment in 1924 that included two quartz lamps and special treatments for skin disease, nose and throat problems and tuberculosis. His office hours were 3 p.m. - 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. - 8 p.m. in 1925. Dr. J. B. deFaria advertised as a physician, surgeon and obstetrician with offices in the Gregory Hotel.

Other doctors of this period include W. L. McWhirter and J. M. Adams. Doctors Adams, Ormsby, McWhirter and Holeman all advertised on the same page of the Washingtonian in 1925. Mrs. McWhirter was president of the first Centerville P.T.A. in 1923. These same four doctors served the Centerville area in the 1930's. Dr. E. A. Westphal was advertising by 1939. He entered military service and never returned to Centerville. Dr. Elon A. Ormsby died in March 1942.

Dr. George and Mrs. Holeman sometimes welcomed community members into their home. A local reporter described a St. Patrick's dinner there in 1940. Dr. Holeman was the Washington Township chairman of the doctors and nurses during the war years. He was also chairman of the committee that planned the hospital district. A stroke in 1946 forced his retirement and Dr. Guy Romito took over his practice and stayed for 35 years. He was one of the nine physicians who helped plan the hospital. Dr. J. Merle Buehler established his practice at Centerville in 1946 and was elected the first Chief of Staff of the Washington Township Hospital District in 1953.

Several physicians took an active part in forming the Washington Township Health Care District in 1948. They also assisted in the planning and building of the hospital. John Austin came to Centerville as "Fremont's first full-time optometrist" in 1953. Instead of advertising, he "pounded the pavement" and joined civic groups. His wife, Norma, helped run the two-person office. Dr. Austin retired in 2000 after 46 years service to his patients and the community.

The 1956 "Shopper's Guide" lists Henry Avon Edward Bauer, J. Merle Buehler, Richard Delfs, Thomas Everenden, Jerome Feldman, W. H. Horner, Paul Leyda, J. H. Lagonegro, W. F. Lichtman, K. P. Monson, Holger Rasmussen, G. J. Romito, Charles Ross, Jack W. Singleton, James Sylvester, W. G. Wilbur and W. L. Wright as physicians with Centerville phone numbers. Five listings were for Fremont Avenue, five for Mattos and six for Main Street. Reid Bros. in Irvington is listed as a source for hospital supplies, but there is no listing for any hospital. Doctors made house calls and sometimes attended patients at Alameda or San Jose hospitals.

Washington Township Hospital was founded in 1958 and was listed in shopping guides. The hospital served some 30,000 residents at first and has continued to develop and expand to serve a growing population and utilize advancements in treatments and technology.

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