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'Shocking' discovery: Dr. Darrin's amazing cure, batteries included

The article in the Jacksonville Democratic Times newspaper on May 23, 1901, was what amounted to an infomercial back in the day.

Under the headline, "A Most Remarkable Case," the article began with a letter to the editor by a Mrs. Jonas Fattig of Ashland, my grandmother. Her full name was Harriett Viola Lounsbury Fattig. She died in 1940 before I was born, but family lore indicates she was a bright, pleasant lady who doted on her children.

Her letter, under the subhead, "Another Ashland Cure," was about her daughter, Bessie Belle, then age 3.

"For some time my girl has been suffering with partial paralysis, extending to her hands, feet and bladder, so she could not pass urine," the letter began. "Through Dr. Darrin's electrical and medical treatment she has recovered. I cannot say enough in praise of Dr. Darrin's new mode of curing the sick.

"My husband is employed by John Cherry, who is getting out wood for the Ashland mine," she concluded. "I will gladly talk to anyone in regard to the cure."

The article, which includes two other testimonial letters to the editor along with information about the good doctor, was recently uncovered by Medford historian Ben Truwe, who kindly forwarded a copy. He rightfully noted there was lots of sound, science-based medicine being practiced around the turn of the 20th century.

As for Dr. Darrin, however, it's difficult to discern from the article precisely what he was practicing. But it apparently included electric shock treatment mixed with various medications.

"Dr. Darrin makes a specialty of all diseases of the ear, eye, nose and throat, catarrh and bronchitis, la grippe, consumption, dyspepsia, constipation, heart, liver and kidney diseases, varicocele and hydrocele," it read.

Wait, there is more.

"He permanently cures diseases of the genio-urinary organs in either sex, such as blood taints, scrofula, stricture, seminal weakness, spermatorrhoea, loss of manhood," it added.

It further noted he will take on all peculiar female troubles as well as "nervous diseases of whatever nature."

What's more, he promised to provide the "worthy poor" with free treatment.

"He will furnish batteries and electric belts for any patient requiring them, and will give full directions for their use," according to the article, which does not explain how they were to be employed.

He apparently held court each day at the Hotel Oregon in Ashland until May 26 of that year, then he was open for business at Medford's Hotel Nash until July 1.

"The afflicted should not lose the opportunity to consult this eminent physician while here," it advised.

It turns out Dr. Darrin popped up throughout Oregon and Washington, traveling to small towns to hook folks up to his electrical device or administer medicine.

Consider the article in the Eugene Register newspaper on Sept. 8, 1905, the one with the headline, "A Most Remarkable Cure of Heart Disease."

"Perhaps one of the most wonderful results on record is the wonderful cure of Mrs. S.E. Clark by Dr. Darrin," it began. "Mrs. Clark was carried to Dr. Darrin's office in an almost dying condition afflicted with a complication of diseases."

Turns out she had been treated by the doctor on Dec. 24, 1897 — more than eight years earlier — in Pendleton. But she had sent a letter to the Register in 1905 stating he had completely cured her of heart, lung and stomach troubles.

As it did in Jacksonville, the article indicated Dr. Darrin would provide the cure at no charge to the worthy poor. But it also noted he would charge others $5 a week.

For those seeking his special treatment, the doctor would remain at the Hotel Smeede in Eugene until Oct. 1, it concluded.

And there was the article in the Jan. 20, 1899, issue of the Bohemia Nugget weekly newspaper in Cottage Grove.

"Those who are disposed to doubt Dr. Darrin's cures will have their doubts shaken," the article promised, referring to testimonials supporting his claims of curing everything from crossed eyes to venereal diseases.

If the illness required, he would employ both electricity and medicines to defeat it, the article noted.

Curiously, Dr. Darrin's first name never surfaces in any of the articles.

We will never know whether his treatment of Bessie Belle helped or hindered her. I try not to think how the 3-year-old, whose angelic photograph hangs in my study, must have been frightened when hooked up to an electrical gadget with its assorted wires and low-level shock.

What I do know is that Bessie Belle died at age 6 on June 10, 1904, in the Fattig home on Wimer Street in Ashland. Cause of death was high fever brought on by pneumonia following a bout with measles, according to the death certificate.

The little girl who would have been my aunt is buried in the Hargadine Cemetery in Ashland.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com