Willie Boettcher and Some Home Surgery

George & Willie Boettcher and a giant tree
George & Willie Boettcher and a giant tree

This story was told to me by Dr. Tom Van Eaton. I’ll try to do it justice.

Willie Boettcher was a woodsman. Like the rest of his family, he was used to big trees and bigger blades.

He lived in Alder and while he was out in his backyard one day, he slipped and fell on an ax. The blade was pointing upward and caught him in the stomach. It cut him wide open and — not to get too graphic — organs were spilling out.

There was no time to get to a hospital, but luckily his sister Minnie Boettcher knew what to do. She brought him inside the house, got boiling water going and spent the next hour and half cleaning the wound, and removing dirt and needles. Throughout it all, the wound kept bleeding, but Willie hung on. Once Minnie was finished, she stitched him up with a handful big stitches. Miraculously, Willie survived.

Doctor Tom says Willie couldn’t have gotten better treatment from a hospital at the time.

George & Willie Boettcher sitting inside an old growth tree
George & Willie Boettcher sitting inside an old growth tree

Minnie came from Germany, where medicine was fairly advanced — especially when it came to dealing with bacteria. German doctor, Robert Koch in 1882 had proved bacteria was the cause of many diseases. Germans quickly learned that cleaning wounds thoroughly could stave off infection. In Willie’s case, because the wound kept bleeding, it also helped clean the wound and reduced his risk of infection.

Even though Willie survived, he never went back in the woods. It was too dangerous. Instead, he opened a pool hall in Elbe.

Photos courtesy of Pat Van Eaton.

Click on images to enlarge.


4 responses to “Willie Boettcher and Some Home Surgery”

  1. Willie borrowed the money to purchase the pool hall from his brother Charlie because his brother Ernest wouldn’t loan Willie the money. Ernest didn’t approve of that type of business. As it turned out, Willie caught spinal meningitis and died at a young age. Ernest attributed Willie’s illness to the life style of a pool hall owner.


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