After writing the articles on Dr. David Burley, Pat Spencer told me an interesting story about Dr. Burley’s early days in Almont. It is a story that needs to be preserved.
Dr. Burley came to Almont in June of 1893 because he liked the appearance of our tree lined streets. He rented an office on the west side of South Main Street and hung out his shingle, which was a sign with a clock on it which indicated when he would be back. The sign always said, “The Dr. is In, Please be Seated.”
For days he sat in his office awaiting his first patient to come but none arrived. He recognized he needed to do something to attract patients. He knew that selecting a doctor is most often done by word-of-mouth but that could not happen without him having patients. In the 1800s before the widespread availability of telephones, doctors were contacted in person. Patients would come to town to the doctor’s office or a family member would come to town to get the doctor if the patient was too ill to travel. Doctors in the 1800s were “Country Doctors.” Most times they went to their patients, which meant that frequently the doctor was not in his office when someone came to town. When the preferred doctor was out of his office, if the need was serious, the patient or family member would go to one of the other doctors in town. The patients went to the second doctor because they had confidence and trust in the ability of the other doctors because of the friends and neighbors who they knew went to that doctor.
Dr. David H. Burley hit on a plan to use this trust and confidence to get patients to come to his office.
One day he went to his office and sat looking out at the people on Main Street. When there were a number of people on the sidewalks downtown, he rushed out of his office, set the clock on his shingle and ran to the livery stable. He quickly harnessed his buggy and left the livery at a high rate of speed. He drove down Main Street and waved at the people standing on the sidewalk. Dr. Burley then raced around the country roads. He waved at the farmers working in the fields, the farmer’s wives working in their gardens, and the children playing in the yard by their home. The impression he was creating was that he was rushing to take care of a patient—that someone in the community trusted him to take care of their medical needs.
Dr. Burley’s ruse worked and people began coming to his office. He would treat the people of the community of Almont and the surrounding area for the next 66 years.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s Homecoming book, “Remembrances of Almont 2020”can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.