Hopedale’s Kleber Campbell Has Been
Country Doctor Fifty Years

By Lillian D. Archibald

  If Hopedale were to name its man of the half century, a leading candidate would be Kleber A. Campbell, M.D.  

 The year 1950 represents two special milestones in the physician’s life. This summer, he and Mrs. Campbell celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. This fall marked the 50th anniversary of his practice in the small industrial town of 3500.

 There is probably no one in the town who does not know the popular, mild-mannered doctor. Until recent years there were very few families who had never called him. The devotion of Hopedale was shown when a purse was given to Dr. Campbell and his wife on their golden wedding anniversary.

 Typically, the modest couple were actually surprised that anyone know of the important event.  Dr. Campbell waited 16 days after his arrival in Hopedale for his first patient, a man whom he later treated for smallpox. Now, a half-century later, he still treats members of the first patient’s family.

 Upon graduation from Albany Medical School in 1900, Dr. Campbell went to Upton to substitute for the late Dr. Edward C. Traver, who was then in Europe. While in Upton. Dr. Campbell received word he had passed his state board examinations and he immediately returned to Albany to marry the former Miss Mary Brewster Safford.

 When Dr. Traver, who had originally intended to sell his practice, returned to Upton, he had changed his mind. This left Dr. Campbell without a medical practice and with a new wife to support.

 After visiting several communities in central Massachusetts, Dr. Campbell decided to settle in Hopedale. He and Mrs. Campbell spent three weeks in attic rooms on Union Street, then lived three years in what is now the Legion Home on Hopedale Street. They moved into their present home at 82 Hopedale Street 47 years ago.

 Dr. Campbell also had an office in Mendon. His first house call there had to be entered on the red side of the ledger. Coming out of a house where he had diagnosed a youngster’s ailment as typhoid, he found his horse ill. Veterinarian’s treatment and overnight board for the sick horse, plus the hire of another to take him back to Hopedale came to $5.

 Not disheartened, Dr. Campbell continued to his next call – a Mendon housewife.

 “I felt pretty good,” he smiled, “for I now had two patients in Mendon.”

 He returned to one Mendon home the next morning to find another physician’s buggy departing. The family reported that fear of typhoid caused them to summon another doctor – but gave the young Hopedale physician a dollar for his trip.

 Contagious diseases were the great bugaboo of the medical profession when Dr. Campbell was beginning his career. “More doctors and nurses died of diphtheria than of any other malady,” he noted. Not only was it dangerous, but it was sometimes elusive in detection, especially in children. Croup was common among children, and membranous croup, one of the two varieties was, in fact, a form of diphtheria the doctor said.  

 Before the discovery of the antitoxin, 40 percent of all diphtheria cases were fatal, 40 percent recovered completely, and 20 percent were left crippled in some way, Dr. Campbellexplained.

 “Once we began to use the antitoxin, we seldom lost a case. We would take a throat swab and send it to Boston for analysis, and if the result was positive, the laboratory would phone so that treatment could be commenced. If negative, a letter was written, stating the result.”

 The last fatal case of diphtheria treated by Dr. Campbell occurred in 1924 in a child who had been ill and without professional treatment for a week. A high school boy who had already been inoculated had a mild case about seven years ago. Though he had been in school, no one else caught it, this served to prove the effectiveness of the toxoid in immunization, the doctor emphasized.

 “One doctor told me he had not seen a single case of diphtheria in Milford in 15 years,” Dr. Campbell noted. “This does not mean that parents should be careless about inoculations, but rather that they should continue to be diligent in protecting their children from diphtheria.”

 Typhoid, malaria, scarlet fever, and even smallpox were not rare diseases to the doctor of 50 years ago. However, Dr. Campbell had never encountered malaria before coming to Upton. His knowledge of it was entirely academic. His first case appeared to respond to treatment, but on the third day when the patient’s temperature rose again, he was baffled. He asked the druggist if anyone had ever had malaria in that town and was surprised to learn that it was not uncommon. Armed with this information and some quinine, the doctor cured his patient. Dr. Campbell recalled that he himself had had malaria in 1913.

 When a case of smallpox was discovered in Hopedale in 1902, the patient was isolated in a building on Route 140 near the Upton line. “People would drive miles out of their way just to avoid going past the pest house,” Dr. Campbell said.

 Everyone was advised to get a vaccination. The doctor inoculated Kleber, Jr., his three week-old son, and as an extra precaution, always changed his clothes in the corn crib before coming into his own home.

 Dr. Campbell admitted with a chuckle that he took pride in knowing Calvin Coolidge, who had been a fraternity brother of his at Amherst College. Another classmate was Dwight W. Morrow, onetime U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

 “I had a group picture of our fraternity with Coolidge included, which I kept in a bureau drawer until he became governor of Massachusetts. Then I took it out and had it framed,” he revealed.

 A native of West Rutland, Vt., Dr. Campbell lived only 25 miles from Coolidge. After he bought a one-cylinder 1908 Cadillac, he took his horse Rob, a gift from his father, back to Vermont. Rob was very dear to the doctor who had had bad luck with horses – first a sick one and then another which was killed by a streetcar’s snowplow. Rob often brought the doctor home from Mendon while he slept.

 Though those extra projects were not successful, the doctor’s practice has been. He now has to refer a great many cases to other physicians. “We have some fine doctor’s here in Milford and Hopedale,” he said, “and they have been very kind to me.” Dr. Campbell didn’t mention his kindness to newcomers to the profession, often giving them the recommendation which brought them his patients.  

 The doctor does not often make night calls now, for he isn’t able. “I will go when no other doctor is available, or in an emergency,” he said. “People have been very considerate about not calling me during evening hours. The only thing is I’m afraid many of them think I have retired completely.”

 Dr. Campbell does not belong to the category of general practitioners who are against specialists. He does not hesitate to recommend special treatment when he thinks it necessary, and he has sent many young mothers to pediatricians. “When I began my practice,” he said, “only the very ‘ignorant’ fed their babies foods that are now given to all modern babies.”

 Pasteurized milk was a cause for which Dr. Campbell fought ardently. The late Freeman Lowell, then head of a Mendon dairy, lent support and delivered pasteurized milk for three months before labeling it on his bottle caps, the doctor related.

 “The first morning the new caps appeared there were many complaints. But the dealer just told his customers they’d been using pasteurized milk three months. He explained that he just hadn’t wanted to waste all his old labels,” Dr. Campbell smiled.

 Shelves of the doctor’s inner office have a fascinating array of bottles of all shapes and colors. Many of the bottles contain products now seldom used.

 “The 1950 edition of ‘Current Therapy,’ a medical textbook, contains a new treatment for one-third of all diseases covered in the previous year’s book,” the doctor said, “illustrating how rapidly the medical profession progresses.” Dr. Campbell has always dispensed some of his own medicines.

 Of socialized medicine, Dr. Campbell says, “I think it would be horrible. Doctors don’t want politicians telling them what to do and people don’t want to be told which doctor they must have.”

 One question about Dr. Campbell must have bothered most of the people in Hopedale though it is doubtful that any ever asked it. That is, “Do you feel disappointed that your own son did not follow your profession?”

The doctor volunteered an answer in referring to a sermon he had heard at Amherst. The minister said if he were asked to advise the ten ablest men in the audience he would send them not into his own profession, the ministry, but into law, where he felt, there was the greatest need and the most opportunity for young men.

 So impressed was Dr. Campbell by that sermon that he, the nephew of physicians of both sides of his family, guided his own son toward study of law.

 Kleber Campbell, Jr. or Grafton is now a Worcester attorney. Dr. Campbell’s daughter, Katharine, wife of Joseph S. Seville, and a grandson Richard W. live at 18 Germain Street, Worcester.

 His namesake grandson, 2nd Lt. Kleber Campbell, 3rd, is in the Korean area.

 Dr. Campbell is looking forward to many more years of service. He has had a full and rewarding life but he still feels his work is not done. He looks to the years ahead with ever-increasing interest and enthusiasm. Work and helping others is a way of life with Dr. Campbell. He has found it a happy way of life.

 Lillian Archibald is a free lance feature writer. She lives in Hopedale. Worcester Sunday Telegram, Dec. 31, 1950

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