23 November 2011

Dr. George Adolph Fiegenbaum

1855 — 1896


St. Joseph Daily News, Tuesday, 28 April 1896:  Dr. George Fiegenbaum died last night at St. Joseph's Hospital.  He had not tasted food or drink for ten days and would have starved to death had it not been for an air operation performed on him last Sunday.  The unfortunate man was afflicted with a throat trouble, a stricture of the esophagus, that had been growing for a year.  Dr. Fiegenbaum was educated in St. Joseph and graduated from a medical college here.  He has been practicing during the last fifteen years, lately at Oklahoma City, where he located several years ago.  He is a son of the Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum of 1123 North Fifth Street and will be buried from the home of his parents at 2 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.  The cause of his death was a most peculiar one and baffled the skill of some of the greatest physicians in the United States.  When he was first afflicted, Dr. Fiegenbaum sought relief by going to some of the best physicians in Chicago.  Attempts were made there and by physicians in this city to dilate the esophagus with a tube, but it was found to be an impossibility.  Ten days ago it became so bad that he could not swallow food and since then he had eaten nothing.  He was slowly starving to death and as he lay in the hospital he begged the physicians to go on with the contemplated operation.  There was no hope of saving his life, but he would be saved from death from starvation, and the operation was performed.  "Do anything to save me from starvation and this burning thirst," said Dr. Fiegenbaum to the physicians attending him.  He knew there was no hope of saving his life.  The stomach was opened and food and water were placed in it.  The operation was successful and if it had been performed months ago, the man's life might have been saved.  He died peacefully and without suffering, and a post mortem examination of his body was made today.  It was found that the esophagus and windpipe had a common opening and that the patient had strangled to death.  The lungs were filled with saliva and everything that had been swallowed by him for several days -- in fact everything that went down his throat went into the lungs instead of the stomach.  Before he died Dr. Fiegenbaum asked one of his friends to do him a favor, "After I am dead," he said, "and a post mortem examination has been had, I want you to take radishes and lettuce and things that look cooling and good and after mixing them with cracked ice, fill the abdominal cavity.  I know it will do me no good, for I will be dead, but there is a satisfaction in knowing that it can be done and that the burning thirst will be allayed." For days before he died the sufferer was in untold agony on account of his thirst that almost drove him wild.  His throat was closed and he could take no nourishment of any kind.  When water could be taken a drop at a time it went into his lungs only increasing his suffering.  Through it all he was patient and while he knew the end was near, he had a horror of starving to death.  The unfortunate man who died was born at Galena, Illinois in 1835 1  and came with his parents to this state when a child.  The Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum was Presiding Elder of the German Methodist Episcopal Church here for many years and has been a minister of the gospel for more than forty years.  Dr. Fiegenbaum was educated at a college in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where he was graduated with high honors.  He afterwards attended the St. Joseph Hospital and Medical College, where he was graduated.  He began the practice of medicine at Oregon, Holt, Missouri about fifteen years ago, and afterwards removed to Omaha where he practiced for five years.  Since then he has been practicing medicine in Oklahoma.  A wife and two children are left by Dr. Fiegenbaum.  His wife was a Miss Bradrick of Mount Pleasant, Iowa and they became acquainted while he was attending college there. 2   His parents are both living and he has four sisters all of whom are living.  The sisters are Mrs. J. C. Steinmetz of this city, wife of a bookkeeper for the Turner-Frazer Mercantile Company; Miss Anna Fiegenbaum with the Townsend and Wyatt Dry Goods Company; Miss Mary Fiegenbaum who lives at home, and Mrs. Thomas Curry, wife of the editor of the Oregon Sentinel.  The deceased was a member of the Woodman and other lodges at Oklahoma City.  All the immediate relatives are in the city and were with Dr. Fiegenbaum when he died.  The deceased was a large man and was in good health before he became afflicted with throat trouble.  He was well known all over this part of the state and had many friends in St. Joseph and the surrounding country.  He will be buried at Ashland Cemetery in St. Joseph.

Source: Transcription courtesy of Frances Gretchen (Klein) Leenerts. She reported that this obituary had been published in the St. Joseph Daily News (St. Joseph, Missouri) on Tuesday, 28 April 1896.


  1. The original obituary or the transcription is in error on the date. George Adolph Fiegenbaum was the fourth child born to Friedrich Wilhelm and Louisa (Otto) Fiegenbaum. The birth was on 1 January 1855, not 1835.

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  2. George A. Fiegenbaum was married to Anna Birdsall Bradrick, the daughter of Rev. Isaiah Allen and Mary (Rankin) Bradrick. The wedding took place on Wednesday, 20 October 1880, at Mt. Pleasant, Henry County, Iowa; the bride's father, a pastor in the Iowa Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, officiated.

    Anna was born on 18 August 1856 at Lima, Allen County, Ohio. After finishing at Mt. Pleasant High School, she entered Iowa Wesleyan University in 1873 and graduated with a B.S. degree in 1877. She was member of the Ruthean Literary Society and the Iowa Alpha Chapter of the Pi Beta Phi sorority.

    George and Anna were the parents of three children (see the brief genealogy, below). The eldest, a son, died in childhood.

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digital image of an obituary for Dr. George Adolph Fiegenbaum.  A transcription of the obituary follows.

Death of Dr. Geo. A. Fiegenbaum

The dark lines of great grief rest upon all this community this week, and The Sentinel will, with painful reluctance carry it to the heart of many in the announcement that Dr. George A. Fiegenbaum, passed over the river into the great unknown beyond on Monday evening last, April 27, 1896, at the age of 41 years, his death occuring [sic] at St. Joseph's Hospital, St. Joseph, Mo., from stricture of the esophagus.  For fifteen months the deceased had been an invalid from stricture of the esophagus, and his affliction came to him while a resident of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and so great was his suffering that he was compelled to abandon his practice and seek treatment in St. Joseph and Chicago.  His physicians as well as kind and attentive friends did all in their power to bring about his recovery.  As a last resort, after an exhaustive consultation with leading specialists and his physician, it was decided the only chance was to submit to an operation, and as a consequence the patient was removed from the home of his father, Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum, of St. Joseph, to St. Joseph's hospital where the patient was prepared and on Sunday, April 26th, his physicians, took charge of the patient and the operation was skilfully [sic] performed and was a success in every particular.  The patient had been unable to take the proper nurishment [sic] for so long that he was greatly weakened, from the time of the operation, he was doing well until attacked by a spasm of coughing, which produced strangulations and from that time he continued growing weaker and weaker, until Monday evening he sank into that "sleep that knows no waking."

He was born in Galena, Illinois, January 1, 1855.  His father, Rev. Henry Fiegenbaum, now of St. Joseph, was a native of Prussia, Germany, and his mother, was a Miss Clara C. Kastenbudt, from Hanover.  George went with his parents to Wapello, Iowa, in 1860, then to Pekin, Illinois, in 1864, thence to Quincy, Illinois, in 1867, and 1870 to St. Joseph.  From St. Joseph Rev. Fiegenbaum was removed to Oregon, where he was stationed for three years, during which time the subject of this sketch was taking his collegiate course.  The deceased began life at this time for himself by clerking in a mercantile establishment.  In the fall of 1873 he went to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, where he took a classical course at the Iowa Wesleyan University.  In June 1878, he graduated with high honors, the degree of A. B. being conferred.  In 1877 he commenced the study of medicine under Dr. Ray Beattie, and in the fall of 1878 he attended his first course of lectures at the St. Joseph Hospital Medical College.  By the removal of Dr. Beattie to South America, the deceased was obliged to choose another preceptor, which he found in the person of Dr. T. H. Doyle, of St. Joseph.  He graduated in the spring of 1880, and that same year the Wesleyan University conferred upon him the degree of A. M.  In July 1880, he came to Oregon and formed a partnership with Dr. Goslin, and during this partnership he was appointed county physician, this was in 1882.  He was married in October 1880, to Miss Anna B. Bradrick, a daughter of Rev. I. A. Bradrick, of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and by this union three children were born, two now living, aged seven and three years respectively, who with their mother survive.  In our half century journey on this earth, never have we seen a husband and wife live so devotedly for each other as the deceased and his now broken hearted wife.  Love was supreme with them, hence their home was what "two souls with but a single thought, two hearts that beat as one," could possibly make it here on this earth.  His venerable parents and four sisters are also left to mourn his loss. -- The sisters are Mrs. J. C. Steinmetz, of St. Joe, wife of a bookkeeper for the Nave & McCord Mercantile Company, Miss Anna Fiegenbaum, with the Townsend & Wyatt Dry Goods Company, Miss Mary Fiegenbaum, who lives at home, and Mrs. Tom Curry, of Oregon.  The deceased was a member of the Woodmen and Redmen lodges at Oklahoma City.  All the immediate relatives were in the city and were with Dr. Fiegenbaum when he died.

In the solemn presence of death love should be modest in its praise, and silence lay its finger upon the lips of flattery.  Our friend was not faultless.  He had weakenesses [sic] and imperfections; who of us have none?  But under the blessed common law of love, death always pushes faults and frailties out of sight and memory touches with brighter color every virtue and living trait of character.  We might speak of his loyal, passionate love of home, of the dear ones there; we might speak of his loyal constancy in friendship, but you who knew him have felt the warm grasp of that dead hand.  We might dwell on his open-handed generosity, but we believe that is known to us all.  We could talk of his long and heavy suffering, but we, who have been close to him know of all this, and so our thoughts and feelings and memories are more eloquent than any words we may write.

Now let us speak of the solemn significance of life which the presence of death always suggests, even to the least thoughtful.  Especially do we remember, now, these words of scripture, "in the midst of life we are death."

But dear reader of The Sentinel remember this.  No man holds a moment's lease of life.  And yet life is full of jealousies, resentments, envyings and bitterness.  Little words and acts have caused estrangement among those who ought to love each other.  Some day you mean to be generous and forgiving.  Some day you mean to take the hand you have not clasped for years.  But that day may never come to you.  "Now is the accepted time."  Now is the time for reconciliation, for the offices of love, for the blessed ministry of forgiveness, for sweet charity, the hour of true penitence.  You are waiting for tomorrow.  But the curtain may be rung down upon the last act of your life today.

Dr. Fiegenbaum had many admirable traits of character; no higher tribute could be paid to any man than to say he was incorruptible; his views may not have been right; they may not have been popular; they might even have given pain to those whom his every wish was to have saved this pain, but he was honest in his views and this honesty was steadfast to the truth as he saw it; he hated shams, despised hypocrisy, and had no patience with affectation or shallow pretense; always sincere, always thoughtful, he fully realized the imperfections of life and the short-comings of humanity; he pitied and was silent; he had faith, but that faith was not in forms or set theories, but that highest and abiding faith in the love of the Creator of Love; he was heroic in facing the end; patient and kind to all during his affliction, so that in his presence no one was aware of the mental and physical struggle he waged against pain; of fine intellect, finely developed, he was yet so retiring in disposition that only those who were closet to him insensibly were made aware of the man's remarkable ability; his mind was a great storehouse of knowledge and facts which never escaped him.

All who became well acquainted with George Fiegenbaum liked him, for he was generous, kind hearted, true to his home and loved ones and friends; sympathetic in his nature, and was always ready to do a favor or a kindness to others if in his power.  There was so much of these in his nature that endeared him to a great number, and his memory will be cherished by the many who have been made sad by his death.

Short funeral services were conducted from the family residence at 2 p. m. last Wednesday afternoon, by Rev. C. H. Harmes, pastor of the German M. E. church, St. Joseph, and by Elder J. Tanner, of Lincoln, Nebraska, a former pastor of the deceased, after which the remains were laid to rest in the family lot in Ashland cemetery, St. Joseph, to await the final resurrection.

Friends and relatives from a distance were in attendance to pay their last sad tribute of respect and love, and telegrames [sic] of condolence were also received from dear ones in far away countries.  Rev. I. A. Bradrick and wife, of Chicago, the venerable father and mother of the bereaved wife were present.

Source: "Death of Dr. Geo. A. Fiegenbaum," The Holt County Sentinel (Oregon, Missouri); Friday, 1 May 1896; Page 4, Columns 4-5.

Digital copies accessed through Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (The Library of Congress) in November 2011.

The original article in the newspaper covered a little more one column. The digital image presented here has been altered to conserve space.

Dr. Geo. A. Fiegenbaum at the St. Joseph Hospital in St. Joseph, Mo., on April 29.  He had been troubled for 18 months with stricture of the esophagus, and had gone to the hospital to undergo an operation.  The post-mortem examination disclosed the fact that the esophagus and the trachea had a common opening.  He was 41 years old.

Source: American Medico-Surgical Bulletin Volume 9, Number 20 (May 16, 1896), page 681.

Brief Genealogy

George Adolph Fiegenbaum's family

Anna Birdsall Bradrick's family

Fiegenbaum - Bradrick family

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