Claude E. Burtch – 1997 Inductee

The third of eleven children, Claude E. Burtch was born November 8, 1874, in Indianola, Warren County, Iowa.  When he was just a few months old his parents, John and Laura (Wilson) Burtch, moved the family to a homestead in German Township, Smith County, Kansas.  At age seventeen a hunting accident in which Claude fell and his gun discharged caused one of his legs to be amputated.  He then turned to teaching for a living and taught at a rural school near Reamsville, Kansas, for a year and for four years at the Crystal Plains rural school in southern Smith County.

Claude then decided to change careers and entered the University of Kansas Medical School in Kansas City, Kansas, from which he graduated in April 1904.  Two months later he opened a practice in Athol, Kansas.  On December 22, 1908, he married Mrs. Mary C. (Dillon) Cummings.  The couple never had any children of their own but raised Mary’s two children, Harry and Chastine, from her previous marriage, and also two foster daughters, Nina Mills and Carrie Bowmarr.

In 1909 Dr. Burtch moved his practice to Paradise, Kansas.  He stayed there two years before relocating once again, this time in Portis, Kansas.  The town suited him well and he built a large and varied medical practice.  In 1925 he built a private hospital, which he operated until 1952.  One of the surgeons who assisted him was Dr. John Outland, namesake for the Outland Trophy given annually to the best college football lineman, who flew in periodically from Kansas City to perform surgeries.  Over four hundred surgeries were performed in the hospital over the years, with only five deaths occurring.  On the hospital’s busiest day, thirteen tonsillectomies and two major operations were performed.

Claude had many interests which were beneficial to the Portis community.  He was an excellent carpenter who built grain bins, two television towers {seventy and eighty feet, respectively), and the local beauty shop.  A talented musician, he played and taught a variety of instruments, including the violin and clarinet, and for a time he led his own town orchestra.  He taught Sunday School classes and was an avid reader, maintaining a large library in his office.  Through the years Dr. and Mrs. Burtch opened their home to several boys and girls who wished to attend Portis High School but otherwise could not have either because of distance to the school or a lack of money for such an extravagance.

In his years as a doctor Claude helped to deliver over 3000 babies.  His longest professional call was to Santa Rosa, New Mexico, over seven hundred miles away.  He was listed in Who’s Who in the Midwest during the 1950s, and in his later years he concentrated his efforts into overseeing his farming operation of over 2000 acres.  Claude died March 7, 1957, at Portis and was buried in the Bethany Cemetery northwest of Portis in Smith County.

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