A family doctor and surgeon for more than sixty years, Jarvis Edward Hodgson was born April 29, 1878, at Des Moines, Iowa, and was the son of Jarvis and Atlanta (Huin) Hodgson. His early years were spent in Des Moines, where he entered the Drake Medical College. He also received training at the Central Medical College of St. Joseph, Missouri, and the University Medical in Kansas City. In the course of his studies he met and married his wife Alta on April 27, 1897, in Des Moines, where they had one daughter, Margaret. Jarvis had almost completed his college career when the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898.
Jarvis enlisted in the 51st Iowa Volunteer Infantry and was made a non-commissioned staff officer, assigned to the San Francisco Army Hospital as a hospital steward. In the course of his duties he contracted typhoid fever, leaving him seriously ill for much of the war. At its end he received an honorable discharge and returned to medical college.
In 1899 Jarvis received his diploma. He headed westward and his first stop was in Alma, Nebraska, where he found five doctors, in his words, “all starving.” While there he learned that the town of Long Island in Phillips County, Kansas, was in need of a physician and surgeon. He headed south and on May 30, 1899, he located in that small town on the banks of Prairie Dog Creek.
When Dr. Hodgson set up practice in Long Island he had just ten dollars left and his wife was going to have their baby. As he hung out his “shingle,” or nameplate, announcing he was open for business, it was shot full of holes by cowboys. But Jarvis’ fortunes soon turned. His first major case was a boy whose arm had been caught in a corn sheller. The boy had just been taken to another doctor, and every time that doctor went into his back room to prepare for the operation he took a drink. By the time he was ready he could hardly stand. So in desperation the boy’s parents turned to Dr. Hodgson, who amputated the arm and saved the boy’s life. At the time there wasn’t a nurse in Phillips County, and so, accompanied by a real estate man and a livery stable man, Dr. Hodgson would drive a horse and buggy to the patient’s sod house and then often had to operate on the kitchen table.
In 1905 the Hodgson family moved to the town of Downs in Osborne County. By 1909 he had opened a private hospital and while his professional life prospered, his marriage had deteriorated and ended in divorce in May 1915. On December 22, 1915, Jarvis married Ida Mae Somers in Downs. They had one daughter, Beth. Jarvis was a lifelong member of the Episcopalian Church and was active in the Masonic Lodge. He served as director of the Downs municipal band and in 1921 he was elected to the first of three terms as mayor of Downs. In 1919 Dr. Hodgson served as Osborne County Coroner for one term.
As a doctor concerned for the welfare of his patients Jarvis continued expanding his medical knowledge by taking post-graduate courses in 1910, 1919, and 1927 in New York City at the New York Polyclinic School and at Columbia University. He was the official physician and surgeon for the Downs division of the Missouri Pacific Railroad for over forty-five years. When he announced his official retirement in 1963, Jarvis had, according to his records, performed over 7500 cases of major surgery and had attended to over 3000 births.
“Dr. Hodgson has been more than a physician and surgeon. He has acted as a lawyer for patients, counseled them when they were making decisions, and on several occasions has been the only person taken into the confidence of those involved in domestic troubles, when, through his kindly advice, the tempestuous waves on the river of matrimony have been soothed.” — Downs News, June 2, 1949.
Dr. Jarvis Hodgson died May 17, 1966, in the U.S. Veterans Hospital at Grand Island, Nebraska. His body was brought back to Downs and laid to rest with full honors in the Downs Cemetery.