The Story of How Intelligent Dogs, Tasty Hamburgers, and $7K Nearly Ended Hog Cholera In Sedalia
I remember having pets most of my life as a regular Sedalia kid. We had a dog when I was really little (so little I don't remember it), fish, and probably about ten cats over the years. So of course, that means you have go to the Vet sometimes, right? Right. It's not something you or your pet looks forward to, but ya gotta do it. And back in those days, my family and I took our pets to go see Dr. Gouge.
Dr. Gouge and his staff helped us through several instances of fleas, gender issues, and mystery illnesses over the years. All of it took place at the legendary G & G Veterinary Clinic, which still stands at 711 West Main Street. Well, the building stands, that is. I believe it's now a boarding/pet hotel service, but I can't be 100% on that. What I can be sure is, I got a case of the Getting Curious and decided to educate myself a little about the building, the clinic, as well as the people who ran it and built it.
The building is listed on the Heritage Veterinary Practice Registry with the American Veterinary Medical History Society and National Registry of Historical Locations. It's one of the few places that was a family run clinic for over fifty years. That's a lot of years, and so there must be a juicy backstory, right? Let's see what a dimwit with an internet connection can find!
Well, the first rumblings of our story start in the 1800's. We start with our protagonist, a brohaim called Mord Gouge. There isn't a ton of information about Mord (other than the fact that his name is amazing), but he was one of the first vets in Sedalia,... ever. It was actually more of a newfangled idea back then. Veterinary medicine didn't really start to become a thing until the industrial revolution, and farms became big business. Unlike today, in the early days a lot of it wasn't about pets, but about livestock. So for the most part, the Vets would just be contacted to go to farms and help with animals on site. There wasn't a need necessarily for a clinic as we know it now. A lot of them were taught by their father, who was taught by their father, etc, and they'd work out of their homes if they weren't headed out to a barn. In fact, there wasn't even a school to learn animal medicine in our area until the Kansas City Veterinary College opened in 1891. And they only offered two and three year degrees at the time.
So Mord went up there, and got his degree in 1910. He then came back to Sedalia, where he started to work with the U.S. Bureau of Agricultural Industry. He was working on trying to end a huge, costly problem in agriculture: hog cholera. Which we know more commonly today as Classical Swine Fever. If you're not familiar with what it is to the pigs, well. It's harsh. Fever, hemorrhages, lethargy, yellowish diarrhea, vomiting, with a purple skin discoloration of the ears, lower abdomen, and legs would all be things the farmers would see in their animals. And of course, that's bad for business, but as humans that had real affinity for their animals, of course they wanted to end that nonsense right quick. Nobody wanted Babe to suffer, even if he was going to be made into some tasty sausages. Dr. Gouge to the rescue.
Literally. He was working with the Bureau, trying to work on a serum that would prevent the disease from breaking out in the hog herds. In fact, I read in the documents to register the G & G Building that Mord was the dude you called on if you had a livestock problem - he was credited as "saving the hog industry" in our area. Huge deal. So after a while, Mord also decided to nip something else in the bud - the drug industry's possible meddling in that. He made sure to point out to the Bureau that laws and regulations needed to be in place so that drug companies couldn't directly sell their products to farmers. Which is important, because you need to know what a drug is, what it does, how to administer it, and all that. Stuff that a Vet would know, not necessarily a farmer.
While it didn't solve the problem, Mord's serums definitely helped. in 1918, he and his family moved from Higginsville to Sedalia, and Mord set up the MidState Serum Company on Main Street. It moved around a block or two for a few years, before Mord decided to set up a permanent clinic. Now, why would he need to do that? He was going from farm to farm, right? Most Vets worked out of their houses, after all. Well, yes. BUT.
The times, they were a changin'. With cars and trucks and farm equipment getting more affordable and more widely used, that meant people weren't using animals as transportation as much. And more people were starting to want a doctor to check out their pets, instead. In fact, the idea really became popular when a dude in KC named Flynn opened his own clinic that focused on pets. So while Mord was definitely still deeply into that Ag Life, he decided to move with the times and build a new structure for just that purpose.
Enter our next playa: Lewis Paul Andrews. Lew was a local guy, graduated from SCHS. He went away to MU for college and then on to more studies in St Louis, before travelling the world a bit and then settling back home (he went on to big things in KC, but that's later). When he got back home, he worked on several buildings you probably remember: the Milton Oil Service station at Fifth and Osage, and what was then Garst's (which then later became Eddie's, but it's gone now. Ask your parents. Delicious burgers, though. Man. SO good). He had a couple of "model homes" to show people what he could do, and Mord hired him up in 1937.
Mord basically gave Lew the idea to follow what Flynn had done in KC, but Lew decided to give it it a more "Art Deco" flair. Which is what makes it still so striking even today! Lew got an estimate, drew the design, all that good jazz, and Mord gave the go ahead in August. The number was $8785 for the whole project, and Mord SHUT THAT DOWN. He was like, "Heck no, son, that's too much! Dial it back!".
Lew spent several days revising his design by “cutting, shaving, and slicing” to reduce the size of the building. The firm that Lew worked for ended up bidding about $8300, which Mord was cool with. But in the end, the building was completed in December at a cost of $7220.23. I seriously probably owe more money in credit card debt than he paid for a whole business. History!
That was 1937, and Mord opened up shop with himself, his son, and later his brother. They still worked a lot with farms and agriculture, but also worked a lot with pets - one famous client being none other than Jim the Wonder Dog. I'm not sure about some of the reports I've heard, but some say Jim was a client of the G & G clinic, and some say he actually died at the clinic. Not sure. All I know for sure is Jim was awesome, and you should see his museum in Marshall. Even if I do have some doubts about whether or not the dog could read. Just saying.
So anyway, Mord, his son, and later, his grandson (who was my Dr. Gouge), stayed in operation for decades, and sadly, are no longer in practice. My Dr. Gouge, from what I understood, was ready to retire, but there wasn't anyone in his family that could continue the practice.
But, we still have the memories, and we still have the stories! Do you have any memories or stories about the old G&G building? Have you used the business that's in there now?