Jackson’s “Doc” Hoge

By Stephen D. Bowling

The large and stately house of Dr. M. E. Hoge has long been an important part of the history of the city of Jackson and Breathitt County.  Serving as both a residence and a hospital, the Hoge house reminds us of an earlier time in Jackson when trained medical professionals were few and far between.  The large pink dogwoods that once filled the front yard were a clear signal to spring visitors that they had reached downtown Jackson when they passed the Hoge house. 

Dr. M. E. Hoge

Myrvin Eugene Hoge was born on December 28, 1879, in Putnam County, West Virginia, the youngest of twelve children to Judge James W. and Sarah (Wright) Hoge.  He was raised by his mother on a 110-acre farm following the death of his father in 1882.  He enrolled in the Kentucky School of Medicine at Louisville in 1899.  He paid his way through school as a student-physician for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad and Lexington & Eastern Railroad at several work camps in Tennessee and in eastern Kentucky.

On a visit to the camp in Breathitt County, he landed a job at Camp Christy as the company doctor for the Kentucky River Lumber and Veneering Company following his graduation from medical school in 1904.  Dr. Hoge and his new bride, Mary (Wick) Hoge, settled at Keck on Frozen Creek as he started his mountain practice.  For five years, Dr. Hoge faithfully served the people of Frozen and the surrounding areas, answering every type of call at every hour of the day and night.  As timber operations at Keck slowed, he moved to Vancleve and worked as the doctor for the Winterbotham Stave Company.  He was then hired by the larger Mowbray and Robinson Lumber Company at Quicksand, where he moved in 1911.

As company physician of the Mowbray and Robinson Lumber Company, Dr. Hoge treated and coordinated the treatment of more than 1,500 men and their families in five camps located in three counties.  In exchange, he received a hefty fee of $2,250 a month generated from a monthly charge of $1 per month for single men and $1.50 per month for married men.

Dr. Hoge served as the camp physician at Camp Christy on Frozen Creek before he moved to the Mowbray & Robinson Lumber Company at Quicksand.

Dr. Hoge served the community as a medical leader and for a term as Vice-President of the Kentucky Medical Association in 1916.  He remained one of two doctors left in Breathitt County during World War I and was charged with treating the sick and injured during some of the most difficult times in our history.  Between 1917 and 1919, thousands of Breathitt Countians were afflicted with Spanish Influenza.  Dr. Hoge opened and operated an emergency hospital in the Quicksand School building.  Despite his best efforts, thousands of local residents were numbered among the more than 50 million that died from the outbreak worldwide.

The “Good Doctor” was also included in one of the most infamous events in Breathitt’s bloody past.  He was called to the scene of the Clayhole Election shootout on November 8, 1921, where four men had been killed, and 17 wounded men awaited his treatment.  The wounded men were loaded onto a boxcar and taken for treatment at Quicksand and other hospitals across the area. 

 The Mowbray and Robinson Lumber Company reduced and eventually ceased major operations in 1924.  Following the closing of the lumber mill, Dr. Hoge and Mary moved to Jackson, where he was instrumental in the operation of the City Hospital in a three-story building on Main Street near the intersection of Lees Avenue (now Jefferson Avenue).  The City Hospital was Jackson’s first fully staffed medical center.    

The home and hospital of Dr. M. E. Hoge stand on Main Street and has been converted into a private residence.

The City Hospital building was originally a home constructed in 1908 by the Jett family and was sold in 1919 by the Jetts and Hagins, descendants of Sarah J. Hagins, to Dr. Daniel Hurst Kash.  Dr. Kash converted the home into the City Hospital and operated it for many years with Dr. Hoge.  With the decrease in epidemics in the area, the City Hospital fell on hard times.  Dr. Kash and his wife, Loura (Rose) Kash, sold the City Hospital on October 13, 1920, to Dr. Hoge for $1.00.

The Jackson Times observed Mr. and Mrs. Hoge’s 50th wedding anniversary with a photo and brief article on the front page of the January 21, 1954 edition.

Dr. Hoge set about remodeling the hospital and converted a large portion of the patient rooms into a residence for his growing family.  To make the transportation of patients easier, Dr. Hoge installed a new elevator in his new hospital to bring patients to the second floor.  He continued to use the operating room on the second floor and practiced for more than 30 years from his home and hospital.  Dr. Hoge treated thousands of cases, including a major outbreak of smallpox and two epidemics of typhoid.  He was also active in the recovery and medical efforts following the 1939 Frozen Flood.

Dr. Hoge and several of his favorite antiques were featured in an article on page 3 of Section 3 of the September 18, 1949, edition of The Louisville Courier-Journal.

He served the community as President of the Jackson Kiwanis Club, an elder of the Guerrant Memorial Presbyterian Church, a trustee of Lees Junior College, President of the Breathitt County Medical Society, a Vice-President of the First National Bank, a member of the Breathitt County Health Board, and a member of the Jackson City School Board.

Dr. Hoge was also a charter member of Quicksand Lodge Masonic Lodge No. 887 and later was active in Breathitt Lodge Masonic Lodge No. 649.  He belonged to Jackson Chapter 160, Royal Arch Masons, Knight Templar Commandery at London, and Oleika Temple.  He was a past Chancellor-Commander of the Knights of Pythias and a former member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Dr.  Hoge served the people of Breathitt County well from his Main Street home.  More than 500 local residents were born, and thousands were treated under his care.  From this home, he was called to the sick and injured across the region before he retired from his medical practice.

He died on September 8, 1955, after years of faithful service.  He was buried near his parents in Winfield, West Virginia.  His wife, Mary, joined him there after her death in 1977.

Today, their home still stands on Main Street as a proud and noble reminder of a man who cared for and treated his community with respect as one of its most remembered and admired medical professionals.  As a show of mountain respect, his service and influence still live on in our memory when local residents fondly remember him simply as “Doc Hoge.”

© 2023 Stephen D. Bowling


About sdbowling

Director of the Breathitt County Public Library and Heritage Center in Jackson, Kentucky.
This entry was posted in Breathitt County, Businesses, Feuds, Frozen Creek, Health, Medicine, Timber and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jackson’s “Doc” Hoge

  1. annaleveridge says:

    This is so interesting. I didn’t know he was called to the scene of the Clayhole election shootout, where my great grandfather was killed. He was Mr. Combs, jailer at the time. His wife cooked for the inmates. Our family is tied to that election.

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