Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 13
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: October 1964 Volume 13 Number 2, Pages 32–35
Dr. Richardson B. Okie
It all seems like yesterday when I had my youth in Berwyn with Father. Youth is all I had with him for he died in July the week my son was born. I wanted Father to take care of me and he did so, bringing Dr. Thomas, of Newtown Square, to help. I did not know that Father knew his heart was affected for he wanted no one to tell me. That was like him, sacrificing himself for some one else at great personal risk.
Doctor Richardson B. Okie was born in Boothwyn, Delaware County, December 16, 1849, died July 30, 1904, and is buried at St. David's Church, Radnor. He took his degrees at the University of Pennsylvania. He practiced for a time in Camden, New Jersey, where he lived on Cooper Street. He married Clara Mickle who died leaving two little sons, John and Richardson Brognard.
Later Father married my mother, Mary Poulson. There were six of us, Francis, Mary, Howard, Agnes, William and Clara. We grew up in Berwyn with the two half brothers and my Grandmother Poulson. We were all very close and Mother was wonderful. It never seemed odd to me that I had three grandmothers; I suppose I just thought I was lucky as I was. There were so many of us that when our friends wanted to have a party they would count our noses, and perhaps think twice about having the party.
Mother and Father lived at first near the Rose Tree Hunt, then came to Berwyn and lived near the Upper Bridge, opposite the old Fritz place. I was born there. Later they built the house on Conestoga Road at Williams' Corner. They also built a barn; it was necessary, of course, to have horses.
That frame house burned to the ground when I was about nineteen, I think. It was a cold November day, at lunch time. Mother saved Grandma Poulson who came down stairs protesting "Mary, I have not had my dessert." Mother put her on the grass in a rocking chair and went back for "the boy's silver" kept under Mother's bed. Much too heavy for her to lift until then.
Father was out on his rounds. The neighbors helped wonderfully and the firemen came. Wanamaker's big van stopped in the road and the men knew just how to unscrew the wooden beds, I heard an unknown bystander say "This is a GOOD fire; I always enjoy a GOOD fire." I suppose it was as the stranger said but we did not enjoy it. It was pretty grim, but when Father came riding in I felt sure that now everything was going to be all right.
I wonder now how many people in deep trouble and anxiety have felt that way when Dr. Okie came riding in. "Now everything will be all right again."
The stone house that is standing now was built in the coming winter and spring on the foundations of the frame house. Father said, "Colonial, is it to be, will you all wash at the pump?" After the fire we moved to the house owned by Dr. Charles Thomas, a long yellow house, south of the railroad, just west of Devon Station.
There were no cars in those days, or very few, I doubt whether father ever rode in one, and what a help an automobile would have been to him. His practice was widespread. He never spared himself, coming in from time to time to change horses. When he could he persuaded Mother to drive with him. We children rode with him from the time we scrambled up his boot and were pulled to the saddle. He rode, when he must, straight across country. I was ashamed then and I am now that I was afraid of the fences. I think not one of the other children was afraid when the horses jumped a fence.
In the "Great Blizzard" of 1888 Miss Wilson had pneumonia. Father went to her, and because "This is no weather to take a horse out" he walked and alone, nearly to Valley Forge. It was a long day for all of us at home and when night came the neighbors and the big boys went to look for him. They found him, crawling on his hands and knees. I remember his step on the porch and how they tried to take off his frozen boots and how his beard was frozen stiff when he kissed me, "But she needed me."
As we grew up, with all his devotion to his patients and his local activities, Father always thought of us. He knew what we were doing and where we were. Bill tells of having gone fishing in the valley. A heavy rainstorm came and the boys were soaked. As they walked home there was father in his carriage, waiting for them at the underpass at Howellville, With all he had to think about and worry over, how did he know just where to find those little boys when they needed him so much? But that is what I am trying to say. He always knew.
In the rare hours when he could be at home in the daytime Father worked in his garden. I did not appreciate it then but I do now. I have a photograph, probably taken by Miss Sampson, of his pushing his cultivator. It was a remarkably good garden with all the vegetables. We all needed a lot to eat. There were fruit trees and baskets full of melons. Father planted a special row of apple trees so that the fruit would fall along the Church Road. "The Lord never meant that one man should have all the apples." Father enjoyed all of that and a good family joke.
There were the evenings. If Father were not called out he read to us. From the magazines, Uncle Remus, and Frank Stockton. How he chuckled over the tar baby "Let somebody run what kin run." There was no-silly "age groups", we took it as it came. Mother was always there, the girls came in from the kitchen, and sometimes the man from the barn. Father and Mother taught us to read - there were no "tears." When we had mastered one of the easier books it was given to us. He was never successful in teaching us to sing. Although there was a prize for "Happy Land" in key, no one of us ever won it.
As I grew older and took walks on Sunday I was always told to go to church somewhere. We "belonged to" St. David's, but I think I went at one time or another to all the churches in reach. When I took a drive with a nice young man I delivered anything from a prescription to a wash. We went to Camp Meeting and loved the beautiful singing.
Father was interested in politics, local and national. There were parades with a band, men on horses, candles in all the windows, and such singing. Mother marched with us, later, in the parade for Woman's Suffrage.
Father let us have our fun and enjoyed it himself. If we went too far with our jokes we had to correct the mistaken There was a monumental signpost that was made to look like a milestone, along the West Chester Road, that was crooked for years after Brog and I had replanted it at night. "Is it yours." was the question. Father had come to the "unveiling ceremony" and laughed with us, but it was not ours - that Mullin and Loomis sign- and we had to take it back.
I could go on and on telling of Doctor Okie as we children knew him. We knew then as we know now that he was a good doctor, skillful and tireless, devoted to his work and holding out a helping hand to everyone, rich or poor, who needed him. Never sparing in his efforts for his community, an influence, always for the best.
I shall add only a part of a notice in the West Chester Local printed when Father died.
---"It was generally agreed that the Community had lost one of its most valued citizens Doctor Okie was of exceptionally strong character, fearless and outspoken, willing to make any sacrifice for a principle. On this account he was widely known and universally respected. He was active in politics, a Republican in principle, but insisted upon using the privilege of thinking for himself in regard to local men and issues. In all matters of municipal cleanliness he was especially interested, giving his time and his energies to such measures as he believed to be for the welfare of the Community."
Children of Dr. Okie
Sons of Dr. Okie and Clara Mickle:
Mary Poulson, born in Dundaff, Susquehanna Co. married Dr. Okie in Winston Salem, North Carolina
Children of Dr. Okie and Mary Poulson:
Francis Gurney Okie married Rebecca Wood
Page last updated: 2011-08-01 at 12:23 EST