DR. OSCAR H. SIMPSON. The most eminent man in the various professions, though many of them originated in obscure localities, have naturally gravitated to the great centers of population. Only a few conspicuous exceptions vary the rule. In a small city in Minnesota are located the Mayo Brothers, who undoubtedly would be given rank among the first half dozen of the world's most distinguished surgeons. The "Mayo of dentistry" is a title that numbers of the profession fittingly bestowed upon a Kansas man, Dr. Oscar H. Simpson of Dodge City. Apart from his distinctive achievements in that field there is a thread of fine "human interest" in the life story of Doctor Simpson.
He was born in Decatur County, Indiana, April 24, 1861. When he was three years of age his parents moved to Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana, and when he was eleven years old to Warrensburg, Missouri. Doctor Simpson began life with hardly as much literary education as a child in the second grade possesses. While he lived at Lebanon there were no public schools, and his father placed him under the tuition of an old professor who conducted a private high school. The other scholars were much older and more advanced. When young Simpson was called upon to recite his lessons he would spell out the words cat, dog, and, but, in a broad, loud voice. It was inevitable that the other children should laugh, and he was constantly the object of their jokes and quibs until he became very timid. The world has never made a reckoning of the hundreds of thousands of bright minds and good capacities which have been spoiled by ridicule in extreme youth. The affliction of timidity has remained with Doctor Simpson even to the present time. After a few weeks of this experience he refused to attend school any longer. From driving a grocery delivery wagon he went to the position of clerk, and was thus employed in a country store until he was about seventeen years of age. At that time a girl friend advised him to take up his studies again, and this time he entered the State Normal School at Warrensburg. There he found himself in classes with others of his same age, but on account of his timidity in refusing to make the effort to spell a word which he knew he could not he was suspended by his instructors.
Many boys after this experience would think all avenues of advancement permanently closed. That was not the case with young Simpson. He immediately entered the dental offices of Griggs & Cress, paying $100 for the privilege, and remained with them eighteen months. From there he entered the Ohio College of Dental Surgery at Cincinnati, took a six months course, successfully passed the required examination and was awarded all the honors in his class.
Coming back to his home town, Warrensburg, he opened an office and was there about a year.
Doctor Simpson may properly be called the pioneer dentist of Western Kansas. He arrived at Dodge City in 1885, coming here to visit a friend and render him some professional services. He took a liking to the wild and wooly west and that was the beginning of his permanent connection with this part of Kansas. He had many things to learn, and the learning began upon his arrival. Back in the old town of Warrensburg "a nickel looked as big as a cart wheel," and when he left that town a drayman charged him fifteen cents to haul his trunk six blocks. From the railway station in Dodge City to his lodging was a distance of about 250 feet. Doctor Simpson handed the local drayman a $5 bill and was given back four silver dollars in change. Thinking there was a mistake, he inquired cautiously as to the denomination of the bill which he had given and the drayman at once reassured him that it was a $5 note. "You don't charge $1 for hauling one trunk that distance do you?" inquired the tenderfoot dentist. "Oh, yes," was the reply. "Everything is high out here, horse feed costs lots, freight rates are high, a 5 cent cigar sells for a quarter, a 10 cent tablet sells for two bits. You will have to raise your prices if you expect to stay in this country," was the explanation and information volunteered by the drayman.
After Doctor Simpson had opened his office one of his first calls was from this very drayman, who brought a small son to have a tooth extracted. The operation completed, the father handed over a $5 bill and was coolly returned a silver dollar in change. "Didn't I give you a $5 bill?" inquired the patron. "Yes, was not that a $1 bill I returned to you? Everything is high out here, you know. Work costs lots of money, cigars are hard to buy, and I have to raise my prices in order to stay here." That settled the matter, and after that Doctor Simpson was a full fledged Westerner in matters of finance.
His first office equipment consisted of an old cycloid dental chair and a $3 table on which to spread his instruments. But there was something else in the character of this young dentist that had more to do with his success than his equipment. From the first his instruments were spread out systematically, everything in its place in order to save time. Efficiency has always been his motto. Through all his years of practice, getting things done quickly and effectually has been his first thought. It has extended even to the trivial details, even to such a small thing as kindling the fire in the morning. His kindling was always prepared beforehand, the oil can and cup always in a certain relative position, so that by the least movement the oil was in the stove and cup and can restored to their place, and the fire going before many another man would have had his jackknife out. By combining a more than average technical skill with good business ability Doctor Simpson has from the first enjoyed the very distinctive situation of never having to wait for something to do.
At the time his present suite of rooms were built they were considered the best equipped and most modern dental office in the world. Everything was arranged with the one thought of efficiency. The tools in his laboratory were all home made from models prepared by himself. His was the seventh white dental outfit made. The S. S. W. and other dental manufacturing concerns sent men to see his room, equipment, tools, etc., and he was offered $5,000 a year to take charge of the experimental department of the S. S. W. Manufacturing Company. His methods are nearly all original ideas. Other dentists have appropriated these ideas and had them patented and have reaped the harvest they did not sow.
For twenty-five years Doctor Simpson gave annual clinics before the Kansas State Dental Association, and at the last one he was accorded a vote of thanks for his services to the association. He has held clinics and post-graduate courses in every large city in the United States and Canada east of Denver. His mind has always been a very open one. He did not accept the method of a dental pedagogue unless they were the shortest road to the given object. If he saw a situation where he could save a few minutes without sacrificing quality and efficiency, he always took advantage of it. Nine out of every ten root canals are filled the day they are presented to him, because in years gone by some of his patients drove or rode seventy-five or a hundred miles and it was necessary that they be on their way home at the earliest opportunity.
Doctor Simpson has had all the honors it is possible for the Kansas State Dental Association to confer. He has been a member of the State Board of Dental Examiners for fourteen years and president of the State Association. In 1914 he practically retired from active practice, and since that time has merely supervised the business and looked after his other extended interests. For a period of thirty years his average has been better than a gold plate a week, and other branches of his art have kept pace with that one feature. This showing in a country dental office is exceptional and it is all the result of a legitimate practice. As one of the foremost men of his profession in the country he has numbered among his clientele people from New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver and Los Angeles. In fact Doctor Simpson's career is another attestation of that old saying, whose authorship has been so often disputed, that "Should a man build a mouse trap better than any one else, even though he hide himself in the deepest forest, the world will make a beaten path to his door."
Dr. Lee Burton Shorpe, president of the National Dental Association, says of him that he is the one gentle genius of America. Kansas people feel that Doctor Simpson is one of the men who have conferred distinction upon the great commonwealth.
Doctor Simpson is of that solid and virtuous stock of Scotch-Irish people. His grandfather, William Simpson, was born in Maryland and was a pioneer farmer in both Ohio and Indiana. The father of Doctor Simpson, Ralph B. Simpson, was born in Butler County, Ohio, was a lawyer by profession, and during the Civil war was in the Federal secret service in Canada. He died at Nevada, Missouri, in 1913, at the age of eighty-four. He married Perthenia Johnstone, daughter of Richard and Fanny Johnstone. She died at Warrensburg, Missouri, in 1912, at the age of sixty. She was a native of Indiana, her people originally coming from Kentucky. Ralph B. Simpson was one of twelve children and his wife one of ten, and in their own family they had three: Inez V., wife of W. P. Chisum, of Santa Ana, California; Dr. W. W., who graduated from the Western Dental College in 1892, practiced dentistry at Mead, Kansas, and died in 1916; and Oscar H., the youngest.
Doctor Simpson married April 28, 1892, Catherine Mohler, who was born September 7, 1871. Her father, Captain J. E. Mohler, was the eminent criminal lawyer of Salina, Kansas, and was captain in the Union army during the Civil war. Captain Mohler married Martha B. Sullivan. Doctor and Mrs. Simpson had five children: Carrie, Charles, Catherine, Nellie and Nita.
Doctor Simpson is a Knight Templar Mason and is also a Knight of Pythias and a Modern Woodman of America. He owns the business block in which his office has been located for thirteen years, also other town property, including a modern home at 701 Fourth Avenue, and 600 acres of Kansas farm lands.
His efficiency has not been confined to dentistry alone. After he was fifty years of age he and another dentist, Doctor Ballou entered dairy farming. They hired all the work done and still were able to realize a good profit and interest on their investment. Their Holstein dairy was started in 1912, with a herd of fifteen cows and a $1,000 bull to head the flock, Willow Meadow, King Pontiac. From the first their motto was clean milk. They started the first "Flyless Dairy," and the Country Gentleman, a weekly magazine always on the lookout for men and institutions of progressive character in the agricultural industry, published an extended article concerning this dairy in February, 1915. With greatly increased facilities the dairy has never been able to supply the demand for the products. The Kansas State Board of Health bulletin for 1915 also gave these two dentists turned dairymen two pages of space with illustrations. Their original investment was $11,800, and at the end of the second year the business inventoried $16,280, with a total profit for the year of $4,567.60. System and efficiency proved their value in dairying as they had done in dentistry.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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