“Faith and Healing – Celebrating Covenant Health’s Century
Lubbock was established in 1890, the result of a compromise between two
smaller communities, Old Lubbock and Monterey. It became the seat of Lubbock
County a year later and was officially incorporated in March 1909, the
same year the railroad began serving the community. The year was equally
important for medicine as the Lubbock-Crosby County Medical Society was
organized, the original Lubbock Sanitarium was built and Dr. G.S. Murphy
was elected city health officer.
The newly minted town of 2,000 was a place of adventure, part frontier
and part opportunity. Ranching was the dominant economic force, but Lubbock
began to draw other citizens from a steadily westward-moving population
thirsting for the promise and potential of the South Plains.
“Things began to change after 1900,” said Don Abbe, a longtime
Lubbock historian. “The biggest characteristic of Lubbock, the city
and the county, during the early years was change. It was constantly changing
By the 1920s, the population had doubled to more than 4,000 with close
to 12,000 scattered across the county. Change brought progress, which
created challenges, including public health issues such as sanitation
and contagious diseases. In Lubbock’s earliest years there were
as many as 20 doctors who practiced, but the nearest hospitals, necessary
for serious cases, were in Amarillo (120 miles) and Fort Worth (300 miles).
“People were suffering from pneumonia, typhoid related to bad sanitary
conditions and things of this nature,” said Monte Monroe, archivist
at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library at Texas Tech
University. “There were also issues of malnutrition. There was a
smallpox outbreak and the Spanish Flu pandemic in the aftermath of World
The town and surrounding area were rife with opportunity for determined
people willing to work, and it was into this tableau that Lubbock’s
first great doctor and eventual community builder, Dr. M.C. Overton, arrived.
Overton, trained at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, arrived
in 1901 and was the most qualified physician in the area for years, building
a practice on the strength of trust, house calls, ingenuity and the barter
system (not necessarily in that order).
Lubbock’s first specialist, Dr. J.T. Hutchinson, reached Lubbock
in 1909, limiting his practice to eye, ear, nose and throat. Dr. Hutchinson
is also credited with buying the first X-ray machine used in the area.
Dr. Overton was a general practitioner for years before choosing to pursue
postgraduate training in and limiting his practice to pediatrics beginning
in 1925. He delivered more than 3,000 babies during his years in Lubbock.
Original physicians such as Dr. Ponton, Dr. Overton, and others devoted
themselves to Lubbock and the surrounding region, traveling first by horse
and buggy, and later in one of Lubbock’s first cars, wherever necessary
to take care of those with a medical need. It was not unusual for these
early physicians to make house calls in an area that encompassed over
20 counties covering some 20,000 square miles, according to the Texas
Tech Southwest Collection's files.
Not unlike other achievements in the history of West Texas, the vast geography
and challenging landscape necessitated innovative thinking. A famous story
recounts that Dr. Overton stayed in touch with his office while out on
rounds by carrying a phone receiver with a long wire attached to it. At
overhead phone lines, he would throw the wire over and contact the operator
to reach his office. He was later featured in a “Ripley’s
Believe It or Not,” as the inventor of the mobile phone.
"Faith and Healing - Celebrating Covenant Health's Century of
Caring" will be available for purchase early 2018.