Legends & Legacies: An Aspen story of doctors and babies, two generations | AspenTimes.com

Legends & Legacies: An Aspen story of doctors and babies, two generations

Tim Willoughby
Legends & Legacies
Library of Congress photo Aspen’s early doctors trained at Professor William W. Keen’s Clinic at Jefferson Medical College Hospital in Philadelphia, shown in 1902.

During the early 1940s my mother and other women traveled to Glenwood Springs to have their babies. They avoided Aspen’s aging Doc Twining, whose death in 1945 left Aspen with no doctor until fall of the following year. Then Dr. Allen Cochrane and Dr. Robert Lewis moved to town. Their arrival meant that I was born an Aspen native in 1948.

Doc Twining practiced medicine in Aspen at the time my mother was born in 1908. At that time he was young, vigorous and held in such high esteem that he was elected Aspen’s mayor. Along with a group of other young businessmen, he worked to revive Aspen’s mine and tourist industries. Known as the Boosters Club and as the Commercial Club, they attempted to attract capital to the community.

Aspen’s population was receding from its peak during 1894. But 4,000 residents supported not only Twining, but three other doctors, as well.

Dr. A.J.O. Lof came to Aspen in 1896. He had trained at Berlin University before he emigrated from Sweden in 1887 and graduated from Denver University. Lof participated actively in Aspen’s rather large Scandinavian community, which even had its own church. For many of his years in Aspen he served as the county physician. In this role he tended to accidents and health crises and helped the indigent. His political engagement included deep involvement in issues related to monetization of silver.

As a surgeon, physician and the doctor for Citizen’s Hospital, Dr. A.J. Robinson held the highest profile for the longest time. He had graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago, a prestigious medical school during that period.

The fourth physician was young, like Twining. Dr. Ewing Guthrie, a graduate of the University of Michigan, arrived in 1903. For several years, he worked as the county health officer.

Twining came to Aspen at the age of 26 and was elected mayor at age 30. He had trained at Rocky Mountain University. Although for many years he served as Aspen’s only doctor, he devoted much of his career to politics. He served in the state Legislature, where he enacted legislation favorable to Aspen — including funding for Independence Pass.

The Aspen Times announced my mother’s birth, “Mr. and Mrs. John Sheehan are the proud possessors of a baby girl. Mr. Sheehan wore a smile yesterday that will not come off.” No mention was made of a doctor in attendance. I can’t find any birth announcement of the early 1900s that mentions a doctor or midwife. Although my mother never told me about her birth, it was most likely at home. If a doctor came, there was a 1 in 4 chance he was Doc Twining.

Tim Willoughby’s family story parallels Aspen’s. He began sharing folklore while teaching for Aspen Country Day School and Colorado Mountain College. Now a tourist in his native town, he views it with historical perspective. Reach him at redmtn2@comcast.net.