The dictionary says a "walker" is one who walks. Not so with Dr. F. E. Walker,—he rides. He rides because he can afford it; he can afford to because he has a large surgical practice, and he has a large practice because he merits it.

After spending a few years in general medical practice, combined with surgery, and finding the latter class of practice his natural field of work, he decided to give his life to it.

The first problem was the proper field. Offers were coming to hind galore Being a profound student, he figured out the place himself—and he decided well,—Hot Springs, S. D.; not Hot Springs, Arkansas, or Missouri, or Arizona or any other state, but Hot Springs, South Dakota! —if you please; a city neatly tucked away in a spring-watered vale, 3,400 feet above the sea, in the picturesque Black Hills of Dakota; a city where Old Sol works overtime uncomplainingly, and voluntarily puts in an average of 363 full days each year; where the dry mountain zephyrs, laden with the ozone of quakenasp and birch, are softened by the wooing of a tireless sun; where the climate is so ideal that on Christmas morning, frogs and froglets, poised with spread-web feet upon the green water-cresses along the brooklet's sides, croak in endless refrains the same gurgling chants which their progenitors have sung since the days of Adam; where the aged wayfarer lies down to sleep and sees visions of plumpformed, ruby-lipped, satin skinned maidens mounting the Jacob's ladder of his dreams until his soul wells up with incantations of delight and he feels himself growing young again at Bethel's gate; where the mineral-water springs—fountatins of eternal youth—comfortably heated in the hidden bosom of Nature's realm, send gushing forth in endless volumes their healing streams of life; where Eden—calm, sun-lit, brook-fed, grassy-terraced, flower-bedecked, treeful Eden—basking in the favored smiles of her Creator, opens wide her Hebean arms and says to the pain-weary sufferer, "Come in! Health and happiness are here."

Born at Grinnell, Iowa, January 5, 1872, Mr. Walker rapidly rose to prominence. At fifteen years of age he graduated from the local high school: clerked for the next three years, and then spent five years teaching school and reading medicine. In 1895 he entered the Iowa State University, graduating from the medical department with the class of '98. The next year he held a position in the Iowa State Hospital for the Insane, at Independence.

After practicing for a brief period independently at Bigelow, Minnesota, he removed to Worthington, in that state. In 1902, he established at that place the city's first hospital, gave up his general medical practice and devoted all his time to surgery.


His reputation as a surgeon spread with his practice, until other towns began to bid for his services. The natural, as well as the commercial advantages of Hot Springs, S. D., induced him to locate there in 1906, and accept the responsible position of head surgeon to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.


The first year (only five years ago), he performed less than one hunderd operations. Today he is peforming on an average of four major operations a day. Although engaged in surgery but a comparatively few years, he is now approaching the Five Thousandth operation that he has performed; and the hospital records reveal the incontrovertible fact that the mortality resulting from his operations is only one-half of one per cent. Five things have no doubt united to bring about these phenominal results: proper diagnosis, surgical skill, effective sterilization, good nursing, and the dry mountain climate of the Springs.

The doctor is a man of exceptional poise. Although nervous as well as nervy, not a trace of it is ever visible in the operating room. Here he works with the precision and rapidity of an artist. Not one false move is made; not a single stitch put in at the wrong place and then removed; not a word spoken and repeated; it is genius personified.

Walker, evidently fully appreciates the fact that the strain on his patient is in direct proportion to the number of minutes which he or she is under the anesthetic. For this reason he nerves himself up for the act, and performs on a average, three operations while the average surgeon is performing one. This has been proven on several occasions when members of his medical staff were performing simultaneous operations in adjoining rooms.


At an expense of $10,000 Doctor Walker and his staff have fitted up in the medical block two large laboratories with every conceivable chemical and scientific apparatus known to the medical profession, for diagnosing the ailments of the human race. For this reason local practitioners—some of them heads of hospitals—within a radius of 500 miles, are daily sending people to Hot Springs, South Dakota, for physical examination. Many of these go back home for their operations.

The great value to suffering humanity of Walker's organization is the fact that be has, all in one building—the beautiful stone medical block—twenty-two splendidly equipped office rooms. These are occupied by the specialists on his medical staff. One payment and one journey do the whole job. After receiving Doctor Walker's opinion, if the patient, or his or her friends, desire the advice of a specialist, a member of the staff is called in and the sick one is given the benefit of expert knowledge without a cent of extra charge. Again this is a wonderful saving in the vitality of the patient.


In addition to his surgical and professional ability, Doctor Walker is also a conundrum along many other lines. On the platform he is fluent, witty and entertaining. In the literary realm, he is one of the most prolific contributors of his profession, to the standard medical journals of the entire nation. In the musical world he can sit up to a piano and trip off on its responsive keys an oratorio that will lift the music lover's soul into realms of ecstacy and delight. As a physiographist, he is a walking encyclopedia of Black Hills climatic and geologic information. As a lawn tennis player, he has few peers in the west. As a man of general culture, his learning is broad and he could serve with dignity and honor as a lecturer on economics in one of our universities. Although crowded terribly with professional work he is, withal, one of the most companionable of men; yet not one unacquainted with grief. Recently, he said to a friend "There is only one real trouble in life and that is death." The first Mrs. Walker (nee Daisy M. Barclay of Brooklyn, Iowa,) died in Minneapolis in 1902. Four years later be was united in marriage to Miss Minnie Eckland of Worthington, Minnesota.

At present the doctor owns in Hot Springs what is perhaps the most expensive and unique bungaloo dwelling in the state. In it he comfortably houses his little family, fondles his babe for pastime, and like Longfellow's "Village Smithy," of Cambridge,

"He looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man."


©2002, Virginia A. Cisewski
All Rights Reserved