Doctor responsible for delivering thousands of babies

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

Having a mother and father living in Texico, I was about to be born, but my father objected to having me be born in Clovis as my father was busy being a blacksmith at Texico.

My mother knew an older woman next door who would take her to Clovis to a doctor. Actually the neighbor woman told my mother she was about to give birth, so the neighbor who had an empty shack on the alley near 10th and Axtell phoned for Dr. William M. Lancaster to come and deliver me.

That was on Dec. 30, 1931.

Lancaster passed his state medical board examination in 1909 after filing on a claim 45 miles northwest of Clovis. Lancaster had devoted his life to practicing medicine, first in the country and then in town. He was in continuous practice until 1951.

During his many years of private practice, he probably delivered more babies in this area than any other doctor. There were many times when he delivered from six to seven babies a day.

How many thousands of babies Lancaster helped bring into this world is not known. But during the period from 1931 to 1941 records show he delivered 4,400 babies.

It was during those years Helen Mahler, later married and was called Mrs. Ben Hawkins, served as his nurse and kept a record of all births. No records were kept during the other years he was in private practice.

I was one of those babies delivered in 1931 by Lancaster, and it wasn’t in a hospital.

Some of us can remember when doctors made house calls.

The doctor’s first home was a dug-out, which extended one foot above ground level with sod piled on top of the roof as protection against the elements.

Wood and cow-chips were burned for both heating and cooking.

He called his dug-out the Harvey House, since the Santa Fe Railroad’s Harvey

House was known as the “best boarding and eating place” in the country, Doc Lancaster once admitted with a a merry twinkle in his eyes.

During that first winter of 1909, lots of snow blanketed the area with 14 inches falling in one day. So deep it covered fences.

He first made his rounds in a horse and buggy and on horseback. Then in 1912 he purchased a motorcycle and was able to move quickly to serve his many patients throughout the country side.

But the biggest advance in transportation occurred Feb. 22, 1913, when he became the proud possessor of his first Model T Ford. That date he easily remembered since his son, George, was born the same day.

The roads were rugged in those days, in fact little more than trails. But in the Model T, he recalled that for the first time he could bring his wife to Clovis by noon, shop in the afternoon, then see a show and return home the same night.

Not unusual in this modern day, but it was a thrilling experience for that time as his former horse-drawn vehicle took three days coming and going.

Yes, Doc Lancaster came to see me quite often.

But he passed away Sept. 23, 1968 at age 84.

I missed him and everybody else did too.