Dr. Ransom: Madera’s home grown physician

Madera County Historical Society In 1946, Dr. Dow Ransom died in his home on North C Street. He had purchased the stately edifice from Return Roberts.


Clay Daulton and I met at the Vineyard restaurant the other day for lunch. We started out talking about water and ended up talking about his family history because that was what really interested me. It has been that way for more than 30 years.

I have chased the Daulton story all over this country, and still find it fascinating, but at lunch that day, we talked about his mother’s side of the family — the Cunninghams — and that led us to Dr. Dow Ransom.

Clay’s maternal grandmother was Ella Ransom Cunningham, a sister of Madera’s pioneer physician, Dow H. Ransom. When I got home, I went back to my notes on the Cunninghams and Ransoms and spent the evening with the old doctor.

It was on Saturday, April 6, 1946, that Madera lost Dr. Ransom. Death came to him at his beautiful home at 301 North C Street. Although he had not been in perfect health, his passing came very suddenly to all who knew him. He simply went to bed and didn’t wake up.

One of the things that makes Dr. Ransom so special to me was the fact that he was a hometown boy who wasn’t afraid to work. He was born in Ionia, Kansas in 1880 — a member of a family of modest means. He came to Madera in 1893, the year Madera County separated from Fresno County. He was a member of the fourth graduating class of Madera High School. Both before and after school and on holidays and Saturdays, Dr. Ransom was employed in Fred Barcroft’s hardware store and plumbing shop, which was located in the Fred Barcroft Building, a three story brick structure that still stands on the south side of Yosemite Avenue.

Another thing that makes Dr. Ransom interesting is the fact that he was so colorful. He began his medical practice in Madera in 1907, at a time when many of the county’s doctors were still using horse and buggies and bicycles for transportation. He was one of the first who turned to the automobile to travel the long distances that country doctors of that day had to cover in order to reach the sparsely settled regions of the community.

His first car was one of those early Cadillac convertibles, which could be made into either a five passenger (or a six-passenger by squeezing together in the front seat) or by replacing the back seat with a turtle, into a two-passenger car.

His motorized buggy, without windshields and a top, which were unknown in those days, was a familiar sight all over Madera and its environs. Dr. Ransom was easily recognized in those days chugging along in goggles and a duster over bumpy and dusty roads in summer and in a raincoat through muddy roads in winter, which were in reality nothing but cow trails.

Dr. Ransom also endeared himself to Maderans because there was no social strata here for him. No individual was so unimportant or lived so far away that he could not receive Dr. Ransom’s attention. Nor was it beneath his dignity to give medical aid to a suffering animal when veterinarians were not available.

Dr. Ransom was not an ivory towered physician. He had some, down-to-earth, natural mechanical ability that, when coupled with his years in the Barcroft hardware store, enabled him to keep his horseless carriage on the road when others were forced to walk to a country farmhouse or to town to get some real horsepower.

Upon graduating from Madera High School, Dr. Ransom went to San Francisco where he attended and graduated from Cooper’s Medical College, which later became part of Stanford University. As he did at Madera High, Ransom worked his way through medical school. Upon receiving his license to practice medicine, Dr. Ransom returned to Madera to hang his shingle

When the United States entered World War I, Ransom enlisted and was assigned to a New York hospital with the rank of lieutenant. He returned after the war and for several years he was active in the American Legion. He was a past commander of Madera Post 11. He was also a past master of the Madera Masonic lodge.

In 1943, Dr. Ransom retired from the practice of medicine due to failing health, which many say was brought on by the excessive workload of his earlier years.

Beside his medical practice, Dr. Ransom owned considerable ranch property and was for many years a member of the advisory board of the Bank of Italy and later when it became the Bank of America.

In 1918, he married Miss Edith Sarll, and they had a son and two daughters. In 1932, Edith passed away, and four years later Dr. Ransom married Miss Susan Hough.

Private funeral services were conducted for Dr. Ransom on Tuesday, April 9, 1946, at Jay Chapel, with the Rev. Chester Hill officiating. Interment followed in Fresno’s Memorial Mausoleum. Flowers were omitted from the services.

Dr. Ransom was survived by his wife Susan, his son, Dow H. Ransom, Jr., MD; his daughter Ida Mae Edmonston, four brothers, one sister, Mrs. Ella Ransom Cunningham, and five grandchildren. His daughter, Lucetta, who was married to Judge Philip Conley predeceased him.

He also left a heart-broken community, a few of whom still remember this beloved country doctor.