Dr. Elmer E. Kirkpatrick

On April 11th, 1867, Elmer Ellsworth Kirkpatrick entered the world in Bardolph, Illinois. He was welcomed by his parents John Elson Kirkpatrick and Mary Elizabeth Gibbony as their fourth son and sixth child – joining seven other siblings already part of the family. It is believed that Dr. E.E Kirkpatrick was the organizer of Oklahoma Territory’s first-ever dental supply house, located at 100 ½ Main (as per R. E. Hackman’s Oklahoma City Directory from 1902). Beginning in 1903, however, he began to list himself solely as a dentist in the directory.

Elmer Ellsworth Kirkpatrick was born April 11, 1867 in Bardolph, Illinois, McDonough County. His parents were John Elson Kirkpatrick (1829-1916) and Mary Elizabeth Gibbony (1834-1917). He was the fourth son and sixth child in a family of eight siblings.

John and Mary Elizabeth Kirkpatrick moved from Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Bardolph, Illinois where farming continued to be their profession. According to newspapers accounts, the family moved from Illinois to Holton, Kansas in March 1878 “on account of superior advantages offered to his children.” While there Elmer attended one of the earliest schools founded in Kansas along with four of his siblings. Education in Kansas was not formalized until after Elmer completed high school, but he nevertheless still attended Campbell College, an institution founded by A. G. Campbell who came from Jackson County where Holton is located.

Beginning his studies just five years after the first building at Campbell was erected, Dr. Kirkpatrick studied dentistry with Dr. A. D. Davis. In March 1891 he travelled to Onaga, Kansas where he would work alongside fellow resident dentist W. B. Myers. While in Kansas, Mr. Kirkpatrick was among other applicants who, while not a graduate of a dental college, wanted to practice dentistry in Kansas. Not only after passing the examination, Kirkpatrick dissolved his partnership with Myers and sold off his interest in their joint venture. He would travel to St. Marys, Kansas where he would open his own practice. All of Elmer’s siblings but one graduated from college and three had doctorate degrees. Elmer attended the Chicago College of Dental Surgery, Dental Department of Lake Forest University, Chicago, Illinois, receiving his degree in 1893.

That same year Dr. Kirkpatrick moved to Oklahoma Territory. On December 10, 1893 he became a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Oklahoma City. His license to practice dentistry was issued in May, 1894 and is listed as No. 25, making him one of the earliest registered dentists in the Territory. His first dental office possibly was located at 200 West Main in Oklahoma City.

In 1895 Dr. Kirkpatrick was elected president of the Oklahoma Territory Dental Association which was organized in 1891. He held the office of Secretary-Treasurer of that organization for the next three terms, 1896-1899, and the presidency again for the following two terms, 1899-1901.

He was appointed by Territorial Governor Cassius McDonald Barnes to the Oklahoma Territorial Board of Dental Examiners, serving from 1897-1900. He also helped establish the Oklahoma State Dental Association, which combined the Oklahoma and Indian Territorial organizations.

It is believed that Dr. Kirkpatrick organized the first dental supply house in Oklahoma Territory. According to R. E. Hackman’s Oklahoma City Directory from 1902, Dr. Kirkpatrick is listed as having a dental supply company at 100 ½ Main. Starting in the 1903 directory, the listing for E. E. Kirkpatrick is only as a dentist. According to a newspaper article written May 28, 1904 in The Oklahoman, “his [supply] business was cut out of existence…” by the “big dental supply trust of the east….”

On June 27, 1900 Elmer E. Kirkpatrick and Helene Claudia Spencer, daughter of Lewis Mortimer and Julia (Siceluff) Spencer were married. Their first home was at 921 N. Robinson Avenue, Oklahoma City. A second home was located at 210 West Ninth Street. Their first child, Lewis Spencer, was born May 15, 1901 with a second son, Elmer Ellsworth, Jr. arriving August 17, 1905. John Elson was born February 13, 1908.

Dr. Kirkpatrick was a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, (B. P. O. E.) Lodge No. 417 Oklahoma City. He held the position of Exalted Ruler in 1909. He also held membership in the Eighty Niner’s Association and was a member of the Executive Committee.

On October 26, 1910, the Kirkpatrick’s last son, Claude Siceluff was born. Earlier that same year, Dr. Kirkpatrick together with his wife purchased the family’s cabin in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. While he rarely spent time there with his family as he continued his dental practice in Oklahoma City, he would return in late summer to drive them back home.

In 1912 the family moved to 415 N. W. Tenth Street.  The Kirkpatrick’s only daughter, Mary Elizabeth was born March 16, 1918.  Sometime between 1918 and 1919, Dr.Kirkpatrick broke his arm after the family car backfired while he was cranking the engine to start it. The result was all the members of the family taking up various jobs to supplement the family income. In a biographical sketch written by Dr. Kirkpatrick’s second oldest son, Elmer Ellsworth Kirkpatrick, Jr., he noted how the family lost the Tenth Street home as a result of the injury. He mentions that how family struggled to make ends meet for awhile including some substandard living conditions. Eventually, a new home was built at 501 W. Thirteenth Street and the family moved there in 1925.

In addition to his profession in dentistry, Dr. Kirkpatrick took up other business and civic interests. He dealt in real estate for several years. In a small diary that he kept in 1927 there are a few entries regarding the showing of property and ads from newspapers advertising rental property and property for sale. In 1934 Dr. Kirkpatrick ran for political office as a Republican candidate for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, but was defeated.

On March 27, 1936 Dr. Kirkpatrick was a passenger in his 1931[Plymouth] Roosevelt sedan, driven by Bill Parker, when the car was struck by a truck pulling a trailer. According to insurance documents which included an account by Parker, he and Dr. Kirkpatrick “chased down” the person who hit them. Subsequently, Dr. Kirkpatrick reportedly had a heart attack and died at 9:30 that night. His interment was at Fairlawn Cemetery, Oklahoma City.

Sources aside from Kirkpatrick Family Archive include Open Wider, please: The story of Dentistry in Oklahoma, by J. Stanley Clark, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, c. 1955.

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