Medical pioneer had Madeira roots

By Regina Villiers. Originally published January 13, 1999 in The Suburban Life, added January 15, 2021.

Dr. George Russell Aiken joined the Navy in 1943 and served his country during World War II. His son, Duke, also served in WWII, in the Air Force.

     Drucilla Bain, a retired teacher, has lived in Madeira all her life.  Her roots go back to several of Madeira’s oldest, most distinguished families.

     Her grandfather on her mother’s side, Samuel Kitchell Druce, was Madeira’s first mayor.  In addition to her father’s family, the Bains, she also has ties to the Dones, Kitchell and Marvin families.  Many of Madeira’s streets are named for her ancestors.

     In the years I’ve been writing this column, Drucilla and I have become friends.  She’s a great source for column ideas and information, and she has been most helpful.

     Last summer, she offered me the use of one of her family treasures, a book.  It was quite obvious that it was a treasure from the loving way she handled it when she brought it out.  A book lover can spot another book lover immediately.

     The book is “The Doc Aiken Story:  Memories of a Country Doctor,” written by Dr. George Russell Aiken, published in May 1989.

     Dr. Aiken was Drucilla’s first cousin.  His mother, Margaret Bain Aiken, was a sister to Kenneth Bain, Drucilla’s father.

     George Russell Aiken, son of Clarence and Margaret Aiken, was born in 1896, in Milford.

     His grandpa and grandma Bain, also Drucilla’s grandparents, originally lived in Milford.  When the Miami River claimed the lives of their two oldest sons, they decided to move away from Milford to try to escape the painful memories.

     Russell Aiken was 2 or 3 years old when his Grandpa Bain bought the old Doan farm in Madeira and moved his family there.  Russell and his parents lived with the Bain family in the same household at the time and continued to do so for a few years, before they bought their own farm.

      The Bain family ancestors had come over from Scotland, and Russell’s grandparents’ family was indeed a large clan under one roof.  They had 12 children.

     “When we all sat down to meals, it looked like a Thanksgiving feast,” Russell wrote in his book.

     There were always several aunts and uncles to join in lively discussions around the dining room tables.  There was much teasing and laughter.  As Russell grew older, he joined in this camaraderie, he reported, and often found himself in trouble with his father because of it.

     Russell was the oldest child of Clarence and Margaret.  They had two younger children, Ann and Catherine.

     His mother’s sisters who lived in the Bain household at that time were Christine, Mary, and Catherine.  Her brothers Will, George, Kenneth, Jim, Frank, Alec, and Sinclair also lived there.  Sinclair (“Sinc”), the youngest, was closer to Russell’s age, and the two were “partners in crime.”

     Russell said the Bain farm sat atop the Old School Hill, overlooking the main road, about 100 yards away and across the road from the schoolhouse.  The house was large, with room for a large family.  There were several rooms upstairs used for bedrooms.  In addition to the living and dining rooms downstairs, there was a three-room apartment occupied by Russell and his parents.

     The bathroom was outside, a two-hole model.  A well provided water for cooking and drinking.  A cistern with a pump gave water for laundry.  The women put out containers to catch rainwater to wash their hair.  The brunettes rinsed their hair with vinegar to remove the soap, and the blondes used the juice of a lemon.

     In the summer, Russell’s mother and her sisters dried apricots, peaches, apples and vegetables for winter use.  They also made cider using a cider mill in the barn.

     Hogs were butchered in the winter for meat for the family.

     The cash crop for the farm was tomatoes, which were sold to a cannery.  The remaining fields were used for oats and wheat.  They were planted in the fall and harvested the following summer, a time of excitement and activity.

     The chicken house was Grandma Bain’s domain.  She made pets of the chickens and gave them names.

     The farm had a large barn with stables.  There was also a blacksmith shop and a carpenter shop.  Other buildings were a corncrib, wit open-slotted sides so the corn could dry, and a wagon shed to protect the buggy and wagons from the weather.  The wagon shed had a roof but no sides.

     Russell remembered his Grandma Bain as being about 4 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing about 80 pounds.  She wore her hair in a bun and clutched her shawl around her shoulders, winter and summer.  She used her cane to get action and used it on the girls frequently.  The girls would complain that they stayed on the farm to do the work, and all they got were whacks from her cane.

     Strong sons were important to farm families, but it was hard to keep the boys on the farm.  Will went to Alaska to seek his fortune and Kenneth went to the city (Cincinnati) to become a plumber.  Russell first though he’d be a train engineer like his uncle, Joshua, but after Joshua lost a leg in a train wreck, he gave up that ambition.

     Then he and Sinc decided they’d be ragmen.  The ragman would come, ringing a bell and calling out:  “Any rags, and iron, and old paper today?”  They were sure the ragman was getting rich, and they though they’d get in on the wealth.

     When I pick up the story in my next column, I’ll tell you how Russell, influenced by his father, became a doctor.  This Presbyterian from Madeira ended up as a medical pioneer in the Mormon territory of Utah, where he spent the rest of a long life.  

(previous article:  Man with Madeira roots wrote inspiring book)