A father’s broken heart - Life of esteemed Mid-Missouri physician darkened by loss of family
“An honorable man, a noted physician, a true friend, a devoted father”—words of reverence inscribed many decades ago upon the tombstone of the late Dr. Isaac Newton Enloe. A venerated and admired man of science in the Mid-Missouri area, he was, however, also besieged by deep internal suffering and never recovered emotionally or physically from the devastating loss of a young son in World War I.
Born April 29, 1860, and raised in a large family on a farm southeast of California in Moniteau County, Enloe received his early education at local schools. As a young boy, he was exposed to the dangers of war. He watched as his older brother, James Enloe, served as captain for a company of Union soldiers who defended the Jefferson City area when Gen. Sterling Price’s troops passed through the area October 1864. In the years after the Civil War, Enloe continued his pursuit of higher education, eventually becoming a student at the nearby Clarksburg Select School, which was established in 1876 and was later renamed the Hooper Institute.
“He graduated from the Missouri Medical College of St. Louis, in the class of 1883, locating in St. Thomas, Cole, County, Mo., where he engaged successfully in the practice of his profession until 1889, when he disposed of his property and practice to his (older) brother, Dr. John S. Enloe,” noted “The Book of Missourians” published in 1906.
The late 1880s and 1890s were a frenetic period for the maturing physician since he completed a post-graduate medical course in New York and later relocated his medical practice to Jefferson City in 1890. In both 1888 and 1894, he attempted to dabble in politics but was in both years narrowly defeated as the Republican nominee for representative of Cole County. While practicing medicine in St. Thomas years earlier, Dr. Isaac Enloe married the former Rebecca J. Short on October 18, 1886. The aforementioned book explained, “To this union have been born seven children: Loyce, Ada, David and Justin are attending public schools of Jefferson City; Robert and Roscoe (twins), bright boys; the other child, John, died in infancy.”
The heart wrenching loss of his infant son in 1898 notwithstanding, he spent the next few years watching his other children grow while maintaining a thriving practice at 104 West High Street in Jefferson City. He supplemented his impressive resume by serving many years as president of the Pension Board of Examining Surgeons, nine years on the Board of Education for Jefferson City and as county coroner.
A second devastating and unexpected loss came to Dr. Enloe when his spouse of 21 years died on February 28, 1908 when only 45 years of age. To help deal with the stress of her passing, Dr. Enloe again immersed himself in his work; however, sadness would again prevail upon his circumstances a few years later.
“At the time of the World War (Dr. L. David Enloe, eldest son of Dr. Isaac N. Enloe), enlisted and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Medical Corps in December 1917,” noted Walter B. Stevens in his book “Centennial History of Missouri” published in 1921. Stevens added, Dr. L. David Enloe trained in the United States and “went overseas on the 1st of September, 1918, landing at Liverpool England. He thence proceeded to Southampton and crossed the channel to Le Havre, France, being stationed at Base Hospital, No. 76, at Vichy, France, until the armistice was signed.”
Dr. Enloe certainly possessed an undercurrent of pride in his eldest son’s achievements, since the young man not only followed his example by becoming a doctor, but blazed his own path in serving his nation during a time of war by caring for those wounded in combat.
World War I also drew his twin sons, Roscoe and Robert, into military service. Drafted in 1917, both men went on to serve in combat in France with a federalized Missouri National Guard company. Sadly, a 23-year-old Roscoe died on September 30, 1918, hours after he was shot through the right lung by a German machine gunner during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
The grieving father never received the closure that comes with a funeral since his young Roscoe was laid to rest in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Lorraine, France, alongside more than 14,000 of his fellow military deceased.
Several of the soldiers with whom Roscoe Enloe had served during the war were from the Jefferson City area and, when establishing American Legion Post 5 in June 1919, named the post in honor of their fallen comrade.
His eldest son, L. David, returned safely to Missouri after serving in France, later marrying and enjoying a lengthy career in the medical profession in Jefferson City. Robert, having witnessed the death of his twin brother in combat, received his discharge in 1919 and returned to his native Jefferson City, although he died tragically ten years later from an accidental gunshot wound.
Though he had invested years of his life to provide for the health of an untold number of patients, the succession of death witnessed by Dr. Isaac Enloe finally took its toll with the loss of his son Roscoe becoming the emotional tipping point. The respected physician died February 15, 1921, at the age of sixty and was laid to rest alongside his wife in Enloe Cemetery near Russellville.
The death certificate, signed by Dr. Enloe’s son, L. David, lists defined medical ailments as the reason for his death, but prevailing opinions emerged noting the cause of death as something more emotional in nature.
“Grief over the loss of his son, killed in the world war, is believed to have caused the death of Dr. Isaac N. Enloe ...,” reported the February 24, 1921 edition of the Butler Weekly Times and Bates County record. “(He) suffered a general breakdown shortly after the death of his son, from which he did not recover.”
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.
This was lovely to reaad
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Jeremy P. Amick is a military historian and author dedicated to preserving our nation's military legacies.