Dr. Jessie Ollie Wikle, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. Jessie Ollie Wikle
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
August 11, 2007

Today we call the house at 16 Main Street the Clay House Museum, named after an 1800s owner, Sarah Clay. In the 1920s it became known as the home of Dr. Jessie Ollie Wikle. He was a son of Dr. Luther Lafayette Wikle, who lived at 309 Church Street. The doctors established a shared practice at 210 Main Street, now called the Bandito Burrito Restaurant. Reports also state that they operated a clinic for a time above the Burton & Wise Drugstore at 200 Main, which is also known as the Humphrey-Hughes store. Perhaps they used each location for a time. Their lives in Madison were marked by great service to the community, but also by strong personal tragedies.

Luther Wikle was born in 1855 in Georgia, but his parents moved to Arkadelphia in Cullman County when he was still in school. He married Lucy Pickens of Blount County in 1881, and they had two sons, Henry Clyde and Walton Dozier. Lucy died while giving birth to Walton in 1885. In February of 1888 Luther graduated from Medical School at the University of Tennessee, and in October he married Jane Armstrong of Oneonta. She was a granddaughter of Revolutionary War patriot George Hallmark, who is buried in Hobbs Cemetery near Green Mountain in Huntsville. Jane bore five children: Arthur M., Jessie Ollie, Opie, Merritt L., and Clifford O. Wikle. Luther’s oldest son, Henry, became a physician, as did Jessie. Henry served the coal miners in Blount County, but he died when a skunk spooked his horse and Henry was thrown. Opie died at age two. Arthur was initially an insurance agent, but later was in the pharmacy business at Madison Drug Store. Clifford was a mercantile salesman in the 1920 census. “Luther Merritt” Wikle was listed among the 1913 graduates of Madison Training School, and his occupation was listed as bank cashier in Huntsville in 1930.

Luther moved his family to Madison 1904. He practiced as both doctor and dentist. In 1912 he also partnered with Ben Porter to open Madison Drug Store, where they manufactured Wikle’s Headache Remedy and Porter’s Pills before the general use of aspirin without a prescription began in 1915. In 1920 Luther bought a grocery store in Madison, but he sold it soon afterward, probably because it interfered with his passion – gardening. Luther died in 1941 and is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery. That was one year before his grandson, Jessie Ollie Wikle Jr. was killed when his Flying Fortress bomber “The Flaming Mayme” was shot down over Tunisia in World War 2 after destroying several German aircraft in action over France and Africa. Jessie Jr. was a Captain in the Air Corps, having left medical school to serve. He named his bomber after his red-haired girlfriend, Mayme Louise Dublin, a daughter of Clyde Dublin, for whom Dublin Park is named.

Captain Wikle’s father, Jessie Ollie Sr., bought the Clay House on Main Street in 1923. After his father’s death, he moved his practice to that location. Jessie was born in 1891 in Blountsville. He graduated from Madison High School in 1909 and from the University of Alabama – Mobile medical school in 1915. He interned and stayed in residency at Detroit for 5 years before spending a part of 1920 in Chicago. While in Detroit, he met and married Edva Ripley, a nurse from Ontario, Canada. By the end of 1920 Jessie and Edva came to Madison. In 1921 their only child, Jessie Jr., was born and the family moved to Wetumpka, Alabama, where Jessie served as warden and physician to the prisoners at the Alabama State Prison. He resigned in 1923 and returned again to Madison, where he served with various hospitals and clinics before focusing upon surgical specialties in private practice. He was on the board of stewards of the Madison Methodist Episcopal Church and affiliated with the Masonic Lodge of Madison. The Wikles were a cornerstone of Madison society during the first half of the twentieth century, and today our Veteran’s Memorial at Church Street and Front Street is named after Jessie Ollie Wikle Jr.

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