Portable surgery and apothecary kit
Surgeon's tools and supplies owned by Dr. Richard T. Speck (1886-1965), New Mexico Lumber Company doctor at McPhee, Colorado. The kit consists of a black leather self-contained and fold-closed case. The case has leather slots holding one stainless steel scalpel, a probe, forceps, a thread guide, capped tubes for needles and pharmaceutical vials, a two cc beaker, and a flip top tin. Inside the tin are six glass vials, a stainless steel syringe, and one hypodermic needle.
Dr. Richard T. Speck was born in 1886 in Kansas City, Kansas. His interest in the American West was influenced by family excursions to New Mexico and Colorado as a child. His father was a ticket agent for the Kansas Pacific Railway, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific, which had been built across the High Plains to mile-high Denver. Following his graduation from the University of Kansas medical school in 1908, Dr. Speck became the company doctor for the New Mexico Lumber Company (NMLC); living and working out of Edith, Colorado, where the company had a sawmill and was in the process of extending railroad tracks south to El Vado, New Mexico where they also had timber holdings. With the outbreak of World War I, Dr. Speck went back to Kansas City and joined the 35th Division of the Kansas-Missouri National Guard where he helped to form the 139th Ambulance Company.. He took his unit to France and served in two campaigns. He was decorated with the Silver Star for gallantry in action in the Battle of Argonne Forest near the end of the war. Following the war, Dr. Speck returned to the NMLC in El Vado. NMLC had been attempting to establish themselves just north of Dolores, Colorado since 1901. By the beginning of 1913 they owned several thousand acres of the best Ponderosa timber in the state. It wasn’t until 1924 before conditions were right to make the move. In that year, the company built the town of McPhee approximately 14 miles north of Dolores. Speck made the move as well. And in addition to being the company’s medical practitioner and surgeon, the doctor advanced into a management position and became part owner. McPhee served as an important economic and cultural town in the Dolores River Valley until 1948. During the industrial town's peak of operations in 1927, it was Colorado's largest and most productive mill town, producing more than half the State's annual lumber. The town featured a lumber mill, housing for approximately 1,500 employees and the last logging railroad in southwestern Colorado. Outside of upper management, most of the company’s workers and families were of Hispanic or American Indian decent. The area where they lived was commonly called “Mexican Town.” In 1944, with World War II draining the region of medical personnel, Dr. Speck moved his practice to Cortez where he could be near Johnson Hospital. The hospital consisted of two cottages located at 301 West Main. It had been established in 1917. He and two other doctors were the only doctors in town. Dr. Speck helped to organize the Montezuma County Health Department. He served as the organization’s health officer donating his services and time without cost to the county. Besides his medical practice, Dr. Speck served as a Cortez City Council member, was one of the organizers of the First National Bank and served on its board. He took an active part in the San Juan Basin Medical Society and later the Montelores Medical Society. He was a member of the Cortez Rotary Club, the Masonic Lodge, and a founding member of the Elks Club. He semi-retired from his practice on in 1961, but continued to see patients during the summer and fall months until his death in 1965 when he had a heart attack while driving home from a vacation in Mexico.