Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dr. Elizabeth Pierce Olmstead

I did not know Dr. Pierce (Ross) Olmsted ," a pioneer for women in medicine". She graduated from the University of Buffalo's school of medicine in 1939 and "invented the diffraction lens used in the treatment of crossed and lazy eyes. The doctor was also one the the area's first female pilots, serving as a lieutenant in the Civil Air Patrol in the early 1940's."

I first heard about her a few years ago when my neighbors told me that she once lived in the house I just bought. She had also told them how both she and the neighborhood children would all take turns on a swing that was hung from the large Silver Maple in my back yard. Apparently my backyard was the IT spot to play 80 years ago.

What made me think of her was that I was thumbing through a red book of "Complete Works of William Shakespeare with notes" that I acquired one day at the estate sale of the doctor's home. I did not intend nor did I know about the sale ahead of time. But when I see those "Estate Sale" signs, I follow. I have been on the look out for books, art and old wooden toys (for my daughter). And I found a beautiful yellow with butterflies enameled picture frame and the collection of Shakespeare plays. As I was sitting at my desk about to start reading I realized that there were news paper clippings in the book. I began to think that this was a college text book with a snap shot of thoughts from a young woman's journey through college. There was a photo clipping of graduates from Lafayette High School. A poem by Dr. Frank Crane called "The Pressure". A problem solving article for the card game Bridge. A poem called "The Eulogy of the Dog" very sad. And lastly, a stiff card with a picture in blue and black on it called "Ex Libris". It is a night scene with a castle on a mountain and what looked like tiny knights on horse back in the foreground. It was like moments in a college students life. Together they almost told a story of someone enthralled with the drama and tragedy of Shakespeare, possibly feeling the pressure of school, death and sadness, and the fantasy of a far away land.

So, did the doctor own my house at one time? I was curious so I pulled the deed to my house. As I first scanned the deed I looked for an "Olmsted" and found no one by that name. Then realized that that was a married name. Then there was a Edward J. Liebetrut, a prospecting pharmacist from the East Side, sold the house to one William H. Pierce on October 30, 1919. William Pierce left the house to Clara K. Pierce, who was his wife, in June 10, 1912. Clara left the home to her daughter Elizabeth Ross and son William Wright Pierce on October 26, 1959. They kept the house until 1968. So, from what I can tell the stories are true. I wish I had a chance to ask the doctor some stories about the old house. And now it seems odd that her picture frame and old college book now sit on a shelf in the same house she once owned.

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