Local History Thursday: The Tough and Dedicated Dr. Jess Sickenberger

Dr. Jess Urban Sickenberger

Jess Urban Sickenberger was an early Twentieth century Mesa County doctor, and, according to more than one interviewee with the Mesa County Oral History Project, one of the area’s top surgeons. Apparently, he was also so devoted to his profession that he would let nothing get in the way of helping a patient.

Rural doctors commonly made house calls to far-flung areas, but Anna (Barker) Foster recalls Dr. Sickenberger going above and beyond the call of duty when he traveled from Grand Junction to the Town of Mesa during a snow storm in order to treat her dying three year old boy… and this on a long, rough road up the Grand Mesa prior to the construction of US Highway 65.

Glenn McFall, an auto mechanic who had a shop on Grand Junction’s Main Street, tells the story of a policeman trying to stop Sickenberger for speeding. The cop waited until Sickenberger slowed at a stop sign, and climbed aboard the car’s running board to reprimand the doctor. Sickenberger punched him, got him off his running board and went speeding away. A group of policemen later went to see the doctor in order to “clear things up.” When they found out that Sickenberger had been on his way to help a sick person, they let him off with a warning.

The Ku Klux Klan scared a lot of people in the 1920’s, but not Doc Sickenberger. They approached him about starting a protestants-only hospital, so that Mesa County’s good protestant folk would not have to fraternize with the Catholics at St. Mary’s Hospital. They warned him that if he did not comply with their demand, they would run him out of town. Sickenberger told them to beat it in no uncertain terms. They never bothered him again.

Posted in Local History.

2 Comments

  1. While living in Ouray, Dr. Sickenberger was physician to local miners and developed new surgical techniques for mending broken bones. He was also tending physician to Chief Ouray’s wife, Chipeta until her death.

    • Hi Larry,

      Thank you very much for your comment. Your additional information shows that Sickenberger was obviously a talented and important doctor. Thank you also for the photo of him that you were willing to share for this blog post.

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