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Biography of Lewis Van Gilder GUTHRIE, M. D.


Submitted by Valerie Crook, <vfcrook@trellis.net>

The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc., 
Chicago and New York, Volume III, pg. 145-146

LEWIS VAN GILDER GUTHRIE, M. D. While all medical men are nominally dedicated to the service of humanity, there are in every state a few outstanding men who have in a peculiar degree made their work truly a ministry of service. In the nature of circumstances such work cannot be broadly appreciated. Normal conditions are those of health and well being, and the healthy and prosperous seldom know much of the unfortunate substratum of humanity. It is within the membership of the medical profession itself, officials of the State Board of Control, interested visitors from abroad, and the families of unfortunate patients who know and value properly the great and noble service performed by Dr. L. V. Guthrie for twenty-five years as superintendent of West Virginia's Hospitals for the Insane. For twenty years his work has been with the Huntington State Hospital, and those who have observed his
treatment of the unfortunate there have counted it a revelation. Possessing a scientific knowledge unsurpassed in his calling, Doctor Guthrie multiplies his value by a kindly sympathy and firmness that endears him to all concerned with the success of such an institution as that at Huntington.

Doctor Guthrie inherited traditions of honorable service and grew up in a home atmosphere calculated to arouse in him high ideals. His father was the late Judge Francis Asbury Guthrie, who died at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, in 1904, after forty years of honorable professional and public service for the state. He was born in Tyler County, West Virginia, April 12, 1840, son of Francis Guthrie, grandson of Dr. Nathan G. Guthrie and a descendant of John Guthrie, who came from Edinburg, Scotland, to Boston, Massachusetts, in 1682. Francis Guthrie was a native of New York State, and for forty years was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church in West Virginia, where he died at the age of eighty-four. Judge Francis A. Guthrie left the college at Meadville, Pennsylvania, to enlist as a private in the Union army, September 10, 1861, in November, 1862, was promoted to first lieutenant and in March, 1863, to captain of Company E, One Hundred and Eleventh Pennsylvania Infantry. At the close of the war he entered the University of Michigan, graduated in law, and thereafter practiced his profession at Point Pleasant. He served as state prosecuting attorney, and in 1880 was elected judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit, and twice reelected, his death occurring at the close of twenty-four years of consecutive service on the bench. Judge Guthrie married Clara Van Gilder, and their only child is Lewis Van Gilder Guthrie.

Doctor Guthrie was born at Point Pleasant, West Virginia, January 8, 1868. He was educated in the free schools, in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute at BIacksburg, in Roanoke College at Salem, Virginia, and in 1889, at the age of twenty-one, graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Baltimore, where as an undergraduate he was assistant resident physician at the Maternity Hospital. For nine years Doctor Guthrie enjoyed a successful private practice at Point Pleasant. On June 1, 1897, he was appointed superintendent of the second hospital for the insane at Spencer, now known as the Spencer State Hospital. On June 4, 1901, Doctor Guthrie accepted his first office as superintendent of the Huntington Hospital. This institution had been established in 1897 as the West Virginia Asylum for Incurables, but in 1901 the scope of its service was modified so that it has since been an institution for epileptics and other incurable mental defectives. It was Doctor Guthrie who eventually succeeded in getting the change of name, eliminating the word asylum, to Huntington State Hospital.

In and for this state hospital Doctor Guthrie has labored with unflagging zeal now for twenty years and, including his previous service at Spencer, he has been under seven different governors, a fact that to persons understanding the fluctuations of politics is peculiarly significant of Doctor Guthrie's splendid abilities and consecration to his task. While the great work of treatment, restoration of mind and character, recovery to good citizenship of many pronounced incurable, and the amelioration of conditions surrounding those permanently afflicted might properly be considered in any personal sketch of Doctor Guthrie, it will be rather the purpose of this article to indicate some of the distinctive honors paid Doctor Guthrie by his profession and his individual contributions to the growing body of knowledge that will be used by future generations of those entrusted with the guardianship and care of the mentally defective. On November 9, 1918, Doctor Guthrie volunteered for the Medical Reserve Corps, but owing to his official position his services were retained in this country. He acted as a member of the Medical Advisory Board of the Third District, and volunteered as a private in the Home Guards during the active period of the war. He was appointed acting assistant surgeon of the United States Public Health Service, of which he is now consulting neuro-psychiatrist. He is consulting psychiatrist of the United States War Risk Insurance for West Virginia, is medical examiner of the Cabell County Lunacy Commission and chairman of the advisory committee of the State Conference of Charities and Corrections. He is a Fellow of the American Medical Association, a Fellow of the American Psychiatrist Association, of which he is auditor and member of the Council, is a member of the West Virginia State and Cabell County Medical societies, and is chairman of the West Virginia Mental Hygiene Commission. In July, 1921, Doctor Guthrie was appointed medical advisor for the State Board of Control.

Besides his various official reports Doctor Guthrie is author of papers and addresses and pamphlets that are included in permanent medical literature. He is author of "Insanity more Preventable than Curable," published in 1914; "Dementia Praecox—Observation and Treatment," read at the fiftieth annual meeting of the West Virginia Medical Association in 1917; the "Feeble Minded, with special reference to Juvenile Delinquency and Venereal Diseases," a paper read at a Red Cross Home Conference at Morgantown in 1918; "Maniac Depressive Psychosis," read at the fifty-third annual meeting of the State Medical Society in 1920; "The Mental Defective in West Virginia, as Found by a Recent Survey," read at the fifty-fourth annual meeting of the State Medical Association, Charleston, West Virginia, May 24, 1921, and "The Mental Defective in Relation to the Commonwealth," read at the annual meeting of Woman's Club, held at Huntington in 1921. He was chairman and author of the "Report of the Committee on Nursing," presented at the seventy-sixth annual meeting of the American Medico-Psychological Association at Cleveland in 1920.

While at Spencer Doctor Guthrie was president of the Bank of Spencer and in Huntington is vice president of the First National Bank and interested in a number of other corporations. He is a republican, and his first political appointment came from President Harrison, who made him local pension examining surgeon. Doctor Guthrie is a Knight Templar and thirty-second degree Scottish Rite
Mason. On June 15, 1889, at Point Pleasant, he married Margaret Lymm English, daughter of Judge John W. and Fannie (Lewis) English. Her father was a distinguished West Virginia jurist, at one time a member of the Court of Appeals. Doctor and Mrs. Guthrie have two daughters: Kathleen Lewis, wife of Frank W. McCullough, and Fannie Elizabeth.


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