George Gilles’ tumor, 1879

I was researching the Drs. Meachem — three generations of doctors serving Racine — grandfather, father, and son — and I ran across one of the stranger chapters in Racine history:

Racine Daily Herald, Feb. 11, 1879

racine_daily_herald_1879The funeral of Mr. George Gilles occurred last Sunday afternoon from St. Mary’s church. It was quite largely attended, the Young men’s Association, of which he was a member, turning out in full force to show their esteem for their late brother. The young man died at his residence on the corner of Fourteenth st. and College Avenue, early Saturday morning, from the effects of a tumor which had been growing on his left leg for the past three years. It had grown during that time to an enormous size and weighed more than the young man himself. The doctors estimated its weight at 125 pounds. The tumor, at the time of death, measured 58 inches in circumference. It was 22 inches in diameter, from side to side, and 18 inches in diameter from front to back. Its nature, known to medical men, was that of osteo-cephaloma, and is remarkable for its unheard of size. Much interest has been manifest in its growth, and it has been carefully watched by Drs. Meachem & Son from time to time, as new points of development occurred.

The body was exhumed yesterday afternoon at 4 o’clock. It was done at the earnest request of the mother and brothers of the deceased, to relieve their minds in regard to body snatching which they fully expected. Phillip Zirbes, sexton of the cemetery, with two of his sons, John H. Peil and Michael Porter exhumed the body in presence of one of the brothers. Permission (written) was given Dr. John G. Meachem, Jr., to remove the tumor together with the entire thigh bone, which was done. And now this interesting pathological specimen is in the doctor’s keeping. Sheriff Fielding, who is a pretty good physician, accompanied and assisted the doctor.

2 thoughts on “George Gilles’ tumor, 1879

  1. I cannot imagine anyone putting the words “was a pretty good physician” in print now! Because I lived at the corner of 14th and College 20 years ago I am wondering which house belonged to George Gilles?

    • I think it was the large boarding house on the southwest corner of 14th and College. I think that house has been there a very long time.

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