grandfather and two boys

15834: The Family Lathrop

This story of the Cameron County Pennsylvania Family, Lathrop, begins in 1859, with the birth of Edgar Lathrop. Edgar was the first generation of this prominent well known family to live in Emporium (zip code: 15834). The story continues, through three generations, to the death of his grandson, John B Lathrop, in 2006. 

Edgar Lathrop’s name was written for the first time in the 1860 Census of the United States .  He was the one year old son of Gilbert (1826 – 1892) and Adaline Cronk (1826 – 1888) Lathrop.  Their home, at this time, was Canton, PA in Bradford County.

Canton, PA

Edgar Lathrop (1859 – 1930) is listed next, in the census of 1910, as a “Survivor of the Confederate or Union Army or Navy”.  Looking at the year he was born, 1859, and the dates of the Civil war, April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865, he could not have been a veteran.  His father, Gilbert, registered for the Civil War draft in 1863, but because of his age being (37) and the fact that he was married, there is no evidence of his serving.

Gilbert’s father, however, served the U.S. in the War of 1812 and was a minister of the Gospel, but this family story will not go back that far, as it starts with Edgar Lathrop, who was the first generation of Lathrops to live in my hometown of Emporium, PA.

Edgar Lathrop was a survivor of the Civil War at the tender age of two, and until the ripe old age of six.  

Keating Summit, PA c1910

Can you imagine what a young mother must have gone through during the time of the war between the states? Edgar wasn’t Adaline and Gilbert’s only child, so I’m sure life on their farm was very trying.

Also, in the census of 1910, at 51 years of age, Edgar had been married to Ida Lathrop (1895 – 1926) for some time and they lived on a farm in Keating Summit, PA.

As they went about daily life of raising their children, little did they know that one day, something called the Internet would carry the story of their family to virtually the whole world. And, yet, here we are.

A Farm scene in the early 1900’s

Indeed, the “Thirteenth Census of the United States” (1910), recorded on Ancestry.com, lists Ida and Edgar as having moved from their Keating PA farm to the West Ward in the borough of Emporium, PA.  Edgar’s profession was as a machinist, but there is also some evidence that he was disabled from blindness. We can not confirm that, at this writing.

Two of Edgar and Ida’s children, born in Emporium, became Doctors of Dental Science.

Laurence L. Lathrop (1897 – 1980) , according to his daughter-in-law, put himself through college, cooking for a fraternity. Then, following his graduation at the University of Pitt, he put his sister Claire (1895 – 1981) through the same school. According to a local historian, she was the first female dentist in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

When we began our Facebook research of the 15834 Lathrop family, we soon realized that, even all these years later, the family name stoked a fire of dreaded dental chair memories.

A sort of Pandora’s box of pain was unleashed after being held for more than 60 years, in the hearts and minds of some who sat in that dental chair at 24 West Fourth Street. 

But, remember, everyone in any dental chair, anywhere, remembers a great amount of stress. Also, back in the time when Dr. Laurence (aka Lathy) and Dr. Claire practiced dentistry, “comfort” was a word never associated with being at the Dentist.

Their history unveils that there was much more to the family Lathrop than the dental chair, however.

Claire H. Lathrop and Laurence Leslie Lathrop, would go on to earn accolades and honors throughout the state of Pennsylvania, in civic affairs, their dental careers and beyond their careers, as well.

Being the first female dentist in PA was an amazing accomplishment in the early part of the nineteen hundreds. However, according to some accounts, her abilities and chair-side manor, left much to be desired.

Claire was an artist when it came to building a set of dentures, but not when it came to holding a drill. She did not use novocaine on her patients, which caused much stress, and a second problem was that she developed a tremor. This is an unfortunate maledy for someone who holds a drill to your teeth.

Also, there are stories of one of the dentists, drilling completely through a girls tongue. Another story of one of my relatives, also that, one time she needed a tooth fixed. Dr. Laurence put five shots of novocaine in the left side of her mouth. He returned about 10 minutes later and say, “Oh, the tooth I need to work on is on the other side”.

There are always two sides to every story, and there are a number of accounts where patients remembered them as heroes.

Donna Goodson, in her words, remembers, “Dr Claire Lathrop literally saved my life. I had an abscessed tooth. I was told by another dentist, I was faking and he did not treat the tooth. I was in excruciating pain. Eventually I was out of pain but I developed a lump in my neck. I was told it was a tumor. I was operated on in Coudersport. It was an abscess. A drain was inserted. It poured puss and never healed. They operated again, removing all my glands on that side. Again, another swollen bulge formed in my neck and my now partially paralyzed face. My surgeon was stumped and suggested I see Dr. Claire Lathrop. She examined me and shook her head about the incompetence I had endured for the past year. She numbed me up and pulled my tooth. I was all better. My hero.”

Sue McMillan said, “I remember Dr Clair Lathrop’s very loud, slow drill and she did not believe in “novacaine”. Ugh, how did we survive that? Ironically I married a Dentist and he has heard my horror stories many times. 😳”

Carol Ellis said, “I remember Claire Lathrop quite well. She scared me to death and also from any dentists for years. She literally climbed on top of me trying to pull a tooth out. She was scary.”

Someone remembers, “Dr. Clair was my dentist. She saved my poor teeth….spent many many hours in her chair…. I am forever grateful for her”

Linda Mccombie remembers, “Very strange…I have only good memories of Dr. Clair. I had a tooth that would not hold a filling and she found something wrong with the root that went into my jaw bone. She put me in the hospital and knocked me out and took care of everything while I was dead to the world.”

Ruth Kronenwetter Lathrop, Dr. Claire’s niece by marriage, at this writing, is 86 years old and living in Southeast, Pennsylvania, told me on the phone that she remembers watching Dr. Claire, back in the 50’s, while she designed dentures for someone.

Because the time was mid-century and Emporium was remote anyway, there was never the luxury of sending a mold for dentures out to a lab, to be made. Lathrops had their own lab, right beside the dental chair, in their offices.

Dr. Claire would ask the patient to bring in a picture of themselves with teeth, then she would craft the false teeth as the patient was in the chair. Turning to her right to the patient, she would match the tooth to the patient. She would then turn to her left, where she had a flaming bunsen burner, to melt materials and form the false teeth. Dr. Claire would make the dentures look exactly like your own teeth.

Ruth said, “If you got your dentures from Dr. Claire, you had some very beautiful teeth. She was an artist when it came to making dentures.”

Dr. Laurence, better known to his friends as “Lathy”, had a varied career because of his being drafted into the military. The years that he spent in service to his country were spent in the south U.S. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel through his service because of his education as a dentist. He served during WWII and brought his family back to Emporium at the end of that service.

Dr. Laurence returned to Emporium in the late 1940’s after his military service, when his son John was in the 5th grade. Lathy worked as a dentist from that time forward and seemed to be a more gentle dentist, at least some said.

Carol Razem remembers, “Dr. Laurence told me that during WW2 when he was in the Air Force, he worked on Clark Gable, who had false teeth. He said he made him a much better looking and more comfortable set and Gable was very happy with the care he got. Dr. Laurence was appalled by how shoddy the work Gable had gotten in California was.”

Debbie Jenkins remembers, “I bit Dr. Lathrop (the brother)!  Yep, bit him good. I was probably 5 or 6ish (So ’63-4). My permanent bottom teeth were coming in and the baby teeth weren’t showing signs of coming out any time soon, so my mom took me in to get one pulled. He pulled out that HUGE needle (you know the ones with the big metal cylinder) and made the mistake of putting a finger or two in my mouth before the needle. Down the teeth came. He didn’t try it again and my mom was so mad at me. It must have been on a Saturday because we went up to the school to see my dad and I remember there weren’t any cars in the parking lot. I don’t remember my dad’s reaction but he pulled that tooth out when we got home and no needles involved. (I still don’t like shots in my mouth and will get work done without any if at all possible. In college I actually passed out in a dentist’s chair after several shots. Isn’t it interesting the ‘traumatic’ events from our childhood that we remember? 🤣)

Debbie Jenkins also says, “On the other hand – Was it the brother and sister that lived up on Sylvan Heights? I remember years later selling Girl Scout cookies and they always bought several boxes from me”! (Editor’s Note: It was Dr. Laurence and family, who lived on Sylvan Heights.)

Carol Cochran says, “Dr. Laurance drilled my tongue all the way through. Pulled a baby tooth. Was about 5 or 6. Sure didn’t like a dentist for a long time.😞 1955 or 1956”.

Kelley Beckman says, “Honey (Eleanor) Lathrop [editor’s note: Honey was Dr. Laurence’s daughter] really lived up to her nickname. She truly was a sweet lady. I guess I got off to a good start with dental checkups because my big sister Kristine worked there. Once I started having cavities I became less excited about going there but I still was glad to see Honey! She was often at family gatherings too because she was a good friend of my sister’s mother-in-law Freddie Meisel. Both Honey and Freddie left us far too early. (Kris, too.)”

The family name also shown community strong, as both Laurence and Claire were very civic minded.  Laurence was appointed to state government positions and Claire was concerned about the overall health of the community as she fought polio, through her involvement in the American Legion Auxiliary and served as the school dentist for many many years.

Eunice Diehl Lathrop, Lathy’s wife, was born in 1895, and was also an Emporium native, or at least, brought to Emporium at an early age by her mother and father to live with her maternal grandparents.

Lathy and Eunice were in fourth grade together in Emporium in March 1909, as listed in the Cameron County Press.

By the census of 1920, Eunice had been living in Emporium with her brother-in-law, Charles Rishell. Charles was head of the house and listed as an undertaker in Emporium.  He was a furniture maker, as well and Eunice stated age was twenty-two. However, it could not be the correct age because she was born in 1895, according to the census of 1900.  At the time of that census, she was living with her mother, and that record would, of course, be more accurate.

Laurence “Lathy” Leslie Lathrop, was listed as head of the house in the 1930 census, having married Eunice Lenora Deihl, in August of 1921.

Lathy graduated from Emporium High School.    He entered Pittsburgh University in September 1942.  By 1945 he had retired as a LTC in the United States Army, having served during WWII, and started his practice as a Dentist in his hometown of Emporium.

The family story TO BE CONTINUED next week with the story of Laurence and Eunice and their children.

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