From Rochester to
For the first
seven years, Dr. John G.
Cross (1870-1928) practiced medicine in
his hometown, Rochester, Minnesota, at
St. Mary's Hospital. He had graduated from Northwestern in
1895, the year German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen
discovered xrays. Not unlike young people
today with an affinity for technology that sometimes
challenges their elders, John's mastery of
radiography soon brought recognition from older
physicians in Minnesota.
One of those
was the influential Dr. William J. Mayo (1861-1939),
co-founder of the Mayo Clinic, with whom John Cross
worked at St. Mary's. At an 1899 medical conference,
Mayo praised the excellence of John's Roentgen
skiagraphs (xrays), no small feather in the cap of a
man just four years out of medical school.
Perhaps he would have become part of the Mayo Clinic
had John remained in Rochester but in mid 1903 he
became part of the visiting staff at Minneapolis
General Hospital as a clinical bacteriologist in the
pathology department and by December that year was preparing
to leave Rochester to accept a fulltime position at
The afternoon of December 30, 1903 John was in Chicago and had just left the
Reliance building on Washington Street.
His story as it appeared in a Minneapolis newspaper
two days later had him standing outside the John
Thompson restaurant next door to the Iroquois
Theater where he heard the fire alarm but saw
nothing to suggest a disaster of the magnitude that
unfolded, until people began carrying out bodies.
Reportedly he walked on down the street to the Marshall
Field department store where an elevator operator
persuaded him to assist Iroquois evacuees at a
makeshift first aid station in the store.
Wait, now. To get to the Iroquois Theater
from the Reliance building would have required
walking about a mile around a large city block, in
temperatures below freezing. Because he heard
a fire alarm? In John's defense, Rochester
then was a city of around 6,000 so maybe the
prospect of seeing a big city fire elasticized his
neck. He hung around long enough to see bodies
being carried out but instead of trying
to help, the good doctor turned away
and walked another mile to do some shopping at
Marshall Field, where he was persuaded by an elevator
operator to pitch in. That so does not pass the stink
test. My guess: the reporter took lousy notes
during the interview.
John was the son of a Dr.
Edwin C. Cross and Fanny Marcy Cross. He
graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1891,
married Frances L. Montgomery in 1894 and
received his doctorate from Northwestern in 1895.
Over the next eight years he and Frances had three