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September 8, 2009

sign2History was made in St. Johns July 29. That’s the date for the dedication ceremony of a Michigan Historical Marker at the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum.

“We are all thrilled – it’s a great honor,” says Catherine Rumbaugh, who along with her late husband, John, were instrumental in the formation and continued operation of the Museum.

musign2The process of being accepted as a recipient of the marker was lengthy, requiring an abundance of data collection and historic verification. “We’ve been working on this for more than two years,” Rumbaugh says, adding that the St. Johns Rotary Club also played a part in obtaining the marker.

“The entire cost of the marker was donated by Rotary – we owe the club a debt of gratitude,” she says. “We also appreciate the city of St. Johns working with us in providing for the installation of the marker.” Unveiling of the marker took place during a special dedication ceremony that began at 7 p.m., July 29. County, city, and state officials were invited to attend, along with representatives from the Michigan Historical Commission and numerous local civic and community groups.

Betty Jane Minsky, president of the Clinton County Historical Society, officially accepted the marker on behalf of the local organization. Refreshments were served following the completion of the ceremony, and tours of the Museum were conducted by volunteer docents of the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum Advisory Board.

The following information on the doctors for whom the Museum is named is provided by Rumbaugh.

John W. Paine (1821-1870), whose wife was a sister to Charles Kipp, was an early merchant in Clinton County working in partnership with Kipp at a general store in Rochester Colony where they settled in 1956. In 1859, the new railroad enticed them to St. Johns. Paine built the first brick store and the oldest brick house in St. Johns in 1860 – 10 years before the courthouse was built.

A successful merchant, Paine served the village and promoted education in many ways including the erection of the three-story Union School in 1865. The Union School was located on the site where Central School was built in 1885, when the Union School was destroyed by fire.

Dr. Samuel E. Gillam (1845-1908) purchased the house which included the doctor’s office to the north in 1883. The remodeling of the Italianate house to include Victorian amenities occurred soon after this move. Gillam began his medical practice in Elsie in 1869, moving to St. Johns in 1879.

Dr. Gillam performed the first abdominal surgery in Clinton County in 1880. His expertise earned him praise and respect as a physician and surgeon. He also served as surgeon for the Detroit, Grand Haven, and Milwaukee (Grand Trunk) Railroad.

In 1904 the growth of Dr.Gillam’s practice necessitated the addition of a partner – Dr. Walter A. Scott. Gillam relinquished his residence to the Scotts in 1905, following the death of his wife, Rose Finch. Rose was the daughter of Peter and Mary Finch of Greenbush Township. She married the young doctor, and taught art and china painting to the ladies in Elsie and St. Johns. The Museum owns several items produced by her art students.

Dr. Walter A. Scott (1874-1934) purchased the house in 1911. He and his wife, Malinda Braidy, were the last residential owners of the house. Dr. Scott served in World War I, and was active in organizing the Edwin T. Stiles American Legion Post 153. He was also active in Masons, Oddfellows, Rotary, and the Commercial Club.

Linda invited several ladies to her home for the purpose of organizing the American Legion Auxiliary. The Museum Tulip Tree along with the pink and white dogwood trees are the remnants of Linda’s beautiful flower garden.

Although his name is not part of the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum, another well-known physician also played a role in its history. Dr. Sherwood R. Russell (1906-1979) assumed Scott’s practice following his death in 1934. Dr.Russell and his new bride, Edith Hunter, rented the upstairs and office from Mrs. Scott for two years.

Dr. Russell was chief of staff at Clinton Memorial Hospital for many years. He had been on staff and served as an instructor in surgery at the University of Michigan Hospital prior to taking over Scott’s practice.

In all, the house was occupied by physicians for 55 years. The St. Johns Professionals received a Michigan Centennial Business Award in 1994 for the continued practice of medicine that included Drs. Gillam, Scott, Russell, and Grost.

The house was sold to Clinton County in 1962 and was used as offices for several county functions, while Dr. Herbert L. Oatley retained the office annex and its property.

In September 1978, the county leased the house to the Clinton County Historical Society. It was restored and has been operated as the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum since that time. It has been listed in the State Register of Historic Sites since 1980.

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