Andrew Joseph Applegarth, DVM 

Andrew Joseph Applegarth, DVM 

August 7, 1881 – January 19, 1957

Andrew Joseph (Andy) Applegarth was born on July 9, 1881 in Minnesota. He was one of seven children born to Henry William and Nancy J. (Clark) Applegarth. Andy could remember traveling to the Sandhills in a covered wagon pulled by oxen. His parents had a homestead 25 miles south of Antioch and is known as The Old Applegarth Place to this day. It was owned by the Elreds for years but is now owned by someone else. 

Andy’s mother Nancy Jane (Clark) Applegarth passed away in April of 1895 and his father Henry William passed away in August of the same year. The younger children went to live with relatives before their father passed away. Andy had 7 siblings: William, Abzina Eliza, Lewis Henry, John Edward, (Andrew Joseph) and Elmer Thomas. Wilmer was said to be short, with black hair and gray eyes. 

We understand from 10-14 years of age, Andy had lived in Antioch to attend school, he boarded with a lady that owned the hotel there. He helped her with the chores working for his board and room. 

After his Mother and Father passed away, Andy at age 14 became an orphan. He left the Sandhills and went to Montana where he worked on various ranches and gained a lot of knowledge working with horses. He became a good horseman and became interested in horse ailments and treatments. He read and studied horse and veterinarian books in his spare time.

After he came back to Nebraska, he met and married Eleoram (Ellen) Agnekem (Agnes) Welch. Ellen was an Irish girl whose parents migrated from Ireland and worked at the U-cross. She had a homestead next to Andy and they were married in November 1905 in the Catholic Church in Ellsworth. They homesteaded north of Bingham and purchased and raised horses to sell to the Calvary (Army.)  Six children were born to this marriage, William (Bill), Andrew Joseph (Joe), Bernard (Barney), Henry (Hank), Catherine and Ellen Madeline. Ellen died of whooping cough at thirteen months of age. 

Ellen died in February 1924 of Pernicious Anemia and left Andy with five children 15 years of age and under. Bill and Joe quit school in Bingham and helped the other three children finish school. Catherine attended high school at St. Agnes Academy in Alliance as did several of her nieces and nephew years later.

When the Fort went broke, Andy was stuck with a lot of horses (some say 120 head that he had already paid for) so Andy and his boys and a friend who was an ex-circus performer named Archie Manseaux who had come to live with Andy and his family began a contract haying business for several years. The Archie story is another story all together.

He had haying contracts with the U-cross and Hordes south of Lakeside as well as the Herman Families. His hay crew consisted of his four sons and a few others. During this time, Andy was still reading books and interested in being a veterinarian.

We have conflicting family stories on how he became a practicing veterinarian. Hank and Joe and their families say that he studied under another vet as an apprentice and then he became a vet. Hank recalled the name of Dr. Curtis, a Federal vet from Alliance. He also recalled the name of Attorney Gahns along with Dr. Curtis who helped him get a State Permit to practice Veterinary Medicine and it was renewed each year. Another story Bill and Barney told their children that he studied on his own and went to Lincoln and took the State Veterinarian exam with the students there and passed but could not be awarded an official degree because he was not an on-campus student and could not be awarded an official degree. 

If he would have had an official license, it was lost when Andy’s home burned down and sadly family history was lost. 

 As time moved on, Andy practiced out of a Buick car, where he went all over the Sandhills.

Jim Applegarth worked with him one summer as a boy and remembers his dental tools weighing about forty pounds. Most of Andy’s practice was on horses. At that time horses almost outnumbered cattle. 

He had a very effective liniment for wire cuts on horses. He also had a very effective formula for treating cancer eyes on cattle. A drugstore in Alliance, Thieles, compounded the formulas for him, The formulas were lost when Andy and the pharmacist died.

Andy was quite a good acrobat and could still run up the side of a barn and turn a backflip at 67 years of age. His Grandson Dean Applegarth tried it and fell on his head at that time, Grandma Max took offense at Grandpa Applegarth stating, ”He had done that on purpose!” He was an expert in working a punching bag.

At one point in his life, he became a Pugilist-a person that boxes for money. He boxed like this in several states. We understand that is where he got the money to pay for his books. He was proud of the fact that he never got his nose broken. Andy, Joe, Hank, Dean and Jim had a boxing ring in the barn at the Dumbell where they would practice boxing every evening. 

Andy retired at his home in Ashby with his wife, Hilda (Nelson). After Hilda passed away, he remained in Ashby. He lived with Barney and Joe when he was in poor health until his death in November of 1957.

Many ranchers were glad to see Andy Applegarth drive into their ranch and take care of their stock. 

We have been told by people who remember him that he never left until the job was done even if it meant working all night. 

Andrew Joseph “Andy” Applegarth DMV was a colorful character and a pioneer Veterinarian in the Sandhills and one of the first Veterinarian’s if not the only one in the Sandhills at the time.

We think of scenes from Gunsmoke or other old Western movies or TV shows as typical of his early practice. Andy traveled far and wide from Alliance to Broken Bow, often by horse and Buggy with his sons taking turns driving him. He often took eggs and milk as payments from his customers who could not afford to pay him. Andy was more known as a horse Doctor but treated all animals.

Back in the day, I don’t think there were many awards handed out; you worked hard and moved on, not thinking anything about being rewarded or honored. 

Andy Applegarth’s reward was his family and their posterity. He wanted his family to remain close and take care of one other. 

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