[Writer’s note: It’s easier for me to update Instagram more frequently than the blog, so follow me there @laurahoxworth to see more photos throughout the trip!]
Hello from Wisconsin! I have lots to say about our stay in America’s Dairyland (and sausage land…and beer land…), but I’ll get to that soon. First things first: I wanted to write about our very first destination—a quick stop that was special to me for personal reasons.
After setting out from Greensboro, NC, on Wednesday, we spent our first day driving through the mountains of West Virginia, and our first night car camping in Indiana’s Daniel Boone National Forest—where we got to our lakeside campsite just in time to see a gorgeous sunset over the lake (and where Callie had a wonderful time chasing katydids).
On Thursday, we arrived at our first planned destination: Cincinnati, Ohio!
We aren’t doing a lot of city exploring on this trip (especially since we have a certain furry companion with us), but there’s one main reason why we put this spot on our map: it’s the city where my dad grew up and went to medical school, and where my grandparents lived and left somewhat of a legacy—and I’ve never visited before. So it seemed like the perfect stop as we made our way up toward Wisconsin.
It’s funny how family history becomes more interesting the older you get. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather, but I’ve heard plenty of stories. And once I knew we were headed to Cincinnati, I started asking family members and doing a little research into who he was. By all accounts, Paul Hoxworth was a character: fiercely intelligent, curious, confident, caring, and nothing if not entertaining.
After going to college at just 15 years old (and dropping out twice from partying too much), he worked several jobs, including a stint as a car salesman. As the family story goes, one day he saw a man walk in and buy two Cadillacs with cash. Paul said to himself, “Whatever that man does for a living, that’s what I want to do.” And that’s how he chose to pursue medicine.
With a little more focus, his second attempt at college was much more successful. He completed his medical degree at Ohio State University, then attended the University of Cincinnati to earn his Ph.D. in philosophy. He and my grandmother, Nancy, settled down in Cincinnati, and he served as a professor of surgery at the university for many years.
At the time, one of the biggest problems doctors faced was blood donation. It was an archaic process back then, one that relied on a patient’s friends and family stepping up to donate as blood was needed (not the most efficient, as you can imagine). So Paul made it a focus of his career and his research to find a better way. In 1938, the American Red Cross Transfusion Center, the country’s second blood bank, opened at Cincinnati General Hospital. He was its first director.
His research and his work at the blood center played a large role in creating the modern process we use today for blood donation, storage, and transfusion. Though he excelled as a surgeon, he also had a real talent for diagnostics. He once correctly diagnosed himself with appendicitis and ordered himself into surgery, even though his symptoms were atypical and no one else believed him. (Then he insisted on local anesthetic for the procedure, so he could be awake for his “I told you so” moment.)
I also learned, through the research I did before our trip, that Paul was way ahead of his time in advocating for equal rights in medicine. Prejudice bothered him, from a practical standpoint if nothing else. As he wrote in his dissertation: “The separation of white and colored blood in the bank has been a constant practice for reasons other than scientific ones. As is true in other phases of the practice of medicine, society is not yet willing to accept what medicine already knows.”
As for our Cincinnati visit, Chris and I only spent about half a day exploring the city. We ate lunch downtown (AMAZING sandwiches at Cheapside), walked along the Riverwalk, and (of course) got ice cream at the original Graeter’s in Hyde Park.
And before we left, we stopped by the blood bank. I wanted to see the center that my grandfather founded: now called the Hoxworth Center, named after him in 1973 shortly before his death.
Altogether, it was a fun afternoon exploring a new city, eating delicious ice cream and taking a break from time in the car. I’d love to go back, since I know Cincy has SO much more to offer than what we could fit in (there’s only so much you can do in an afternoon, after all).
But mostly, it was more than worth it for me for the sense of family connection I felt just being there. I may never have known my grandfather in person, but I finally got to see the physical place where he left his mark on the world. I’m proud to be a Hoxworth!
Next up: Exploring Chris’s family history in Wisconsin! Stay tuned. 🙂