Milling brothers, Roscoe and George, billed themselves as rubbing
doctors and utilized elements of massage therapy, magnetic healing
and hypnosis in their respective practices. In towns where the water
had a high mineral content they added mineral water to their treatments.
Both brothers were profoundly influenced by the techniques taught
at Sidney Weltmer's Magnetic Institution in Missouri, which drew heavily
on the practices of Franz Mesmer. Mesmer believed that we have an
invisible magnetic fluid-animal magnetism-that causes sickness when
it's blocked. He used magnets, touch and eventually hypnotism (which
gives us the word mesmerized) to unblock a patient's animal magnetism
and make them well.
Roscoe and George wore their hair long to accentuate their Cherokee
heritage, billing themselves as the "Indian Adept" or the "Long-Haired
Doctor." They operated (not literally) in out-of-the-way places like
Rose and Putnam,
running what today we'd identify as a spa or clinic. They couldn't
legally call their businesses hospitals without proving they were
doctors, which required a medical license, and it's true that some
of their patients turned into plaintiffs. The Millings argued in court
that guests paid only for room and board-the rubbing and the magnets
and mineral water were all gratis.
The late and lamented Texas writer Larry L. King grew up in Putnam
and recalled that "for three dollars a day you could bathe in Putnam's
mineral waters, have meals in your rooms, and take treatments from
the well-known rubbing doctor Roscoe Milling." Historian John Berry
wrote of Roscoe in 1963: "Dr. Milling was a picturesque character
and willing to put forth effort and time to add to the picturesqueness
and to remain a character."
Roscoe, who claimed to have healed his mother of phlebitis when he
but a mere lad, ran away from home to join Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Traveling Show as a teenager. He opened his first sanitarium in Stephenville
in 1890. In Glen
Rose, he saw a Hindu hypnotist in action, and before you could
say "snap out of it" he was mesmerizing his own patients.
Younger brother George was a good deal more rambunctious than Roscoe,
prone to breaking up religious gatherings, brandishing pistols and
threatening people. Glen
Rose cops once pulled him over for driving his Hupmobile through
town at the ungodly speed of eighteen miles per hour. They slapped
him with another citation for "unlawfully shooting a gun across a
public road." A couple of years after George set up shop in Glen
Rose, he was murdered, some say by a jealous husband who believed
George was rubbing his wife the wrong way.
Skeptics doubted the rubbing doctors did anybody any good. Their harshest
critics accused them of being dangerous and/or immoral. But they had
a loyal clientele. When Roscoe went to trial in Abilene
for practicing medicine without a license, a prominent Abilene
woman testified that Roscoe had restored the use of her withered arm.
But the organized opposition to his unconventional treatments compelled
him to look for other means of survival. He tried farming, but the
ailing masses camped out on his farm, pleading for treatment. His
own beliefs in the treatments never wavered.
Roscoe Milling died in 1962 after unsuccessful surgery to cure a kidney
ailment. His son, H.H. Milling, operated a sanitarium in Mineral
Wells for many years. The Millings brothers' descendants and others
who married into the family practiced various forms of medicine in
more than a dozen Texas towns over the next several decades, including
a third-generation descendant who served as dean at the University
of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.