Colorado Avenue 1900

Huerfano Street Bridge looking west, circa 1900
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum



Long before the turn of the century, it was evident that Colorado Springs was to be one of the largest cities in the state. It was publicized as the state's outstanding health and recreation center, and its quickly established international reputation added luster to its rapidly developing cosmopolitan nature. Dentists and physicians in large numbers naturally migrated to this health center.

Dr. William Bartlett
In the spring of 1879 Colorado Springs was only 8 years old. It boasted gas lights, privies on most lots, 18 telephones, wide boulevards to accommodate double-spans of horses and buggies, 20 physicians, and one dentist who had just arrived from Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. William Bartlett, at age 23, was already an accomplished dentist. He had studied to be a dentist with his father for four years. His three brothers were also dentists. Dr. Bartlett was attracted to Colorado Springs by General Palmer's ads of "the greatest place on Earth to live" in Harper's Weekly, a favorite magazine of the time, which he had discovered in the waiting area of his father's dental office.

Dr. Bartlett initially set up his practice on Colorado Avenue, then later moved to the First National Bank Building on the corner of Pikes Peak and Tejon. He often packed his dental instruments on his horse to ride out to the cattle ranches and potato farms of eastern Colorado. More often than not his pay would be a sack of potatoes, a shank of beef, or some gold dust.

Bartlett loved opera and met his future wife, Agnes Andrews a coloratura soprano, at the Colorado Springs Opera House. Agnes, however, did not further her operatic career. She was quite ill, and her doctors in Chicago had predicted she would die soon. In the 1880's, Colorado Springs was known as Sanatorium City because more than one third of the population was in treatment for tuberculosis. Agnes came to Colorado Springs for a miracle cure for her health, and she found one. Agnes did eventually die in Colorado Springs, but not until 1966 at the age of 110.

Dr. Bartlett and Agnes were married in 1884. While Agnes was said to be sensible and steadfast, William took to writing sentimental verse. The doctor and his wife traveled in a carriage drawn by high-stepping horses. Agnes always wore earrings, and her hair was immaculate. She never left the house without her pillbox hat, cane, and flowing cape. When she spoke - quietly and distinctly - everyone listened. However, she took on the tough, dirty tasks around the house, like hauling coal, because William " always had his hand in people's mouths" and "I insist he have nice, clean, soft hands." William and Agnes had five children. All of the children were delivered by Dr. Bartlett at their home. 

Dr. Bartlett was one of the original members of the 1891 re-organized Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and was one of the first members of the Colorado Springs Dental Society, founded May 15, 1902.

Dr. John P. Grannis
Another early dentist in the area was John P. Grannis, D.D.S., who came to Colorado Springs in 1886, as a tubercular seeking health in the mountain air. Dr. Grannis "grubstaked" the gold prospector Bob Womack on December 2, 1889 in return for the customary fifty per cent of any discovery made. By 1891, Bob Womack was still searching in the Cripple Creek hills for gold, and he appealed to Dr. Grannis for another grubstake. After a tour of the city's banks, Grannis finally persuaded the Exchange National Bank to lend him $600 at twelve per cent interest. Not only did the interest rate reflect the bank's opinion of the venture, but also the bank refused to accept the property in Cripple Creek as collateral and instead placed a lien on Grannis's dental equipment.

Womack did discover gold in the Cripple Creek area and inspired Winfield Scott Stratton to find his great strike in the area. But Womack, due to the excesses of drink and unwise business deals, never struck it rich himself. Stratton remembered Womack at Christmas 1899 with a check for $5,000. We do not know how Dr. Gannis's dental equipment faired through all these transactions, however.

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Dr. Sinton working on patient, circa 1915

Dr. William Sinton, circa 1915
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum


_ Official Name
          El Paso County Odontological Society

_ Date Organization was Established and Adoption of the American Dental
    Association's Code of Ethics
          May 15, 1902

_ Number of Member Doctors

Dentists and physicians naturally migrated to this health center in large numbers, and it was not surprising that the dentists of the city formed a local dental organization quite early.

On May 15, 1902, a group of dentists met in Room 3 of the El Paso Bank Building, the office of Dr. W.K. Sinton; and after a short discussion formed the El Paso County Odontological Society. The society was formed for the advancement of the profession of dentistry and for mutual benefit. The officers chosen at this meeting were president, Dr. W.K. Sinton; vice-president, Dr. George Y. Wilson; secretary, Dr. D.A. Johnston; treasurer, Dr. J. Allen Smith. These officers, together with the following, were the charter members of the society: Dr. William Bartlett, Dr. F.C. Chamberlain, Dr. Henry B. Hayden, Dr. Frederick S. McKay, Dr. A.B. Baker; Dr. W.A. DeBerry, Dr. Frank Gray, Dr. Clinton A. Downs, Dr. E.W. Thompson, Dr. W.W. Flora, Dr. John Grannis, Dr. H.L. Morehouse, Dr. J. Burton, and Dr. William Fowler.

Two weeks later on May 29, 1902, when the first regular meeting was held, Dr. F.S. McKay, a young member dentist who was later to become internationally famous, presented the Society's first paper, "A Plea for the Less Frequent Use of Arsenic for Devitalization of the Dental Pulp." The first annual meeting was held October 14, 1904. After that, the dentists met at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoons in a dentist's office.

Beginning in 1904, the monthly meetings of the Colorado Springs Dental Society were held at various hotels in the city. The second annual meeting on October 13, 1905, at the Alamo Hotel featured topics, such as "Indians" by Dr. Edgar W. Thompson; "Dental Recreations" by Dr. W.K. Sinton; and "The Use of a Club in Dentistry" by Dr. Isaac Burton.

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Dr. Frederick McKay, circa 1915
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
The dentists of Colorado Springs have a far greater heritage than strange topics for dental meetings. It was the original members of the El Paso County Odontological Society that promulgated one of history's most significant scientific dental investigations - the relationship of mottled enamel (also known as Colorado brown stain) and fluoridated water to the reduction of dental decay. The first indication that the Society formally recognized the enamel stain which afflicted the teeth of a large portion of the natives of Colorado Springs was in 1902 when the Society, through Dr. Frederick McKay's insistence, authorized the first systematic investigation of the enamel stain. Letters were sent to dentists throughout the Rocky Mountain area in an attempt to locate other stain-afflicted areas. However, response from other Colorado dentists was sparse, and very little information was obtained for several years. On May 11, 1906, records show, Dr. Walter A. Brown addressed the subject once again to the Society. It was not until May 8, 1908, that Dr. McKay actually began his investigation of mottled enamel.

Dr. Frederick McKay
Dr. Frederick S. McKay was born in 1874 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was a 1900 graduate of the Dental School University of Pennsylvania and came to Colorado Springs in 1901. Partially because he had the inquisitiveness of a recent graduate and partially because he was not a native of Colorado Springs, Dr. McKay was intrigued by the number of patients whose teeth were stained with white or brown spots; and in severe cases, the enamel was pitted. Dr. McKay was distressed by the apathy of the rest of the profession to do something positive about correcting this cosmetic problem. 

In 1905 Dr. McKay moved to St. Louis to specialize in orthodontia. While in St. Louis he noticed the brown stain was prevalent in that region. He returned to Colorado Springs in 1908, because of health reasons and his investigation of the stain continued. On May 8, 1908 Dr. McKay and the El Paso County Odontological Society presented a patient at the Colorado State Dental Association meeting to illustrate and to promote interest in the brown stains found on teeth of children born in Colorado Springs, Colorado City, and Manitou. Except for learning about some other areas where the stain could be found on locals' teeth, little interest was manifested by those at the meeting. 

On December 11, 1908, a committee consisting of Drs. McKay, Fleming, and Burton was formed by the Dental Society to examine the teeth of the public school children in the Colorado Springs area for evidence of the "Colorado Stain." On January 8, 1909, the School Board granted permission to the committee to examine the teeth of the children; and the Colorado Springs Dental Society allocated $21.00 to cover the cost of the examination and the record cards. During the examinations Drs. McKay and Burton went from desk to desk, noting the condition of the teeth and indicating the degree of stain. They correlated the examination information with questionnaires completed by the children's parents relating to birthplace, places of residence, and the age at which the child had moved to Colorado Springs. During the spring of 1909, the two dentists inspected 2,945 children and were astounded to discover that 87.5 percent were afflicted with some degree of stain or mottling; and all those afflicted were native to the Pikes Peak region.

There were many theories for the cause of the stain. Some felt that it was an affliction limited to the poor (from poor nutrition, etc.); others felt that it was due to eating too much pork or drinking milk from local cows; some believed that radium exposure was to blame or childhood diseases caused the stain; and many thought that there might be a calcium deficiency in the local drinking water. In 1908 Dr. McKay established a correspondence with Dr. G.V. Black, the dean of the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago, about the unique Colorado Brown Stain. Dr. Black became interested and began histological investigations into the problem. In 1909 Dr. Black came to Colorado Springs to see the stained enamel first hand. Dr. Black's interest in the phenomena raised the problem to a level of scientific importance which created an increasing interest in the dental profession. From this time on, Dr. McKay traveled the United States, making examinations and charting conditions in ten states and made personal examination in two European countries. He prepared more than 40 papers on the subject for publication and presentation to scientific organizations. Dr. McKay used mostly his own funds for his research. The only financial support he received was $125 from the city of Colorado Springs (both the city and county pledged $500, but neither made the full funds available); $150 from the Colorado State Dental Association while Dr. McKay was CSDA president; and the largest sum was $800 from the American Dental Association in 1912. In 1917 Dr. McKay moved to New York City, where he specialized in periodontics until 1940. He moved back to Colorado Springs in 1940 and continued his practice in periodontics. He died in Colorado Springs on August 22, 1959.

Although Dr. McKay was initially attracted by the cosmetic discoloration and pitting of the tooth enamel of some of the Colorado Springs natives, his investigations also discovered that people with stained teeth also had less cavities. It was not until 1931 that it was finally determined that the cause of the brown stain was from the high concentration of the fluoride ion in the Colorado Springs public drink water. Colorado Springs fluoride was naturally derived from the rock formations of Pikes Peak. The community water shed contained deposits of cryolite, a mineral containing fluorine. As the water from rain or snow trickled down the fluoride containing rock formations, the water picked up the fluoride ion.

Population studies later confirmed the benefits of fluoride. One study compared Colorado Springs children to a matched group of children living in Boulder, Colorado, where there was considerably less fluoride in the drinking water. The study showed a significant reduction in cavities in the children living in Colorado Springs.

Thanks to Dr. McKay and the pioneering dentists of Colorado Springs, public water fluoridation is considered the most efficient and cost-effective dental caries prevention measure available. Fluoridation has reduced the American problem of tooth decay by more than 50 per cent, and the benefits of fluoridation is now backed by results from more than 140 documented studies undertaken in 20 different countries over the past several decades. More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink water with fluoride added. Water fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health for a lifetime.

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Dental Display at the Pioneers Musuem

Dental Display at the Pioneers Museum
Courtesy of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
In 1909, three community-health programs were placed in operation: 1) the local dentist would provide free examinations and reports on the condition of the mouth and teeth of all the public school children; 2) the dentists would cooperate in the establishment of a dental clinic for the indigent; and 3) they would conduct dental hygiene classes for parents, teachers, and children. The clinic for indigents at the high school was perhaps the most immediately productive of these efforts. At first the clinic was staffed by local dentists on a voluntary basis. In 1914, however, Dr. A.C. Dreihaus was appointed as full-time resident dentist, with the society compensating him for his services. In 1915 the Colorado Springs Health Department assumed the complete financial responsibility for the clinic.

Today, Society members are still involved in the health of the city's residents and provide low- or no-cost dental care through agencies, such as the Community Health Center and Silver Key. The Society also maintains and raises funds for the Melvin Turner Trust which provides dental care for indigent children in the community.

To further the quality of life in our community and to help our residents achieve a life time of dental health through dental education, the Colorado Springs Dental Society supports

  • dentists speakers bureau;
  • the "Tooth Fairy" educational and entertainment program for grade school classes during February, Dental Health Month;
  • grants to Pikes Peak Community College for materials and equipment;
  • volunteer dentists for the EDDA program at Pikes Peak Community College;
  • the CS-DS.ORG website, which was designed as a public service by volunteer dentists and funded by membership dues and fees;
  • participation in Dentists With a Heart

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Dr. Virginia Garth Trembly
Circ. 1924
Dr. Virginia Garth Trembly
Circ. 1970

Photos courtesy of the family members of Dr. Virginia Garth Trembly

_From the Colorado Springs Dental Society November 6, 1924, Minutes

The report of the Membership Committee was given to the chairman, Dr. Wells, who read application for membership for Dr. Virginia Garth. Dr. Wells moved that the application be accepted and placed on file to be acted upon at the next meeting. The motion was seconded by Dr. Cogswell and carried by the Society.

_From the December 4, 1924, Minutes

...Dr. Wells further reported that the application of Dr. Garth was due for a vote. In the balloting that followed, Dr. Garth was unanimously elected to membership in the Society.

So, Dr. Virginia Garth became the first lady dentist to be a member of the Colorado Springs Dental Society and apparently the first lady dentist to practice in Colorado Springs as of 1924.

Dr. Garth was born February 2, 1903, in Colorado Springs. Her father, Dr. Samuel Garth, was also a practicing dentist in Colorado Springs. Dr. Virginia Garth graduated from the University of Denver College of Dentistry in 1923. Initially, Dr. Garth began practicing dentistry in Colorado Springs in 1924 with her father, but then she attended the International School of Orthodontia in Kansas to specialize in orthodontia. Dr. Garth was also a faculty member of Western Dental College in Kansas City for five years. Dr. Garth returned to Colorado Springs in 1931 and maintained her orthodontia dental practice until 1973 at the Exchange National Bank Building, on the seventh floor. Upon her passing in 1990, Dr. Garth bequeathed 300 acres of land bounded by Austin Bluffs Parkway on Pulpit Rock to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. 

According to available records, Dr. Garth Trembly was the only lady dentist to be a member until 1979 when Dr. Mary Anna Purinsh applied for membership. Dr. Purinsh was elected to membership on February 6, 1980.

Dr. Tracie Keller was elected Secretary-Treasurer on May 3, 1990. She served as Secretary-Treasurer, advancing through the chairs of office to become the first lady president of the CSDS on May 7, 1992.

Currently, there are 33 lady dentists in the Pikes Peak region. That number represents approximately ten per cent of the practicing dentists.

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Sources for this website include History of Dentistry in Colorado 1859 - 1959 by William A. Douglas; Colorado Springs Dental Society records and minutes; Newport in the Rockies by Marshall Sprague; The Gazette Telegraph archives at Penrose Library. More historical information regarding dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy in the Colorado Springs region is available through the following sources.

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum
215 South Tejon Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Pikes Peak Library District
Penrose Public Library
20 North Cascade Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Old Colorado City History Center
1 South 24th Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80904

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