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Dr. Robert Hoyt

Walnut Grove doctor who had trained with Dr. Alfred Starr in Burr Oak. Hoyt married Mattie Masters.

Dr. Robert Hoyt was a regular boarder and Matie always smiled her sweetest and dressed her prettiest when she would see him. – Pioneer Girl

Robert Willis Hoyt was born in New Haven, Vermont, February 14, 1852, the son of William and Lydia Hoyt. At age six, Robert moved with his parents to Lenora, Minnesota, his parents’ home for the next thirty years. He attended high school in Lenora before studying medicine at Rush Medical College in Chicago, entering in 1871. He graduated in 1875 as an allopathic medical doctor; at that time, medical school tuition and fees was about $100 per year!

In Pioneer Girl, Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote that Dr. Hoyt studied with Dr. Alfred Starr in Burr Oak; it is not known when or if such practice took place, though Hoyt lived in Hesper Township prior to entering college, boarding with his uncle, Zeno Battey. Hoyt may have encountered Dr. Starr at that time, or worked with him briefly after medical school. Hoyt began practicing medicine in Walnut Grove in 1875, where he remained for six years. He served as coroner of Redwood County as well as County Superintendent of Schools. While in Walnut Grove, he also delivered a series of lectures on home health care. In 1879, Hoyt entered into partnership with John Anderson, operating the Anderson-Hoyt Drugstore on Main Street (a standing building in Walnut Grove still bore the Hoyt name in the early 21st century).

On October 24, 1878, Robert Hoyt married Mary Lou “Mattie” Masters in Redwood County, the daughter of William and Emeline (Hurley) Masters. Mattie was born October 19, 1857, in New York. Wilder wrote that Dr. Hoyt had been engaged to Dr. Starr’s daughter, Fanny, while in Burr Oak, but Mattie Masters “set her cap” for him, shutting Fanny out. Around the time Dr. Hoyt was taking care of Mary Ingalls in Walnut Grove during the illness that resulted in her blindness, his own wife was also gravely sick. Ten weeks after their marriage, Mattie was taken suddenly ill with what was reported as “bilious colic,” but she most likely experienced an ectopic pregnancy. In Pioneer Girl, Wilder wrote that Dr. Hoyt had “tried some experiment” on his wife, most likely exploratory surgery or a salpingectomy (surgery to remove one or both fallopian tubes), knowing that his wife was pregnant at the time of their marriage, something which wasn’t widely known. Mattie Hoyt died March 5, 1879, and she was buried in her wedding dress in the Burr Oak cemetery. Obituary posted here is from the Redwood Gazette, March 13, 1879.

Dr. Hoyt soon moved his practice to New Lisbon, Wisconsin. On May 4, 1880 (not in June as is reported in several sources), he married Myra E. Secor of New Lisbon. Myra was born in New York in May 1851 to William and Caroline Tester. Myra had previously been married to Delos Secor, and they had an eight-year-old daughter, Jessie E. Secor.

Robert Hoyt married Alice Edwards after 1900. Alice was born in Wisconsin on February 27, 1871, to Nelson and Mary Teachout. Alice was married to Alfred C. Edwards on August 30, 1888, and they had three children: Earl (born 1888), Hazel (born 1895-1980), and Arleigh (1897-1931). Alfred had served in Company K, 31st Reg. Infantry during the Civil War. He died in 1898 and burial records indicate he was buried in an unmarked grave in New Lisbon Cemetery.

Robert Hoyt died July 6, 1912, in New Lisbon. He was buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Plot: Section 17 Lot 306 Grave 2). Alice Hoyt died February 20, 1957, and was buried in New Lisbon. Note: there is a grave for Alice Teachout in New Lisbon Cemetery with 1871-1917 on the headstone, and many believe that this is Mrs. Hoyt’s grave and she did not live until 1957. If you have any records pertaining to Alice (Teachout) Edwards Hoyt, please let me know.


Robert Hoyt (PG), called Robby / Robbie / Yobbie or “the doctor” in Pioneer Girl
     Matie [sic] (PG)