The future of national healthcare is a hot topic these days, but the city of Conroe owes a debt of gratitude to one man who played a key role historically in advancing the quality and availability of healthcare in the community.
Dr. Thomas S. Falvey was a highly respected community leader, physician and surgeon who practiced in Conroe in the early 1900s. He started his career as a company doctor for the Fostoria Lumber Mill, east of Conroe. His first office was on the second floor of the Crighton Drug Store – now the Corner Pub.
“Most doctors had offices above drug stores in the early days,” said Larry Foerster, chairman of the Montgomery County Historical Commission. “There were as many as five drug stores encircling the Montgomery County Courthouse until the early 70s.”
Prior to 1920, there was no hospital in Conroe to handle medical emergencies and provide a safe, sanitary place for surgeries. Physicians treated patients at their offices or made house calls.
In the early 1920s, the first hospital facility – the Mary Swain Sanitarium – was opened in Conroe, operated by Laura Thompson and Alma Powell. Dr. Falvey served as the primary surgeon for the facility.
In the early 1920s, the first hospital facility – the Mary Swain Sanitarium – was opened in Conroe, operated by Laura Thompson and Alma Powell. Falvey served as the primary surgeon for the facility.
Powell is the grandmother and Thompson the great aunt of former Conroe City Councilman Toby Powell who was born at the hospital in 1941.
“I’m so proud of my family and their commitment to providing quality healthcare during an era where it was much harder to find,” said Powell. “Falvey was a highly respected doctor and community leader. He delivered me and a lot of folks my age in Conroe.”
In the 30s, Dr. William Holland joined Dr. Falvey as a partner. The doctors built the Falvey-Holland Building on West Davis Street, across from the Montgomery County Courthouse. Their offices were upstairs, the first floor was the site for the J. C. Penney store in Conroe.
As years past, Falvey’s practice continued to flourish. In the 30s, Dr. William Holland joined Falvey as a partner. The doctors built the Falvey-Holland Building on West Davist Street, across from the Montgomery County Court House. Their offices were upstairs, the first floor was the site for the J. C. Penney store in Conroe.
“My father looked on Dr. Falvey as a friend and mentor,” said his son, William, a retired lawyer living in Rusk. “He learned a lot from him, both about medicine and about business.”
In the early days of medicine, Holland said doctors were general practitioners who handled a wide range of healthcare services: giving shots, delivering babies, setting broken bones and whatever else was required. There weren’t nearly as many specialized doctors around to refer patients to in that era.
Holland took the desk that his father used in his practice for 30 years and used it for another 30 years in his private law practice. The desk is now in the office of his daughter, a professional banker in Dallas.
“I’m proud of my dad and all he did in his lifetime,” said Holland. “It’s nice to be able to keep a part of his legacy around.”
In 1933, during the Conroe oil boom, Dr. Falvey announced plans to construct the 88-room Birch Hotel at the corner of Phillips and Thompson streets in downtown Conroe
In 1933, during the Conroe oil boom, Falvey announced plans to construct the 88-room Birch Hotel at the corner of Phillips and Thompson Streets. The hotel, featuring a Mexican theme and decor, hosted a number of civic organizations including the Lions and Rotary clubs. The site of the hotel is now the county parking garage.
In 1938, the County Hospital on First Street was complete. The Mary Swain Sanitarium continued to operate until 1943, but it eventually transitioned into a nursing home, according to Powell.
During this era, Falvey constructed a private residence at 505 Main Street. The red brick home was later sold to the United Methodist Church and served as a parsonage and a resource for church activities. It was eventually sold to Conroe attorney Jo Miller and continues as a law office.
But the contribution Falvey made to advancing healthcare in Conroe remains an important part of the community’s development. In 1946, one of the many physicians who came to Conroe and worked at the Falvey-Holland Clinic was Dr. Dean Sadler – founder of the Sadler Clinic and father to Montgomery County Judge Alan B. Sadler.
“Just about all of the doctors who came to town worked with Dr. Falvey at one time or other,” said Rigby Owen Jr. “He was an important man in the community and contributed a lot to Conroe and Montgomery County.
Appreciation for Falvey isn’t limited to Conroe. In his hometown of Wells, Texas, Holland said there is a Thomas Falvey Memorial Methodist Church named in his honor.
“Dr. Falvey did a lot of good for a lot of people,” said Holland. “It’s good to see he is remembered.”