Housing osteopathic history

John Bradford and Amber Bradford-Saffles stand in front of Amber's historic house.
DMU alumni John Bradford and Amber Bradford-Saffles were delighted by the uncanny coincidence of her family’s move into a house with historic ties to osteopathic medicine.

When Amber Bradford-Saffles, D.O.’03, and her family moved to Peninsula, OH, in August 2009, she and her husband, Keith, thought they were getting a wonderful historic home with great architecture, woodwork and other delightful details as well as proximity to Amber’s sister, Alyssa, and her parents, Lois and John “Jack” Bradford, D.O.’78. Little did they know the house has a connection to DMU and two early osteopathic champions.

The background: John Conger built the house in 1844; his son, Arthur Latham Conger, grew up there and went on to become a successful farmer and industrialist. He also fought as a colonel for the Union Army during the Civil War. Upon his honorable discharge after the war, he married Emily Bronson. The couple settled in downtown Akron, had three sons and were known for throwing grand parties. They also broke some barriers: When Arthur was elected treasurer of Summit County, Emily joined his administration as deputy county treasurer – even though women didn’t have the right to vote at the time.

Bradford-Saffles stands with her daughters Joy, 6, and Grace, 5, in front of their historic home.
Bradford-Saffles stands with her daughters Joy, 6, and Grace, 5, in front of their historic home.

Years later, Arthur suffered a stroke. The care he received from an osteopathic physician enabled him to make a near-miraculous recovery and made him and Emily ardent advocates for the profession. In fact, Arthur became editor of the Journal of Osteopathy as well as a founder of the Dr. S.S. Still College of Osteopathy, now DMU. In addition, Emily earned her osteopathic degree — one of the first women to do so — at A.T. Still College in Missouri. After her husband’s death in 1899, she traveled to the Philippines to care for patients and later wrote a book about her experiences, An Ohio Woman in the Philippines: Giving Personal Experiences and Descriptions Including Incidents of Honolulu, Ports in Japan and China.

Fast forward to 2011, when Bradford-Saffles read about Col. Conger and his connection to her medical alma mater in DMU Magazine. To say the least, she says, “I was intrigued!”

Although she and her husband have done “a fairly major renovation” to the house, they’ve worked to retain its original style. “It’s not a cookie-cutter house, has some uneven floors, and an occasional bat sneaks in,” says Bradford-Saffles, an attending emergency physician at Akron General Medical Center and the associate program director for its emergency medicine residency. “I love its location up on a hill…The ceilings are 11 feet high in the original rooms, and the wood floors are original walnut taken from trees around the property.”

Another bit of the house’s history: In front stands a Cypress tree brought back from the Battle of Chickamauga, fought in Georgia and Tennessee. Although it was a decided Confederate victory, both sides suffered staggering casualties – among the highest of Civil War battles.

“This is a very important tree to the community of Peninsula because of its history,” Bradford-Saffles says. “Even though we have lost parts of it during our homeownership, we are doing our best to keep it standing.”

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