Marshfield, June 1912: The life of pharmacist William Arthur Sexton
By Kris Leonhardt
Early United States pharmacies saw the introduction of the Bayer company’s aspirin to lessen arthritis pain as well as its introduction of heroin, often used as a cough suppressant and later recalled because of its addictive tendencies. They also ushered in the rise of mass-produced medicine tablets, the coated pill, and later the gelatin capsule.
The late 1800s were filled with advancements in the pharmaceutical field, and William Arthur Sexton was a witness to the birth of the American druggist as well as a developing city that would later be steeped in medicine.
Born and raised in the city of Spring Lake in Waushara County, Sexton graduated from the University of Michigan prior to moving to Marshfield and opening his first drug store. After operating the store for a little over a year, Sexton sold it and moved to Minneapolis.
Sexton worked in the Twin Cities area for a couple of years, and he later returned to Marshfield and purchased a drug store owned by A.E. Miner.
On June 27, 1887, Sexton would watch as fire devoured Central Avenue, destroying his emerging business. The Sexton drug store would then take up residency in a building it shared with Laemle Clothing Store.
Two years later Sexton’s brother Andrew joined him in business, and the pair would operate a successful establishment, offering drugs and medicines, stationery, sporting and art goods, wallpaper and decorating supplies, books, cigars, and tobacco.
Then tragedy struck again, and William would lose his brother and business partner, leaving him as sole proprietor once more.
Sexton spent his years in business promoting and growing the city of Marshfield. He was well-known for his business sense as well as his integrity, and he served as alderman in the 5th Ward. Married with five children, he worked to provide a safe and progressive environment in Marshfield.
Sexton became a source of support and inspiration in the city and was one of the first members of the fire department, a position he kept until the day his health failed him.
On June 20, 1912, Sexton suffered a stroke from which he never regained consciousness. One week later he would succumb to an illness that had afflicted him for more than a year. Sexton was just 55 years old.