Dr. Frances Roush Sutter 1871 – 1953

Dr. Frances Roush Sutter
Photo courtesy of Shelby Museum

Dr. Frances Roush Sutter was a physician, surgeon and neurologist in Shelby from 1899 to 1923,1 in a time when few women went to college, let alone studied medicine. But what many may not know is the legacy she and her husband left to the citizens of Shelby.

Frances was born to George W. Roush (1843-1922) and Sarah Catherine Holtz (1852-1927) on the old Holtz farm five miles southeast of Shelby. Her brother, Claude Sherland Roush (1878-1951) was born seven years later.

She graduated from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music where she studied piano, but felt she could do more good as a physician. Frances graduated first in her class from the Woman’s Medical College of Cincinnati in 1896 and interned at the Presbyterian Hospital in Cincinnati before opening her office in Shelby. She is believed to be the first female doctor in the city. Most of her patients were women. In those days, she maintained an office in town, but often visited her patients by horse and buggy.2

To the surprise of many in town, Frances eloped in Cleveland via an early morning train June 14, 18993 with John C. Sutter (1853-1931), 18 years her senior, a merchant and member of the Sutter Furniture family.

When John retired, the couple bought a winter home in Ortega, Florida; John died of pneumonia there Feb. 3, 1931. He was brought back to Shelby to be buried at Oakland Cemetery.

After John died, Frances began to travel with her cousin Mattie Garrett, of New Haven. In 1936, they spent six weeks touring Alaska and California.4

In 1937, Frances and Mattie embarked on a world cruise, encountering many adventures along the way. The trip took five and one half months, covering 30,000 miles. They sailed from New York Oct. 17, 1937 going to California via the Panama Canal to the Hawaiian Islands, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippine Islands. They spent two weeks touring the islands of Java and Bali, five weeks in India, Egypt, Italy, and sailed home via France to New York, landing March 15.5

While in Japan, they transferred ships from the President Hoover to the President Pierce for a larger room and better food.6 Family and friends did not realize they had changed ships when news broke that the President Hoover ran aground on remote Hoishota Island. About 600 passengers and 333 crew members were evacuated by small boat to the island. The President Pierce was among the ships diverted to take on the stranded passengers and crew. They took aboard about 200 crew members, baggage and mail, reuniting the travelers briefly with those who had served them for the earlier portion of the cruise.

In 1939, they made another six-week trip to Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.

Frances transferred her home at 23 E. Main Street to the city Oct. 25,19497, to be used for city offices and meeting space. She continued to live in part of the house until she died. A member of many women’s groups in town, Frances also requested that a portion of the house be used as a meeting place for women in the community. The Shelby Museum was also housed there for a period of time.

The property was over 12,160 square feet, including an L-shaped building that wrapped around behind the Masonic building to Mohican Street.8 The house was built in 1876 by Valentine Sutter, son of Samuel Sutter, who came to Shelby from Switzerland in the 1840’s.9

The house was eventually torn down to make way for the city utility building, which houses the Shelby Museum and Sutter Roush meeting room.

Frances was interred with other family members in the Sutter Mausoleum at Oakland Cemetery.


1 Daily Globe, Nov. 2, 1953.

2 Daily Globe, Jan. 12, 1961.

3 Daily Globe, June 16, 1899.

4 Daily Globe, Oct. 1, 1936.

5 Daily Globe, April 1, 1938.

6 Daily Globe Jan. 14, 1938.

7 Daily Globe, April 24, 1950.

8 Daily Globe, Oct. 26, 1949.

9 Daily Globe, July 3, 1984.

1 thought on “Dr. Frances Roush Sutter 1871 – 1953

  1. Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.


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