Dr. Black’s interest in young people led to creation of field

By Sandy Main • Last Updated 1:16 pm on Thursday, December 08, 2011

Dr. Duncan K. Black

Duncan K. Black was born March 8, 1861, in Belmont, Ontario. He received his medical training at the Michigan College of Medicine in Detroit, graduating in 1886, and later completed a post-graduate course at the New York School of Medicine.

He came to Greenville in March 1890 and purchased the medical practice of Dr. C.M. Martin. He bought the Martin home, too, located at 610 S. Franklin St., where he lived the rest of his life. He returned to Canada to be married in July and brought his bride home to Greenville.

His business card advertisement in the Greenville Independent at first read: “Duncan K. Black, M.D. Physician and Surgeon. Office rear G.E. Slawson & Co.’s Drug Store. Residence, former residence of Dr. Martin.”

As time went on the advertisement changed to say “Office Cass St., opposite Opera House. Residence 610 S. Franklin street. Office hours 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m.”

Dr. Black was active in the community, being a member of several lodges as well as the Washington Club and the Congregational church. He was a director of the Greenville Telephone Exchange, a founding member of the Greenville Fair Association and an organizer of the Greenville Fixture Co., which was part of the operations of the Ranney Refrigerator Co. He served as vice president of the Commercial State Savings Bank and director of the Moore Implement Co.

But it was with children and young people that his greatest interest lay.

“Dr. Black loved young people. Children were his delight and they loved him,” stated the Greenville Independent in a tribute in 1916.

He served as a member of the school board and played a significant role in the building of the school completed in 1912 to replace the old Union school that burned.

He was one of five men of whom Harriet Macomber wrote in “The History of Montcalm County, Michigan” published in 1916: “Too much cannot be said in honor of the men who have personally superintended the building of this fine school and its equipment. No effort was considered by them too great to make for the success of this school plant, although they are busy men, with more than enough business of their own to occupy their time.”

The Independent echoed that sentiment: “The great school building which is Greenville’s pride today was his great interest during its entire building; daily he visited it, bringing all his influence as a member of the school board toward having the best everywhere.”

About that time Dr. Black came up with an idea that would result in his name being remembered in Greenville for years to come.

“It was Dr. Black who saw the possibilities for an athletic field and playground in the land south of the school building; he became so fond of the idea that he purchased and gave the ground to the school,” the Independent said.

The Duncan K. Black Athletic Field was dedicated on June 10, 1915. Sadly, Dr. Black did not live to see the field bearing his name become a Greenville landmark.

“After long months of struggle with a relentless disease, he passed quietly out of life on the afternoon of Sunday, April 2, (1916),” the Independent said. The Journal of the American Medical Association in its April 22, 1916, issue said he died from disease of the heart and kidneys.

Funeral services took place April 5 at his home and he was laid to rest in the family plot at Forest Home Cemetery.

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