Another opportunity for medical history enthusiasts around the state to weigh in on topics for the Oregon Encyclopedia is fast approaching: the North Bend Public Library will be hosting a meeting on Saturday May 8, from 10:00 am-1:00 pm. OE staff will provide an introduction to the project and solicit feedback; librarians will also be on hand to provide information on accessing and utilizing local history resources.
So, what do we know about the history of medicine in and around North Bend? Coos County rates a respectable seven pages in Olof Larsell's The Doctor in Oregon (p. 271-278). Writing in 1947, Larsell knew Coos Bay as Marshfield, and would have associated the town with its most notable medical product, Howard P. Lewis. Nevertheless, he begins his narrative of Coos County medicine in 1853 with the arrival of Dr. Andrew B. Overbeck in Empire City. Overbeck didn't stay long before heading back to Jacksonville, but he was quickly replaced by three physicians--V.M. Coffin, J.H. Foster, and A.N. Foley--who were drawn to the booming gold field. Once accustomed to easily accessible health care, the area's citizens continued to attract and retain qualified (or at least pretty well qualified) medical men.
The county got its first truly local doc in 1870, when physician Charles W. Tower arrived in Marshfield. A graduate of the Willamette University Medical Department, Tower had learned his surgical skills in the Civil War, serving with the Massacusetts Volunteers before heading West. He was a key member of the community for fifty years before passing his practice on to I.R. Tower--which we know not from Larsell, but from the charred copy of Barbette's Thesaurus chirurgiae which we received from University of Oregon Medical School alumnus Jack Flanagan, MD, last fall (see posts here for more on that item). Now, that's local history we can really sink our teeth into!
Who do you know who contributed to Coos County medicine? Tell the OE folks about it at the meeting, or contribute your suggestions online.
To check on upcoming events, and to see when the OE folks will be in your neck of the woods, check the online calendar here.