IDAHO EARLY HISTORY    By Major Frank A. Fenn, Copyright, 1920

Doctoring in an Emergency

Physicians and surgeons were scarce in North Idaho during the pioneer days.  Even as late as 1868, there were but two civilian practitioners in all the vast territory north of Salmon River.  Dr. Stainton and Dr. Kelly were the two upon whom the people relied for the healing of their physical ills.  Both were able and skillful and eminently deserved the implicit confidence reposed in them.  Sympathetic and self-sacrificing either might well have been the original of one doctor of the old school of whom we read in the Bonnie Brierbush.  Besides practicing his profession, Dr. Kelly also conducted the only drug store in the region.

Shortly before the occurrence which is the subject of this story the public was deprived of the services of Dr. Stainton who was stricken with paralysis.  This misfortune doubled the labors of Dr. Kelly whose drug business was entrusted to a clerk, a boy then some 15 years old, whenever the proprietor was absent.

It so happened that a miner in Elk City over a hundred miles from Lewiston met with a serious accident and the good doctor as soon as called upon mounted his saddle horse and departed on the journey to Elk to treat the injured man.  As fate would have it while the doctor was on his mission of mercy a teamster freighting between Walla Walla and Lewiston one day drove into the latter town and it was discovered that he was afflicted with small pox.  News that the dread disease was in town quickly spread and at once everybody wanted to be vaccinated.  The drug store had a good supply of the old fashioned real “vaccine matter”, that is, scabs obtained from the teats of cows affected with cow pox.  That young clerk was the only available person to do the vaccinating stunt and with a pioneer’s confidence and enthusiasm he undertook the task.  Other work was laid aside and lancet in hand he operated on all comers early and late at $2.50 per.

Now there was in Lewiston at that time a dance hall or “hurdy-gurdy house” as it was called, kept by Jimmy Hayes.  Four “hurdies” or dance girls regularly made the house attractive.  Of course they insisted upon being vaccinated and Jimmy called upon the drug clerk to go to that place and perform his professional duty there.  Rush of business prevented the clerk’s going until late in the evening.  Arrived at the dance hall he found the girls anxiously awaiting him.  They started to bare their arms for the preventive treatment when the young practitioner sagely suggested that should they be thus vaccinated unsightly scar might result and seriously impair the native beauty of arm that were usually unhampered by sleeves during dancing hours.  The possibility was frightful to the “hurdies” and they were tempted to brave the consequences of an attack of small pox rather than be disfigured so dreadfully.  The embryo doctor was resourceful and came to their relief by intimating that the operation might be performed on any part of the body with equal effectiveness and proposed that it be tried on the calf of the leg where the scars would not be observable.  Happy solution unanimously approved.

The girls were vaccinated and proposed and in every case the vaccination “took” splendidly, there was no doubt on that point for it was over two weeks before dances could be resumed much to the chagrin of the victims and greatly to the disappointment of Jimmy Hayes who business languished in the meanwhile.

Jimmy always afterward insisted that I was no friend of his for I was the boy clerk in Kelly’s drug store during Lewiston’s smallpox scare.





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