Early Medical Profession in the Tobacco Valley
By Holly Bentley
The early Tobacco Valley, the same as it is today, was a wonderful place to live. Changes took place and along with change, progress. In the beginning of the twentieth century, due to Eureka's isolation, doctors were hard to come medicines were far less as advanced by and as they are today. Technology was hardly a household word. In the meantime, babies still awaiting their arrival into our world, the elderly required care, and every day cuts and scrapes needed attended to. Doctors and nurses were a must...
Through the experiences of Mable Leonard it became apparent that doctors and nurses weren't always available. Leonard was born in Grasmere, British Columbia because for unknown reasons the current doctor, (who probably would have been Dr. Bogardus), was not able to deliver the child. Neither was a nurse, or midwife. Many complications arose from her birth in another country. Mable's name was spelled wrong on her birth certificate. It was a long time before she could get it changed, but eventually she did. It was difficult to receive her citizenship papers from Canada as well. If there had been a reliable doctor or greater technology (whatever the case happened to be), these inconveniences could have been avoided and Mable would have been a United States citizen from the start! (Leonard; Shea, 156) Â
Although people with medical background and skill were scarce, the Tobacco Valley, secluded from society, needed a doctor of their own. One of Eureka's first doctors was a man of French decent by the name of Doc de Pourtales in the year 1900. He and his wife, Otto, lived on a Pinkham homestead. Pourtales had medical experience, and made calls regularly. When diphtheria hit in 1901, several affected families sent for Dr. McDonald of Kalispell, who stayed with them until the epidemic was over. That same year another doctor came to Eureka, this time a woman. Her name was Francis Myrtelle Brown. Brown was a graduate of the National School of Osteopathy and was an important addition to the Tobacco Plains. The small town needed her knowledge. In the years to follow, Eureka's medical profession improved. What probably would have been Eureka's first hospital was the Price Nursing Home. Mrs. Thomas H. Price ran it, and she delivered over three hundred babies. Dr. Bogardus opened a new hospital in the summer of 1915 (just above the present Laundromat). The hospital consisted of seven private rooms, a ward, an operating room, a kitchen, an office, a bathroom, and a basement. Eureka was quite proud of their new and up-‘to-‘date hospital and Dr. Bogardus grew quite popular. However, in 1919, he sold the practice to partners Dr. F.A. Long and Dr. Brittle. They instituted a nurses training course. Nurses (or midwives) were always needed to assist births.
While the rest of the world was busily advancing. In Los Angeles, Dr. Pierces' Golden Discovery uncovered remedies and cured sicknesses. In 1912, Wilhelm Roetgen discovered x-rays, but it would be a long time coming before that sort of technology would come to Eureka. (Eureka Journal, March 4, 1920; kyrene)
Although doctors were hard to come by and medicine wasn't very advanced, Eureka got by with the doctors they had. Conditions could have been better, of course, and now they are. Mable Leonard concludes, "Eureka has changed, but everyplace changes. we can't change that. I like Eureka, they can't ever take my memories away."
Eureka Journal, March 4, 1920
Eureka Journal, August 26, 1915
Mable Leonard Interview, Eureka, MT, 11/00
Shea, Marie Cuff; Early Flathead and Tobacco Plains, 1977, 155-158.