PINCHER CREEK’S MEDICAL HISTORY
By Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
The Doctor’s Office exhibit in Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village illustrates vast aspects of Pincher Creek’s early medical history. Doctors on the Pincher Creek frontier had primitive style offices where they provided patient consultations and housed the “latest” in medical equipment, medication and remedies. Although doctors did their best to provide the best in medical care, most pioneers, as retired N.W.M.P. Constable A. H. Lynch-Staunton recalled nearly a lifetime later, “thought twice about getting sick”. The implications were that the risks from illness and accident were very significant. Also on exhibit here are examples of drugs dispensed by our pioneer drug stores.
Frontier era doctors in this settlement included: Herbert R. Mead, Pincher Creek’s first doctor, whose practice was tragically cut short by his 1898 death; George H. Malcolmson whose Pincher Creek three-year practice established in 1898 had connections with the local C.P.R. line; Samuel W. Hewetson who married into the Morden family; and Frank Goforth whose ranch location at a popular ford across the creek resulted in the place name of Goforth Crossing.
One of the pioneer dentists was Dr. Walter Geering (1889 – 1965). Druggists who had their own stores included E. J. Mitchell and three generations of the Cornyn family whose business stood down our dusty Main Street from the drug store operated in succession by the McCrea and Colpman families. Pincher Creek’s original drug store dated back to 1886, just a few years after the settlement`s establishment.
The establishment of the community`s first hospital took many more years. The Memorial Hospital, a two-storey structure featuring an operating room, recovery rooms and an outside verandah, was located just below Pincher Creek`s north hill. It was built as a result of a subscription campaign launched in memory of the three local casualties of the South African War (1899 – 1902). The Memorial served the community until its closure shortly after the end of the First World War. Temporary convalescent services were housed in the former Waldorf Hotel, located near the south end of Bridge Avenue. The situation improved in 1924 with the purchase of the fourteen year old Lebel Mansion by the Catholic Sisters of Jesus to be used as St. Vincent’s Hospital. Accompanied by expansions in 1930 and 1949, this prominent landmark served the community’s medical needs, until the new hospital on the north hill was opened in 1983.
Seen here is a circa 1915 photo of A. E. Cornyn’s drugstore on Pincher Creek’s Main Street.