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Throwback Thursday: Fargo-Moorhead's first doctors deal with six shooters, smallpox

Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates. All in a day's work for Fargo-Moorhead's first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early yea...

first doctor1.jpg
Two photos from 1930 reprinted in the June 15, 1975 issue of The Forum depicting St. Ansgar's Hospital in Moorhead. St. Ansgar's was part of a lineage of health care facilities that reached back to the area's first hospitals in the 1870s. Also pictured is Dr. Samuel White Thayer, the first professional doctor on record in the F-M area.

Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates. All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum. In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie. Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith.

first doctor1mug.jpg
Two photos from 1930 reprinted in the June 15, 1975 issue of The Forum depicting St. Ansgar's Hospital in Moorhead. St. Ansgar's was part of a lineage of health care facilities that reached back to the area's first hospitals in the 1870s. Also pictured is Dr. Samuel White Thayer, the first professional doctor on record in the F-M area.

Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873. Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years. “At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time. Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died. Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter. The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893. Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word. But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now. Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub. This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152974","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1292","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"463"}}]] [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152975","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1089","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"941"}}]]Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates. All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum. In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie. Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2152976","attributes":{"alt":"Dr. Samuel White Thayer","class":"media-image","height":"398","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"214"}}]]Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873. Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years. “At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time. Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died. Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter. The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893. Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word. But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now. Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub. This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152975","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1089","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"941"}}]]Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates. All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum. In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie. Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2152976","attributes":{"alt":"Dr. Samuel White Thayer","class":"media-image","height":"398","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"214"}}]]Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873. Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years. “At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time. Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died. Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter. The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893. Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word. But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now. Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub. This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152974","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1292","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"463"}}]] Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates.All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum.In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie.Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith.

first doctor1mug.jpg
Two photos from 1930 reprinted in the June 15, 1975 issue of The Forum depicting St. Ansgar's Hospital in Moorhead. St. Ansgar's was part of a lineage of health care facilities that reached back to the area's first hospitals in the 1870s. Also pictured is Dr. Samuel White Thayer, the first professional doctor on record in the F-M area.

Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873.Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years.“At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time.Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died.Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter.The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893.Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word.But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now.Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub.This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152974","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1292","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"463"}}]][[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152975","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1089","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"941"}}]]Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates.All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum.In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie.Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2152976","attributes":{"alt":"Dr. Samuel White Thayer","class":"media-image","height":"398","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"214"}}]]Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873.Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years.“At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time.Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died.Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter.The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893.Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word.But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now.Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub.This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152975","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1089","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"941"}}]]Patching up outlaws after gunfights. Tracking through deep snow to reach a pioneer family. Prescribing laudanum and opiates.All in a day’s work for Fargo-Moorhead’s first doctors, according to a June 15, 1975 historical overview on the early years of healthcare in the area published in The Forum.In the late 1870s, the new railroads were bringing scores of white settlers, workers and their families to the area. Along with them came the need for dedicated doctors living and working here. Prior to doctors moving to the area, the closest was 30 miles away at Fort Abercrombie.Dr. Samuel White Thayer of Vermont was the first doctor on record in Fargo-Moorhead. He arrived here in the winter of 1871-1872, although it wasn’t his first time in the area. He came through with an expedition led by Northern Pacific Railway President and former Vermont Gov. J. Gregory Smith.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2152976","attributes":{"alt":"Dr. Samuel White Thayer","class":"media-image","height":"398","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"214"}}]]Thayer wasn’t your usual frontier doctor. He was a well-known physician and the medical school dean at the University of Vermont. Thayer was reportedly taken with the unspoiled, rugged Red River Valley, but he didn’t stay long. He returned to Vermont in June of 1873.Dr. John C. Rosser was based in Bemidji and set up an office in Moorhead in 1872. In April of that year, he got a first-hand taste of F-M early outlaw years.“At ten o’clock this morning, two noted gamblers and desperadoes had a fight in Moorhead with six-shooters, the result of which was one innocent man dangerously wounded in the groin and one of the desperate characters shot through the abdomen,” The Brainerd Tribune reported at the time.Rosser was called in and rushed in on the train to patch up the gunfighters, who survived, but Daniel Thompson, the innocent proprietor of the Orleans Club Saloon, died.Rosser closed up his office shortly thereafter.The first doctor with a significant tenure here was Dr. John Kurtz, who opened a drugstore in Moorhead in the summer of 1872 and would remain here through 1893.Medicine at the time was crude and rudimentary by modern standards. Doctors feared conducting surgery due to the serious threat of death by infections. Aside from the gun fights, which were common, doctors in the area dealt with smallpox outbreaks and burns and smoke inhalation from fires caused by indoor stoves. Often, doctors couldn’t offer more than a comforting word.But those formative years also showed quick advancement into modern medicine. Boards of health were established to lend credibility to trained physicians. In 1879, Dr. Edward M. Darrow established the Cass County Hospital, the first hospital in the area, where Island Park is now.Darrow’s brother, Daniel, founded the Darrow hospital on the present site of Concordia College. The hospital had the first operating room in the area committed to sterile surgery techniques and employed the area’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth P. Rindlaub.This hospital laid the early foundation for modern health care in Moorhead and eventually led to the construction of what became St. Ansgar’s Hospital, considered in 1930 to be at the cutting edge of modern health care.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_original","fid":"2152974","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"1292","title":"","typeof":"foaf:Image","width":"463"}}]]

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