Husband and Wife Team Served Ketchikan for Half a Century by DAVE KIFFER


Husband and wife team have served Ketchikan for half a century


03 October 2021
Sunday afternoon

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – George Dickinson, who practiced for 50 years in First City, may not have been Ketchikan’s first doctor, but he was Ketchikan’s “first Doctor” according to those who knew him. .

In 1980, Dr. Arthur Wilson, Sr. was interviewed by James Lindstrom, a young medical student. Wilson had come to Ketchikan in 1931 and knew Dickinson who practiced for over half a century in First Town.

“George Dickinson was one of the last traveling healers,” Wilson told Lindstrom in 1980. He said Dickinson had traveled the interior of Alaska for many years before coming to Ketchikan with Dr. Henry Story in 1899. Wilson stated that Dickinson practiced – at least in his early days – without a license, which was in stark contrast to his wife Beatrice, a graduate of Northwestern University Medical School and one of the first female physicians in the Chicago area.

Ketchikan Museums - Ketchikan, Alaska

George Dickinson was particularly known for his balms, potions, and other products that were popular with early fishermen and miners. During his early years in Ketchikan he also focused on operating the community’s first pharmacy, where he could sell his potions, but later worked more as a doctor.

Lindstrom wrote that Beatrice Dickinson “kept George from pushing his limits” as a physician, a characterization with which Dr. Art Wilson Jr. recently agreed.

Beatrice Pearce Dickinson was the daughter and sister of doctors in Lake County, Illinois and was supported by her family in her desire to be a doctor – eventually becoming Lake County’s first female doctor, according to a 2013 article on the Lake County Historical Society website. She had graduated from medicine in 1887 and opened her own practice, specializing in women’s and children’s health in Waukegan, Illinois. She was also a prominent suffragist and was treasurer of a regional women’s suffrage organization.

According to the Historical Society’s website, in 1908 she was attending a medical convention in Chicago when she met Dickinson. They married later that year. He was 38 and she was 42.

They returned to Ketchikan where Dickinson had practiced for nine years. When he and Story arrived on the Dirago steamboat on May 25, 1899, their first office was a tent on Front Street, but eventually moved to a Front Street office that Dickinson used for the next 50 years.

“Their office was on the site of the present-day Ketchikan tunnel, row with the smells of the nearby fish market,” Lindstrom wrote in 1980. (Dickinson) was best known for certain balms and lotions that the fisherman swore by , but he did a lot of work among the Indians, occasionally rowing to Chief Johnson’s camp on Carroll Inlet, and also making a 36-hour rowing trip to a mining camp at Sulzer on Cholmondeley Sound. “

Sulzer was actually on the west side of the Prince of Wales, not far from where Hydaburg is today. But people got there at the time by going up the Cholmondeley Strait, then portaging across the island. (See SITNEWS “A Prince of Wales Canal”, November 15, 2020)

According to a February 3, 1947 article, Ketchikan Chronicle, Dickinson, and Story were partners until 1902 and also operated the community’s first pharmacy, where the Gilmore Hotel is now located, from 1899 to 1906.

According to the minutes of the August 7, 1900 session of the Federal Commissioner – the government authority in Ketchikan before the town was incorporated later that month – Dickinson was fined $ 1 for operating a unlicensed pharmacy.

According to the research of historian Ketchikan Pat Roppel, Dickinson partnered with a Dr. Strickler in 1901 and officially dissolved his partnership with Dr. Story in 1902. He made numerous medical trips to Metlakatla from 1901 to 1904. and was credited with saving a woman’s life there in 1902. He built an office / residence on Front Street in 1904.

Dr Arthur Wilson Jr. recently stated that he delivers diaries to Drs. Dickinson. It was located on Front and Grant, where the Ketchikan Tunnel now is. He confirmed that George Dickinson was known to row back and forth in many outlying communities, including across the Strait of Clarence to Prince of Wales Island.

In 1906 Dickinson went to Sulzer and Coppermount on Prince of Wales Island where he worked full time for several years for the mines in the region. The Chronicle noted that Dickinson was born in 1870 in Derbyshire, England and came to the United States in 1894. He said he and his wife had a “farm” on the Isle of Gravina and a large vegetable garden.

His wife Beatrice died on March 16, 1947 “after a long illness” according to the Ketchikan Chronicle.

“Mrs. Dickinson, who refused to let an affliction that prevented her from walking prevent her from (her profession),” the Chronicle noted, claiming she was a familiar site at various events around the community in her. Wheelchair. She was 82 when she died. In its obituary, the Chronicle also gave a different version of how the two doctors met.

“She first arrived up north after the turn of the century for a medical convention in Whitehorse, Yukon, meeting Dr. GE Dickinson, who operated Ketchikan’s first pharmacy, en route,” the Chronicle reported in 1947. “She corresponded with him and came back here. in 1908 after their marriage. “

The newspaper noted that in addition to her husband, she is survived by a niece, Harriet Stensland and a nephew, Herman Kallor, both of Ketchikan. She was buried in Bayview Cemetery.

Dr Art Wilson Jr. said Dr George Dickinson had not practiced locally for the last decade or so of his life.

According to Ketchikan Cemetery records, George Dickinson died in 1956 on a flight from Chicago to England and is buried with his wife in Bayview Cemetery. He was 86 years old. .

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