Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Eastern Idaho Physician and Hospital Builder Edwin Cutler [otd 4/12]

Dr. Cutler. H.T. French photo.
Edwin Cutler, M.D., was born April 12, 1868, in American Fork, Utah, midway between Provo and Salt Lake City. After high school, he attended Brigham Young University and then the University of Utah. He graduated in 1889, and taught school in a number of Utah districts. Over the next decade, he also served at times as a school principal or superintendent.

Cutler moved to Idaho in 1900 to become Principal of the Oneida Stake Academy, in Preston. He spent two years there before pursuing his ambition to become a physician. In 1906, he received his M.D. degree from what H. T. French’s History identified as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, in Chicago. At that time, the College was being integrated into the University of Illinois system.

Edwin first returned with his degree to Preston, where he joined his brother’s practice. After a year there, he moved to Shelley, about ten miles south of Idaho Falls. Founded in 1892, “Shelley Siding” had soon become an important loading point for agricultural products from the surrounding homesteads [blog, Jul 9].

Dr. Cutler quickly discovered that the only hospital in the entire region was a new private facility in Idaho Falls. Two local physicians established that hospital the same year Edwin arrived in Shelley. Once he had settled into his practice, Dr. Cutler set up a similar service in Shelley. He continued the unit even after the Idaho Falls doctors built a 25-bed facility.

As a prototypical “country doctor,” Cutler covered great distances to make house calls. During the earliest years, he traveled by horse-drawn buggy in good weather and via a one-horse sleigh during the winter. In 1909, he bought an automobile, reportedly the first in Shelley. However, he continued to use horse-drawn transport on outlying tracks not suitable for motor vehicles. Local lore asserts that, between the two World Wars, Dr. Cutler delivered three-quarters of the babies born in the Shelley area.

He built that reputation despite suffering a scary event during the fall of 1916. Somehow, Cutler was involved in the explosion of a boiler at his home in Shelley. His injuries persisted for awhile, but in its “State News: Shelley” the Idaho Statesman reported (February 9, 1917) that “Dr. Edwin Cutler … is now recovering rapidly.” However, even then he must have had some lingering effects because late that year he traveled to Salt Lake City for an operation on his arm.

To keep himself current, Dr. Cutler regularly attended medical-education clinics and maintained membership in local, state, and national medical associations. When the LDS Hospital was built in Idaho Falls, Dr. Cutler closed his private institution and joined the executive staff of the new facility. In conjunction with that work, he also acted as local surgeon for the Oregon Short Line (Union Pacific) Railroad.
LDS Hospital, Idaho Falls, ca. 1930.
Bonneville County Historical Society.

Cutler also invested in farmland and was active in civic affairs. He served three years on the village council in Shelley, with a year as its chairman. He also served as a health officer and school trustee, and was an active member of the local Chamber of Commerce. Cutler was a bishop in the Shelley Latter Day Saints church and served in various stake offices. He was also a leader in the local troop of the Boy Scouts of America.

Dr. Cutler apparently remained on call to his patients until at least 1946. He passed away three years later.
                                                                                 
References: [Defen], [French]
“Golden Jubilee Edition, 1884–1934,” Idaho Falls Post-Register (September 10, 1934).
“Largest Family," Alumni Quarterly & Fortnightly News, Vol. 6, No. 10, University of Illinois (February 15, 1921).

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