Sunday, October 16, 2016

George Collister: Boise Physician, Spotted Fever Researcher, and Developer [otd 10/16]

Dr. Collister. H. T. French photo.
Boise physician and developer George Collister, M.D., was born October 16, 1856 in Willoughby, Ohio, just northeast of Cleveland. He graduated from high school there, and attended The Ohio State University. The youngest of eight children, George paid much of the cost of his higher education himself. He attended a medical college in Cleveland and received his M.D. degree in 1880.

Dr. Collister practiced in Ohio for a year. Then, in 1881, his sister Julia recommended that he move to the "coming" town of Boise City. By then Idahoans knew the Oregon Short Line would soon run tracks across the state, but only the most knowledgeable realized that the line would bypass Boise. (Rails would not arrive in Boise until 1887 [blog, Sept 13].)

Collister soon developed a large and prosperous practice. His dedication to his profession was such that historian Hiram French said (1914), “During all the years since beginning practice in Boise, he has had but three months of actual vacation time.”

Besides his private practice, Dr. Collister at various times acted as official Physician for Ada County, Boise City, and the State Penitentiary. For a while he served on the Idaho State Board of Medical Examiners. Collister belonged to the the Idaho State Medical Society, serving a term as its President. He was a member of the Ada County Medical Society as well as the American Medical Association.

Dr. Collister, along with Dr. Warren Springer [blog, Mar 30] and others, contributed data to the first detailed and systematic assessment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

George also found time to expand into farming, ranching, and general real estate development. To complement winter pasture in the Boise Valley, he owned five thousand acres of summer range in Boise County, running several hundred head of prime cattle.
Fruit Orchard Along Interurban Railway.
Library of Congress.

George, and sister Julia, also had extensive real estate holdings around what came to be called Collister Station on the interurban railway. This station, located about three miles from downtown, was built in the 1890s and made it easy for the doctor to commute to his office in the City.

Dr. Collister had thousands of fruit trees planted on part of his acreage, including some of the first peach orchards in the Valley. Over the years, he and his wife added a greenhouse (which supplied flowers to a shop in the Boise Hotel) and a feedlot.

In 1912, the family moved into a modest (twenty rooms) mansion near Collister Station. When bids were requested for construction, the Idaho Statesman said (March 19,1911), “The palatial home to be constructed for Mr. and Mrs. George Collister … will be one of the best designed and most complete homes ever built in Boise.”

The request included plans for “a large porch with Corinthian columns,” The kitchen would be “fitted up in the most modern and complete manner, having a dumb waiter into the basement and cold storage room, built-in refrigerator, etc.” The full basement would have “a large and well appointed billiard room … and a large den and summer sitting and dining room.”

Although George and his wife had no children themselves, they did have an adoptive daughter: The mother, George’s patient, died of childbed fever a few days after the birth and the couple adopted the baby.

Dr. Collister passed away in October 1935. Today, the area is a subdivision of Boise. The doctor’s name is preserved as Collister Drive, Collister Elementary School, and the Collister Neighborhood Association.
References: [French], [Hawley]
Collister Neighborhood Association, Collister Neighborhood Plan, Boise City Council (September 2007).
James F. Hammarsten, “The contributions of Idaho physicians to knowledge of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever,” Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, Vol. 94 (1983) p. 27–43.


  1. I'm happy that information about Dr. Collister is available on the Web. I grew up across the street from the old Collister mansion, at 4707 W. State Street, but didn't get curious about Dr. Collister until recently. If anyone has more information about him, let me know at

  2. I'm trying to find out how much time it took to travel from downtown Boise to the Collister mansion in those early days of dirt roads.

  3. The mansion was/is about 3 miles from downtown, so it would not have taken that long. I'm not sure the reference to "dirt roads" is relevant, however. Collister built the mansion after the interurban railway had been operating for many years. I do not expect it would have taken more than 10 minutes or so if you caught an in-bound trolley car.

  4. My Parents house is on that tract.
    The Doctors huge Barn was right behind our back fence until the early 70s.

  5. Nice post :D check mine plz :)