Friday, April 21, 2017

Lewiston Physician and Hospital Founder Edgar White [otd 04/21]

Dr. White. J. H. Hawley photo.
Edgar Lee White, Lewiston physician and hospital operator, was born April 21, 1883 in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Spokane in 1888. For five years starting at age ten, Edgar worked as a newsboy in Spokane. He then entered the carpenter’s trade. After his high school graduation in 1903, he continued in carpentry, while also attending classes at Washington State College (now University).

White next pursued higher education in Missouri and then at the University of Chicago. In June 1909, White received his M.D. degree from Chicago’s Rush Medical College. He followed that with an eighteen-month internship at St. Luke's Hospital in Spokane. While there, Edgar met Catherine Rouse, a Registered Nurse. Dr. White moved to Lewiston in December, 1911, and he and Catherine were married four months later.

In Lewiston, White joined with an established physician to start his practice. However, the senior partner died in late March 1911, so Edgar carried on the practice alone.

Five years later, Dr. White and Catherine contracted for the construction of a new hospital in Lewiston. The two-story brick structure had room for thirty-two beds, plus a full basement. That level held a waiting room, kitchen and dining rooms, small treatment rooms, and various utility areas. The  Idaho Statesman in Boise reported (June 24, 1916) on the new facility with the headline, “New Private Hospital at Lewiston is Real Model,” and said that it was “small but modern in all its equipment.”

Hawley's History noted that the doctor suffered "a great financial strain at the time," but the situation had improved considerably after four years. Dr. White wore many hats during those early years: President, general practitioner, Chief Surgeon, maintenance supervisor, handyman, and whatever else came up.

A frame structure near the main building housed a nurse's school, with quarters. Catherine, as Head Nurse, was in charge of nurse training. She also served as Vice President, handled anesthesia, and "pinch hit" wherever help was needed.

White Hospital, Lewiston, ca 1918. J. H. Hawley photo.
A retired nurse who trained there recalled those years in an interview for the Lewiston Tribune. Students had to be dedicated. Living on site, they first worked a twelve hour day, starting at 7 o’clock in the morning, and followed that with two hours of classwork. They then rose the next morning to do it again – with a half-day off each week.

Edgar spent a year as a military cadet at Washington State, and joined the medical reserve of the Idaho National Guard in 1913. He would remain with the Guard for over twenty years. During World War I, Dr. White served as a surgeon at Camp Lewis in Washington state.

White Hospital operated for over thirty years, during which span the doctor delivered more than 3,000 babies. The Whites finally closed the hospital in 1946, although Edgar maintained a small practice from a basement office. Catherine died in 1955, Dr. White in 1963.

The old hospital was abandoned after serving as a low-rent hotel for awhile. The hulk was finally demolished to make way for a new building in 1970. All that remains of White Hospital are some patient ledgers, currently in the custody of a Lewiston museum.
Reference: [Defen], [Hawley]
Bob Weatherly, "White Hospital was Big Part of Early Lewiston," Lewiston Tribune (Oct 23, 1992). [Note: Article copy furnished by Tribune Managing Editor Paul Emerson.]