Sunday, April 8, 2018

Physician, Drug Store Owner, and Rancher John Plumer [otd 04/08]

Dr. John J. Plumer, a pioneer physician in De Lamar and then Hailey, Idaho, was born April 8, 1860 in Edina, a rural corner of Missouri about 150 miles northwest of St. Louis. John received his pre-college education in a small town in Iowa, about fifty miles north of Edina. He then attended Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio. (After multiple mergers, the institution became today’s College of Medicine of The Ohio State University.) John received an M.D. degree in 1882.

For a couple years, Dr. Plumer practiced medicine near where he grew up in Iowa. He then moved to Dodge City, Kansas. John arrived in the famous “Queen of the Cowtowns” at a time when its wild history was almost over. In fact, the cattle drives ended in 1886, leaving behind a sleepy little farm town. After a few years there, the doctor moved on to Baker City, Oregon.
Delamar Mine, ca. 1895. Owyhee Directory.

Around 1890, Dr. Plumer became physician and surgeon for the De Lamar Mining Company. He practiced in De Lamar, Idaho, about five miles west of Silver City. The first mines had been located in this area in the mid- to late-1880s. In 1891, the De Lamar Mining Company, incorporated in London, England, consolidated about forty properties under their control. For many years, the company operated some of the most productive mines in the region.

The company allowed Plumer to carry on a private practice, and he soon served "many patrons" in the area. He was also proprietor of the only drug store in De Lamar. In 1897, John married a young lady whose family lived in Boise County (they were married in Idaho City.)

Three years later, Plumer ran successfully for the office of Idaho state Treasurer and the couple moved to Boise. He served one term, from 1900 through 1902. Even so, in the summer of 1901 Plumer and a partner bought out a medical practice in Hailey. Then the partner handled the practice full time while Plumer finished out the rest of his term.
Main Street, Hailey, ca 1905.
Hailey Historic Preservation Commission.

Dr. Plumer’s practice in Hailey flourished and he soon attained the means to invest in "several fine ranches in Blaine County," and "a beautiful home." He also had other financial investments, and became an officer – President, than just a Director – of the Idaho State Bank of Hailey.

Unfortunately, the bank failed in August 1910. Plumer and several other officers were subsequently arrested on charges stemming from irregularities in the bank’s affairs. The doctor posted bond and later testimony showed that he had had nothing to do with the irregularities, so his charges were dropped. Two other officers did spend time in the penitentiary.

The H. T. French biography noted that, as a young man, John had been "an expert in trap shooting ... winning numerous prizes." After moving to Idaho, he began to win prizes in Pacific Northwest shooting contests. Having become owner of considerable ranch property in Idaho, each year he planned "a vacation to engage in bird hunting."

People in Hailey knew Plumer as a genial man with a fine bedside manner: a classic old-fashioned country/small town doctor. Famously, he used to say, “It isn’t the potatoes that are bad for you – it’s what you put on them. And it isn’t the whiskey that’ll kill you – its what you mix with it.”

Plumer passed away in October 1934 after suffering a long illness. Today, his home is on a walking tour sponsored by the Hailey Historic Preservation Commission.
References: [French], [Illust-State]
"Deaths," Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 103, No. 19 (November 10, 1934).
“Dr. J. J. Plumer Home,” Historic Old Hailey, Blaine County Historical Museum, Hailey, Idaho (2007).
A Historical, Descriptive and Commercial Directory of Owyhee County, Idaho, Owyhee Avalanche Press (January 1898).
“[Plumer News],” Idaho Statesman, Boise, Idaho (July 1901 – October 1934).]

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