Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Idaho Medical Association Hold Its First Organizational Meeting [otd 9/12]

On Tuesday, September 12, 1893, a number of Idaho physicians arrived in Boise City from all over the state. They had assembled to organize a state professional medical association. One historian has commented that “the state was overrun with quacks” at the time. A letter from Dr. Carol Lincoln Sweet to physicians statewide prompted the meeting, which was held at the new City Hall.
Boise City Hall, first occupied in May 1893.

A New Yorker with a degree from Albany Medical College, Sweet moved to Boise City in 1890 to set up a practice. The professional situation he found disturbed him greatly. Although there had been some vague talk about the deplorable medical environment, no one had done anything about it. Then, in June 1893, Sweet sent out his letter and received an enthusiastic response.

“A Crusade Against Quacks,” was one of the sub-headlines the Idaho Statesman (August 31, 1893) used to announce the planned organizational meeting. A medical society would “advance the interests of the profession … and … take steps to protect the public against the inroads of quackery.” The article quoted the Pacific Medical Journal, which asserted that Idaho had become  “a dumping ground for the poorly educated and the rejected applicants of other state examining boards.”

The doctors' two-day conclave featured technical presentations and fostered camaraderie among the attendees. Twenty-nine charter members organized the Idaho State Medical Society. For their first president, they elected Moscow physician Dr. William W. Watkins. Watkins graduated from the Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri) medical program in 1872. For eight years, he practiced at a town south of St. Louis before moving into that city. Personal health problems led him to move to Moscow in 1887.

Besides his Medical Society service, Dr. Watkins was a member of the American Medical Association and served on the University of Idaho Board of Regents. He was also president of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce. Sadly, in 1901, an apparently insane man went on a rampage and shot Watkins, a local merchant, and a deputy sheriff before a posse shot and killed the shooter. Watkins died immediately, while the deputy died two days later.
Dr. Watkins. Idaho Statesman, 1901.

Five years of study and lobbying by the Society finally led to passage of an acceptable medical practice regime for the state. However, not until 1949 did the legislature create the Idaho State Board of Medicine, which provided a focal point for licensing and regulating medical practitioners in the state.

Like all professional organizations, the Society – later the Idaho State Medical Association – encourages its members to keep their skills current. Resources include programs of scientific papers at its meetings, seminars and continuing education courses, equipment reviews and recommendations, and more.

In 1967, the organization adopted its current name, Idaho Medical Association. In addition to programs for members, the Association sponsors a range of programs to encourage Idaho students who are interested in the medical professions. That includes a Medical Education Scholarship Trust.

At their 2010 Annual Meeting, the Association highlighted a severe shortage of “primary care” physicians in Idaho. They noted that “Idaho is ranked 49th in the nation for physician-to-population ratio,” and that many physicians are approaching retirement. The Association passed a resolution to “facilitate the development of an Idaho Primary Care Scholars Program.” That program would include mentoring as well as a possible expansion of the scholarship trust.
References: [B&W], [Illust-State]
“Deaths and Obituaries: William W. Watkins, M. D.,” Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 37, Chicago (July-December 1901).
Arthur Hart, “Building Delays Frustrate City,” The Idaho Statesman, January 11, 1993.
IMA's History: A Legacy of Leadership, Idaho Medical Association web site.
“Dr. Watkins and Deputy Sheriff Murdered,” Idaho Statesman (August 5-6, 1901)


  1. Dr. William Woodbury Watkins
    Born: 03 Aug 1846 Warner, Merrimac County, New Hampshire,
    Died: 04 Aug 1901 Moscow, Latah County Idaho
    Spouse: Caroline Augusta Woodhouse
    Parents: Jason D. Watkins Phoebe Abbott
    Occupation: Medical Doctor
    Political Party: Republican
    Religion as a child: Baptist
    Religion as adult: Presbyterian
    Cause of Death: Shot
    Interment: Moscow Cemetery Moscow Latah County Idaho Plot: Old Section Block 7

    He was written about in a book called Buffalo Coat by his Granddaughter Carol Ryrie Brink

    He married Caroline Augusta Woodhouse
    AKA Caddie Woodlawn

    DOM 28 Jan 1873 Madison County Missouri

  2. Nice complete genealogical information. I see you found my other blog article about Carol Ryrie Brink. Anyone who wants further genealogical data should go to that item.

    If you're interested, I do have a PDF file containing three newspaper clippings about the murder of Dr, Watkins.

  3. I found his parents:

    Name: Jason D. Watkins
    Born: 24 Jul 1809 Warner County , Merrimack, New Hampshire
    Died: 21 Jul 1879 Madison County Missouri
    Spouse: Phebe Abbott
    Parents: Jason Watkins, Sarah Waldron
    Occupation: Merchant
    Cause of Death:
    Age at Death: YRS: 69 MOS: 11 DYS: 21
    Date of Burial: July 21, 1879
    Interment: ODD Fellows Cemetery Business 67, Fredericktown Madison County Missouri

    Name: Phebe Abbott
    Born: 26 Feb 1805 Warner County , Merrimack, New Hampshire
    Died: 16 Sep 1861 Polk Madison County Missouri
    Spouse: Phebe Abbott
    Parents: Jason Watkins, Sarah Waldron
    Occupation: Housewife
    Cause of Death:
    Age at Death: YRS: 56 MOS: 6 DYS: 20
    Date of Burial: 16 September 1861
    Interment: ODD Fellows Cemetery Business 67, Fredericktown Madison County Missouri

    Married: 31 May 1831 Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States

    Jeannette K. Rook

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