Idaho Falls - City of Destiny

Early East Idaho Medical Practice and Hospitals

In 1870, six years after the first permanent settlement in Idaho, the only doctor was in Malad City. From Eagle Rock (Idaho Falls) this was a four-day journey by horse and buggy. In 1876-77 an epidemic of smallpox claimed many lives. Vaccines were rushed from Fort Hall and Salt Lake City. The first "practitioners" were women who would help with childbirth or assist in the homes of families sick with contagious diseases. Indian women trained others in the use of native herbs and Indian remedies which became many times a part of the white medical practice. Families relied on Medical "Cyclopedias" to diagnose and treat ailments. Home remedies included teas made from catnip and fennel, peppermint or willow bark often combined with a jigger of whiskey. Hot water Soaks and salt-water had therapeutic qualities. Mustard plasters and poltices of mud and cow dung were commonly used. The redder the skin became or the more pungent the brew, the more effective the cure was believed to be. Early operations were done in the doctor's office or in the patient's home. Kerosene lanterns were used to illuminate the area. Anesthesia was given by a neighbor or family member using ether or chloroform on an open-drip mask. Just enough was given to keep the tied-down patient from moving.

Christina Magdalena Walz came to the Rexburg area in 1885. She had been trained by an obstetrician and she traveled many miles to assist in medical care. She attended the birth of 1600 babies.

Dr. T. C. Willson and Dr. Thomas Bridges were in Idaho Falls in the early 1900s. In 1906 a group of businessmen organized a hospital and leased the A. H. Jackson Building located on "B" Street. This building was never used however and the location was changed to a building on "C" Street. This hospital was taken over by the Village Improvement Society and in 1910 was moved to the Elg Building on the Southeast corner of Eagle Rock and South Capital Streets above the Eagle Rock Drug. It would be known as the Doctors Coulthard and Cline Hospital. Later it became known as the General Hospital.

In 1915 Doctors C.M. Cline and A. R. Soderquist built another "General Hospital" on the corner of Idaho Avenue and K Street. This was the first building erected as a hospital. It had a 25-bed capacity and employed 14 nurses. It was maintained until 1923 when the L.D.S. Hospital was completed.

In 1916 Doctors J. O. Mellor and David McDonald built the "People's Hospital" located on "E" Street. It was formerly called the "Emergency Hospital." It had a capacity for 15 patients and employed three nurses. It closed in 1923.

In 1912 Dr. S. S. Fuller built a small hospital on the corner of Placer Ave. and Walnut Street. This was purchased by Dr. H. D. Spencer in 1916. Dr. Spencer with his nurse, Effie Moranda, started the Spencer Hospital School of Nursing. Miss Anna Bridges, daughter of an early Idaho Falls physician Dr. Thomas Bridges, and Miss Ida Boring were the first class of two who graduated in 1922. In 1921 the Spencer Hospital moved to a new location at 789 South Boulevard. In 1941 this building was taken over by the "Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration" and the name was changed to "The Sacred Heart Hospital." In 1949 the Catholic Sisters built a beautiful hospital across from Tautphaus Park on South Boulevard, and Dr. W. R. Abbott and Dr. J. Worlton established the Idaho Falls Clinic in the smaller building at 789 South Boulevard. The Sacred Heart Hospital was purchased by HCA (Health Corporation of America). It was closed in 1986 with the construction of the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center on Channing Way and Sunnyside Road.

The L.D.S. Hospital was completed in 1923 on Memorial Drive. In 1919 Dr. H. Ray Hatch of Heber City, Utah, was requested by President Heber J. Grant of the Mormon Church to move to Idaho Falls and act as a consultant to the building committee of the proposed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Hospital. The depressed economy of the early 20s delayed the construction, but after much sacrifice, monetary support was generated among the Mormons throughout the Snake River Valley and the Hospital was opened on Sep. 22, 1923. This Hospital went through many expansions in the ensuing years. After the L.D.S. Church turned over its hospital assets to Intermountain Health Care, the two local hospitals merged their services and became the Idaho Falls Consolidated Hospitals in the 1970s. L.D.S. was razed in 1987 when HCA opened the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in the South East area of the city.

Note: For more details on the L.D.S. (Riverview) Hospital, and the Sacred Heart (Community and later Parkview) Hospital, see short articles submitted by Harold Forbush and Anny Fritzen, Bonneville Museum Reading and Reference room.

Submitter: Harvey A. Hatch, M. D.
Sources: Harold S. Forbush and Co-authors, The Idaho Falls L.D.S. Hospital. 1987, Ricks College Press, Rexburg, Idaho.
Joe L. Marker, Eagle Rock U.S.A., Robco Printing, Idaho Falls, 1980.
Personal papers of Harvey A. Hatch, M.D., Idaho Falls.



Begin Here
Introductory Comments
Chap. 1 - Agriculture
Potatoes, grains, sugar beets, livestock, irrigation.
Chap. 2 - Business and Industry
Banking, Chamber of Commerce, Rogers Brothers Seed.
Chap. 3 - Amusements, Arts and Music
Amusements: dancing, circus, baseball, theaters, Heise Hot Springs, War Bonnet Roundup, parades. Arts: painting, drama, dance, music, symphony, opera theatre.
Chap. 4 - Communications
Newspapers, telephone, broadcast.
Chap. 5 - Celebrations
Centennials and Jubilees, Pioneer Day, Intersec.
Chap. 6 - Churches
Chap. 7 - City Government
Mayors, City Hall, Public Library; Departments of Electricity, Fire, Police, Building and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Public Works.
Chap. 8 - Courthouse and Federal Post Office
Chap. 9 - Historic Preservation Efforts
Bonneville County Historical Society, Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission (Historic buildings, places, homes), Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
Chap. 10 - Schools
Chap. 11 - Clubs/Fraternal Organizations
Lodges, Sportsmen's Association, American Legion and other Veterans Associations, Boy Scouts.
Chap. 12 - Transportation
Railroad, Automobiles, Aviation.
Chap. 13 - Medical Practice &Amp; Hospitals
Chap. 14 - Native Americans
Chap. 15 - Snake River
Bridges, Greenbelt, Temple.
Chap. 16 - Tourism and Hotels
Chap. 17 - Lawyers and Judges
Chap. 18 - War Efforts
Red Cross, World War I, World War II.
Chap. 19 - Population Growth
Chap. 20 - INEL
Appendix 1 - Bibliography Guide
Appendix 2 - Chronology