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School of Medicine discoveries

September 16, 2014

1904 graduate practiced medicine on the western frontier

Charles Johnson Kinsolving1904

C. J. Kinsolving at his 1904 graduation from University College of Medicine. Scroll below for a slide show of more photos provided by Doc Kinsolving’s family.

Shortly after earning his medical degree in 1904, adventure-loving Charles Johnson Kinsolving packed his bags and headed west. His goal was the Alaskan frontier.

Before that, the Abingdon, Va., native had been to South Carolina to work in a cotton mill. And he’d made the 300-mile trip to Richmond to enroll in the University College of Medicine. Founded in 1893, UCM would merge with MCV in 1913.

On his westward trip, Kinsolving would occasionally interrupt his travels with short-term assignments. By the fall of 1906, he’d already worked for a time as a staff physician for mine operations in both West Virginia and South Dakota.

And on a Sunday in October, he was again making the most of his adventure, taking a roundtrip excursion on a steamboat. He departed from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where he’d taken a position as a staff physician at the local hospital. He disembarked on the docks of St. Maries for some lunch and to wait for the return trip.

As his grandson Laurence Kinsolving tells the story, “word spread that a doctor was in town.” Soon, he received an urgent request to treat an injured man at a waterfront hotel. He always carried his black bag with him, but he did need to restock his medical supplies. “He set out to visit a local drugstore,” his grandson continues. “When the druggist learned that the visitor was a physician, he asked Dr. Kinsolving to look in on several loggers with serious injuries residing in the rooms upstairs.”

An afternoon spent in treating broken bones and other injuries left Kinsolving so concerned for his patients that he missed the return trip to Coeur d’Alene, and spent the rest of his life in St. Maries. “He never made it to Alaska until after retirement.”

Kinsolving briefly returned to Virginia in 1909 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Julia Elizabeth Eanes. He carried her west to the frontier where, her grandson says, she found it astonishing that a town of 1,100 inhabitants could support 11 saloons.

Their home doubled as a medical office. Kinsolving – known simply as “Doc” around town – was accustomed to making house calls far outside St. Maries, sometimes accepting nothing more than chickens, venison or eggs as payment. In his career, Doc would face Idaho’s fires of 1910, treating injured fire fighters and going four or five days without unsaddling his horse or getting any rest. In the end, the fires would claim the life of his and Julia’s newborn daughter.

He also battled the deadly flu pandemic of 1918. “He treated over 500 flu victims,” reports his grandson, “many under quarantine, but was proud to say that he did not lose one patient.”

In 1945, Doc Kinsolving closed his black bag for the last time and fully retired to his Goosehaven farm. He was known, though, in those later years after retirement to sometimes keep office hours at the Elks Lodge where he was a charter member and to give fistfuls of silver dollars to his grandchildren, including Laurence Kinsolving, of Marianna, Fla.

Our thanks to Laurence Kinsolving for sharing his grandfather’s story with us.

University College of Medicine

The University College of Medicine was established by Hunter Holmes McGuire, M.D., in 1893 just three blocks away from MCV. It was first known as the College of Physicians and Surgeons. In 1913, MCV and UCM merged through the efforts of MCV Professor of Surgery George Ben Johnston, M.D., and Hunter H. McGuire’s son Stuart McGuire, M.D., who was president of UCM at the time.