The Doctors

The last horse and buggy doctor in Del Norte County was Dr. Ernest Maxwell Fine. Whether delivering a baby, setting a broken bone, or administering medicine, he was always on-call.

With no doctor in the area at the time, he moved to Del Norte County in 1899 to help the sick. He was the only doctor in the area from Smith River to Orick.

“He wanted to be some place where people really needed him,” said Mrs. Murdock Roeder.

Dr. Fine’s first office was on the corner of Third and J streets, which contained a hospital room and a combined office, laboratory, waiting room. An old motto hung on the wall in his office that read: “Nature is the Best Remedy.”

No hospital existed in the county at that time. He often performed amputation of patients on a kitchen table.

Mrs. George Berry said, “If a patient never paid him, he still answered the next call to their home with as much gladness to serve.”

Dr. Fine traveled on a bicycle, in which he used to come to Crescent City. He began using a horse and buggy.

He invested in a Harley Davidson to make short house calls and for trips to work. Fine was his own mechanic performing operations on the engine.

In 1905 he purchased a Ford Roadster, one of the first cars in Del Norte County.  The red, one-seat vehicle carried a four-cylinder engine.

Later, Dr. Fine moved his practice to the corner of Third and E streets, where he created a five- room hospital called the Dr. Fine Hospital.  In 1927, the hospital burned down, and Dr. Fine retired.

When the stock market crashed, he lost his savings and began practicing again. He shared a joint waiting room with another doctor above Endert’s Drug Store with his own examination and x-ray room.

Dr. Fine died on September 30, 1939. high blood pressure and hard work was the cause of death. A Catholic Cemetery is his final resting place.

Two other physicians early to Del Norte County affected the growth of the area positively. Drs. Gustave H. and Anna R. Douglas had a hand in the development of the Klamath Bridge, the growth of the county and the health of early families in the area.

Gustave Douglas moved to Del Norte County from Portland, Oregon, in 1920 at the age of 57. Gustave had intended to retire, but busied himself with civic affairs in the southern end of the county.

He was elected as state representative of Siskiyou and Del Norte counties two years later. Immediately he began working to replace the old ferry across Klamath River with a bridge.

Although he died of a sudden heart attack in 1923 the day before the final approval of his bill by the Senate, a rider was attached to the bill, and approved, to name the structure “The Douglas Memorial Bridge.” After his death, Douglas’ wife, Anna, taught school in Del Norte County.

She also served as county superintendent for a year, until her health forced her to retire. She was born in Horicon, Wisconsin on March 29, 1869, and graduated from Normal School at Winona, Minnesota, in 1899.

A few years later, she received her degree from Northwestern University at Evanston, Illnois, to practice medicine. After she graduated, she and Gustave, who she had married by that time, went to the Jordan Valley in Oregon, built a drug store and practiced medicine.

At the time, some of their patients required the physicians to travel 20 miles to treat them. The two doctors also set up a hospital in Grants Pass that accommodated area mine workers.

Anna outlived her husband by 28 years. Both are buried in Sacramento.

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