Dr. Edwin E. Watts

Lewiston Morning Tribune
Sunday, November 15, 1942

Dr. Edwin Watts Called By Death

Dr. Edwin E. Watts, 88, of Gifford, oldest practicing physician of Idaho, dean of the medical profession in Nez Perce county, and possibly the oldest practitioner in point of service in the United States, is dead. For more than 67 years Dr. Watts actively engaged himself in his profession, over 54 years in Idaho.

The end came at 4 o'clock yesterday morning at St. Joseph's hospital where he was taken in serious condition last Monday. Death was attributed to complications. Up to the time of his last illness he continued to give medical advice to callers at Gifford, where he and Mr. and Mrs. John L. Sherbon made their home together.

Self-Made Man

A native of Iowa, born on Washington's birthday in 1854, one of twin sons of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Watts, he was left an orphan at the age of 11 years. He worked while attending school, saved his money and decided upon a medical career. He entered the American university school of medicine at Philadelphia and was awarded his degree in 1875. Later he pursued post-graduate study. Having fitted himself for his profession, Dr. Watts practiced in the middle-west for a few years and in 1888 came to Idaho, first locating at Juliaetta. In 1901 he moved to Southwick on Potlatch ridge after returning from advanced study in the east, remaining at Southwick but a short time, then locating at Gifford where he resided until his death.

Dr. Watts was known throughout Nez Perce county and other parts of central Idaho. When he engaged in practice in Idaho in 1888 the country was sparsely settled. From his office at Juliaetta, later at Southwick, and for more than 40 years at Gifford, he ministered to the medical and surgical needs of a large clientele. The last few years he declined to make calls because of his age but residents of the area sought him at his home for advice.

"Old Country Doctor"

Rain or shine, warm or cold, Dr. Watts rode over the Potlatch ridge and Gifford prairie region for years, irrespective of the hour when called. He braved the elements on horseback, in his buggy and about 15 years ago made calls in his car, but not for long. After he had traveled few miles he gave the automobile to his daughter when he felt that he could not run it with the proper degree of safety.

In his pioneer community residents depended almost entirely upon the service and advice of Dr. Watts. During spring and summer Dr. Watts spent much of his time on the porch at his home, and there people came and it was not uncommon to find several waiting for consultation.

Many of his calls in early days were made without consideration of a fee. He was widely known for his unselfish devotion to his friends and patients, some of whom he had never heard of.

During the influenza epidemic in 1918 when scores were dying monthly in central Idaho Dr. Watts worked day and night. The ground was snow covered when the epidemic was at its height and he traveled by bob sled drawn by horses. Some of his calls required hours of travel, some all night trips.

60 Years A Mason

Each year Dr. Watts' birthday was the occasion for his neighbors to extend felicitations. Scores called at his home. Last February, his 88th birthday, Dr. Watts reported he was feeling "fine," and spent much of the day splitting wood, always keeping an eye on his office.

For more than 60 years he was a member of the Masonic fraternity, affiliating with the lodge at Gifford soon after he located there. He was a veteran Odd Fellow, and wore the life-membership emblem. He was a member of the Christian church.

Dr. Watts is survived by five children, William A. Watts, manager of the Rochdale Co. at Kendrick; Commander C. E. Watts, in charge of the naval base hospital at Pearl harbor; Dr. Victor Watts, Smith Center, Kans.; Mrs. Hazel Foster, wife of Lt. Col. W. T. Foster, Orlando field, Fla., and Earl W. Watts, teaching at Great Falls, Mont.

The body is at the Brower-Wann chapel with funeral arrangements pending.

Contributed by Natalie Huntley

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