Beaverton’s First Doctor
By Ann Koppy, BHSoc Historia
Francis Marion Robinson, long-time Beaverton doctor, died at 67 years, one month, and 17 days. He was born in February 1848 near what is now Hillsboro to James and Melissa Robinson, pioneers who made the westward journey over the Oregon Trail. His sister Amanda was about a year older, and another sister, Margaret, about two years younger. Records of his young life are meager. He probably attended the log cabin school near the family homestead for early education. He spent some time at Pacific University in Forest Grove before leaving home in his late 20s.
According to the Portrait and Biographical Record of Portland and Vicinity, Oregon (Chapman Publishing Co., Chicago, 1903), the would-be physician worked as a bookkeeper in Wyoming and Montana and taught school in Washington County, Oregon before deciding on a medical career. He first studied medicine in Umatilla County, Oregon and in Iowa before transferring to Willamette University in Salem, where he earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1885. After a ye
ar or so traveling through Arizona, he established a practice in Beaverton, one that would continue until his death.
Arrival in Beaverton
When he arrived, the small farming community was beginning to grow, but wasn’t yet an incorporated city. It’s unclear when he met Lottie Danks, daughter of town wagon maker and blacksmith Augustine Danks1 and his wife Mary. In a town with a population of about 250, their paths very likely crossed many times. On October 20, 1889 he and 20 year-old Lottie married at home of her widowed mother. W.C. Ward of East Portland performed the ceremony, witnessed by W.E. Squires and Eva Milner. The Robinson’s house (1887) and pharmacy (1893), which Lottie managed, still stand on Broadway Street.
Medical care during this era was improving immensely, although the average life expectancy in 1900 was only 46 for men and 48 for women. Significant inventions in the doctor’s medicine bag or office included the hypodermic syringe (1853), X-rays (1895), blood pressure meter (1881 and modernized, 1901). This new, easy-to-use device also added a new diagnosis: hypertension. Physicians prescribed morphine and aspirin for pain, digitalis for cardiac patients, and administered smallpox vaccinations. By 1915, the average life expectancy had jumped to 52 for men and 57 for women.
Dr. Robinson took an active role in fraternal, professional, and civic matters, joining the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Masons. He was, in fact, one of seven Master Masons seeking a charter to establish a Beaverton Lodge in 1891. When their request was granted that summer, he was elected Worshipful Master of Beaverton Lodge Number 100, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, a position he held at various times until 1906. His keen abilities led to leadership roles with the Oregon State and Washington County Medical Associations, as well as Beaverton city councilor.
The allopathic physician’s cause of death on March 22, 1915 was listed as heart disease. He was survived by Lottie and their children, Nellie and George, and buried at Crescent Grove Cemetery, Tigard.
Categorised in: Our Stories
This post was written by Michael Wong