The Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, WA., April 9, 1934, page 1
DR. ALLEN BONEBRAKE. PIONEER PHYSICIAN ACTIVE BEYOND HIS YEARS, STILL ON
By Robert Ballou
Several professional men who came to Goldendale, when
the town was not far remote from being an Indian trading post, have attained
great distinction elsewhere. Among these are Ralph O. (Oregon) Dunbar and
George Turner, early day Territorial judge here, who afterward became a U.S.
Senator from Washington and attained international distinction when appointed
a member of the Alaska boundary commission by President Theodore Roosevelt.
One who has stayed here and been content with the laurels achieved at home is Dr. Allen Bonebrake, 82, venerable, dignified, snow haired physician. Newcomers who give him the once over are inclined to appraise him for a crusty old chap, but when they come to know him, they discover that he has a heart as big as the snow capped peaks surrounding the Klickitat valley. They also find that be has a keen vein of humor hidden beneath the service. Recital of an incident that wedged him between these traits of character might go well here.
A somewhat aged, overweight, oldtime cowboy, whose bones were not as pliable as they had once been, was pitched from a bucking broncho on to the only cement sidewalk in town. The cowboy, a little under the influence of something besides creek water and Klickitat ozone, was unable to arise from a prone position hard cement, because he found one leg would not function. Dr. Bonebrake was called. He did not attempt to remove heavy leather chaps, but stooped and ran his practiced hand over the injured limb. The cowboy managed to raise himself on one elbow and when Dr. Bonebrake stood upright said, "Hic! Ish the damn thing broke Doc?" Bystanders thought they could observe a faint twinkle of mirth in his eyes and a faint flicker of a smile, combined with his usual dignity as he relapsed into the vernacular of cowland and said, "Yes. The damn thing is broke, in two places."
He has been in continuous active practice here for more than half a century. This does not mean that he sits in an office, giving counsel to younger associates or occasionally writing a prescription. On the contrary, he is still responding to rural call's. As health officer for Klickitat county, with a boundary frontage on the Columbia river of more than 100 miles, he often makes long road trips to isolated localities.
This should entitle him to the undisputed honor of being dean among surviving early day Northwest doctors. The fact that he has given medical service to four generations of people, many of them in the same family, might accord him the distinction of being one of the oldest practicing country Doctors in the United States both in point of age and time of service.
Dr. Bonebrake attributes his longevity and success to sedate habits, much outdoor life and studios attention to his profession. The first two can be accepted for face value. Perhaps his struggles in reaching a goal of boyhood ambition may have something to do with the last one. This includes being jolted bumped about for six thousand miles in a dead axle wagon, drawn by slow plodding oxen at a time when a boy would much prefer some other form of exercise.
Much of his early practice was amidst primitive surroundings not far removed from the life of the aboriginees. The angel of death often hovered over a settler's log cabin, lighted with tallow candles.
He has not had the advantage afforded city physicians for the practice of surgery, but he has accompanied patients to city hospitals and assisted in the most delicate operations. In the days when removal of a patient to a city hospital was a physical impossibility, he didn't hesitate to rely on surgery when a patient's life was at stake.
A most outstanding incident of this occurred soon after he came to Goldendale. A husky young harvest hand who had been caught in the gears cogs of a horse power threshing machine was brought to his office with a crushed and mangled leg. One glance was enough for Dr. Bonebrake. He turned to one of the crew who had brought the patient in and said, "Get that table out in the middle of the room. His leg must come off."
The patient, Mose Claussen, afterward became a prominent character in the Klickitat country as a wheat rancher and stockman, because he went about with a heavy straight stick crutch for a substitute leg.
Dr. Bonebrake was born in Marion county, Iowa, near Knoxville, January 21, 1852. Ten years later his father, Rev. William F. Bonebrake, United Brethren minister, native of Ohio, already a pioneer of three states, joined the greatest parade in history and made Roseburg, Oregon, a final reviewing stand in 1862. After four years of moving from one locality to another his father returned to Iowa, locating in Monroe county. Here Dr. Bonebrake got his first regular schooling and formed the opinion that he would someday be a doctor. In 1869 his father again headed his covered wagon toward the and of the golden sunset -- Oregon. One year later, in 1870, he decided that he must sever himself from the environments of his father's calling, if he wished to become a physician, and took up life on a homestead in Coos county near Marshfield. He continued his studies and became a school teacher a couple of years later. In connection with this school teaching he took up the study of pathology, under the tutorship of doctor Tower, Marshfield physician. In 1880, at the age of 28, he had saved enough out of his earnings as a school teacher to take a course at the Willamette University Medical School in Portland. He became a full-fledged M.D. in 1883.
He went at once to Dayton in the eastern Washington. He found a good opening there, but decided to locate closer to the eastern slopes of the Cascades. An overworked doctor at North Yakima wanted him to come there and form a partnership but he decided the surroundings here were more to his liking and opened an office 29, 1884. He states that he has been busy in the work of his profession ever since.
Perhaps a fondness for wildlife attracted him. In early days he was famed as a big game hunter and wing shot. He never came back without a deer and the pockets of his hunting jackets were always stuffed with upland game birds and migratory waterfowl. In company with Howard Spalding, early day postmaster at Goldendale, he once killed a magnificent specimen, a coal black, curly haired timber wolf. The wolf was trailed in the Simcoe mountains, near the head of the present city pipe line, after it had made away with the carcass of a deer that they suspended from a tree the night before. He made hunting trips to other big game preserves of the Western states and in 1920 went on a hunting trip to Alaska. Book Biology blended with firsthand observations when every creature of the Northwest wild life was to be found in the Klickitat county has made him one of the most authoritative lay naturalists on the Pacific Coast.
He became president and Dr. Robert E. Stewart, secretary of the first wild life organization here, the Goldendale Rod and Gun club, 35 years ago. They sponsored the first liberation of Chine pheasants in the Klickitat valley. Fifteen mated pairs from the private game of farm of Gene Simpson, in the Willamette valley, were turned loose on the Golden meadow here. Funds were raised by popular subscription.
About this time, as now, there was much dispute about the specie classification of the "big ones" caught in the Big Klickitat river at Rust soda springs, as between trout and salmon. At the same time Frank Seufert, pioneer salmon cannery man at The Dalles, was shipping royal Chinook frozen in big cakes of ice to the Atlantic sea board. Dr. Bonebrake and Dr. Stewart sent a specimen, in this manner to eastern fishery bureau experts, for a scientific ruling.
Since I have mentioned Dr. Stewart, I will say that so far as I know he was the only professional associate that Dr. Bonebrake has ever had in a business way. This association brings another sidelight into his career. Dr. Stewart assembled the largest collection of Indian arrow heads and other trophies of primitive Indian life, ever collected in the Northwest. This gave Dr. Bonebrake an opportunity to form an extensive acquaintance with many of the older Indians and in later years some of them still call on him for medical treatment, when voodoo methods of Indian Medicine Men fail.
In addition to a study of wild life, he has been intensely interested in botany with a study of nature flowers and plants a hobby. Attracted by the beauty and fragrance of wild flowers on the Yukon river in Alaska, he once attempted transplanting several varieties of flowers and berries for culture here. The experiment did not prove a success.
In civic and political affairs he took a leading part for 25 years, he had much to do with transforming Goldendale from a straggling frontier village to one of the most modern little cities in the nation.
In politics he was an active leader in the early day Republican organization which made Oregon Dunbar a member of the Washington Supreme Court at Olympia for 25 years. This same organization brought county warrants from a 60¢ level to par value. He has been county health officer several times, with succeeding county boards and also served in the same capacity for the town of Goldendale.
Socially he has retained contact with some of the most prominent families in Portland and the Northwest. Fraternally he is a Mason. He has been a consistent reader of the Morning Oregonian for 65 years.
June 3, 1885 he married Lettia Flanary, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Green Flanary, Oregon ox-team pioneers of 1852, who came here from Yamhill county in 1879 and located in the No. 6 neighborhood. There are two children: Mrs. Adria Sleeper, Goldendale and Crede Bonebrake, Seattle, Wash. Another son Holt, 17, succumbed while visiting at Marshfield, Ore., in 1904.
© Jeffrey L. Elmer