Biography of James D. McCurdy, M. D.
In an analyzation of the character and life work of Dr. James Darwin McCurdy we note many of the characteristics which have marked the Scotch nation for many centuries, the perseverance, reliability, energy and unconquerable determination to pursue a course that has been marked out. It is these sterling qualities which have gained to Dr. McCurdy success in life and made him one of the substantial and valued citizens of Idaho. He now resides in Bellevue, Blaine County, and while he has retired from the practice of medicine he is still actively interested in mining, being the owner of a valuable group of mines in the Wood River valley.
Mr. McCurdy was born in Kentucky, March 22, 1820. The family originated in Scotland, although the grandfather of our subject came to America from the north of Ireland and took up his residence in Virginia. He loyally served the colonies in their struggle for independence, and afterward emigrated to Kentucky, becoming one of the pioneers of that state. He was a Presbyterian in his religious belief, and lived to an advanced age. The Doctor’s father, James Darwin McCurdy, Sr., was an only son and was born in Virginia. He married Miss Livenia Sharp, a native of Virginia, and a daughter of Thomas Sharp, who also removed from the Old Dominion to Kentucky during the early history of the lat-ter state. Unto James D. and Livenia McCurdy were born eleven children, two of whom reached years of maturity. The father died at the age of sixty-three years, and the mother, long surviving him, passed away at the age of eighty-seven.
The Doctor is now the only surviving member of the family. He acquired his literary education in his native state and was graduated in Russellville, Kentucky, and in 1848 the degree of M. D. was conferred upon him by the University of New York. Returning to Kentucky he there began the practice of medicine, but after a short time removed to Missouri, and in 1852 crossed the plains to Oregon. Many were the emigrants who in that year made their way over the hot sands and through the mountain passes to the Pacific slope, but many also fell by the wayside, stricken down with the dread disease, cholera. The services of Dr. McCurdy were in great demand by the sufferers, and keeping two horses ready for use he treated the emigrants in trains both ten miles in advance and ten miles in the rear of his own train. It was an arduous service, but one which was very gratefully received by those who were attacked by that strange and generally fatal illness.
In the year 1853 Dr. McCurdy was commissioned surgeon-general of the Oregon forces raised to suppress an outbreak of the Rogue River Indians, in southern Oregon. When these I-dians began to exhibit hostilities the white settlers made a requisition on the governor, George L. Curry, who promptly responded with a proclamation for volunteers, who with equal promptness came forward, as Americans always do when duty and patriotism call. The governor appointed as commander in chief of these forces General Joseph Lane, who afterward was elected one of the two first United States senators from Oregon when this commonwealth became a state, and was also candidate in 1860 on the Breckinridge ticket for the office of vice-president of the United States. The company raised in Salem elected James W. Nesmith as their captain, who succeeded Lane in the United States senate; and also elected Lafayette F. Grover as their lieutenant, who was afterward governor of the state of Oregon two terms, and was United States senator one term. Dr. McCurdy served as surgeon-general of the army until peace was restored, when he returned to Salem and resumed the practice of his profession.
After five and a half months spent upon the journey, Dr. McCurdy arrived in Salem, Oregon, where he opened an office and engaged in practice until 1857, when he returned to his old Kentucky home to visit his aged mother. He then went to Weston, Platte County, Missouri, where, on the 2d of September 1858, he was happily married to Mrs. James H. Baldwin, nee Susan B. Thornton, daughter of Colonel John Thornton, a pioneer of Missouri and a descendant of a prominent southern family. Mr. Baldwin in life was of the firm of Doniphon & Baldwin, leading attorneys of Missouri. The Doctor and his young wife went to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he opened a drug store, which he successfully conducted for seven years, when he sold out and removed to Denver. He conducted a drug store and also engaged in the practice of medicine in Virginia City for a year, and then again went to Salem, Oregon, where he resumed his professional duties. His wife joined him there, and they continued their residence at that place until December 1876, when they removed to Walla Walla, hoping that a change of climate would benefit Mrs. McCurdy ‘s health, which had become impaired. This desirable result was attained, and in addition the Doctor acquired a large practice there and also became interested in ranch property and in the raising of sheep. His wife also assisted him in the latter enterprise and prosperity attended their efforts. They still own the real estate at Walla Walla; but in 1882, hearing of the great mining excitement in the Wood River valley, the Doctor made a trip to this part of the state, found the mines rich and productive, and the country becoming the place of residence of an enterprising and progressive population. He therefore invested in mines, purchased land and built a good home in Bellevue and is now pleasantly located here. He continued to practice his profession to some extent until 1896, when he retired altogether from professional life in order to devote his time and energies to the care of his mining and other property interests at Walla Walla. He is part owner of seven silver and lead mines and of two gold mines. The group is located in the Camas District, No. 2, of the gold belt, and the mines are at present bonded by a syndicate of St. Louis men.
The Doctor has long been identified with the Masonic fraternity, having been made a Mason in 1850. He is also a strong advocate of temperance and belongs to the Good Templars’ Society. His wife is an active member of the Christian church. They occupy a leading position in social circles where true worth and intelligence are received as the passports into good society. In his business ventures the Doctor has been very successful, his enterprise and energy over-coming all obstacles and enabling him to reach the plane of affluence.