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DR. N.G. BLALOCK. – Americans in general and those of the West in particular have no equals in the world in versatility. No other people can do so many different things and do them so well as we. No other people so disregard the conventional and regular ways of doing things, and go across lots to conclusions and results so promptly. On our Western border is this especially manifest. Face to face with nature in some of her most remarkable and powerful manifestations, with all things new and untried, we burgeon out our powers untrammeled by custom or artificial restraints. Thus has come the fact that many men here, educated, as lawyers, teachers, physicians, and preachers, so readily turn their attention to other occupations, and carry on a wide range of effort. No better example can be found in the Northwest than in the subject of this sketch.
Doctor Blalock was born in North Carolina on the 17th of February, 1836. After a boyhood of activity and industry, he devoted himself for some time to teaching; but, deciding that the practice of medicine should be his goal, he entered Jefferson Medical College in 1859, and graduated two years later. He had already been married to Miss Panthea A. Durham in 1858.
Soon after graduating from the medical college, Doctor Blalock, with his wife and two children, moved to Mount Zion, Macon county, Illinois. The tempest of the Civil war just now was breaking on the country, and Doctor Blalock, with a broader patriotism than most of his misguided brethren of the South, joined the armies of the Nation as surgeon. He was attached to the One Hundred and Fifteenth Illinois Infantry. With them he exercised the same skill and devotion which have been such prominent traits in his character since; but failing health compelled him to leave the army before the end of the war. In 1862 he lost his elder child, and on May 18,1864, he suffered the irreparable loss of his faithful wife. He now resumed the interrupted practice of his profession at Mount Zion, Illinois, and there, in December, 1865, was married to Miss Marie E. Greenfield.
During the busy years which followed, the Doctor, like many others, became interested in the reports of the wonderful results of farming, and other enterprises in the valley of the Upper Columbia. In 1872, he set forth to cross the plains in company with thirty other men of Macon county and their families. Though “dead broke” on his arrival at Walla Walla, his industry and fertility of resources soon set him on his feet in both his profession and his outside business. Though considering medical practice his chief calling, he could not help noticing the vast undeveloped resources lying loose around Walla Walla; and he soon, with his peculiar energy, got control of a large body of land in the foothill belt south of the city. His farming enterprises mark an era in the development of the Inland Empire. At that time, though only about sixteen years ago, nobody had tested the plains of the upper country. It was generally supposed that, aside from the narrow valleys in the near vicinity of the streams, the upper country was a desert.
The Doctor bargained for twenty-two hundred acres of upland at a price of ten bushels of wheat per acre. Entering into the work with great enthusiasm, and expending all that he had in its cultivation, he was abundantly rewarded for his daring and enterprise by securing a harvest of thirty-one bushels to the acre. Thus a third of his first crop was enough to pay for the land; and at one bold appeal to Fortune, aided, however, by good judgment and industry, he found himself independent. we give in the body of our history some specific statements as tot he Doctor’s subsequent experience in farming. Satisfied as to the profits of wheat-raising, he formed the association known as the “Blalock Wheat Growing Company,” which secured twenty thousand acres of land in what is now Gilliam county, Oregon. Ten thousand acres of this tract have been in wheat at once, and corn (not usually thought a success in this country) has been raised on a scale and with an excellence which would do credit to Illinois or Kansas.
But the incessant activity of the Doctor in his constantly growing medical practice, and in his wheat business, did not restrain him from still greater efforts; and in 1874 he began the construction of a flume twenty-eight miles long from Walla Walla to the Blue Mountains. This great enterprise was completed in 1880, costing $56,000. The great cost of this flume and the expense of maintaining it, however, so devoured the profits that the Doctor found himself greatly embarrassed and for a time was compelled to restrict his many and valuable enterprises. Unremitting attention to his practice (now far larger than that of any other practitioner in the upper country), together with an enormous yield of wheat (90,000 bushels) on his Walla Walla ranch in 1881, soon repaired his temporary embarrassment; and he retained the position so justly due him, of being one of Walla Walla’s “heavy” men.
On Christmas eve, 1885, he was again deprived by the death of his wife, a loss inestimable both to him and the place. Mrs. Blalock was a woman whose beauty and attractiveness were surpassed only by her intelligence and benevolence. She left two daughters, Rose and May. The remaining child of the Doctor’s first marriage was Yancey C.; and he has followed his father into the discipleship of Esculapius, and is now rapidly making a name as one of the leading young physicians of Walla Walla.
Though his mind has thus been occupied with so many matters outside of his profession, Dr. Blalock considers that his chief claim to recognition among the leading men of the country. He seems to have by nature almost every requisite of the successful physician, – calm judgment, keen perception, quick intuition and untiring patience. Besides his eminence in his profession, he keeps abreast of the times in all other matters pertaining to the development of the city and country. He is one of the trustees of Whitman College, and in all matters relating to the intellectual and social development of Walla Walla is one of the leaders. Well may the beautiful country of his adoption be proud of such a man. We may properly end this sketch by saying that, at the very day of writing it, Doctor Blalock has been further honored by being elected one of the delegates from the Walla Walla district to the convention which is charged with the momentous duty of framing a constitution for the coming great State of Washington.