Thursday, June 13, 2024

Descendants of Leavenworth’s first doctor revisit past

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LEAVENWORTH — The Greater Leavenworth Museum welcomed over 70 descendants of Leavenworth’s first doctor and second mayor, Doctor George Washington (G.W.) Hoxsey, over Memorial Day weekend.

Each Memorial Day, members of the family gather in Leavenworth to reunite and revisit the history of Dr. Hoxsey, who came from Illinois to Leavenworth in 1892 as a surgeon for the Great Northern Railroad, a transcontinental railroad system that extended from St. Paul to Seattle.

Much of Dr. G.W. Hoxsey’s history has been uncovered by dedicated family members who have passed down stories and studied publications of Leavenworth in its early years.  

Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, the great-grandson of Dr. G.W. Hoxsey, spent his childhood hearing heroic stories about his grandfather from his mother and her siblings. His uncle, James Hoxsey, provided a written history of his grandfather for the GLM. 

The tales inspired Dr. Fitzgerald in his adult years to write a historical novel based on his great-grandfather’s life. He and his wife JuNelle dove deep into Dr. G.W. Hoxsey’s history, retracing his footsteps across the country and scouring old Echo publications and city council meeting notes dating back to 1906.

“It's just rich in information, and you don't get that kind of information on just anybody,” said JuNelle.

Through his research, Dr. Fitzgerald learned about his great-grandfather’s 40 years in Leavenworth, spending much of it as the only doctor between Wenatchee and Everett. He treated trauma injuries caused by mining, milling, and train accidents, as well as bar fights, rock slides, and avalanches. He also treated diseases such as diphtheria and smallpox. 

“There was no HIPAA back then, so you could read about all those patients that he had in the [Echo]. I have a nice kind of list of patients that he took care of,” said Dr. Fitzgerald.

Dr. G.W. Hoxsey also served on the first city council, became Leavenworth’s second mayor, and worked as the Chelan County Coroner. He was an influential responder to the Wellington Disaster, an avalanche that killed 96 people in 1910. He married Ida Mae Wilson and had three sons.

Recently, the Fitzgeralds visited the mansion of JJ Hill, the first president of the Great Northern Railroad, in St. Paul, Minnesota. In Hill’s house, they found Dr. G.W. Hoxsey in a photo of Hill’s 74th birthday with the Great Northern Veterans Association. They obtained a copy and presented it to the GLM, along with some of the doctor’s medical tools, over the weekend.

Dr. Fitzgerald and his family spent their reunion exploring Dr. G.W. Hoxsey’s legacy in the area. They discovered Hoxsey and Ida Creeks, which feed into Icicle Creek, traveled up to Iron Goat Trail to retrace the events of the Wellington Disaster and revisited items donated to the GLM over the years.

This year, they honored the recent passing of James Hoxsey, who was interred at the Old North Road Cemetery, alongside family members dating back to Dr. G.W. Hoxsey and Ida Mae Hoxsey.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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