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As It Was: Doctor Forgoes Retirement to Meet Gold Beach Needs

Seeking retirement, Dr. Wilbur Cartwright came to Gold Beach, Ore., in 1930.  Instead, when the area’s only doctor quit, Cartwright spent the next 30 years actively practicing medicine.

Cartwright covered the entire South Coast from Brookings to Port Orford, navigating poor roads, bad weather and long distances to treat the sick and victims of accidents and violence.

He chartered a boat up the Rogue River once a month to serve the Agness community clinic.  From there, he would travel by foot or horseback to make house calls on people confined to their homes.

During his 30-year span of service, Cartwright cared for three and four-family generations, sometimes simultaneously.  He also participated in several civic committees and treated animals on occasion.

In 1935, he promoted building a new hospital where birthing services were $47.50, including a $5  doctor’s fee -- the present-day equivalent total of $891.

When he finally retired in 1961, it was stated at a testimonial dinner in his honor that he had assisted at the birth of “around 2,000” babies.

Dr. Cartwright died in 1968 at age 90.

Sources: Schroeder, Walt. Characters, Legends and Mysteries of Curry County, Oregon. Curry County Historical Society Press, 2007, pp. 88-90; "Dr. W.A. Cartwright Announces His Retirement." Curry County Reporter -, 19 Jan. 1961.

Laurel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Geography from Humboldt State. Her research efforts as a volunteer for the Curry Historical Society produced numerous newsletter articles and exhibits and earned her a reputation as a seasoned local history buff. Laurel is the author of "Renderings from the Gold Beach Pioneer Cemetery", a 50-page booklet containing a walking tour and snippets about the lives and times of folks buried there. She is also a contributing writer to Oregon Coast Magazine.