By Clark Fair
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In Part One, full-time Seward physician John Albert Baughman accepted a 1913 gubernatorial appointment to become the chief game warden of the entire Kenai Peninsula. The rigors of neither job were always smooth.
In addition to investigating alleged law-breakers and traveling the peninsula to observe the levels of game and the actions of hunters, Dr. John A. Baughman also filed a lot of paperwork.
Governors of the territory received from the doctor a fairly steady stream of reports and other correspondence. He kept officials up to date on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of game regulations, on annual harvest rates, on law-abiding hunters and not-so-law-abiding ones, on hunting guides who did good work and on those he believed deserved to lose their jobs.
Much of his official correspondence was blunt and to the point, like man unaccustomed to having his word questioned. His writing also occasionally revealed his own biases, some of which echoed the beliefs of the day but might today be deemed inappropriate, insensitive or offensive.
“I am opposed to native guides,” he wrote in May 1914, “and the reason that many hunters like to have them is on account of the fact that they will allow a hunter to kill everything that he sees in the hills.”
In the fall of that year, he informed the governor that no local guides should be blamed for any complaints the governor may have received concerning a recent hunt by two wealthy New York doctors. Although the doctors brought home five Dall sheep heads, they were apparently piqued that they had not bagged more game.
According to Baughman, the two men got about all they should have honestly expected: “They had a very successful hunt, considering their inability to travel…. They had a number of good chances at both black and brown bear, but could not hit them…. They cannot mush more than five miles per day and get lame when they try to travel. They were both large men and in no condition physically to hunt.”
In 1915, Baughman rejected the guiding application of Charles R. Emswiler of Seward. He told the governor that Emswiler had killed a moose out of season and then sold the meat on opening day. “Mr. Emsweiler (sic) has also lived off the game of the Kenai Peninsula for the last ten years, and during this time has done no work of any consequence.”
Emswiler did not appreciate Baughman’s candor. He wrote to governor to defend himself.
Emswiler professed his innocence and said, furthermore, that Baughman had never attempted to prosecute him for the moose-killing charge, thereby denying him an opportunity to vindicate himself. The governor passed Emswiler’s accusations on to Baughman, who responded with a detailed refutation in a follow-up letter in mid-November.
In November 1915, Baughman handled an even more sensitive case. A boy named George Brown, who had accidentally shot and killed his own father during a hunting trip a few months earlier, had been accused of killing a cow moose and two calves and leaving their carcasses in the woods. Baughman sailed to Seldovia to investigate. He collected the teen-ager and took him into custody.
In 1920, another complaint to the governor was lodged against Baughman, this time from hunting guide Howard Long: “I have a grievience (sic) against Mr. J.A. Baughman the Warden here in Seward and I hope you will investigate…. Mr. Baughman admitted to a personal dis liken (sic) to me, he has favorites and instead of going out in the game country he gets his information thru local gossip, in a pool hall….”
Baughman, of course, responded. He concluded another letter to the governor with this observation: “I told Mr. Long when he asked what I had against him that I thought he was a slacker, and it was general talk around the gravel pit on the rail. He said it was a lie and asked me to step outside and he would show me.”
Dr. Baughman resigned as warden in 1921 and focused more fully on his life as a physician in Seward. He also served as the city’s elected health officer. In 1924 he opened a private hospital, and he worked with other medical professionals the following year to secure the funds for a city-run hospital.
In 1926, he became a contract surgeon for members of the Signal Corps stationed in Seward, and he also installed a new-fangled therapy device, hailed as a medical breakthrough: a Quartz Mercury Arc Lamp, designed to bathe patients in “therapeutic ultraviolet light.”
For all his successes as a physician and a protector of wild game, Dr. Baughman suffered bad luck in safeguarding many of those closest to him.
In the spring of 1904, Baughman’s son Paul, who had been suffering from kidney problems, died at age 5. Another unnamed son also died early, perhaps as a still-birth. Both boys were interred in a cemetery in Skagway.
In January 1926, his 20-year-old daughter Beatrice, a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, succumbed to spinal meningitis, leaving Baughman’s other daughter, Dorothy, as his only surviving child.
In fact, Dorothy would become the only member of Dr. Baughman’s immediate family to outlive him. She would spend the rest of her long life in Juneau, dying there nearly six decades later.
Dorothy’s mother, Mina, however, had a history of major and minor health concerns stretching back into at least the mid-1910s.
In late October 1914, Mrs. Baughman sailed from Seward to Seattle, where she remained for nearly two full months to “seek surgical treatment,” according to the Juneau Empire. When she passed through Juneau on her way home, the newspaper remarked on her “complete recovery from an old illness.”
In September 1919, Mina Baughman broke her ankle and, as was customary for many in those days, was confined to bed for several weeks.
In January 1929, shortly after moving with her husband to Juneau, Mrs. Baughman, who, according to the Anchorage Daily Times, “had been in ill health for years,” prompted her husband to retire from medicine and accompany her on a trip Outside to visit relatives. A week or so later, in a Chicago hotel, while the doctor slept, his wife died.
After arranging for Mina’s funeral in her home state of Michigan, Dr. Baughman returned to Juneau to live with his daughter and restart his medical career. He was about a month shy of his 73rd birthday.
In 1930, according to Juneau’s Daily Alaska Empire, he “fell on the ice while on one of his hunting and prospecting trips, and injured his thigh.” After the accident, he traveled to California to convalesce and remained there until May 1932, when he again returned to Juneau.
He stopped at the office of the Territorial Board of Medical Examiners so he could renew his medical license, then spent several months in Seward, renewing old acquaintances, visiting friends and practicing a little medicine. After opening a new doctor’s office in Juneau in December 1932, he retired for good the following year.
In 1936, John Baughman became ill enough to be bed-ridden. He remained as such until Thanksgiving Day the following year, when he died at home. At the time of his death, it was believed that Baughman (age 81 years, eight months and 15 days) was the oldest physician in Alaska and the last surviving member of his medical-school class.
When he had prepared to leave Seward eight years earlier, about a hundred Seward residents held a banquet in his honor at the Seward Grill. The Seward Daily Gateway said the celebration “(attests) to the popularity and esteem in which he is held by the citizens of Seward.”
One of the key speakers that December evening was Mayor L.V. Ray, who said, “Of all my many acquaintances in Alaska, I do not know of a man who is held in higher esteem by his fellow man as Dr. Baughman. Almost all of us can recall times when Dr. Baughman has rendered us service.”
The Daily Alaska Empire (of Juneau), in January, noted the banquet and echoed the sentiments of those who had been in attendance: “Dr. Baughman is just 100 per cent all right as a physician, a citizen, a friend and a man.”