Biography of Charles W. Shaff, M. D.

Holding marked prestige as a member of the medical profession of Idaho is Dr. Charles W. Shaff, of Lewiston, now the honored president of the State Medical Association. In the learned professions advancement depends upon the man, his talents, his skill and his ambition. The physician’s power is especially his own; not by purchase, by gift or by influence can he gain it. He must commence at the very beginning, learn the very rudiments of medicine and surgery, continually add to this knowledge by close study and earnest application, and gain reputation by merit. If he would gain the highest prominence it must come as the result of superior skill, knowledge and ability, which qualifications are possessed in an eminent degree by Dr. Shaff. He is known throughout the state as one of the most eminent members of the profession in Idaho, and his opinions are widely received as authority.

The life history of such a man is always of profit as well as interest. The Doctor has spent his entire life on the Pacific coast, his birth having occurred in Eldorado County, California, July 6, 1855. During the colonial history of New York his ancestors, natives of Germany, located in the Empire state, and representatives of the family loyally served their country in the Revolutionary war and in the war of 1812. The Doctor’s father, Joseph Shaff, was born in New York and married Miss Betsy Matilda Scott, a native of Vermont, and a descendant of two of the prominent families of the Green Mountain state, the Scotts and the Woods. Some of her ancestors were among the Green Mountain boys who won fame for their daring and gallant conduct in the struggle for independence. The Scott family was founded in America in 1622, a settlement being made on Manhattan Island. The Doctor’s parents were married in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1848, and in 1852 went to California by way of the isthmus route. The father was engaged in mining there until 1857, and the following year removed with his family to Oregon, purchasing a farm near Salem, where he made his home until his death, devoting his energies to agricultural pursuits. He died in 1880, at the age of fifty-nine years, and his wife, now sixty-seven years of age, is still living on the old homestead, near Salem. They had four sons, of whom only two are living.

Dr. Shaff, the second in order of birth, began his education in the common schools, later pursued a three years’ course in the Willamette University, and also took a full course in the Pacific University, at Forest Grove, graduating from the last named institution in the class of 1877. Determining to devote his attention to the practice of medicine, he became a student in the medical department of the Iowa State University, where he was graduated in 1881. Immediately afterward he began the practice of his profession in Brownsville, Oregon, where he remained for two years, but becoming favorably impressed with Lewiston, its location and its prospects, he determined to locate here, and in 1883 opened his office. From the beginning he has met with very marked success, and the volume of his practice is an indication of his ability. He has put forth every effort to perfect himself in his chosen life work, and took a year’s postgraduate work in the New York City Post Graduate School. His careful diagnosis of a case, his comprehensive knowledge of the science of medicine and his marked skill in applying medical principles to the needs of suffering humanity have gained him a foremost place among the representatives of the medical fraternity of Idaho. He enjoys a large practice, which comes from the best families of Lewiston and the surrounding district, and his standing among his professional brethren is shown by the honor conferred upon him by his election to the office of president of the Idaho State Medical Society.

The Doctor is also a prominent and active Mason and Odd Fellow, and is past master in the former organization and past grand in the latter. He has been a lifelong Republican, has served for two terms as regent of the State University, and is now serving his second term as a trustee of the State Normal School. For eight years he has been a member of the school board of Lewiston, and his deep interest in educational matters is shown by his efficient efforts in behalf of the schools, which owe not a little of their progress to his labors and influence.

The Doctor was happily married, in 1888, to Miss Rena M. Poe, the stepdaughter of Judge Poe, a prominent lawyer and citizen of Lewiston. They now have a lovely little daughter, Terressa Louisa. Mrs. Shaff is a lady of great refinement and culture, and a graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music. She has superior talent as a musician, and her accomplishments in that direction form an important feature of many social functions. The Doctor and his wife are both very agreeable, genial people, and have drawn about them a host of warm friends, including Lewiston’s best people.



Illustrated History of the State of Idaho. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company. 1899.

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