Biography of Dr. Alden H. Steele

DR. ALDEN H. STEELE. – “Olympia will always be a place for pleasant homes,” says one of her citizens well qualified to render an opinion, – the gentleman whose name appears above. The wide streets, magnificent shade-trees and comfortable residences of the capital of Washington Territory, together with her delightful climate, an extensive view of water and mountains, fully justify the remark; and no place could have a more pleasant recommendation. The Doctor has also examined the facilities of the place for a naval station, and finds that the location is most desirable from the following particulars: Safe anchorage and good harbor; ease of defense; abundance of coal, iron and ship timber; opportunity for a fresh-water dock and basin at small cost at Priest’s Point; ease of communication; and advantage of tide.

Doctor Steele, whose presence as a resident contributes much towards the pleasantness of Olympia, is a native of New York State, having been born in 1823 at Oswego, where his father had long been a successful merchant. At the age of twenty our subject graduated from the medical department of the University of New York, and also from the office of Doctor James R. Woods, the distinguished professor of surgery. The first practice of the young physician was at Oswego, new York; but in 1849, in company with the mounted riflemen under Lieutenant-Colonel Loring, he crossed the plains to Oregon and stopped at Vancouver, where he practiced his profession four years.

In 1854 he was united in marriage to Miss Hannah H. Blackler, of Marblehead, Massachusetts. Her grandfather was a captain in the war of the Revolution, and had command of the flotilla with which Washington crossed the Delaware. Of their two children, their daughter Fannie is now living, and is the wife of General Ross O’Brien.

After leaving Vancouver, the Doctor made his home at Oregon City, practicing his profession and serving in public positions. For eleven years he was either councilman, recorder or mayor, and left the latter office only because he declined to be longer a candidate. For a few months in 1857 he was with General Palmer on the Grande Ronde Indian Reservation, and there, as at Oregon City, had much influence with the red men. He used to doctor the Indians at the falls, and for his success in this line was sometimes called upon by the Indian men or women to quiet their whisky rows, and would often go into the camps even in the midst of turbulent affrays, while the excited savages were shouting and stabbing, and take away their liquors and break the bottles on the rocks.

In 1863 he entered the service of the government as physician at The Dalles; and there, and at Fort Stevens, and at Fort Steilacoom, was surgeon until 1868, when he resigned and came to Olympia. His life there has also been largely occupied in public duties. he was two years in the council, two years regent of the Territorial University, by appointment of Governor Ferry, and six years medical inspector of the Washington penitentiary and army. Since 1873 he has been examining surgeon for pensions. In 1852 the Doctor administered chloroform in amputating a limb at the thigh- the first used in surgery north of San Francisco.


History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington. 2 v. Portland, Oregon: North Pacific History Company. 1889.

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