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Curtis Eriksmoen, Published October 02 2011

Eriksmoen: Doctor responsible for early Valley City growth

The man considered most responsible for the early growth of Valley City was also “the first physician to settle in North Dakota west of the Missouri River.”

Dr. Henry W. Coe became Teddy Roosevelt’s physician in 1884, and the two became close friends. In 1924, out of respect and admiration for his deceased companion, Coe commissioned statues to be made of Roosevelt as a Roughrider and donated the statues to the cities of Minot, Mandan and Portland, Ore.

Coe was born Nov. 4, 1857, in Waupon, Wis., to Dr. Samuel Buell Coe and Mary Jane (Cronkhite) Coe. The family moved in 1860 to Morristown, in southwestern Minnesota, where Samuel Coe served as county coroner, superintendent of the county board of health, and legislator. In 1878, he purchased the Morristown Messenger newspaper.

Henry Coe attended the local schools and, after graduation, enrolled at the University of Minnesota. He also worked with his father, learning the medical profession and newspaper business.

Charles F. Kindred, chief land clerk for the Northern Pacific Railroad, persuaded the Coes to move to Valley City and start a newspaper. The NP had reached Valley City in 1872, but the town experienced little growth. The railroad loaded up the press of the Messenger and freighted it to Valley City.

With Henry as publisher and Samuel as editor, they began printing the Northern Pacific Times on May 12, 1879, the first newspaper in Valley City. Copies were sent East and “within months” settlers began arriving.

Henry turned over running the paper to his father so he could finish his medical education. He graduated from Long Island College Hospital in July 1880 and moved to Mandan, N.D., where he was employed by the NP to provide medical care for the railway’s construction crews. Henry was appointed city clerk of Mandan on May 3, 1881, and later that year was elected to the city’s first school board. In 1882, he married Viola Boley.

Henry ended his contract with the NP in 1883 and established a private medical practice. He was elected mayor of Mandan in 1884, serving for four years. That was also the year he met Roosevelt, who came to Dakota Territory to try to regain his health.

In 1884, a new Dakota Territory legislative district was created west of the Missouri River. Coe was elected to the House, becoming the first legislator west of the Missouri River in the northern half of the territory.

Henry Coe is credited with helping save the cattle industry in western Dakota Territory in 1886. Oliver County cattlemen informed him that a number of their herd had become very ill. He investigated and diagnosed the illness as “pleura-pneumonia, a virulent infectious disease. He ordered that the infected cattle be quarantined and then telegraphed his findings to Dr. Edward Darrow in Fargo, superintendent of health for Dakota Territory. Darrow ordered the diseased cattle to be killed, burned and buried. The two ranchers who quickly volunteered financial assistance to Coe to implement these measures were the Marquis De Mores and Roosevelt.

After North Dakota became a state in 1889, the North Dakota Medical Association was organized in Jamestown on May 27, 1890. At the organizational meeting, Coe was elected president. He was becoming more interested in treating “nervous and mental diseases,” and decided to move to a more populated area. In 1891 the Coes relocated to Portland, Ore.

When Coe arrived in Portland, he contracted with the government to operate Morningside Hospital, the facility that handled “Alaskan insanity cases.” In 1893, he established The Medical Sentinel, an independent medical magazine. In 1894, Coe was elected to the state Senate in Oregon and later served as president of the city and county medical association. He then was hired as a professor of medicine at Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

In addition to his medical endeavors, Coe began purchasing real estate and establishing banks in eastern Oregon. He also managed western investments for Roosevelt. One of Coe’s business partners was Robert Stanfield, owner of the “world’s largest sheep ranch.” In 1909, the two men joined to create the town of Stanfield in northeastern Oregon.

Coe was deeply saddened when he learned of Roosevelt’s death on Jan. 6, 1919. To pay his respects, Coe contracted with famed sculptor Phimister Proctor to create a bronze “Roughrider” statue of Roosevelt. He donated it to the city of Portland. Coe had a duplicate and a smaller version made that he gave to two cities in North Dakota. On July 2, 1924, the smaller statue was dedicated to Mandan in front of the railroad depot on Main Street West. Roosevelt’s widow, Edith, and all five surviving children attended. On Sept. 11, 1924, the larger statue was unveiled in Minot’s Riverside Park. The name of the park was then changed to Roosevelt Park.

Coe died in Glendale, Calif., on Feb. 15, 1927.

“Did You Know That” is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at: cjeriksmoen@cableone.net.