Seattle Now & Then: Dr. Jacob Benshoof, 1905

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN1: His buggy pulled by former racehorse Mabel Payne, Dr. Jacob Benshoof pauses in 1905 on hilly Madison Street at Fifth Avenue, backed by Providence Hospital, which operated there in various incarnations from 1877 to 1911. “There were few hospitals then,” Benshoof reflected circa 1976, “and it took forever to get to a real hospital such as Providence.” (Museum of History & Industry)
NOW: At the former Providence Hospital site, a dozen relatives of Dr. Jacob Benshoof stand next to the 2004 downtown Seattle Public Library and before the 1940 William Kenzo Nakamura U.S. Courthouse for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals at the northwest corner of Fifth and Madison. They are (from left): Eric Sprunk, Blair Sprunk, Jill Ashley, Jeff Ashley, Joel Rosas, Blyth Claeys, Bill Benshoof, Dina Skeels, Dylan Skeels, Chris Foster, Bob Benshoof and Bob Foster. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on Jan. 26, 2022
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on Jan. 29, 2023

Busy physician Jacob Benshoof relied on four-hoofed transit
By Clay Eals
Aug. 15, 1907, Seattle Times, p19.

Not yet 2 was tiny Rene Alarie. The evening of Aug. 13, 1907, she played in her South Park backyard as her mother focused on her 4-month-old sister. The tot opened a gate and toddled into the road, where returning to Seattle was a Route 5 streetcar.

The conductor and motorman, not yet aboard, ran to catch the car, but its fender knocked Rene down, and she was seriously injured. Fortunately, she regained consciousness while resting at a neighbor’s home, where she recognized her mom.

“Dr. J.A. Benshoof, the attending physician, believes she has a good chance to recover,” reported The Seattle Times.

THEN2: A portrait of Jacob Benshoof, likely in 1905, when he graduated from Barnes University in St. Louis. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)

With automobiles a blossoming curiosity, the phrase “attending physician” painted a rustic picture 115 years ago. The doctor, Jacob Andrew Benshoof (1882-1979), who began work in South Park two years earlier, reached a wide swath of patients — including uphill in forested White Center, where he was the district’s first doctor — via horse.

“I would start out for some cabin in the woods in the morning, and by the time I got there a neighbor might have sent for me to come on another two or three miles farther to their home,” Benshoof told The Times in 1955 on his 50th anniversary of practice. “I’d go out to some tent or cabin in the timber to care for a woman in childbirth or a man who had been hit by a timber or caught in a saw or shot. Things happened in the timber country in those days.”

THEN3: Dr. Jacob Benshoof is shown circa 1915 with family: (from left) son Allen, daughters Helen and Thelma, wife Neoma and daughters Geraldine and Genevieve. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)

Born and raised in Iowa and trained in St. Louis, the busy Benshoof served as surgeon for the long-gone Meadows Race Track south of Georgetown and as Seattle medical examiner. He also joined the early staff of Providence Hospital and established offices downtown.

And he acquired a car. (He placed a 1910 Times ad to sell his “buggy horse and saddle, sound and gentle; new buggy and harness.”) But while building a family and becoming known as a prolific deliverer of babies, he never lost his early reputation for four-hoofed service, carrying a medical kit and rifle while riding or driving an ex-racehorse named Mabel Payne.

Aug. 16, 1907, Seattle Times, p3.

Two days after Rene Alarie’s streetcar accident, the Times reported that another South Park girl, Helen Taylor, 7, visited a neighbor’s home to get milk.

The neighbor’s chained bulldog startled the girl and bit her as she fell into a hole. A key part of the report:

“Dr. J.A. Benshoof dressed the wounds, and the little girl was removed to her home, where she is now resting easily.”


Special thanks to Dina Skeels of the Benshoof family and to Wendy Malloy of the Museum of History & Industry and streetcar historian Mike Bergman for their invaluable help with this installment!

To see Jean Sherrard‘s 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.

Below are 4 additional photos and, in chronological order, 24 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Young Jacob Benshoof. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
The Benshoof family (clockwise from Jacob): Jacob, Thelma, Clara Neoma (Jacob’s wife), Allen, Helen and Genevieve. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
The Benshoof family (from left) Genevieve, Thelma, Jacob, Clara Neoma (wife of Jacob), Allen, Helen and, in front, Geraldine. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
Jacob Benshoof in later years. (Courtesy Dina Skeels)
May 27, 1906, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
June 17, 1906, Seattle Times, p20.
June 4, 1906, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Aug. 16, 1907, Seattle Times, p1.
May 18, 1908, Seattle Times, p2.
April 29, 1910, Seattle Times, p29.
May 15, 1915, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p1-10.
May 15, 1915, Seattle Times, p1-2.
June 22, 1917, Catholic Progress.
Nov. 12, 1920, Catholic Progress.
July 22, 1917 Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p7.
Nov. 19, 1920, Catholic Progress.
Aug. 11, 1922, Catholic Progress.
Aug. 7, 1922, Seattle Times, p5.
Aug. 11, 1922, Catholic Progress.
Nov. 2, 1923, Catholic Progress.
March 18, 1925, Seattle Times, p16.
June 6, 1930, Seattle Times, p1-4.
June 7, 1930, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p13.
March 13, 1931, Catholic Progress.
May 18, 1955, Seattle Times, p33.
April 3, 1979, Seattle Times, p66.
1979 White Center News.
April 14, 1979, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p37.

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