Biography of Dr. Edward Backenstose
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





EDWARD BACKENSTOSE, D. V. S. - The distinction of being the oldest veterinary now in active practice in California belongs to Dr. Backenstose, who is well known in Eureka not only as a successful practitioner in his chosen line, but also as a food and sanitary inspector. It seems little less than remarkable that one who was graduated from the New York Veterinary College as early as 1854 should still be engaged in active practice and, notwithstanding the arduous and at times dangerous experiences of the intervening sixty years, should still exhibit the skill characteristic of his earlier days of professional work. During boyhood and youth he saw much of the dark side of life. The death of his parents and his own desolate condition without money or friends made him familiar with sorrow and privation at a time when the majority of boys are care free. He was born at Geneva, Ontario county, N. Y., March 31, 1833, and in 1850 was employed to drive a stage between Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, which places were then still unconnected by any railroad line. Considerable experience in the driving of a stage coach with all of its hardships and frequent dangers gave him a broad knowledge of life. During the years of such work he developed a love for horses and skill in caring for them. Indeed, it became apparent that he was unusually expert in the selection of remedies for the diseases of all animals and he gained a record so enviable that he was sent for in important cases throughout his section of the country. This led eventually to his course of study in the veterinary college and to his selection of the profession as a life calling.

Practice in the southern states, continued uninterruptedly for a period of years, was interrupted when the Civil war began in 1861. The Doctor, then in New Orleans, hurried back to New York City, there to enlist as a veterinary surgeon in Governor Sprague's Rhode Island regiment. While nominally a veterinary, this did not prevent him from taking an active part in every engagement and he fought at Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Antietam and many other battles of strategic importance. His regiment was noted for courage and he was worthy of the command with which he associated. Three times he was wounded in action and to this day he carries a bullet in his body, a memento of that great struggle. During the war he became deeply interested in military tactics and the life of the camp proved so interesting that after he had been honorably discharged he volunteered for service in the regular army. Accepted as a veterinary surgeon in the army, he was assigned to Washington Territory and for fifteen years was stationed at Walla Walla. During this time he served in the Joseph Indian war in Washington and was ordered to Montana, but before his regiment arrived the battle of Little Big Horn had been fought and lost, and it was ordered back to Walla Walla. Finally he resigned from the service and in 1884 came to California, where for seven years he was county veterinary of San Diego county and at the same time built up a large private practice. Since 1892 he has practiced his profession in Eureka, where since 1905 he has served under appointment as food and sanitary inspector and for a number of years also held office as veterinary of Humboldt county. A devoted believer in the principles of Masonry, he was made a Mason in Lake Erie Lodge, A. F. & A. M., in Girard, Pa., in 1860, and is now a member of Humboldt Lodge No. 79, F. & A. M., Humboldt Chapter No. 52, R. A. M., and a charter member of Eureka Commandery No. 35, K. T., and also holds membership in Islam Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S., San Francisco.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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