February 11, 2017
Travel south from Grangeville on the White Bird grade and at the bottom you will find a tiny, but historic community. Just off Highway 95 is the White Bird community, just a stone’s throw from the site of the White Bird battlefield.
If you make a trek to White Bird, and you have a penchant for antiques, the place to stop would be White Bird Antique Store. Located at 170 River Street, the business is really a relic from the past itself.
Pat and Bruce Ringsmith own the buildings, but it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the home and drugstore of Dr. Wilson Foskett. Long gone, practicing medicine over 100 years old, the story of Dr. Foskett and his unique facility remain.
Suzanne Julin, public historian, wrote the history of the Foskett family and their home and drugstore in a narrative application to the National Register of Historic Places. Julin sent the application in June of 2004 and listed herself as a Montana resident at the time.
The following is a synopsis of her research.
Wilson Abner Foskett was born in 1870 at Warsaw, New York, she wrote. He attended Rush Medical School in Chicago, graduating in 1897, and by 1899 he was practicing in the community of White Bird. While boarding at the local hotel, operated by Francis and Mary Margaret Taylor, the doctor met his future wife, Loris Taylor.
Loris was the daughter of the inn keepers and the pair married the first Sunday of November, 1902, in her parent’s home. The couple’s first child, Lawrence, was born in 1903, to be followed by Erna in 1907 and Andy in 1912.
The house was constructed in 1902, and the newlyweds moved in directly. Until about 1914, Dr. Foskett was operating out of the home. At that time, the drugstore was constructed about 70 feet from the south of the home. Dr. Foskett had an office at the rear of the building where he saw patients.
Being a rural doctor meant Dr. Foskett not only practiced from his office, but also traveled to his patients as well. For many years, he traveled by horseback and at times by buggy. With the advent of automobile travel, making house calls could be expedited, but not necessarily easier.
On April 13, 1924, Dr. Foskett left home to deliver a baby at the Louis Reeves ranch near Riggins. The doctor worked a long night before making his return home. Unfortunately, it’s believed the doctor fell asleep at the wheel as he was found the next morning on the bank of the river. His car had gone off the embankment and plunged into the Salmon River.
Around 1926, the drugstore was moved to sit adjacent to the home and a passage was built between the two structures. Because Loris was no longer qualified to serve as a pharmacist, she converted the drugstore to a confectionary and soda fountain.
In 1929, Loris remarried to Fred Otto, a man who had been boarding in the home. He helped remodel the home to better serve as a boardinghouse. By 1942, the couple sold the structures and moved to Spokane.
The home is built in Late Victorian architectural style with Queen Anne accents. According to the narrative, the storefront is “almost completely original.”
If you would like to visit this treasure from the past, it is open between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturdays. Or call the owners at 839-2619 to arrange a visit. Messages can be left at 839-2258.
Laurie Chapman writes about the people, places and events bringing the prairie to life in the weekly blog, Prairie Pulse. If you have suggestion, contact Laurie by email at lchapman@idahocounty freepress.com or by phone at 208-983-1200.