Dr. Edmund Marburg Rininger
This is the story of a busy and a useful life, a story of work, strenuous work, in preparing for the active duties of a profession dedicated to humanity, and the practice
of the profession after surmounting the obstacles that lay in the way of the acquirement of the prerequisite knowledge. A busy life is necessarily an eventful one.
It is filled with action, with shifting scenes and changing colors. These scenes depict
"enterprise of great pith and moment," and reveal the possibilities of human
achievement, the success that waits on purpose and effort. No matter what the line of
endeavor, whether it be high or humble, work is the only method of accomplishing the end.
"There is no royal road to success," and the story of Dr. Rininger's life is a lesson
for ambitious young men whose environment is a bar to their hopes.
Born in the little town of Schellsburg, Pa., March 7, 1870, of Pennsylvania Dutch parents in whose veins was an infusion of Celtic and Gaelic blood, he inherited
the robust physique that belonged to his Dutch ancestors, their persistence and will,
together with the quick perception, discernment and intuition of the Celt and the unflagging industry of the Scot. His father was a cabinet maker who moved to Kansas and
engaged in farming, and two years later, in 1876, removed in a prairie schooner to
Ohio. Most of the boyhood days of Dr. Rininger were spent on a farm near Tiro,
Ohio, where he obtained a common school education. When a mere youth he taught
school during winters, and with the money thus earned attended the summer terms of
the O. N. U. at Ada, Ohio. After three years of this kind of work he attained his
majority. During this period he was ambitious to go to West Point, and tried to get
the appointment. General Sherman interceded for him. Dr. Rininger's father was a
veteran of the civil war, aand had been a non-commissioned officer in Sherman's army.
The young aspirant for a cadetship worked hard and faithfully to prepare for the
examination and felt confident of his ability to win in the contest, but politics instead of
merit determined the selection.
When this road was closed he made up his mind to be a doctor, and began the study of medicine in the office of Dr. Hatfield, of Crestline, Ohio. From May until
October, 1891, he worked with all his zeal and industry in Dr. Hatfield's office. He
then entered the Ohio Medical College, which he attended for a year, during which
time he was a student under Prof. Tom Hayes. He then went to the Marion Sims Medical College of St. Louis, where he did as Alexander Hamilton did when he came from the West Indies to the Colonies to be educated: requested the privilege of
graduating as soon as he could pass the examination. This was granted, and by arising at 7 in the morning and working until 2 A. M. he was able to finish a three years'
course in two years, receiving at graduation next to the highest honor in a class of eighty-two
students. During this period of hard work he received great assistance from Prof.
Given Campbell, by whom he was drilled and coached. After graduating, the position
of assistant to the chair of Bacteriology and Physiological Chemistry was tendered him.
He went home on a visit, got the opportunity to take a doctor's practice in New
Washington, a neighboring town, and settled down to his life work. By 1896 he had
paid off his school debts and accumulated a little money, and he started west with the
intention of locating in some live mining camp. He traveled until 1897, and at one time
thought of locating in Salt Lake. He passed the examination of the State Medical
Board of Utah, and opened an office, but went to California a few months later.
Attracted by the Klondike boom he started for Dawson, but too late to get in that season, 1897. He stopped in Douglass, and here conceived the idea of opening
an hospital at Sheep Camp on the Dyea Trail. He foresaw the congested condition
of travel, the hardships, illness and accidents which would beset this trail the next spring
when the eager gold seekers, ignorant of the trials that confronted them, would make a
rush for the northern gold fields. He put up a drug store, erected an hospital that
contained twelve beds, and hired two trained nurses. The history of the trials and suffering on the Dyea trail in 1898 has never been written. There was an epidemic of
cerebro spinal menengitis and typhoid pneumonia, and many accidents. A great
snowslide two miles above Sheep Camp killed fifty-six people. There were hundreds of weary,
heart-sick travelers, whose malady could not be reached by medicines. Dr. Rininger's
hospital accommodations were inadequate. Not more than twenty per cent, of the ailing
could be received at the hospital, but the doctor never failed to respond to a call if it
were possible to attend. Day and night, from February 1 to June 1, he was busy,
much of the time on horseback, between Lake Lindeman and Dyea, a distance of twenty-five miles. Mrs. Rininger was with him, assisting him in his work.
When the army of gold hunters had passed over the trail, leaving their dead buried
by the way, Dr. and Mrs. Rininger went to Lake Lindeman, built a boat and followed
the procession to Dawson. As the Canadian laws would not permit him to practice his
profession he turned his attention to mining. In partnership with A. S. Kerry he
worked with a large force of men on No. 1 I above Bonanza, and operated successfully
the first steam thawing plant with points in the Klondike country, the thawer being an
invention of a miner by name of Van Meter. During this winter he operated on Gold
Bottom, Quartz and Hunker Creeks, but as he did not find mining profitable he decided to go to Nome.
He arrived in Nome September 20, 1899, bringing with him a supply of drugs obtained in Dawson aand St. Michael, and opened the Pioneer Drug Store, the first in
the town. He began the practice of medicine, and the demands for his services have
kept him busy ever since, except the time he has spent in the states. At the close of
navigation in 1900 he was appointed by public mass meeting as one of three delegates
to Washington to place before Congress the need of better laws for Alaska. Sam
Knight and Capt. G. B. Baldwin were the other members of this committee. Dr. Rininger was instrumental in having a bill appropriating $25,000 for the care of the
indigent sick of Alaska introduced in the Senate. It passed the Senate, but was killed
in the House. Dr. Rininger spent a month in Washington trying to secure the passage
of this bill. His experience in Alaska had shown him the dire need of such a measure.
While in Nome the Chamber of Commerce had raised $3,000, and placed it in his
hands to provide means for the care of unfortunates who were ill and without means,
and it was apparent to all Alaskans that the Government should relieve our citizens of
the great burden of private charity, which humanity, in the absence of Government aid,
demanded that they should carry.
Dr. Rininger went from Washington to New York, and took a post graduate course, which was the primary object of his trip to the states. The following springhe brought his family to Nome with him, his wife having gone out from Dawson in the
spring of '99. In the early part of the season of 1 902 he established an hospital in
Nome, and turned it over to the Sisters of Charity later in the season when they arrived in Nome. This institution is now known as the Holy Cross Hospital. He went
to the states in 1903. and spent the winter in New York, doing laboratory and clinical
work. Returning the following spring, he resumed his practice. In the fall of 1904
Dr. Rininger left Nome, and located in Seattle, where he purchased a pretty home. He
fitted up offices in the Alaska Building. These offices are splendidly equipped.
July 11,1893, Dr. Rininger and Miss Nellie Powers were married at Tiro, Ohio.
They have one child, Dorothy Helen, born February 2, 1900. Dr. Rininger is a big man, physically and mentally, possessing a strong and magnetic personality, native
ability and the genius of industry. With all the work he has done and is doing, he
finds time to acquire and absorb the newest ideas pertaining to his profession.
Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by
E. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.