Dr. Horace Wrinch
Dr. Horace C. Wrinch and his wife Alice arrived in Hazelton in 1902. Dr. Wrinch’s first practice was operated out of their home, with Alice serving as his nurse and assistant. They opened the Bulkley Valley's first hospital in Hazelton in 1904. This facility had 20 patient beds, an adjacent doctor's residence, and space for a nurse training program. It served Smithers as well as Hazelton until 1920.
Dr. Wrinch was instrumental in slowing the spread of Spanish Flu throughout the region in 1918 by implementing a quarantine, shutting down churches, schools, and public gatherings, and treating over 200 patients over the course of a few weeks. Perhaps most crucially, it was through his efforts that an "anti-influenza serum" was finally brought to the Valley. After unsuccessfully seeking help from the provincial health department, he contacted a Dr. Ferrier who was on his way to the region and through him was able to get hold of a supply of serum from Winnipeg. This marked the turning point of the epidemic in Smithers and Hazelton. The Omineca Herald happily reported on November 15th 1918 that "At the time of writing not a case has developed among those treated. Thus far it has been very successful."
The community's appreciation for Dr. Winch is demonstrated in a newspaper article published towards the end of the crisis:
"We have heard in the past of super-men but have not come across many, especially the kind whose ambition in life is to administer to the sufferings of humanity. During the epidemic of influenza which visited this community Dr. H. C. Wrinch proved himself one of those super-men, yet no one went about his work so calmly and efficiently.”
- Omineca Herald, November 22nd 1918
Dr. Cecil Hankinson
In spite of Dr. Wrinch's efforts, the Spanish Flu epidemic highlighted how badly Smithers needed its own doctor. The Smithers Citizens Association worked diligently to recruit one in the aftermath of the outbreak, sending newspaper advertisements to larger cities across Canada.
Smithers’ first permanent medical practitioner was McGill University graduate Dr. Cecil Hazen Hankinson, who arrived in July 1919 with his wife Lucretia Sangster Hankinson. He had received honours in medicine, pathology, gynecology and obstetrics, worked at the Children's Memorial Hospital in Montreal, and served as an assistant surgeon along the E.D. & B.C. Railway. Hankinson established his practice in the offices above J. Mason Adams’ Drugstore at the corner of Second Avenue and Main Street. The building still stands today, and is the current home of Central Square Medical Clinic.
To the left is a letter written by Hankinson (then living and working in Montreal) to a Mr. Charles Reid of Smithers, requesting further information about his potential employment as the town's first doctor. It reads:
Your letter of recent date to the registrar of the faculty of medicine came to my attention today.
I would like to know full particulars regarding the population, territory served, the hospital accommodations, the number of railroad employees, whether one can secure an appointment as divisional surgeon for the G.T.P. [Grand Trunk Pacific Railway.]
My experience during the construction of the above line as far as Prince George, and the past 4 years with the E.D. & B.C. Railway from Edmonton north, particularly qualifies me for railroad terminal work. Any recommendations or information you may require can be secured from Mr. R.M. Halpenny, Superintendent of G.T.P.
Trusting that you can supply the necessary information as early as possible. I remain yours truly, Cecil Hazen Hankinson."
J. Mason Adams
J. Mason Adams, originally from Dryden, Ontario, had already established drugstores in Hazelton and Telkwa by 1911. A man of vision, he determined that Main and Second Avenue would become the centre of the new community of Smithers. His business began in a tent on that corner in 1913, and within a few months a two-story building was constructed.
After a fire destroyed his Telkwa store in 1914, Adams centered his interests in Smithers, building a successful store that sold not just medicines but also everything from cameras to candy to magazines.
In addition to his role as druggist, Adams also served on the Smithers Citizens Association, which managed the town’s affairs prior to village status, and also served as Smithers’ post master from 1913-1914 and 1917-1928. The Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 must have been a particularly busy time for him.