Boise Public Library's West Boise branch, located near the corner of Cole and Ustick roads, will be four years old on June 30. It is a state-of-the-art facility with a large patronage and resources and activities for people of all ages. Today we will tell the story of one of the men for whom it is named.
As part of the continuing celebration of Idaho and Boise's 150th birthdays, my recent presentation at the library was designed to answer the question, "Who were Cole and Ustick?" These men, for whom two important roads, a school, a town and the library are named, were Boise pioneers who had interesting careers.
Where does one go to find biographies of Idaho pioneers? The first place was in the subscription histories in my own library. Subscription histories were largely financed by people who paid to have their biographies included. Orric Cole was in a history published in 1914 and Harlan P. Ustick in one published in 1899.
Dr. Ustick's story appeared in a massive, beautifully bound 1899 "Illustrated History of Idaho." As is typical of subscription histories, the language is fulsome, intended to flatter the subject who had paid for it. His leads off with, "The medical profession in Boise is ably represented by Dr. Harlan Page Ustick, a prominent homeopathic physician, who was born in Fayette County, Ohio, on the 26th of November, 1848." A description of Dr. Ustick's ancestry follows, tracing the family's origins to France. The doctor's mother was Mary Stewart, "a native of Maryland and a descendent of the royal house of Stuart of England." Of his father, we are told that "his life was actuated by noble principles and characterized by kindly deeds."
Harlan was the youngest of 13 children. After graduation from Miami University in Ohio in 1870, he became a student of a branch of medicine known as homeopathy at Hahnemann College in Philadelphia. He moved west to Portland in 1892 and soon after came to Boise, "where he opened an office and was soon in the enjoyment of a large and lucrative business." The use of the expression "lucrative business" foretells Ustick's lifelong pursuit of success in one business venture after another. He bought an 80-acre fruit farm west of Boise and took an active interest in horticulture. After the Idaho Horticultural Society was formed in 1895, he became an active member and in 1899 was its secretary. In 1905 the Medical Sentinel, a professional journal, reported that, "Dr. H.P. Ustick, of Boise, worked during his vacation at his farm packing prunes."
Ustick's talents as an entrepreneur came to fruition in 1907. That year he platted the town of Ustick and started the Boise Valley Railway Co., an electric line that when completed ran from Boise to Meridian and Nampa. The Electric Traction Weekly reported from Nampa on Nov. 28, 1908, that, "Work is progressing rapidly on the line of the Boise Valley Railway Company from this place to Boise." The line would connect with Walter E. Pierce's interurban electric line that ran out State Street through Eagle, Star and Middleton to Caldwell. Also in 1908, Dr. Ustick became founder and president of the First Bank of Ustick - a venture that closed in 1912. The building is still standing there, along with several others of the period, including Dr. Ustick's house.
The Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy noted in 1909 that "Dr. H.P. Ustick of Boise and his wife will start on a tour of the world Jan. 1, 1910." (Thanks to the marvels of the Internet, I was able to find that the Usticks sailed on the ocean liner Cleveland of the Hamburg America Line, with even a picture of it.) Obviously, Dr. Ustick had prospered and could afford a monthlong trip on one of the luxury liners of its day. The same issue of the journal reported, "The Auxiliary Committee of the Council of Medical Education for Idaho are: Dr. H.P. Ustick of Boise; Dr. S.A. Rice, and H.M. Halvorson of Boise. Dr. George Collister of Boise is dean of the profession in Idaho, having been here 28 years."
Harlan P. Ustick died as he had lived, apparently still pursuing a profitable business venture. The Idaho Statesman reported on Sept. 28, 1917, that the doctor had died of a heart attack at the Cinnabar mine near Yellow Pine.
Next week we'll tell the story of Orric Cole.
Arthur Hart writes this column on Idaho history for the Idaho Statesman each Sunday. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.