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Book profiles pioneer New Denver doctor J.E. Brouse

A new book looks at the life, career — and hand-made boats — of a pioneering New Denver physician.

Henning von Krogh, the president of the Silvery Slocan Historical Society, has just published Early Years: Dr. J.E. Brouse and His Slocan Hospital, which will be launched next month.

Jacob Edwin Brouse came to New Denver in 1895 and opened the community’s first hospital. Two years later he built a new hospital that served the village for more than 80 years.

The book provides an overview of what life was like for a mining town’s sole family doctor in that era.

“In the archives we came across a number of very useful documents such as financial records and different registers, lists of outpatients/inpatients,” von Krogh says. “You get a good idea the types of illnesses and work he was doing.”

No one, it seems, left a good description of Dr. Brouse while he was practising, so von Krogh was left to infer and extrapolate from the types of calls he answered.

“What my book does is give examples of cases he went to,” von Krogh says. “The newspaper would report such-and-such an accident here and Dr. Brouse was called. You get an image of what he was up to and doing.”

Von Krogh also pieced together Brouse’s basic biography.

His book builds on an earlier one published in the 1980s by Dr. J. Brighton, but where that one was 36 pages, von Krogh’s is about 80 and heavily footnoted, as he’s a stickler for citing sources.

While Dr. Brighton had the advantage of speaking to some locals whose parents knew Dr. Brouse, he didn’t have today’s digitized newspapers and other resources that von Krogh was able to tap.

Von Krogh was also able to correct some errors. For example, Dr. Brighton’s book said that Dr. Brouse’s father, also named Dr. Jacob Edwin Brouse, became a senator.

Intrigued, von Krogh looked online at a list of Canadian senators.

“Lo and behold, there is a Dr. Brouse, but it’s not Dr. Jacob Brouse. This Dr. Brouse lived at the same time as Dr. Brouse Sr., and 19 km along the St. Lawrence River from Brockville, where Dr. Jacob Brouse lived.”

It was the other Dr. Brouse, no apparent relation, who was the senator. The mistake shows up in subsequent works, which all relied on the same original source.

Dr. Brouse left New Denver in 1917 and died in 1925, but left several legacies. The hospital he built remained in use until its demolition in the early 1980s, so many people are still around who remember it or were even born in it. On the site was built the present Brouse Lodge, an independent living facility that perpetuates his name.

The community of Brouse, south of Nakusp, was also named for him.

“The story is that when they needed a doctor, Dr. Brouse would come up on the train,” von Krogh explains.

“There wasn’t a road yet and the whistle would blow when Dr. Brouse stopped at this community and through the Knights of Pythias and Masons, when they were naming the community they suggested Brouse.”

When he wasn’t saving lives, Dr. Brouse was also a boat builder.

He built at least three launches, one of which, the Lancet, was constructed in the hospital attic. It was a speedy craft that won races in 1906-07 but eventually ended up derelict on the west side of Slocan Lake.

In the mid-1990s the historical society rescued and restored it. While it’s no longer seaworthy, it is one of the most outstanding outdoor displays at the Silvery Slocan Museum.

Dr. Brouse also built a second boat, the Tonic, for the Kelly family in Silverton, and a third, the XB, for his brother-in-law Frank Crosbie. However, the precise fates of these other vessels is unknown.

Von Krogh says he became interested in Dr. Brouse while researching New Denver’s early buildings for a previous book. As he found more information, he thought it would be a good topic for a separate work, especially since the museum had some nice photographs to illustrate it.

The book sells for $15 and will be launched on Saturday, July 8 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the museum in New Denver. Following the launch copies will be for sale at the museum, and von Krogh says it will probably be available at other locations in New Denver and Nelson as well.

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