Beeson, John "J.B.", M.D.
1872-1969 | Physician and Banker
John Bradley "J.B." Beeson was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on October 16, 1872. He was hired by the Alaskan Engineering Commission in 1920 to be chief of staff and chief surgeon at the Alaska Railroad Hospital in Anchorage.1 He had barely settled into his office when he was sent on a mercy mission to Iditarod to save the life of Claude Baker, who had been seriously injured.
On the morning of January 24, 1921, Beeson left Anchorage on a special freight train, accompanied by Bill Corey and his famous setter and husky racing team. The railroad gave them clearance all of the way to end of steel at Broad Pass, and from there Corey took the doctor to Nenana in record time. The first relay out of Nenana was with the "Scurvy Kid," and between Nenana and Iditarod there were seven separate relays. The entire trip, a total of 512 miles from Anchorage, was made in five days and ten hours, a total of 130 hours, almost all without more than an hour or two of sleep between relays. This was the first documented mercy mission by dog team out of Anchorage.2
During his relatively short tenure in Anchorage, John Beeson played an active role in the civic life of the town. In 1921-1922 he helped found the National Bank of Anchorage, of which he was president in 1924. In 1922-1923, he served one term on the Anchorage City Council. He was also president of the Anchorage School Board from 1924 to 1926.3
On September 20, 1898, Beeson married Martha Gerard Ash (1878-1969) in Livingston, Park County, Montana. Little is known about his wife, Martha, who was born in Hannibal, Missouri on May 10, 1878.4 The couple had two sons, Paul and Harold, both of whom became physicians. About 1926, the family left Anchorage for Ketchikan, Alaska. The doctor, his wife and his two sons moved to Wooster, Ohio, where he opened a clinic for a short time.
John Beeson retired in LaJolla, California, where he died in 1969 at the age of ninety-seven. His widow, Martha G. Beeson, died in San Diego, California, on March 24, 1969.
Paul Beeson graduated from Anchorage High School in 1925, and became a distinguished leader in medicine. He was chairman of Medicine at Emory and Yale Medical Schools, Nuffield Professor at Oxford University, and Veterans' Administration Distinguished Physician at the University of Washington. Harold Beeson became the Assistant Medical Director for the Department of State in Washington.
1"Two Hundred and Seventeen Patients Treated at Hospital during January," Alaska Railroad Record, v. 4, no. 16, February 21, 1920, 123; and "Fatal Snow Slide near Mile 76," Alaska Railroad Record, v. 4, no. 26, May 4, 1920, 207, http://siteebrary.com/lib/akstatedash/detail.action?docID=80153197 (accessed April 6, 2016).
2John Beeson file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 1, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.
3Terrence Cole, Banking on Alaska, Vol. 1 (Anchorage, AK: Rasmuson Foundation, 2000), 133; Minutes of Meetings, November 1920-November 1924, Anchorage City Council Minutes, April 1, 1924, Volumes 1,2, November 26, 1920-May 27, 1933 [microfilm edition] Alaska Collection, Z. J. Loussac Library, Anchorage Public Library, Anchorage, AK; Evangeline Atwood, Anchorage: All-American City (Portland, OR: Binford & Mort, 1957), 112; and Helve Enatti, "Anchorage Public Schools, 1915-1951: A Thirty-Six Year School District Development Study," (master's thesis, University of Alaska, 1967), 354.
4Marriage license, John Bradley Beeson and Martha Gerard Ash, September 20, 1898, Livingston, Park County, Montana, Montana County Marriages, 1865-1950 [database on-line], http://ancestry.com (accessed April 3, 2016).
No biographical sketch of Dr. John Beeson was published in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001). See also the John Beeson file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 1, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK. By Mina Jacobs, 2012. Note: slightly edited by Bruce Parham and Walter Van Horn, April 3, 2016.
Preferred citation: Mina Jacobs, “Beeson, John ‘J.B.’, M.D.,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.
Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.