Saturday, August 13, 2011


1892 Paul Snelgrove Richards 1958
By Eugene H. Halverson

Doctor Paul Richards
There was no one more respected in a mining town than the doctor.  In every mining town I visited they were the ones who demanded from the companies better care and treatment of the employee’s and their families.  Doctor Paul Richards was a giant even among these men.  My mother thought so much of him she named my brother Paul after him.  He was the doctor for the US Mine and that made him our doctor.  The ball had been broken off my thigh and the nerve was damaged.   He refused to cut my leg off as was the practice in those days.  They didn’t pin the bones together as they do now either.  I lay in sandbags with traction until the bones healed themselves.  The nerves took much longer.

I remember him as a great civic and Scout leader who did so many things for the community.  Now I find he was also a Mormon.  His grandfather, Dr. Willard Richards survived the mob attack at the Carthage Jail where Prophet Joseph Smith was killed.  His father Willard Brigham Smith was born In Winter Quarters during the Mormon trek to the Utah Territory.  They lived on an 18 acre lot 1935 South and 900 East.  He received his medical degree from Harvard and served as a physician in my home-town of Bingham Canyon. 

Paul was sensitive to pain and suffering of children.  I believe it was because he too suffered so much as a child.  I learned a lot more about him from the writings of Eric Swedin.  That he was often sick with inflammatory rheumatism.  He also had an “inferiority complex” compounded by depression causing him stammered when he talked.  He was very sick when he was called by the LDS Church to go on a mission to Scotland.  This was before he finished High School.  In the mission he had to speak often and in time overcame his stammering but while there he caught diphtheria.  He weighed less than a hundred pounds when he was carried on the Lusitania and taken home.  (sunk two years later by a German submarine) 

He entered Harvard before obtaining his bachelor’s degree.  Finishing with high honors he trained to be a women’s doctor.  As he experimented with radium he developed new treatments for cancer but not with out “burning his hands”.  In later life cancer from radiation caused him much pain and suffering and many operations.

When he came to Bingham in 1922 the hospital was no more than a first aid station and a dirty one at that.  At that time all surgeries were performed in Salt Lake City.  Within a few days many operations were soon performed.  As the community gained confidence in him the hospital grew and he was accepted into the towns activities.  He fondly remembers being invited into different Serbian homes for Christmas.  His wife and children came to Bingham in 1925.  The hospital grew from five employees to 76 with five doctors.

With a town population near 20,000 and an open sewer running through it Bingham had many diseases.  He organized immunization campaigns for typhoid fever, smallpox, and diphtheria.  Then he began giving “tonsillectomies en masse”, 30 or more a day. 

Noticing that a great number of his patients suffered from silicosis-related tuberculosis he used his standing in the community to encourage mine owners to improve, sanitation, ventilation and the wetting down of mine dust and to show them advantages of mine safety.   The designing and wearing of safety hats and glasses. His daughter, Lenore said, “He was going to be a ladies doctor and woke up being the miners savior.”  I know he was my Savior and was to many others like me but when some of his experiments failed he was cursed as well.  The many mine accidents gave him many opportunities to practice rehabilitative surgery.  He was one of the first in the country and maybe the world to perform disc operations on the back.  Doctors from everywhere came to his hospital to learn his methods.   He was loved or cursed depending on how successful the operation turned out.

Parts taken from the Utah Historical Quarterly Winter 2001 by E.G. Swedin

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