( Editorial Note: Part 230 of a series of further development in the early days that impacted Franklin County. Sources: Idaho Census records 1920,1930; Franklin County Citizen, 1921; The Oneida Stake, 100 Years of LDS History in Southeast Idaho.)
The Franklin Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) was a new organization in 1921. In the summer of 1920, the Oneida Stake had been divided with all the church wards north on Oneida Street in Preston being part of the original stake. Those wards located south of Oneida Street were included in the new Franklin Stake.
The whole county had been besieged by the Spanish flu for the past several years, 1917-1920 and one of the first large projects undertaken by the officers in this new stake was to assist their families with health care, directed by the new stake Relief Society. During the summer months of 1921 the Franklin Stake employed a community nurse, Miss Anna Esbensen. She held a clinic in each ward of the stake under the direction of the various ward leaders of the Relief Society in each location.
The clinics were open to all residents within the ward boundaries, church membership not required, even though the women helping to staff the clinic were LDS women. There were nine wards to be scheduled.
Miss Esbensen was employed by the state of Idaho, working out of Boise and residing at the Oxford Hotel there. She had migrated to the United States from Denmark, and was in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen of the U.S. She was 47 at this time and spoke Danish as well as English, which made her a good match for this area where so many settlers were of Scandanavian descent. Some local adults only understood and spoke their native tongue.
Clinics were set up at each ward to begin at 10 a. m. from June 21 through July 2. Two wards were large enough to require two mornings, Franklin and Preston First. Mothers were encouraged to bring all of their babies to be weighed, measured, and examined by Miss Esbensen. School age children would be examined for general health conditions, malnutrition, tonsils and adenoids. On the afternoon of the last day, July 2, a Saturday, the nurse would be at the Nielsen Gymnasium to meet with all persons who might have been unable to meet the clinic schedule and to confer with any parents who might have more questions or feel the need for additional aid or advice.
Each location needed to be supplied with certain items, collected by the women of those wards, to await the arrival of the community nurse. Keep in mind that this was a time before a great many modern conveniences would have been available in these ward meetinghouses. The list of supplies: “a wash basin, pitcher for water, table large enough to lay babies on, a blanket, two sheets, towels (paper towels could be used), some chairs for mothers, a secretary to take medical histories of each child, an assistant to the nurse to weigh and measure if too many children were at the gathering.”
Evidently this project was considered a success. After all of the ward clinics had been held the Franklin County Citizen reported that 371 children had been examined and of those 238 were “defective,” while 133 children were without defect, “so far as could be observed.” Those defects seem to have come under the categories of throat, nose, teeth, and nutrition.
The article reported that some of the doctors of the county had been present at most of the clinics, participating in the examinations as well as giving advice to the mothers on “proper care and protection of their children.” The doctors in practice in the county at that time were Dr. Allen Cutler Sr., Dr. Allen Cutler, Jr., Dr. G. W. States, Dr. C. A. Canfield, Dr. T. E. Bettenson, and Dr. Curtis Bland. These doctors encouraged the residents of the county to consider building a hospital, since at this time there were only services from some “home hospitals” available.
Praises were given to Miss Anna Esbensen, calling her ”a good mixer,” and that this quality helped to make friends wherever she worked. She was thorough and careful in her assignment. Putting these qualities together helped her to reach more women and to find the real conditions that existed in the communities that benefited from her visits that summer of 1921.