Dr. Victor Capron, The Traveling Physician

The Doctor Is In

From lepers in Honolulu to brain surgery in Friday Harbor, Dr. Capron led an adventurous life.

One of the first prominent physicians to call San Juan Island his home was Dr. Victor Capron. Born in New York in 1868, Capron moved to Port Townsend. He later moved to Hawaii as a government physician where he worked with leprosy patients, became an expert in tropical diseases, and even started his own coffee company. In 1895, during an outbreak of Cholera in Hawaii, Capron and the deputy sheriff combined forces to create a quarantine, helping prevent the disease from reaching the Kau district where Capron served. After a horse riding accident, Dr. Capron moved back to the Pacific Northwest. He arrived at San Juan Island in 1896 where he opened his practice in Friday Harbor while also working at Roche Harbor Lime Company as the Company's physician.

Dr. Capron brought several new technologies and advancements to San Juan Island. He launched the first telephone service on the island, with eight customers, in 1901. The service soon rose to thirty just a few years later. When the only source of electricity, the San Juan Lumber Company’s sawmill, burned down in 1911 Dr. Capron jury-rigged his car wheel to power a portable X-ray machine. According to local newspapers, Capron even performed brain surgery in his office in Friday Harbor with just the assistance of his nurses. In 1911, the Friday Harbor Hospital opened under the supervision of Dr. Capron and several other local doctors. According to The San Juan Islander, Dr. Capron and others furnished the town’s hospital with their own money rather than relying on donations.

When not practicing medicine, Dr. Capron also served as Friday Harbor's mayor twice, then as a Washington state representative first from 1913-1917, and again from 1923-1927. At the same time, Capron served on Washington’s State Board of Health. He also owned 1,800 acres of land that he divided into 3 dairies and a sheep farm, along with a creamery located in Friday Harbor. Victor and his wife, Fanny, raised a son and daughter on San Juan Island, along with two young nieces. Between practicing medicine, working for the government, farming, and raising a family there was rarely a dull moment in Dr. Capron’s life on the island. His industrious nature exemplifies the spirit of life on the San Juan Islands. Both determined and resourceful, Dr. Capron always found a way to overcome obstacles and thrive.