For two years, the small mountain community of Morgan was home to a medical college.
In 1880, papers were filed incorporating the Medical College of Utah in the tiny town of Morgan. For an 80-dollar-a-term tuition bill, students would learn all the newest medical techniques at the hands of Doctor Frederick Kohler. Kohler, who came to Utah from Ohio, was a sort of medical Renaissance man. According to one source, he was as comfortable extracting teeth and preparing the dead for burial as he was setting broken bones and delivering babies.
Of the students that attended the college during its short life was Emeline Grover Rich, the polygamous fifth wife of Mormon Apostle Charles C. Rich. Rich had already gained some renown as a local healer and midwife, but came to Morgan in pursuit of her medical degree. Within four months she had her diploma, and a short time later, she was added as a member of the faculty, specializing in obstetrics.
Rich didn’t have much of an opportunity to teach at the college as it was forced to close its doors after only 2 years of operation. The Salt Lake Herald had gotten wind of the school’s existence and had launched an investigation into its practices with the help of two Salt Lake City medical practitioners. The paper didn’t like what it found and denounced the college. It’s hard to imagine that the Herald’s campaign against Kohler and his school was not in some way influenced by the medical establishment in Utah’s capital city, perhaps put out by the possibility of a medical school operating in a seemingly insignificant town. Yet even though the Herald was finally successful in shutting the Medical College of Utah down, it wasn’t able to erase its legacy. Frederick Kohler, Emeline Rich and others associated with the college continued to practice medicine for years in rural Utah.
Image: Frederick S. Kohler. Kohler started the first medical college of Utah in Morgan in 1880. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See Linda H. Smith, A History of Morgan County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society and Morgan County Commission, 1999), 330 and 344. See also the May 1995 collection of the History Blazer, a joint project of the Utah State Historical Society and the Utah State Centennial Commission. The History Blazer can be found on the Utah History Suite CD available from the Utah State Historical Society.