Dr. Henry John Minthorn

Henry John Minthorn was born in Ontario, Canada in 1846 to a Quaker family that had emigrated from England. His parents lived on a dairy farm, and like many youngsters, he disliked the regimented work required. In 1859, the family moved to West Branch, Iowa, and joined the Quaker community. During the years before the Civil War, Quakers, including Minthorn, were active in helping slaves escape to freedom in the North via the Underground Railroad. 

Minthorn entered the State University of Iowa in the early 1860s planning to be a teacher. When Union Army Recruiters arrived on campus, he and his schoolmates joined. He served less than a year, did not see battle, and was discharged in November 1865. Minthorn’s choice to join the army is unique because Quakers are traditionally avowed pacifists. After his dismissal from the Army, Minthorn completed his education and went on to teach in Iowa and Michigan. In 1873, he entered medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1877. Throughout the rest of his life, he combined teaching and medical practice. Physicians, especially rural physicians, needed a second profession to make a living because many patients were unable to pay cash for care.

Minthorn became a government agency physician and school administrator, traveling to Oklahoma and Oregon. Then, in September 1885, he and his family moved to Newberg so he could become the first superintendent of the recently established Friends Pacific Academy, the forerunner of today’s George Fox University. He also served as a local physician to the community and areas surrounding Newberg, Oregon.

When the Minthorns moved to Newberg, they asked their relatives to send Bert to come from Iowa to live with them and attend the Friends Pacific Academy. Uncle Henry was stern, demanding, and inflexible in young Hoover’s eyes. 

The Minthorns moved to Salem in 1888 where Dr. Minthorn operated the Oregon Land Company. After it failed in 1893, Dr. Minthorn traveled and worked in Alaska as a physician and teacher. Dr. Minthorn died in Portland, Oregon October 11, 1922. Herbert Hoover’s adolescent difficulties with his Uncle John were resolved by the wisdom of age. He later ascribed the attributes of commitment, principles, and intellect to the lessons learned from his stern uncle. He noted in his memories that “adolescent impressions are not of historical importance.” When he dedicated the Hoover-Minthorn House, Hoover declared it was a testament to rural physicians, and a legacy to Dr. Henry J. Minthorn, a Quaker, rural physician, and teacher.