Pioneer Biographies - W. A. Cusick
Honorable W.A. Cusick, M.D.

Hon. W.A. Cusick, M.D., who has represented his district in the state legislature, and has gained prestige in the practice of medicine and surgery in Oregon, now makes his home in Salem, while for half a century he has resided in the state. His life history began in Illinois, his birth having occurred near Quincy, in that state, March 21, 1839. His parents were Solomon and Maria (Hollembeak) Cusick, the former of Irish and the latter of German descent. Representatives of the Cusick family came from the Emerald Isle to America during the colonial period, settling in New York, and Dr. Cusick’s grandfather removed from the Empire state to eastern Illinois, where his death occurred. His wife was a Miss Conkling, of New York, a member of the family which produced Roscoe Conkling, for many years United States senator from New York.

Solomon Cusick was born in New York, and was a farmer by occupation. After engaging in the tilling of the soil near Quincy, Ill., he crossed the plains with an ox train, being exactly six months on the way. Soon after reaching Oregon he purchased a farm in Linn county, near Scio, and seven years later he sold it and purchased land in Marion county, where he resided until his retirement from business cares. In religious faith he was a Baptist. His wife died on the old homestead. She was born in Kentucky, a daughter of Harry and Hannah Hollembeak, who removed from that state to Illinois, where he engaged in farming. He served as a soldier in the war of 1821. Unto Solomon and Maria Cusick were born four daughters and five sons. One of these, Harry, enlisted in the Fiftieth Illinois Infantry, served throughout the Civil war, and rose from the rank of lieutenant to that of captain. He died in Missouri. Seven of the children came to Oregon, and three sons and a daughter are yet living: J.W., a banker, of Albany, Ore.; W.A.; J.H., a stockman, of Washington, and Mrs. M.L. Trask, of Linn county, Ore. Another brother, G.W., who died in Washington county, Ore., was a graduate of the medical department of the University of Oregon.

Reared on the home farm in Illinois, during that period Dr. Cusick spent the winter months in the district schools, resuming farm work with the return of spring. In 1853 he came with the family to the northwest, he and his brothers driving the loose stock. They crossed the Missouri river at St. Joseph, proceeding up the Platte and over the Oregon trail. After reaching this state he remained with his father for two years, and then started out in life for himself. He attended the district schools and worked upon the farms of the locality; and in 1859, being desirous of obtaining a better education, he entered Dallas Academy. In 1860 he matriculated in Bethel College, in Bethel, Polk county, Ore. Later he engaged in teaching for eighteen months, after which he spent a similar period in the mines of Baker county, Ore. In 1864, having determined to make the practice of medicine his life work, he began studying under the direction of Dr. McAfee, of Salem, with whom he remained for two years, and then entered the Toland Medical College at San Francisco, the course in which he completed in 1867. He then became a member of the first class in the medical department of Willamette University, being graduated in the fall of 1867, with the degree of Doctor of Medicine. There were but three members in the class of that year, and the name of Dr. Cusick appears first in the book of graduates in medicine in Oregon. Soon after the completion of his studies, he received an appointment as acting assistant surgeon and post-surgeon at Camp Lyon, Idaho, where he remained two years, after which he located at Gervais, or Waconda, where he was engaged continuously in the practice of his profession until 1882. In the latter year he located in Salem, where he has since maintained an office, enjoying a large and constantly increasing practice, which now makes heavy demands upon his time. He has had other business interests, to some extent. He has identified with the Capital National Bank for about ten years, and was its president for some time, but eventually disposed of his interest in that institution.

Dr. Cusick was married in Marion county to Miss Marcia L. Williams, a native of Illinois, who, in 1864, came to Oregon with her father, J.J. Williams, who followed farming. he and his wife have a daughter, Ethel E., who is now the wife of Dr. Willis B. Morse, a promising physician of Salem. His father, W.B. Morse, was born in Massachusetts, became a sea-faring man, and when twenty-one years of age was master of a vessel. In 1844 he made his first trip to the Columbia river, and settled permanently on the Pacific coast in 1849. His death occurred at St. Helens. On the maternal side Dr. Morse is a grandson of Dr. James McBride, who brought his family across the plains to Oregon in 1840, and became one of the most distinguished of the early physicians of the state. Dr. Morse is a graduate of the medial department of Willamette University, class of 1891, and of the Post-Graduate College of New York, class of 1893.

Dr. Cusick has long been recognized as an earnest and active Republican. In 1884 he was elected to the state legislature, in which he served during the regular session of that year, and the special session of 1885. During the regular session the first attempt was made to enact a law regulating the practice of medicine in the state, but, as several who were interested in the measure were called home about the time it was brought to vote, it did not become a law. Dr. Cusick was instrumental in defeating certain measures which would have worked great detriment to the state, and he labored earnestly and effectively for the general good of the commonwealth. For four years he served on the United States Pension Board, for two years was visiting physician to the state asylum, and for four years has been the attending physician to the state prison. He is a member of the Marion County
Medical Society, and for several years he was a member of the board of directors of the public schools of Salem. For a time he served as president of the board, and was acting in that capacity when the East Salem school was erected. He was made a Mason in Fidelity Lodge No. 54, A.F. & A.M., at Gervais, with which he is still identified, and he took the Royal Arch degree in Salem. His wife is a member of the Order of Eastern Star.

The contemporaries of Dr. Cusick freely accord him a place among the most distinguished exponents of the science of medicine in the Pacific northwest. His splendid equipment for the profession and the long years of his active practice, with its attendant success, naturally entitle him to a position of eminence. He has not rested content with the foundation of his early preparation, but has been a constant student in his chosen science, and has kept fully abreast of the best thought in the world of medicine and surgery. Among the laity he is recognized as a gentleman of sterling character, possessed of many of those personal attributes which endear a man most closely to thoughtful and discriminating judges of human nature. His position in the community as a man, as well as a physician, is unassailable, and from any viewpoint he is entitled to a permanent and prominent place in the historical literature of the Willamette valley.

source - "Portrait and Biographical Record of the Willamette Valley", pages 584-587

This page last updated: May 4, 2003

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