Sunday, March 4, 2012

Burpee Laban Steeves (1868-1933)

  This obscure gentleman is Burpee L. Steeves, a physician who gained political notoriety as the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho in the early 20th century. Very little biographical sources could be found on Steeves, with the exceptions being a write up in the Centennial History of Oregon, published in 1912 and a small blurb in Volume 8 of the Success Magazine of 1905. Further research has indicated that the "L." in his name stands for Laban (a figure in the Book of Genesis) and that he was a Canadian by birth, being born in the province of New Brunswick on July 7, 1868. His parents, Aaron and Lydia Steeves Steeves (not a typo!) were also New Brunswick natives.
   At the age of five, Burpee and his family are listed as moving to Prince Edward Island, where he later attended the Prince of Wales College. Steeves embarked upon a teaching career until 1888, when he relocated to Oregon and began studying at the Willamette University at Salem. He graduated from here in 1891 and soon thereafter began pursuing a career in medicine at the Willamette University at Portland. He received his medical degree from the latter institution in 1894 and thereafter opened a practice in the town of Silverton. Burpee Steeves married in Salem on April 18, 1893 to Ms. Sarah Fiducia Hunt (1871-1939), with whom he would have one son, Laban Aaron Steeves (1894-1943).
   In 1897 Steeves removed from Salem to Idaho and reestablished his medical practice, "winning a wide reputation and large business" in the process. Throughout the succeeding years his name became prominent in Idaho political circles, so much so that in 1905 he was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Idaho on the Republican ticket, serving under Gov. Frank Robert Gooding (1859-1928). Steeve's term lasted two years (1905-1907) and is mentioned in the Centennial History of Oregon as "constituting a most commendable chapter in his life." A roster of Idaho Lieutenant Governors (with Burpee Steeve's name highlighted in yellow) has been posted below.

  Steeves returned to his medical duties at the conclusion of his term and in 1909 returned to Salem, Oregon, where for the rest of his life he operated a medical practice specializing in the treatment and prevention of eye, ear, nose and throat diseases. Steeves's work in this area earned him statewide repute, and it is noted in the Centennial History of Oregon that "his skill and ability today place him in the foremost ranks in the medical profession, not only of Salem but all of Oregon". In 1914 Steeves received further political honors when he was elected as the Mayor of Salem, Oregon for a one year term. During his mayoralty, Steeves is mentioned by the History of Oregon as giving Salem "a most businesslike and progressive administration.
  In the years following his mayoral term, Steeves continued in the medical profession, and in 1918 was elected as the President of the Oregon State Medical Association. He served in this post until 1920. The History of Oregon also lists him as a being a religious man, holding membership in the local Methodist Episcopal Church. Steeves was also a delegate to that church's General Conference in Saratoga Springs in 1916.

                      This portrait of Burpee Steeves was found in the 1923 work "History of Oregon".

  Burpee L. Steeves died at the age of 65 on October 23, 1933 at his home in Salem. He was subsequently interred at the Mount Crest Abbey and Mausoleum in Salem. The portrait of him featured at the top of this article (and one of the few to be found online) was discovered in the earlier mentioned Success Magazine, Volume 8, published in 1905. 

  This blurb on Steeves' election as Lt. Governor appeared in the St. John Daily Sun in November 1904.

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