As It Was: Oregon Prohibition Nearly Snares Ashland Doctor

Oct 12, 2017

Francis Gustavus Swedenburg settled in Ashland in the early 1900s and became a leading citizen by founding the city’s first hospital and becoming its chief surgeon.

With his wife and two daughters, he frequently entertained guests at their elegant Siskiyou Boulevard home, now owned by Southern Oregon University.

Eyebrows were raised in 1917 when he was accused of bootlegging.

Even before passage of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, Oregon had imposed its own  Prohibition.  The state’s early stand against alcohol nearly caught Dr. Swedenburg off guard. As he was returning to Oregon from a routine trip, he was arrested for illegally transporting a large quantity of port wine, whiskey and gin into dry territory.  The doctor pleaded guilty, but claimed the alcohol was for use in his hospital.  The authorities decided that the alcohol was for medicinal purposes, fined him $25 and gave him a suspended sentence.  Swedenburg continued to distinguish himself as a surgeon and citizen, spending some 30 years in Ashland.   

Before he died in 1937, prohibition had been repealed and the Swedenburgs could legally serve their guests port wine.
 

Sources: "Dr. Swedenburg of Ashland in Hard Luck." Medford Mail Tribune, 20 Nov. 1917; "Francis Gustavus Swedenburg." Southern Oregon Historical Society, Southern Oregon Historical Society, www.sohs.org/biographies. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.