Harmon’s Histories: How a Seattle doctor ‘cured’ a Missoula woman with histogenic medicine

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.

William A. Hoblitzell, as we detailed last week, produced a wonderful photographic record of Missoula in his four years as a Garden City resident at the approach of the 2oth century.

His uncle, Harmon Stidger (“H. S.”) Hoblitzell, left his mark as well – serving as city clerk for many years. On appointment to a fifth term, city aldermen complimented “his experience and mental equipment for the office, and his rectitude as a reputable and honorable citizen.”

H.S. was in the insurance business, specifically fire insurance, in addition to clerking for the city. He was also active in the local Democratic club – even nominated to be president of the group in 1892, but declined.

His wife, Mary, was active in the local Treble Clef music club and hosted many of the group’s meetings at their home. She also chaired the Caledonian Society’s “musical literary program” in 1895.

Their son, J. R. Hoblitzell, shared his mother’s musical talents, playing the part of the Governor of Louraine in the opera “The Musketeers” at the Bennett Opera house in 1894.

Above all, though, it was Harmon and Mary’s love for their ailing daughter, Adele, that touched many hearts.

By all accounts, Adele Hoblitzell was “beautiful and accomplished.” But in 1889-1890, the 22-year-old suffered greatly from what her local physician diagnosed as “neuralgia of the nerves of the heart.”

Her concerned father noted at one point, “Of late the disease seems to be more obstinate, and from repeated attacks of a severe nature she has not been able to get out of the house for nearly two months. 

“Her only relief of late is in hypnotics. We now keep in the house for an emergency sulphonal … to ease her pain and induce sleep.”

In early February 1890, Mr. Hoblitzell, desperate to help his daughter, acquired a book published by a Seattle physician, Dr. J. Eugene Jordan, titled Histogenic Treatment of Diseases.”

Dr. Jordan was well-known at the time, described by Clarence Bagley in his book, History of Seattle, Volume 2, as “notable in professional and business circles” in the city.

After years of research, he had concluded that medical treatment of diseases required specific pills and potions which targeted specific cells of the body which harbored the disease.

Hobitzell quickly penned a letter to Jordan describing his daughter’s symptoms, concluding, “If from this imperfect description of her case you can prescribe a treatment, I wish you would do so, and send me some of your remedies by mail if they can be so sent, otherwise by N. P. Express, with bill for same, and I will remit on receipt thereof. 

“If you prefer not to risk the medicine without pre-payment, inform me of the cost and I will remit, but I would like to try the remedies with as little delay as possible, as the case is very critical. Yours very truly, H. S. Hobitzell, City Clerk.”

Dr. Jordan’s office responded with a package of medicines and directions for their use.

On March 13, 1890, H. S. Hoblitzell wrote back to the Seattle physician, “Dear Sir: The medicines sent reached us in due season, and enclosed herewith please find postal money order for $9, the cost of same. 

“As soon as received my daughter began taking them in the way and order prescribed, and in less than a week she began to build and gain strength, and has had no recurrence of her old trouble since. She has used six boxes, and a week ago discontinued their use. 

“Will keep the remainder; should an attack come on, will resume with confidence. She goes out daily. With many thanks, I am very respectfully, H. S. Hoblitzell, City Clerk.”

Adele recovered fully and in October 1891 was married to a well-known California real estate man, Jesse Armitage, in San Francisco. The couple had three children. She died in 1911 in Los Angeles. S. and Mary Hoblitzell moved from Missoula to Seattle in March 1897.

On February 25, 1909, the Missoulian newspaper reported a golden wedding anniversary was planned for the well-remembered couple. “All of their children will be with them at their home in Seattle,” wrote the paper, including Adele (now Mrs. Armitage of California).

“There are many Missoula people,” continued the article, “who will send their warm congratulations to the aged couple, now more than 80 years old, who were so long Missoula people themselves.”

Harmon Stidger Hoblitzell and his daughter Adele died two years later in 1911. Mary died in 1925.

While Dr. Jordan’s “Histogenic” approach to medicines waned with time, it is interesting to note that cell therapy research in alive and well in 2019-2020.

A Massachusetts biotechnology company called Histogenics Corporation has emerged in recent years with a potential new product, involving restorative cell therapy.

In its most recent press release, dated September 26, 2019, Histogenics stockholders had approved a merger with Ocugen.

Jim Harmon is a longtime Missoula news broadcaster, now retired, who writes a weekly history column for Missoula Current. You can contact Jim at harmonshistories@gmail.com.