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Dakota Datebook

November 4, 2019 — Today is the anniversary of the death of Dr. Paul H. Burton. He came of age during the days of making house calls on horseback.

Dr. Paul H. Burton
Dakota Datebook
written by Merry Helm

Burton was born at Boscobel, WI, on July 16, 1876, and studied medicine at the University of Minnesota. During those years, he also practiced at Kenmare for several months. He graduated about 1901, practiced for a time in northern Minnesota, and then moved to Fargo, where he went into private practice.

Dr. Burton’s medical internship was relatively unusual. He was appointed to the Stillwater Prison. Among the many patients he saw were Jessie James’ brother, Frank, and Cole Younger, following their infamous Northfield Bank robbery.

Burton’s friends said he didn’t like to talk about himself, but they knew that if properly persuaded, he would tell the story about the day somebody tried to rob him. He was in his office above the Fout and Porterfield Drug Store on Broadway at the time.

“A fellow came in demanding narcotics,” a friend later said. “The man carried a good-sized gun which he trained on Dr. Burton, but Burton with his experience in the Minnesota penitentiary simply got out of his chair, knocked the gun from the fellow’s hands, and gave him a sound beating. While the doctor used to say that he threw him downstairs, he probably escorted him gently to the exits.”

Dr. Burton was one of the founders of Dakota Clinic, which opened in 1926. Other members of the founding group included Kent Darrow, Frank Darrow and R.E. Weible; all four men were part of a complicated partnership of brothers, sisters, and brothers-in-law. The fifth member was unrelated – Doctor William H. Long from Dickinson.

They began their clinic with offices on the fourth floor of deLendrecies Department Store and then moved into a building a few blocks away. Dr. Burton was no longer alive when the new clinic in south Fargo opened in 1957.

Burton was a member of the American College of Surgeons, served as president of the Cass County Medical Society, and in 1932 was given the highest honor that physicians can give to on of their contemporaries; he was elected president of the North Dakota Medical Society. The doctor also served on the Fargo Board of Education and was instrumental in bringing to Fargo a child welfare program financed by the Commonwealth Foundation.

Dr. Burton went out to vote on the morning of November 4, 1952. Afterwards, he spent a few hours at the Shrine Club and then went home to take a nap. His wife found him lying on the couch late that afternoon. He had passed away in his sleep.

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