Chapter 1, Part 1 – 1904 – The Founding

Joseph E. Brimhall, DC

Joseph E. Brimhall, DC

Message from the president:

Welcome to The Complete History of University of Western States (UWS) website. This 100-plus year narrative covers the history of UWS and the origin of chiropractic in the United States. It was compiled by Lester Lamm, DC, a Western States graduate and professor emeritus who has spent several years researching the profession and its evolution. The UWS name and the university have transformed over time, but our commitment to improving the quality of life and to advancing the science and art of integrated health care remains as solid as ever.

I encourage you to view more than a century of events, milestones and personalities that has shaped and defined the chiropractic profession. You will discover a fascinating story about the emergence, progress and advancement of chiropractic over a 100-plus year time span that is as informative as it is educational. Enjoy.

– Joseph Brimhall, DC


1904 – The Founding

  • Henry Ford set an automobile land speed record of 91.37 mph.
  • The United States took control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million and started construction on the canal.
  • The British invaded Tibet and extracted a Commerce Treaty from the Dalai Lama.
  • New York City subway system opened with completion on construction of Grand Central Station.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was re-elected President.
  • Robert Oppenheimer and Dr. Seuss were born.
  • Chief Joseph of the Oregon Nez Perce Tribe died.
  • Ty Cobb made his professional debut in baseball.
  • Pope Pius X banned low cut dresses.
  • Women in New York City were arrested for smoking.
  • The Wright Brothers took flight.
  • Ice cream cones were introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair.

1904 marked the beginning of a succession of chiropractic colleges and their subsequent amalgamations that would ultimately lead to today’s “University of Western States.”

The Marshes

John Marsh

John Marsh

Doctors John E. and Eva Marsh are credited with being the first to establish a chiropractic school in Portland, Ore., known as the Marsh School and Cure. The two had emigrated from Nova Scotia to enroll in a chiropractic program at Brainard College in Minnesota, (also known as Dr. Lynch’s School of the Brainard College) from which they graduated in 1904. According to one historical account, the Brainard School in Minnesota was started by a well-to-do engineer, who was the brother-in-law of Dr. Eva Marsh. That same year, the Marshes moved to Portland, where they opened their chiropractic school at SW 5th and Hall Street. In 1907, the Marshes changed the school’s name to Pacific College of Chiropractic and relocated to the Fliedner Building at SW 10th and Washington Street.

William O Powell

William O. Powell

In 1905, John Marsh established a business relationship with Dr. William O. Powell, a member of the first class to graduate from the Marsh School and Cure. Dr. Marsh asked Dr. Powell to join him at the school while they lobbied the Oregon legislature to establish chiropractic as a recognized profession. By any account, their lobbying efforts were successful. In 1906, they were able to insert an exemption into a medical bill before the Oregon legislature that would have banned the chiropractic profession. In addition to running the March School and Cure, the two operated a “Chiropractic Health Home” in Dayton, Ore.

Much of what is known of the Marshes comes from a December 1959 account written by Mrs. J.E. (Bessie) Marsh, Dr. John Marsh’s second wife, whom he married in 1914. The date and circumstances surrounding the demise of the first Mrs. Marsh are unknown. In 1916, John and Bessie Marsh returned to Nova Scotia to assist his ailing father to manage the family farm, located in a small village outside of Halifax. Dr. Marsh’s reputation as a physician spread throughout the area, and he became so busy managing the health care needs of the community that he eventually gave up farming. After five years in Nova Scotia, the two returned to Portland. Bessie Marsh noted that her husband had suffered a heart condition, from which he died on December 11, 1938, while giving her a treatment. Little more is known of the founder of the school that would eventually become the University of Western States.

Bess Marsh’s 1954 handwritten historical account.