Three doctors are often associated with early Fallbrook in the 1880s. This report is intended to clear up who is who. The first two men were from Oregon pioneer families that likely knew each other in Oregon. They arrive in West Fallbrook, about the same time, after 1882 when the railroad arrived in Santa Margarita canyon. Dr. Milton Canterbury opens the first drugstore in West Fallbrook[1] but he only stays a couple of years. Dr. John Alvin Pruett, who came to Fallbrook for his own health gets recognized for being Fallbrook’s first doctor.

Dr. Pruett had emigrated as a small child with his parents from Missouri to Oregon in the 1850s[2]. We can assume his family is financially stable because as a young man John Alvin is able to attend medical school at the University of California[3]. Pruett receives his medical degree in 1878. Dr. Pruett interns at a San Francisco hospital for one year before taking a job in Mexico as the surgeon for a construction company. During his stay in Mexico, Dr. Pruett contracts a tropical fever that cause long term health problems for him. He returns to Oregon to teach, where in 1882 he meets and marries Ida Dunn, who graduated from Oregon State University that same year. Because of his health problems, John and Ida decide in 1883 to relocate to the warmer climate of a new farming settlement called West Fallbrook. Possibly they are taking advice from Dr. Canterbury, and an invitation to invest in his Drug Store.

Dr. Pruett arrives in California with money to invest. He promptly buys property and invests in Dr. Canterbury’s Drug Store. Initially the Pruetts take up residence and open a doctor’s office at the old Magee place, an adobe home that was once near today’s Main and Fallbrook Street[4] after Henry and Victoria Magee had moved to her estate in the hills above Pala. See accompanying picture of Dr. Pruett’s 1885 newspaper ad. The Pruetts first 3 of 5 children are born in this adobe. This was the first doctor’s office in Fallbrook.

In 1888 the Pruetts purchase two lots on a rise at the SE corner of Vine Ave & Fig St. and build a classic Victorian home the same year[5]. Dr. Pruett’s residence still stands at this location and is recognized by the Fallbrook Historical Society in its Historic Registry. When they move into their new home, Dr. Pruett also moves his office to the corner of Main & Elder. Pruett takes on a medical partner to help him, Dr. Peter James (P.J.) Parker who came from Louisiana in 1887 joins Pruett’s medical business as a partner. The new partners buy the West Fallbrook Drug store from Pruett’s friend Dr. Milton Canterbury. Canterbury relocates to San Bernardino County and opens a new drug store with his son.

 Dr. Parker, with his wife and children, had also come to Fallbrook country for his health.  The California climate must agree with him as Parker goes on to live to the age of 89 in San Diego.

Dr. Pruett also invested in the West Fallbrook Banking Co., becoming its vice president[6]. He and Ida have two more children, for a total of 5 before Dr. Pruett finally succumbs to his disease in January 1893 at the age of 46. His widow Ida continues living in Fallbrook with her 5 children until 1910 before going to live with her eldest daughter in Fresno. Dr. Pruett is buried in Fallbrook’s Oddfellows Cemetery.

Tom Frew
FHS Historian


    [1] Fallbrook Review newspaper, August 8, 1885

    [2] U.S., Early Oregonians Index, 1800-1860 ,

    [3] U.S. School Catalogs 1765-1935, University of California, 1879

    [4] See “Victoria Pedrorena an 1879 school teacher in Fall Brook District” by Elizabeth Yamaguchi, Fallbrook Historical Society. Although the Magees lived on a quarter section of homesteaded property in early Fall Brook. Victoria had inherited a larger estate on Mt. Palomar they named ‘Condor’s Nest’.

    [5] Fallbrook Historic Resources Inventory item 105 prepared for San Diego County by Susan Carrico and S. Kathleen Flanigan, September 1991

    [6] Fallbrook Review newspapers, large ads in weekly 1889 editions