Feodor Protar

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Feodor Protar was a healer of Beaver Island in the U.S. state of Michigan. Born in 1837, he began to live on Beaver Island in 1893 and died in 1925.[1]

Protar's cabin and "doctor's office," where he lived from 1893 to 1925.

Biography[edit]

Born in what is now Tartu, Estonia, then part of the Russian Empire, Protar's birth name was Friedrich Parrot. His date of birth is recorded as February 19, 1837. Parrot's family was part of the German-speaking, landowning aristocracy of the Baltic region. In his early adult years, Parrot developed a successful career in German-language theater, performing for appreciative audiences in Dresden, Berlin, Riga and elsewhere in north and central Europe. Possibly because he ran afoul of Russian government efforts to Russianize the Empire's Baltic provinces, Parrot emigrated to the United States in 1874, changing his family name to Protar. He worked a number of jobs, most of them in the theater. However, he eventually became a newspaper editor in Rock Island, Illinois.

In 1893, seeking solitude and an opportunity to get a fresh start in life, Protar established a home on Beaver Island, in northern Lake Michigan. He changed his first name to Feodor and adopted a lifestyle inspired by the Russian novelist and philosopher, Leo Tolstoy. He lived alone, sharing the isolated island with a small population of farmers, loggers and fishermen, most of them of Irish descent. Protar lived off the land as much as was possible, growing his own food, canning and drying it for sustenance during the long winters. His fellow islanders saw him as a benevolent, if eccentric, humanitarian and follower of a spiritual discipline inspired by Tolstoy.

Trained or self-taught in pharmacology, Protar was eventually pressured by his neighbors into practicing as an unlicensed physician. This was a skill of serious importance to the islanders in the early 1900s, as the technology of the time meant that Beaver Island was isolated from the mainland in the harsh winter months, and the island was not big enough to support a licensed physician. Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs authorities appear to have realized that "Dr." Protar's practice was the only solution to the island's medical-access dilemma, and to have looked the other way.

Protar died in his Beaver Island cabin on March 3, 1925, apparently of a stroke. Islanders buried his body beside a boulder in the forest near his home that he was particularly fond of and erected an monumental enclosure around his grave, with a plaque expressing appreciation for his many years of service to the island community.

Legacy[edit]

"Dr." Protar's life is celebrated by the Beaver Island Historical Society, which operates a small waterfront museum in St. James, the island's harbor. Protar's grave was built by local resident William McDonough.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Protar Home". Beaver Beacon. Retrieved 2016-01-16.

"Protar: A Different Life" by Antje Price, 2006