NOTICE: Thanks to all the calls and e-mails from fans of the Mosquito series, many of whom wanted to know when the prior episodes ran. The series began on Aug. 1, with follow-up episodes on Aug. 11, 22 and 29. All back issues can be purchased at the Mountain Democrat office, 1360 Broadway, Placerville.
September 26th, 2010
But why not support this kind of local journalism by subscribing to the Mountain Democrat? You’ll get Mosquito’s fascinating hydro-history in next week’s Rock Creek Road tour. Later in September we’ll visit the historical Deerview and take a trip out to what’s left of Pino Grande. If you subscribe now and mention this notice, we’ll include the above-mentioned back issues.
By Mike Roberts
Mother Lode News staff writer
Thus far we’ve explored Mosquito’s colorful history and wandered up Mosquito Road through “Goat Doctor” country, with a promise to return and tell the story of Mosquito’s most famous, beloved and humble resident. With much help from Gloria Hockensmith, promise kept. Enjoy.
Internationally acclaimed osteopathic healer Frank Andre practiced from his adopted family’s humble Mosquito cabin along Mosquito Road, seven miles from Placerville, from the early 1920s, when he was more of an apprentice to his psychic mother, until the year before his death in 1959.
Local author Gloria Hockensmith told Andre’s story and collected hundreds of first-hand testimonies on the effectiveness of his treatments in her book “The Goat Doctor of the Sierras.”
Hockensmith recounts how the future Goat Doctor arrived in post-earthquake San Francisco from Austria in 1906 as Francis Malek. He discovered a city in ruin. His planned hosts were gone; their home destroyed. He spoke little English. To make ends meet he sold produce door to door, where he befriended Ernest and Anna Andre.
Malek contracted tuberculosis, which was rampant in the aftermath of the quake, and disappeared. The Andres discovered their friend near death, living on the beach. They took him in and sent him to a sanitarium for isolation and treatment. Doctors removed one lung, but held little hope that he would survive.
As a young woman, Anna Andre was told by psychic Edgar Cayce that she would never bear a child of her own, but that she would be “sent one from across the waters,” and the two would “do great work together.”
She saw Malek as the fulfillment of Cayce’s prophecy.
The Andres purchased retirement property in Mosquito to isolate Malek in the clean, dry, mountain air.
Anna Andre believed she had psychic powers rooted in a deep religious faith. She directed healing energies to her adopted son, who took her last name. Francis Malek became Frank Andre.
She set out on a homeopathic regimen of mud baths, goat milk, goat meat and fresh fruit, isolating him from all outside contact until 1917, all the while instilling her naturalist beliefs and spiritual ideologies.
During that time, neighbors caught glimpses of the young man clad only in a loincloth. He rarely wore shoes and never cut his hair.
In a 1957 interview with the Sacramento Bee, he explained that his “back to nature therapy” included letting his hair grow to conduct electricity. “If you cut it, it diminishes the power,” he said.
Likewise, he went barefoot to contact the earth directly, to get the full “health-giving powers of the good earth.”
Hockensmith’s research concludes that his healing prowess was the result of his mother’s spiritual teachings and osteopathic techniques he picked up from a disgraced Placerville physician who ran “The Candy Kitchen” on Main Street, while surreptitiously treating patients upstairs.
For a full year, she wrote, Andre walked the 15 miles round trip to Placerville most days to study with the man.
When Dr. Pinneo died suddenly, most of his patients sought treatment from Andre.
Local lore is replete with stories of Andre’s healing prowess and the family’s eccentricities, which often landed them in the regional news. In the early years, the increasingly famous Goat Doctor saw patients, but still didn’t cut his hair or wear shoes.
He also didn’t drive, relying on patients, who lined both side of Mosquito Road on weekends, or his friends in Mosquito to run errands for him.
Thousands of patients were carried in and walked out, often weeping tears of gratitude and joy. An orthopedic graveyard of discarded crutches, canes and wheelchairs lie behind the shack, a testament to his success.
By 1938 local doctors, worried that they were losing patients to Andre, filed a complaint that he was practicing medicine without a license. He was ordered to appear before a judge at Placerville’s Town Hall.
Hockensmith describes a raucuous hearing packed with Andre’s loyal patients and a mix of doctors for and against him.
Andre took the stand carrying a baby goat, and called himself a “bone adjuster” who never prescribed medication or charged for his services.
To demonstrate the validity of his treatments, he placed the baby goat on a table, put his hands on the animal’s back, and deftly “dislocated the poor creature’s spine,” states Hockensmith. “The goat let out a piercing, painful wail.”
Andre then turned to his accusers and asked if any of them could put the animal’s spine back in place. No one moved.
Andre then bent over the goat, readjusted its spine, and said, “Obviously I’m not practicing medicine as these doctors know it.”
He then turned to the judge and explained that his treatments differed from that of a chiropractor because he concentrated more on the pelvic region, adding that he always told people with diseases to go see a medical doctor.
Hockensmith collected several testimonials from people with cancer and other diseases who backed up Andre’s claim.
A parade of Andre’s patients followed him to the stand, testifying to the effectiveness of his treatments. The judge instructed Andre to “continue to do your good work, just don’t call yourself a doctor.”
Andre left the hearing with the goat trailing happily at his heels.
The state medical board later filed a lawsuit for practicing medicine without a license. Andre ignored their subpoenas and kept seeing patients. A warrant was eventually issued for his arrest, but the El Dorado County sheriff never served it.
Not all of Andre’s treatments were osteopathic. Neighbor Ron Stone recalls a Mosquito childhood plagued by poison oak. During one particularly bad case, his father took him to see Andre, who sent him home with a milking goat, and instructions to tether it in the poison oak, milk it daily and drink all the milk.
Stone followed the instructions and swears he’s been completely immune to poison oak since.
By the early 1950s Andre was besieged by sufferers, many of whom traveled great distances for his treatments. He often became exhausted by late afternoon, sending them away, only to see them queue up on Mosquito Road the following morning, desperate for his attentions.
Andre accepted no formal compensation, but kept a “tip jar” in his modest cabin. When a patient asked his fee, he’d suggest either a $2 or $3 donation. Hockensmith suspects that many put much greater sums in the jar.
Neighbors reported taking substantial sums of money to the bank for him. Orval Beckett often helped out around the cabin, and knew there were jars of coins stashed in the hearth.
Years later, after Andre was dead and the shack consumed by the Chili Bar fire, a tractor operator clearing the land pushed the hearth over and discovered an estimated $15,000 in coins. Other currency uncovered by treasure hunters fed rumors of even greater treasures on the 85-acre parcel.
The parcel was eventually split at Mosquito Road. Bob Warner, the current owner of the lower half, built his ranch in 1999, and said that the treasure seekers have finally stopped bothering him, despite the fact that old timers insist he bears a striking resemblance to the famous Goat Doctor.
The upper 69 acres of the Andre Ranch recently sold for nearly a quarter million dollars. High on the ridge, with a clear view across the American River Canyon, lie three headstones, one for each of the three Andres.
“The Goat Doctor of the Sierras” contains hundreds of first-person anecdotes from Andre’s patients and Mosquito neighbors. Their recollections cover Andre and his eccentricities in loving detail, and include his adopted parents, Ernest, a talented poet, and Anna, a spiritual healer.
The book also tells the story of Andre’s much younger wife, Carmalita, who became quite eccentric in her own right, especially after Andre’s death in 1959. Her stormy relations first with Ernest Andre, then later with the entire community are spelled out in first person dialogue. Pick it up at the El Dorado County History Museum or the Placerville News Agency.