Journal-News, Wednesday, May 2, 2001
Mercy Hospital started with 15 beds in 1892
By Jim Blount
The campaign to establish a hospital in Hamilton peaked in the summer of 1892, almost a year after the city had celebrated its centennial. Public meetings led to the appointment of a 10-man executive committee that succeeded in opening a 15-bed Mercy Hospital in October 1892.
The committee said "the want of suitable quarters into which to receive and care for persons injured by accidents, or prostrated by dangerous illness, and the want of skilled nurses to properly care for and attend such sick and injured persons, are fully recognized in this growing city of vast manufactures, extensive railroads and other hazardous occupations."
At that time there wasn't a hospital anywhere in Butler County, which had a population of 48,597 people in 1890. There were 10 hospitals in Cincinnati, where Dr. Daniel Drake had established the region's first hospital in 1821. There also were four hospitals in Dayton, but none in the 60-plus miles between the two cities.
The committee -- which included Nicholas Bonner, Patrick Burns, John Fisher, John N. Hibner, Dr. Charles N. Huston, Edward H. Krieger, William C. Margedant, John F. Neilan, Joseph J. Pater and Dr. George C. Skinner -- invited the Sisters of Mercy to operate the hospital in Hamilton which had 17,565 inhabitants in the 1890 census.
Hamiltonians were challenged "to contribute liberally to establish this institution." The organizers said "all the sisters ask" is that citizens establish and outfit it, "and they agree to make it self-sustaining forever afterwards, by pay patients, donations and bequests."
The 1892 planners expected expenses to be minimal.
"Their [the sisters] personal expenses are very light, being only the little they eat and the clothes they wear; they are paid no salaries, have no paid servants and consequently no expensive payroll. They do all their own work and it is immaterial whether they have one patient or 100, their expenses are the same," the committee reported. "They devote their lives to the work for the love of their fellow creatures."
The founding group outlined four conditions under which the hospital would operate:
"First -- The hospital shall be strictly non-political and non-sectarian; open for admission to all, regardless of nationality, creed, occupation, age or condition in life both as patient and visitor, limited only by its capacity."
"Second -- Ministers of all religious denominations shall have free access at all reasonable hours to visit patients, and will be sent for at any time on request of a patient."
"Third -- The medical staff will be selected in any manner satisfactory to the physicians of the city and vicinity; but a patient will be at liberty to receive the services of his family physician. The foregoing conditions are subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as may be found necessary for the proper and successful operation of the hospital."
"Fourth -- The hospital property, real and personal, to be owned, controlled and managed by the sisters, only so long as they conduct it as a public hospital . . . . Should they abandon the work, or from any cause permanently cease to operate it as a hospital; then and in that event the hospital property" and additions "are to revert to the citizens of Hamilton . . . ."
The committee agreed to pay $9,500 for a two-story house at 116 Dayton Street (the former Hurm residence), and provide about $3,000 for improvements and furnishings.
The 15-bed hospital opened Oct. 5, 1892, staffed by six sisters under the direction of Mother Mary Xavier Cosgrove. It remained the only hospital in Butler County until 1917 when Middletown Hospital opened.
Hamilton's Mercy Hospital -- much larger and vastly different than the institution that opened in 1892 -- has been in the process of closing for several weeks with a target date of June 1 for final shutdown.
Future columns will focus on more local hospital history.
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Mercy averaged 200 patients yearly at start
By Jim Blount
An average of slightly more than 200 people were admitted annually in the first dozen years of operation of Hamilton's first hospital. Mercy Hospital -- scheduled to close in about three weeks -- opened with 15 beds in a converted two-story house on Dayton Street in October 1892.
In November 1904 -- as the Sisters of Mercy prepared to open a new, larger hospital in the city -- a civic leader reviewed the accomplishments of the institution's first 12 years. Judge John F. Neilan -- who had been instrumental in establishing the hospital and promoting its expansion -- summarized the data for the period from October 1892 through October 1904.
Mercy treated 2,423 patients, "of whom 1,734 entirely recovered, 452 materially improved and 237 died," Neilan explained. "Of this number 1,646 were males and 777 females; 2,369 were white, 54 were colored" and "759 were treated in the surgical department and 1,766 in the medical department." Railroad accidents accounted for nearly 16 percent of the surgical cases -- 121 out of 759, or an average of 10 a year.
Major health concerns of the 21st century -- including heart diseases, diabetes and cancers -- weren't mentioned in the 12-year summary.
"Of the 35 operations for appendicitis, all were successful but 11, and they were complicated with other diseases," the report noted.
Neilan said "of the 1,766 cases treated in the medical department, 1,162 entirely recovered; 379 were greatly improved; 149 died."
"Of the two dread diseases which carry so many to the tomb -- typhoid fever and pneumonia -- there were 434 cases of the former, of which 415 recovered and 19 died," the 1904 report said, and "of the 205 cases of the latter, 187 entirely recovered, six went home greatly improved and 11 died."
The hospital handled 28 cases of diphtheria with only one death in 12 years.
Neilan said "much transient relief was rendered to persons who were enabled to return to their homes in a few hours, of which no record was kept, such as the dressing of cuts, bones set, sudden illness relieved and similar relief."
About a thousand people toured the new 100-bed hospital during its public opening Nov. 22, 1904. The program included presentation of the keys to the new building by George T. Reiss, president of the hospital trustees.
A writer observed that "some months ago when it was announced that a large and modern hospital, to cost $50,000, would be built, there were those who looked at the project with misgiving, but the new Mercy Hospital, a magnificent edifice, stands today a monument to the liberality and charity of the people of Hamilton."
Neilan, speaking at the 1904 opening, said "the hospital is not a money-making institution; it makes no profit for distribution to any person or persons whatever. If any money should be received above the cost of its operation and the payment of the debt now against it, it would be used to enlarge the institution and increase its usefulness."
Neilan emphasized that Mercy "has no endowment fund and no income except gifts from the charitable and such compensation as patients are willing and able to pay." He noted that within the two previous years 116 patients had been treated without charge.
The 1904 building project was the first of several physical additions, renovations and improvements in the hospital's nearly 109-year history. Even more numerous have been the changes and innovations in Mercy medical and surgical methods, services and equipment since its Oct. 5, 1892, opening.
Future columns will focus on more local hospital history.
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Journal-News , Wednesday, May 16, 2001
Six hospitals built within 86-year period
By Jim Blount
For nearly 25 years, Mercy Hospital in Hamilton was Butler County's only hospital. It wasn't until the eve of U. S. entry into World War I that Middletown Hospital opened. Medical services began at the 28-bed hospital March 5, 1917, with seven employees.
In 86 years, between 1892 -- when Mercy started with 15 beds -- and 1978, six hospitals were established in the county. Besides Mercy Hamilton and Middletown hospitals, they were Fort Hamilton, Eugene H. Hughes Memorial, McCullough-Hyde and Mercy Fairfield.
The birth of the county's second health care facility, Middletown Hospital, is traced to a 1909 speech by George M. Verity, founder and president of the American Rolling Mill Co. (later Armco, and now AK Steel). He believed the expanding industrial city required its own hospital.
The cause gained support after a July 4, 1910, railroad accident west of Middletown killed 24 and injured 35 people. Victims had to be transported to Hamilton and Dayton hospitals for treatment.
After a fund-raising campaign, land was acquired in 1911 and plans were drawn in 1913. What has evolved into Middletown Regional Hospital opened its doors a month before the U. S. declared war on Germany in April 1917.
Here, in chronological order, are brief histories of other Butler County hospitals.
1929 -- Fort Hamilton Hospital, Hamilton : The deadly Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 helped arouse community interest in a second hospital in Hamilton. It gained momentum in January 1925 with formation of a 21-member Butler County Welfare Club that sought local pledges for land and construction.
That group evolved into the Fort Hamilton Hospital Association, which bought 56 lots on Eaton Avenue in 1926. Contracts were awarded in November 1927 and the 142-bed Fort Hamilton Hospital admitted its first patient May 1, 1929.
1952 -- Hughes Memorial Hospital, Hamilton : Eugene Howard (Robin) Hughes, a resident of Liberty Township, directed in his will that the remainder of his estate be used "for the ultimate purpose of founding and establishing . . . a hospital for contagious diseases," known as the Eugene H. Hughes Memorial Hospital for Contagious Diseases."
Hughes, a retired banker, died in 1939, but litigation delayed his gift for more than 10 years. His bequest totaled $1.7 million when hospital construction started in June 1950. After an open house July 25-27, 1952, the 88-bed hospital started service with the care of tuberculosis patients as one of its prime missions.
It was built on the southwest corner of Haldimand and Progress avenues, adjacent to Fort Hamilton Hospital. The merger of the two hospitals was approved in December 1971, effective the next year.
1957 -- McCullough-Hyde Hospital , Oxford: Thomas McCullough (1818-1901) -- the first child born within Oxford -- left his sizable estate to his daughters, Elizabeth Heath, who died in 1936, and Daisy McCullough, who survived until 1940. In their wills, both women bequested money for a hospital "designated and known as the McCullough Memorial Hospital." in Oxford.
Preliminary planning started in 1942 when Mayor Robert Todd appointed a board of trustees. Added impetus came when Benjamin S. Hyde, a retired farmer who died in 1951, left $376,035 for a hospital. Plans were approved in 1955 and a public open house was held Feb. 24, 1957, at the 72-bed McCullough-Hyde Hospital.
1978 -- Mercy Hospital, Fairfield : A series of informal drives for a full-service hospital in north central Hamilton County in the late 1950s gained momentum in the 1960s with population growth in the southern tier of Butler County. The possible locations shifted to Fairfield with the growth of that city to 14,680 inhabitants by the 1970 census.
A community campaign gained approval of regional health planners in 1974. Mercy dedicated its $16.5 million 150-bed Fairfield hospital on Mack Road within sight of I-275 and the county line Aug. 19, 1978.
Each Butler County hospital has experienced periodic physical additions, alterations and rebuilding since opening. The changes continue in 2001. Mercy is closing its Hamilton operation, and Middletown Regional Hospital is considering a plan that would relocate the facility to land in Warren County, east of I-75.
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Journal-News , Wednesday, May 23, 2001
Memorial Day started by Civil War veterans
By Jim Blount
Next week will be the 134th time a Memorial Day parade will march through downtown Hamilton to Greenwood Cemetery to honor fallen veterans who fought in American wars and maintained the peace between periodic conflicts. When started in May 1868, the observance was a tribute to men who had paid the supreme sacrifice in the Civil War.
Decoration Day, as it was first called, began in 1868 at the urging of Major-Gen. John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans group. The GAR had been formed in Springfield, Ill., in April 1866, a year after the four-year war had ended.
Hamilton's first GAR contingent, organized Jan. 25, 1867, was the Samuel R. Johns Post, named in honor of the first private from Butler County to die in battle. Pvt. Johns of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment was shot July 6, 1861, at Middleford Bridge, W. Va. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.
Founding officers included Alexander W. Scott, commander; the Rev. J. B. McDill, vice commander; James M. Ayers, adjutant; J. S. McNeeley, surgeon; Charles E. Giffen, quartermaster; R. Hannaford, junior vice commander; John Decker, officer of the day; and Jacob Day, officer of the guard.
Members of the local post -- which eventually enrolled 130 veterans -- marched to Greenwood Cemetery in May 1868. There they placed flowers on soldiers' graves and conducted a memorial program, featuring a speech by Captain David W. McClung of Hamilton.
For unexplained reasons, the local GAR post disbanded in 1870. Some of the same men formed a new group -- the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Association -- Aug. 16, 1878, under the direction of Captain F. B. Landis. The association -- whose first commander was G. M. Flenner -- had 192 members before its disbandment Aug. 11, 1881.
A new GAR post organized before the association ceased operation.
Wetzel-Compton Post -- which eventually had more than 500 members -- formed in Hamilton July 14, 1881, with 30 charter members. Its first commander was D. H. Hensley, who had been a member of the 73rd Indiana Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.
The new GAR group was named in honor of two Hamilton men who died carrying the flag of the 69th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Jacob Wetzel fell during the charge on Missionary Ridge at Chattanooga in 1863. John A. Compton was killed during the Battle of Resaca, Ga., in 1864.
James W. Houston, a member of Wetzel-Compton Post, was the last Civil War veteran to participate in a Hamilton Memorial Day parade. He was honorary grand marshal of the 1936 event.
Houston, regarded as Hamilton's last Civil War veteran, died Aug. 1, 1936, at the age of 89. Because he had been a member of the 11th Ohio Cavalry, his funeral included a horseback escort. He is buried in Oxford Cemetery.
Jacob A. (Uncle Jake) Inman of Somerville was the last surviving member of Wetzel-Compton Post. He was 99 years old when he died Sept. 15, 1941. The post flag flew for the last time at his funeral in Somerville.
Butler County's last Civil War veteran was DeWitt Clinton Orr, who was 94 when he died in Middletown Nov. 14, 1943. He is buried in Woodside Cemetery in Middletown.
About 4,444 Butler County men served in the Union cause, according to James E. Campbell, a local Civil War veteran who became governor of Ohio. He estimated there were 6,544 men of military age among the county's 35,840 residents at the start of the war. That meant two out of every three men in the county served at one time or another.
Campbell emphasized that most of the Butler Countians were volunteers, not draftees. When the first draft was held Oct. 1, 1862, he said the county "had sent to the field . . . 337 men more than her full quota up to that time. She was, therefore, one of the 13 counties [out of 88] in which no draft was ordered."
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Journal-News, Wednesday, May 30, 2001
Butler troops ready for 1862 Corinth fight
By Jim Blount
Rain and mud had been the nemesis of the 35th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment during its first eight months of campaigning in the Civil War. The unit -- mostly Butler County men who had trained at the fairgrounds in Hamilton -- arrived too late to fight in the Battle of Logan Cross Roads near Somerset, Ky., in January 1862, and again at Shiloh in Tennessee in April 1862.
The anticipated May 30 encounter at Corinth, Miss., the men of the 35th assumed, would be different. The battle April 6-7 at Shiloh -- about 22 miles north of Corinth -- appeared to have been a preliminary confrontation.
A sign of its gravity was numbers. Both armies had added men -- 48,000 on the Union side, 25,700 by the Confederates. The Union army -- which had more than 62,000 men at Shiloh -- had increased to about 110,000. The southern army -- around 40,300 at Shiloh -- had expanded to approximately 66,000 troops at Corinth.
The Mississippi town -- just south of the Tennessee border -- was an important railroad center on routes vital to the Confederate supply system. It was the junction point for the east-west Memphis & Charleston Railroad and the north-south Mobile & Ohio Railroad.
Directing the northern armies was Major-General Henry W. Halleck, who had graduated third in the 31-man Class of 1839 at West Point. His Confederate counterpart was General Pierre G. T. Beauregard.
Halleck's cautious advance began April 29. His tiring and monotonous routine was to march his troops a short distance each day and then order the men to entrench before nightfall. It took his army a month to move 22 miles toward Corinth.
In the slow advance, the 35th was active in scouting. In a reconnaissance April 24 -- before the major advance -- the regiment cooperated with the 18th U. S. in driving off two Confederate regiments and capturing a hospital whose patients included Union troops who had been wounded and captured at Shiloh.
May 29 the showdown appeared imminent. The 35th -- eager for its first chance in battle -- was in the front lines.
During the tense night of May 29-30, 1862. the 35th was within 1,000 yards of the Confederate breastworks as darkness cloaked the poised armies. The night appeared to be providing a veil over last-minute preparations by the defenders, but it didn't dull some familiar sounds.
At 1:20 a.m., Major-General John Pope notified Halleck that the "enemy is re-enforcing heavily by trains in my front and on my left. The (railroad) cars are running constantly, and the cheering is immense every time they unload in front of me."
"I have no doubt, from all appearance, that I shall be attacked in heavy force at daylight," said Pope, obviously expressing what many Union soldiers were hearing and thinking as dawn approached.
But the morning of May 30 brought a surprise to Pope, Halleck and the Butler County men in the 35th OVI. Instead of bringing additional troops in by train during the night, the Confederates had been withdrawing from Corinth.
The cheering soldiers and the lighting of additional camp fires were part of well-planned theatrics aimed at holding the Union army in position while Beauregard's rebel forces got a head start on any pursuers.
Again, the 35th regiment had been denied a chance to prove itself in a major battle. This time it was by a ruse -- not by rain and mud.
In light of the swiftness with which the Union armies had swept through Fort Henry and Fort Donelson in February, Shiloh in April and Corinth in May, it must have appeared to the men in the 35th that the Civil War could end without the regiment engaging Confederates on a battlefield. But there would other opportunities before their three-year terms ended in September 1864.