Narcoossee Sanitorium
Osceola County, FL

transcribed by Anza Bast

Source: Kissimmee Valley Gazette, Friday, August 6, 1909, front pg.

The Sunshine Sanitarium

For the Treatment of Consumptives at Narcoossee.
Its. Inception and Development.

        The following is the first of a series of articles by Dr. John E. Ennis, founder of the Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Narcoossee, fourteen miles from this city, giving the inception and development of that institution up to the time it was taken over by the state and converted into the State Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

        A residence in this portion of Florida for a number of years, observing carefully its equable climate, its pure air, good water, freedom from annoying insects, and the fact that such common diseases as pneumonia, bronchitis, phthisis, pulmonalis, all continued fevers and malarial complaints were unknown to the inhabitants, convinced me that no other section I ever visited could compare with this for the treatment of pulmonary affections.

        I had made numerous visits to all sections of our country from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and south as far as the southern boundary of Mexico, examining the climate and all facilities for the treatment of invalids, hence my opinion of the merits of this section was formed from actual observation and critical investigation.

        It is well to note that a quarter of a tury [sic] ago the National American Medical Society sent out a committee of examination to visit every portion of our land, also Cuba and Isle of Pines, with a view of determining the most equable climate for an open-air life. This committee spent three years in this investigation, reporting to the annual meeting of the American Medical Association held at Baltimore in April, 1885, that a point in South Florida in their opinion was the best found for a national sanitarium. This report, made by eminent scientists, is quite voluminous and complete. It is an interesting chapter in medical literature.

        As a practical test of my opinions, in the summer of '94 I arranged to accept some consumptives at my home in Narcoossee. Those with means to pay cost of food, others financially weak to do light work, all to be treated as members of the family.

        To give publicity to the effort, Everybody's Magazine was requested to make the announcement, which was done after a close scrutiny of my ability to carry out the promises.

        The place selected for the test was a good one. It consisted of a tract of twenty acres of land surrounded on all sides by dense forests of pine. It had water conveyed to all portions, two cottages with large verandahs, a lawn of five acres, and the grounds were well supplied with shrubbery and shade trees.

        The favorable notice given in the Magazine brought letters in large numbers from many states, and in short time we had all the patients we could care for. No medicines were used save in a few cases where was found some sympathetic disease, such as indigestion, ulceration of throat or malaria contracted prior to arrival. We depended entirely on life in open air, the most nutritious food possible to be secured, strict discipline so far as rest, exercise and the daily life is concerned. Amusements were supplied in the shape of games of various kinds, each day adding something new. Fun and moderate frolic were encouraged, and the effect proved so beneficial that the camp soon took on the appearance of a pleasure party rather than a sanitarium. The general appearance of the patients soon indicated returning health, so much so that late in the season one visitor, a physician, remarked to a friend "that he only saw one on the place that looked like a consumptive, and that was the doctor in charge."

        The result of the experiment for the season of '94 and '95 was greater than we anticipated. Everyone treated was either cured, restored or improved. One of the worst cases now holds a responsible position in Pennsylvania, another a position in Florida, the others are nearly all pursuing their usual avocations at home. Several are now good citizens of this state.

        During the season we were favored with a visit from Mrs. Jane Pierce, who is on the editorial staff of the New York Tribune and Secretary of the Tribune Sunshine Society. This cultured lady, hearing of our effort, came and spent several days in the camp, carefully noting the sanitation, food and general care of the patients. It was at her suggestion a larger and better camp was purchased and a corporation formed to carry on the work. From the day she visited us she has continually aided us with her encouraging letters and donations of funds.

        The citizens of Narcoossee, one and all, have wished us well. The Shaker family have been our loyal friends, contributing greatly to our success. Mrs. G. W. Best and Mrs. W. J. S. Carr, now living in Kissimmee, were frequent visitors, rendering service to any needing assistance.

        In our next letter we will narrate some of the results of the corporation formed under the state laws June 16th, 1906, under the title of The Narcoossee Sunshine Home and Sanitarium.

        Let me say, in conclusion, that a sanitarium properly conducted is of great value to any community where it is located. It invariably advances values in property, introduces better sanitary conditions, and promotes health in the immediate locality. It teaches its patrons lessons of purity in life, correct habits of living, and sends them out to promulgate advanced truths of hygiene among their neighbors.

        Consumption is slightly a communicable disease. One may catch it in the splendid homes of the wealthy, in our finest hotels, the streets of the city or village, but never in a sanitarium. There is as yet no record of any nurse, physician, attendant or visitor becoming affected through a residence in such an institution.


Source: Kissimmee Valley Gazette, Friday, August 13, 1909, front pg.

The Home and Sanitarium

        As a Corporation From June, 1906, Until Transferred to State of Florida, August 1st, 1909

        The success met with the treatment of tuberculosis on private grounds in the village of Narcoossee determined its supporters and friends to make the effort a permanent one, and with this end in view various locations in this section were critically examined. Fortunately the Brewer place was found vacant and for sale. This property contains five acres, and has on it a fine residence and numerous outbuildings. It has its own water supply, sufficient to irrigate all the land and supply the buildings, including the baths. It fronts on Lake Hendon, a lake of wonderful beauty. In the rear is East Lake, a large body of water some seven miles long and two to four miles wide.

        The location is an ideal one. Visitors declare that nowhere in all their travels have they witnessed a more beautiful vision of water and forest than here. The climate is equable - no sudden or severe changes in temperature occur. The scarcity of annoying insects is surprising. The air is pure, with just proper humidity for lung troubles. Hamilton Disston, once the owner of millions of acres of South Florida lands, has stated that the lands on Lake Hendon were the most beautiful for homes that he possessed.

        On this property Mr. Brewer had expended, probably, five thousand dollars. It was purchased in March, 1906 - the buildings repaired, two cottages and numerous tents placed on the grounds, and opened for patients in the fall in a quiet and unostentatious manner.

        Many patients have been treated during its three years of operation, and only two deaths have occurred - both advanced cases, too far advanced to be curable. Let me say, however, that the kind, affectionate care both received during their stay with us made their parents and relatives the warmest friends of the institution.

        The following shows the primary object of the effort and the officers acting, with one exception, during the life of the corporation:

        Primarily for consumptives in the incipient stage, but exceptions are sometimes made in favor of applicants who need an out-door life for other reasons. Present capacity for those we board and lodge is about twenty-five. Parties furnishing their own tents and doing their own cooking will be given ample space on the grounds, their mail and provisions delivered daily, also use of library, magazines and papers, provided they are orderly and neat, observing all the rules of the association.

        Officers - J. M. Willson, Jr., president; Miss Elizabeth A. Sears, vice-president; Mrs. M. L. Ennis, secretary and treasurer; Jno. E. Ennis, M. D., resident physician; M. J. Hicks, M. D., T. M. Rivers, M. D., consulting physicians.

        Advisory Board - Mrs. Jane Pierce, New York; Mrs. Annie L. Mason, Brooklyn, N. Y.; Mrs. Thos. McLean, Conant, Fla.; Mrs. Marie Burns, New York; Mrs. Alice Bodine Halsey, New Jersey; Mrs. Margaret Walker, New Haven, Conn.; Mrs. Isabel Bailey, New Jersey; Mrs. Kitta Greene, New York; Mrs. Addie Wallerstein, New York.

        No official of the corporation has ever received any salary or compensation for service rendered - all have given not only their time but also pecuniary aid to our struggle for existence.

        It is a matter of sincere pleasure to me to give the public the names of a few who have aided this humanitarian work. The captain standing on the bridge of a great ocean steamer resplendent in uniform is a conspicuous person. In entering a port or out on the sea he is the observed of all observers, but down below - unnoticed, unknown - are the men whose untiring work moves the stately shop. In corporations and organizations the active head - the manager or president - quite generally receives much praise for results reached mostly by the work of others.

        Many a noble woman has denied herself pleasures, even necessities, to speed the work for the poor consumptive. Their contributions may never meet the public eye, but rest assured they are down on God's tablet.

        To treat consumptives properly and successfully, more than medicine, air and food is necessary. The environments must be comfortable and beautiful, equal or better than those at home. They must have supreme confidence in the physician, and the warmest sympathy for the matron and nurse. With these features assured, great success is certain; without these pleasing surroundings, many patients surely curable will die.

        How pleasing it is to hear a cultured girl or boy on entering our grounds and noting the lawns, the pals, the flowers and shrubs, exclaim, "Oh, doctor, it is just what I hoped for; just what I dreamed."

        Under the new regime the place will be greatly improved - commodious buildings erected and the grounds beautified with more plants and trees. The present State Board of Health will make it as efficient as any sanitarium in the world.

        Of Floridians who have seconded heartily any effort for the prevention of tuberculosis, we must name Governor Broward and our present executive, Governor Gilchrist.

        To the chief health officer, Dr. Joseph Porter, and his assistant, Dr. Hiram Byrd, we feel greatly indebted. In fact, but for their endorsement, frequent visits of inspection, sympathy and advice, we are sure our success would have been impossible.

        Mr. P. A. Vans Agnew has acted as our attorney and furnished all the necessary papers to form a corporation.

        The Valley Gazette has been our fast friend from start to finish, publishing the necessary advertisement to obtain a charter without any remuneration, aiding in every manner.

        Sister, Elizabeth A. Sears, of the Shaker family, our vice-president, has been a sister truly to many an invalid in our camp. She has never been absent from a meeting of the board; never failed to cheer us up in our darkest hour.

        Mrs. Thos. McLean, of Conant, Fla., has proved a constant friend. At one time a family arrived here with two tents, but no furniture and scant of means. Mrs. McLean furnished these tents and made the invalids comfortable. The same furniture has been used by many others.

        I must not omit mentioning Mrs. L. M. Halsey, of Williamstown, N. J., a member of the advisory board, as one of our most persistent friends. One of the cottages on the grounds is known as the Halsey Cottage, for a donation from her made it possible.

        The state of Florida has at length joined her sister states in a fight against what until lately has been considered an invulnerable enemy. Within our state we have at least two thousand pulmonary invalids dragging out a painful existence, depleting their own, their friends and the public resources. Practically most all of these could be restored and the spread of the disease curtailed or stopped.

        It is the duty of every man and woman in our state to support the Board of Health in the great work they have undertaken.

Late Resident Physician the Narcoossee Sanitarium.

Copyright 2008:  Anza Bast
Donated to the Genealogy Club of Osceola County for posting on their website