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Mason County Memories

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Attempts to Organize Mason Counties First Hospital met with Resistance David K Petersen History Columnist

In the early days of our counties history those who were injured or sick often had to depend on the kindness of strangers or if there were one within the county depend on the Doctors ability to care for patients in his own home. Prior to the arrival of the Pere Marquette Railroad in Ludington in 1874 when patients were in need of hospital care they traveled overnight on regular passenger boats from Ludington to Chicago.

Ponder for a moment the idea that during the first fifty years after our County of Mason was established there was no hospital for local residents despite an increasing population and the goals of the 1892 Ludington the Beautiful campaign to bring upwards of 50,000 new residents to the area.

In September, 1906 a group of enthusiastic Ludington women met at Library Hall to discuss the possibility of building a hospital in Ludington. To gain the support of the men of the community, they prepared a dinner. During dinner they explained their project. The response was negative, "...it can't be done, the project is a waste of time." That did not stop this group from moving forward, and this was a formidable group of women, wives of Doctors, businessmen, and pharmacists, with a vision and influence of their own.

The women were determined and hired a lawyer to draw up the required documents. On September 13, 1906, Mrs. Barbara Switzer, Mrs. Hattie Haskell and Mrs. Kate Cartier signed the constitution, establishing the Mason County Hospital Association. The requirements to be a member of the association in addition to being a woman included the payment of 5.00 in dues upon joining and 5.00 per year in dues, twenty-six women signed this document.

On October 2, 1906, nine women presented the Hospital Association's Articles of Association for notarization to Michael B. Danaher, a Notary Public. The nine women, who were the first Directors of the Hospital, were: Mrs. Esther Sahlmark, Mrs. Eva J. Snow, Mrs. Fannie Latimer, Mrs. Lodema Goodenough, Mrs. Lenora Tanner, Mrs. Helen Thomas Wade, Mrs. Mary Magmer, Mrs. Clara Smith, and Mrs. Anna Barbara Switzer.

The association's incorporation was recorded in the Mason County Court House in early November 1906 . The first officers of the Hospital Association were: Mrs. Goodenough, President; Mrs. Magmer, Vice President, Mrs. Latimer, Secretary and Mrs. Sahlmark, Treasurer. Mrs. Goodenough appointed four Ways and Means Committees, representing Ludington, Scottville, Summit and Pere Marquette. Three ladies were chosen (Mrs. Mary Magmer, Mrs. M. F. Butters and Mrs. W. H. Taylor) to find a site for the hospital.

In the November 14, 1906 edition of The Ludington Chronicle, the local newspaper reported on the election of officers. The article also stated, "This movement on the part of the ladies is a most commendable one. Mason County is badly in need of a hospital and every citizen should give their hearty support to anything that will assist in the enterprise." Justus Stearns, a local lumberman and businessman, pledged $1,000 to help fund the work of the Association. Many months were spent studying and planning for the hospital.

During these early days of organization the enterprise was referred to a languishing project in print, and the writer conveyed the impression that the project was doomed to fail, that the promoters were embarrassed because of a lack of funds. It brought about a story in the December 26th 1906 issue of the Ludington Chronicle with the headline "Hospital Movement Misrepresented" The article went on to say that "Nothing could be farther from the truth then the statements made and impressions created. It went on to defend the newly formed organization and to say " This is a time when the good word and helping hand are needed, and they will do much for paving an easy way for the early consummation of a noble undertaking."

On August 14, 1907, at approximately 3:00 p.m., an accident occurred between Ludington and Epworth Heights on the Ludington and Northern railroad, in which several people were seriously injured. The accident involved the Dummy Line, a railroad that ran from Ludington to Epworth and Hamlin. When the news reached Ludington, a relief train carrying doctors and medical supplies was dispatched to the scene. The seriously injured passengers were cared for in the homes of the doctors and other citizens of Ludington. Although the accident was tragic, it served to awaken the community to the need for a hospital and support for the women's Hospital Association was increased.

End of Part 1

Thanks to Memorial Medical Center for providing photographs and material for this weeks column. Memorial Medical is celebrating it'c centennial this year, if you have photos or stories to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com

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