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Mason County Memories

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Train wreck helps to focus the Community on the needs for a hospital

History Column

David K Petersen Last week we ended our first installment with a mention of the collision on the Ludington and Northern between the Dummy Train and a Calvary train loaded with troupes and three carloads of horses on August 14th 1907. Both trains were backing up and collided at the curve north of the Roundhouse. The lightness of the open cars on the Dummy train were no match for the heavier Pere Marquette train that was backing out to the campgrounds located north of Epworth where the Michigan National Guard trained during those early years of the last century on grounds now occupied by the Lincoln Hills Golf Course. One of our illustrations this week shows a closer view of the Dummy train cars and you can see that the construction would easily cause injuries due to the openness of the car.

The injured from this accident were all located in the first open Dummy line car that had been smashed by the collision, those traveling in the second coach were not seriously injured. This was the first accident on this line and while no fatalities were listed there wee a number of injuries from gashes, bruises, and broken bones. A relief train was dispatched from Ludington with Medical help and hundred of others walked along the line out to the crash site to view the wreck. Mrs. Varling had to be cut from the wreckage and she was taken to Dr. Switzer's home to be cared for. Dr, Graham took over the care for nine year old George Cogswell whose leg had been crushed. Doctor Gray and Dr. Hoffman took over the care of several others who had been taken to the Lake House.

Tragedy often serves to awaken us to the needs of not only others but also to open our eyes to the needs of our own selves and communities. This accident as tragic as it was did not result in the loss of any life but it did focus the community on the greater needs for a hospital in Mason County. The mechanism in the form of the hospital Association was already in place and they had made progress toward their goals of opening a hospital the accident served to coalesce that support. A few weeks later in September 1907, Justus Stearns offered the use of his 15 room home, for six months, for use as a hospital. (The site of this original hospital is now a parking lot on the southeast corner of Washington and Fourth Streets.)

In October 1907 he Hospital Board voted unanimously to name the hospital in memory of Justus Stearn's wife, Paulina, who had died in 1904. The board was quoted as such " The residence which Mr. Stearns has so generously given for six months as the quarters for the hospital was Mrs. Stearn's home and as her life was always filled with kind and benevolent deeds no greater tribute could be paid to her memory then naming the hospital for her."

The women of the Hospital Association held benefit card parties, skating parties and other events to raise money for the renovation of the 15-room Stearns home. They became "attic angels" rummaging for discarded furniture that could be used in the hospital. The doctors loaned instruments and donated equipment. Dr. Gray donated his X-Ray Machine, a fracture bed from Dr. Switzer, and 3 rooms of furniture from the newly appointed Superintendent Mrs. S.M. Smythe. The telephone company gave a telephone; the electric company offered free electricity; the firemen from the Phoenix Hose Company No 1 gave all of their dishes and silverware; and businesses gave linens and kitchen utensils. Resorters and present and past residents of the county contributed. Mrs. T.R. Lyons donated the furnishings and pledged continuing support for one of the hospital's wards.

On October 19, 1907, Paulina Stearns Hospital opened, (as recorded in the Treasurer's report). Mrs. Smyth, a registered nurse from Scottville, was the first superintendent. A few days after the opening, the hospital's first patient arrived. Joseph Bradshaw's foot had been crushed when he tried to climb on a moving train in Scottville. Bradshaw of Cheboygan was brought to Ludington by train after Doctors Kirkbride and Thomas removed the foot and dressed the wound. He was then transported to the hospital in a wagon. Surgery was performed on the patient and his crushed leg was removed below the knee, using Mrs. Smyth's dining room table as an operating table.

A month later, on November 13th 1907 with a picture of the hospital on the front page of the paper, the ladies announced an Open House for the public. Special invitations were sent to the men of the community. Justus Stearns deeded the hospital property to the Mason County Hospital Association in February 1908. His home was valued at 5,000.00 at that time. At the end of the first quarter of operation the Hospital reported a cash balance of 63.26. Over a thousand dollars had been raised and expended in the opening of the hospital.

If you have any items, photographs or stories you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or email me at davep@blackcreekpress.com

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