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Mason County Memories

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Paulina Stearns Hospital History Column Dave Petersen Last year we celebrated the centennial of the formation of the Hospital Association that led to the creation of Mason County's first and only Hospital. The doors of the hospital did not open until October 19th of 1907 so in recognition of this important date in our history we'll take a look over some of the photographs related to the hospital. One in particular that has not been published before is the photograph of the Michigan National Guard troop train taken by Manistee photographer Jennie Smith circa 1905. When we talk about the accident in August of 1907 when the troop train backed into the dummy train its hard to imagine the difference in size that would have led to so many injured on the dummy train and no damage to the other. When you look over and compare the photographs of the two trains it becomes very clear the open air cars of the dummy train were no match for the other and one wonders why there were not more injured rather then less. Pic 1 This circa 1905 photograph of Michigan National Guardsmen disembarking from the troop train illustrates very nicely the massive weight and size of the train that backed into the Dummy train that fateful day August 14th 1907 When the news reached Ludington, a relief train carrying doctors and medical supplies was dispatched to the scene and hundreds of others walked along the line out to the crash site to view the wreck. 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 increased. Pic 2 In comparison the lighter weight and the open cars on the dummy train were a recipe for disaster as the Dummy Train took the brunt of the damage and serious injuries. Allowing the MNG to use Lincoln fields during the summer was an effort to try and drive Epworth League out of the area but the attempt failed. Photograph courtesy of Carol Elve Pic 3 The Hospital Association was already in place and they had made progress toward the goal of opening a hospital. The dummy line accident served to coalesce that support. A few weeks later, in September 1907, Justus Stearns offered the use of his fifteen-room home at 1109 South Washington Avenue, 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.) The Hospital opened October 19th and on November 13, 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. The Ludington Chronicle stated "Successful beyond the most sanguine expectations of the Mason County Hospital Association has been their venture to open a hospital in this city. All visitors who inspected the institution Saturday during open hours could not fail to realize how great a blessing it would be to the community." Pic 4 Barbara Switzer is shown center working in the "new" Paulina Stearns Hospital with 2 other unidentified nurses. Photograph courtesy of Historic White Pine Village. Pic 5 In October 1907, the 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." Pic 6 Mr. and Mrs. Robert Steams gave their home, located next door to the hospital, to the Hospital Association in July 1908. This home was to be used as a nurse's home. (This building has since been razed for a parking lot.) Justus Stearns paid for the alterations necessary to convert the home into a nurse's home. If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com, mail should be sent in care of the Ludington Daily News PO box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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