Twenty-five years before the city built Knoxville General Hospital in 1902, it depended largely on the Strong Home Hospital at the corner of Cumberland and State. It had been a private home with eight rooms on the main floor and three in the basement. From a wide hallway, stairs led to the second floor, which had the superintendent’s quarters, examination room, ladies’ ward and dining room.
With no government funds, the hospital began as a shoestring operation. By opening day it had received $100 from the East Tennessee Relief Association, up to $5 from several individuals, 15 iron bedsteads from the Tennessee School for the Deaf, pairs of pillow cases, sets of sheets and blankets from others. There were donations of knives and forks.
The Women’s Christian Association, headed by Mrs. J.S. Luckey, sponsored the grand opening of the Knoxville City Hospital Feb. 10, 1877, to show off the facility and explain how it could care for the city’s poor and out-of-towners who took ill while visiting.
By 1890 the hospital was getting glowing reviews from the Knoxville Journal: “Under the personal management of Mrs. Irene Pollard, the hospital is clean and in excellent condition. There is one female patient and five males, two are colored. During the municipal year which will close Saturday, there have been eighty-nine patients in the hospital. During the past year the expenses incurred were about $500 less than the previous year.”
On Aug. 26, 1892, the Tribune reported its investigation of complaints from the hospital: “The two negro railroad patients were found in the ward of the south side of the building. George Smith, who has had his leg amputated, when asked about the condition of his injured leg, stated that the story about living vermin being found was all too true. He said that the doctor dresses his leg twice a day now, when before he let it remain twenty-four hours without any attention.”
While Smith’s doctor denied any neglect, Mrs. Pattie B. Moseley, matron in charge of the hospital, said she had endeavored to keep everything in as good order as possible. She also wanted it known that she had “no desire to injure anyone’s reputation, especially a young man starting out in his profession.”
The Board of Public Works that oversaw operations of the hospital met on Aug. 18, 1898, and made major changes. According to the Tribune, “The only matter of business that came up which smacked of the sensational meeting that had been expected by some, was the election of a new matron and nurse for the City Hospital. Mrs. Pattie B. Moseley, the matron, and Ben Bostie, colored, the nurse, were asked to send in their resignations.”
The motion carried and the board chose Doram Scarlett and his wife to fill the positions. Their salaries were $35 and $25 per month, respectively.