Knoxville Hospitals Have Made Spectacular Advances — First Unit Had 20 Beds
by Clara Ferrell Pollard — “Cavalcade Section,” Knoxville Journal, Nov. 8, 1942
Fifty years ago people were afraid to go to the hospital for fear of dying, while today many are afraid if they do not go they will die.
Knoxville’s hospitals have made spectacular advances since 1891 when the first hospital unit was started by the late Dr. T. ap R. Jones. It was situated in a red brick building that still stands on the southeast corner of State Street and Cumberland Avenue. There were four rooms and one ward, containing approximately 20 beds. Today, there are three Knoxville hospitals, Knoxville General, Fort Sanders and St. Mary’s, together containing more than 600 beds, and also a crippled children’s unit.
There are also several private infirmaries.
One of the most striking contrasts between the early and the modern hospital is the operating room.
According to Capt. Leon Montgomery, who was superintendent of Knoxville’s first hospital from 1900 to 1902, the operating room was his office. He often assisted Dr. Flossy Scott, who was the city physician, with the operations by giving the anesthetic, and sometimes he helped to sew the patients.
Students would come from the old Medical College, which existed here from 1889 to 1914, to watch the operations. The college was sold to Lincoln Memorial University in 1914 [correction: 1909]. The Medical College building is now the General Hospital’s Nurses’ Home. Drs. C. B. Jones and W. S. Nash were teachers in this college.
Dr. Nash explained that the first hospital was an alms house, or charitable institution, but later it took care of pay patients.
The city did not have any bullet-nosed, high-powered siren-screaming ambulances, so charity patients were brought to the hospital in the patrol wagon. The pay patients came in carriages, on horses or in buggies, plodding impatiently along the uneven roads, thereby increasing their pains. Today, patients are swished to the hospitals between pains.
It was very hard to persuade people to come to the hospital 50 years ago. Therefore, most babies were born at home, while today most babies are born in the hospitals.
The only baby to be born in the first Knoxville Hospital, according to various reports, was a Negro baby, Homeless Gettis. Captain Montgomery named the baby. Homeless is operating a grocery store in Chicago.
Captain Montgomery said 79 died at the hospital during the two years he was superintendent. L. C. Shepherd, a mortician, was one who died in the old hospital.
The city erected Knoxville General Hospital in 1902. It is the largest hospital in Knoxville, with more than 300 beds.
There are now 100 women enrolled in General Hospital’s Nurses’ Training School.
Tom H. Haynes is superintendent of General Hospital.
Dr. Herbert Pope was chief of the staff, but he is now in the armed forces.
Dr. Nash said plans have been discussed for the erection of a new General Hospital on the present site. The proposed structure would cost more than $1,000,000.
Lincoln Memorial Hospital was built after the city refused to allow doctors to bring Medical College students to General Hospital to observe methods of doctoring. Lincoln Memorial Hospital contained 66 beds, a training school for the nurses, a complete laboratory, a surgical ampitheatre [sic], and an operating room. There was a big difference between the new unit’s operating room and the office operating room of the first hospital.
The Lincoln Memorial Hospital staff consisted of Drs. W. S. Nash, B. B. Cates, B. F. Young, S. R Miller, E. R. Zemp, S. M. Miller and George C. Childress.
The hospital was sold to Lincoln Memorial University in 1908, and in 1914 the city bought it, merging it with General Hospital. [correction: LMU purchase 1909; city purchase 1917]
Riverside Hospital opened in 1917, and operated until it merged with Fort Sanders Hospital in 1927.
A group of doctors recognized the acute need for more hospital accommodations and formed a corporation to build Fort Sanders Hospital. It was placed on the historic site where the Civil War battle of Fort Sanders was fought Nov. 29, 1863. On Feb. 22, 1920, the hospital opened with 55 beds; today it has more than 200 beds. On the same day the first baby was born at the hospital, and he was named Sanders Keith.
The hospital opened with only three graduate nurses on the staff. Today there are 31. More than 250 nurses have been graduated during the last 22 years.
Founders of the hospital were Drs. L. L. Sheddan, C. B. Jones, J. P. Tillery, L. A. Haun, M. M. Copenhaver, E. H. Ford, Oliver W. Hill and J. B. Thielen.
Dr. C. B. Jones is president of the staff, having served in this capacity for many years.
John H. Mauney was the first superintendent, and he held that position until his death on June 18, 1938. He was succeeded by Harry L. Maloney, the present superintendent. Miss Elizabeth Killeffer, the present superintendent of nurses, came to the hospital, Aug. 1, 1920.
In 1926, Knoxville’s first incubator baby was born at Fort Sanders Hospital. She was Susie Henderson.
Incidentally, Fort Sanders Hospital obtained the first oxygen tent in the State of Tennessee. In 1937 a new $15,000 cancer clinic was built.
Fort Sanders Hospital has housed approximately 68,000 patients since its opening in 1920.
In 1937 a hospital for crippled children was built in Knoxville. The WPA, the American Legion, the Shriners and Knox County co-operated in building the unit. The site was donated by Fort Sanders Hospital.
The Crippled Children’s Hospital has a therapeutic pool, similar to the Warm Springs, Ga., pools, a violet-ray room, kitchen, school room and a glass examination room. There many little bodies are made well.
St. Mary’s Memorial Hospital, opened to the public on April 22, 1930, was an answer to the renewed call for increased hospital facilities. The first unit was erected at a cost of $300,000 and provided executive and service departments, including offices, operating rooms, X-ray unit, laboratories, kitchens and dining rooms. Service facilities were adequate not only for the first 75 beds, but for a future larger St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s is constructed of red brick with stone trimming, and is fireproof.
On the first floor of the original unit were the executive department, the kitchen, dining rooms and the chapel. The second floor was used as a surgical floor, and the third floor contained the operating rooms and the maternity department.
In June, 1937, a tumor and cancer clinic was established at St. Mary’s for the treatment of malignant diseases of both indigent and pay patients. This clinic was housed in temporary quarters until 1939, when a new wing, at an approximate cost of $150,000, was erected.
This addition increased the bed capacity of the hospital from 75 beds to 125. It includes quarters for the cancer clinic on the ground floor, containing examining rooms, photograph room, waiting room, and a Social Service Department. The wing also includes a new maternity department, with two delivery rooms and complete equipment, including a resuscitator and modern sterilizing rooms. On the fifth floor of this wing is the new X-ray Department, including two diagnostic rooms, a therapy room containing a 200,000-volt therapy machine for the treatment of cancer, and a reception room.
St. Mary’s Training School was opened in September, 1930, with 12 students; 100 have been graduated from the Training School, and today it has an enrollment of 55.
Dr. Herbert Acuff is president of the staff, having served in this capacity for a number of years.
The first patient registered was Miss Lillian Howell, 1318 Armstrong Avenue, and the first baby born in the hospital was a boy, born to Mr. and Mrs. Jack Henderson, 116 Bernard Avenue.
The hospital has housed approximately 25,000 patients since its opening in 1930.
Think of the old red brick building that served as Knoxville’s first hospital, with the kitchen upstairs, operating room in the superintendent’s office, the morgue in the basement and the winding stairway in the entrance hall.
Then visit the three modern hospitals and marvel at the growth of Knoxville’s hospitals from one structure to today’s modernly equipped buildings.