When I started writing the column about the dismantlement of Madonna Hospital for last Sunday’s Herald Democrat, I found very little information in my files. I knew there had to be more. And wouldn’t you know it, on Tuesday, after the column ran, I was searching for something else and found an entire binder filled with information on hospitals of Denison.

When I started writing the column about the dismantlement of Madonna Hospital for last Sunday’s Herald Democrat, I found very little information in my files. I knew there had to be more. And wouldn’t you know it, on Tuesday, after the column ran, I was searching for something else and found an entire binder filled with information on hospitals of Denison.


Several people had mentioned to me that they weren’t sure whether they were born at Madonna or some other hospital and maybe this column will shed some light on their location of birth — and mine too.


About when Denison had grown to 15,000 people by the turn of the century (1800s to 1900), local doctors had been providing community health care as best they could. Some opened small clinics where they could treat their patients and perform some surgery. Antibiotic drugs had not been discovered and most infections were difficult to treat. Babies were delivered in the homes by doctors and mid-wives. Epidemics had taken place and better medical care became a priority.


Railroad officials had considered building a hospital and opening it to the public for a fee, however, the plans changed and a clinic for company employees opened on the fourth floor of the Security building.


Denison’s first hospital was established in 1873, but lack of public support caused it to fail. But 40 years later in 1910, public interest brought about a search for a possible site for a city hospital and a hospital board was appointed.


Public subscription to raise funds failed that year, however a special tax was voted and bonds were issued to build a community hospital and ground was broken on East Hull Street in February 1913. The new hospital opened in February 1914 after Dr. J.G. Ellis and Dr. L.C. Ellis signed a contract to manage it. The city-owned hospital struggled with different administrations and it wasn’t exactly successful. The services deteriorated to the point that the city said something had to be done.


In April 1943, with the idea of improving the facility and services it provided, Mayor W.L. Ashburn Jr., signed a city ordinance setting up a board to manage the hospital. The original five men on that board were President Henry Etter, R.L. McKinney, George Fairley, Ralph Porter and T.E. Penn.


The board determined that the hospital was in dire need of repairs and its equipment was obsolete and needed to be updated. It was estimated that the cost of these repairs would be $50,000 but voters again voted the proposal down.


A request for federal funds was denied when the hospital and neighboring facilities were found with less than 90 percent occupancy. A way finally was hit upon to provide the city with adequate hospital care when it was suggested that the Sisters of Divine Providence take the hospital as a gift to assist in repairs and $10,000 was to be part of the gift. The Rev. T.S. Zachary, then pastor of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, took the appeal to the Superior General of the Sisters, who came to Denison to investigate.


After a snag almost stopped the deal, it was decided that the value of the property be set at $4,500 and the Sisters bought it with funds provided by Denisonians through public subscription. The project was approved in May 1944 and the Sisters agreed to spend $50,000 on hospital improvements. The hospital was almost rebuilt before it reopened in August 1945 under the name of Madonna Hospital. If you read Sunday’s column you know pretty much what happened after that.


Back in 1920, the Katy still had its plans for a railroad employee’s hospital of its own and the city of Denison deeded 27 acres in northwest Denison to the railroad company to encourage the project. Work started on the Katy Hospital that year and the $214,000 facility opened with 65 beds in November 1921.


Dr. T.J. Long became the surgeon with Dr. A.G. Sneed as the resident physician. The hospital served Katy employees until it was acquired by Texoma Medical Center. After a long study, it was determined that the building could not be renovated to meet life safety and hospital construction codes so the building was demolished in 1987.


A $14,000 nurses’ home was added after the hospital was opened. In about 1960, the hospital headquarters and accounting department moved to Denison from St. Louis.


Denison’s black citizens had no hospital of their own until about 1925 when Dr. Roscoe Riddle opened his "Mercy" Hospital at 1030 West Munson. Black patients came from as far away as Louisiana for treatment. The hospital closed in about 1955.


The story of hospitals in Denison would not be complete without mentioning some of the private hospitals that played roles in the residents’ health.


Foremost among these was the Long-Sneed Hospital that was established in 1934 at 417 West Woodard by Dr. T.J. Long and Dr. Arch Sneed. This hospital had as many as 15 beds and operated for a number of years.


An even earlier hospital was located in a two story house just east of Ashburn’s Creamery in the 600 block of West Main. That building has been a hospital, a residence at least once, an antique store and other businesses. Dr. A.M. Freels was one of the physicians there.


The Denison Hospital and Clinic was an osteopathic hospital that served many patients in the city.


Now we come to 1965 when Memorial Hospital was dedicated on May 14 and termed the "finest in the area." Several years later, a $2 million 84-bed plant was opened.


The hospital’s name was changed to Texoma Medical Center during the mid-1980s to reflect the regional service area it covered. I think most everyone knows pretty much the history of the hospital since then and how it moved into an ultra-modern facility at the intersection of Highway 691 and Highway 75.


Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at donnahunt554@gmail.com.