Jamestown Hospital wasn't city's firstThe headline of the Sept. 10, 1935, Jamestown Sun read, “Jamestown becomes real hospital center,” but it wasn’t the biggest news of the issue. The assassination of Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana was the top story that day.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
The headline of the Sept. 10, 1935, Jamestown Sun read, “Jamestown becomes real hospital center,” but it wasn’t the biggest news of the issue.
The assassination of Sen. Huey Long of Louisiana was the top story that day.
The new Jamestown Hospital was slated to open in two weeks. It would join Trinity Hospital giving people in the region a choice in medical facilities. Trinity Hospital was operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph and Jamestown Hospital was operated by the Lutheran Charity Association.
Trinity Hospital had operated since 1913, first under the name Parkview as a private hospital. The new Jamestown Hospital wasn’t even a proposal until the late 1920s. The concept of a second hospital became the driving work of Rev. Walter William August Keller, a Lutheran pastor, in 1927.
Keller served as minister at St. John’s Lutheran from 1921 to 1960 and was almost universally known as W.W.A. Keller.
In the book “Century of Stories,” published for the Jamestown centennial in 1983, Keller’s wife, Bertha, attributed the drive for a new hospital to religious differences in the community.
“The only thing I know is that people wanted another hospital,” she is quoted as saying. “They were talking because there were more Protestants than Catholics at the time. And you know that this was such a conflict...”
Keller was a tireless fundraiser. He sold bonds for $100 for the new hospital redeemable for $120 in medical services when the facility was complete. Adjusted for inflation this was the equivalent of a $1,250 investment and about a $1,500 return today.
By 1929, Keller and his associates had raised about $95,000 in cash and pledges to build the exterior of the facility. They laid the cornerstone the day before Black Friday and the stock market crash. For the next six years efforts to complete the facility were hampered by slow donations prompted by a bad economy.
For those six years the hollow shell of a building sat on what was then the northeast edge of Jamestown. For six years, Keller and members of the Lutheran Charity Association of Central North Dakota continued to raise funds. By the spring and summer of 1935 they were in a position to finish the interior and furnish a state-of-the-art hospital.
State of the art in 1935 was limited to electric lights, a Westinghouse X-ray machine and Mount Reid operating tables. Electric lights on their own were a bit of a novelty at that time. Jamestown issued a franchise that year to Otter Tail Power Co. to provide electricity in the city.
The dedication on Sept. 15, 1935, was more of a church service than community event.
After a welcome from Jamestown Mayor Oscar Zimmerman, Keller read Scripture as part of the dedication of the building. The Rev. Joseph Johnson, minister at the Scandinavian Lutheran Church of Jamestown, read Scripture and gave the invocation in English.
The Rev. August Hoeger, a Lutheran minister from Fargo, also gave an invocation but in German.
Featured speakers of the day included the Rev. J. Bunge of Goodrich, Dr. J.F.L. Bohnhoff of Valley City and Dr. David Stoeve of Fargo, who was president of the North Dakota Norwegian Lutheran Church.
It was Stoeve who addressed the advances in medicine and the changes in hospitals noting that the average stay in a hospital had declined from 20 to 12 days in the years before 1935.
During Jamestown Hospital’s early years economic times continued to be difficult. Keller was called on to continue fundraising to provide basic services like food for the patients, according to the “Century of Stories.”
World War II brought better times to the region and to Jamestown Hospital. By 1950 fundraising was under way for the south wing of the building. By 1964 the second floor of that wing became home to the Intensive Care Unit and the Post-Operative Recovery Unit.
And in 1966 Jamestown Hospital became the only general population hospital in the community.
New regulations mandated structural and equipment changes that Trinity Hospital could not afford. It closed its doors on March 1, 1966, after transferring patients and equipment to Jamestown Hospital.
The next year, Jamestown Hospital broke ground for the east wing of the building destined to serve as the surgery and emergency room areas as well as offering a central supply room.
The final addition to the hospital occurred in 2001 when an outpatient surgery area was added to the front of the building.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at email@example.com