Editor’s Note: This is part two of a two-part series regarding hospitals that were located at Sutter’s Fort during the mid-19th century.
Many firsts occurred at Sutter’s Fort, including the establishment of the area’s first hospitals. And among these hospitals was the city’s first hospital, Sacramento Hospital, which was founded by Dr. Charles H. Cragin and Alex G. Abell.
On Dec. 24, 1849, Cragin and Abell sold the Sacramento Hospital to Dr. Robert M. Stansbury, who began operating his practice at this institution.
Five days later, The Sacramento Union published rates for the hospital.
These rates were $16 per day for a patient occupying a room alone ($721 in today’s dollars), $12 per day for patients occupying a room with two or three patients ($541) and $10 per day for ward patients ($451).
These charges covered board, lodging, the washing of towels and bed linen, medicines, medical and “other necessary attendance.” Additional costs were charged for surgical operations.
The Union also noted that Dr. J.W.H. Stettinius and Charles E. Abbot were associated with the Sacramento Hospital at that time.
Sacramento’s major flood of January 1850 led to a local rumor that patients had been left to drown in area hospitals.
In attempting to spread the truth regarding this topic, the Placer Times referred to the rumor as an “absurd story” and reported that the sick had “all been comfortably provided for.”
The Times also noted that “those in the Sacramento Hospital, near Sutter’s Fort, were taken into the fort, around which there (had) been several acres of dry land when the water was at its highest point.”
A brief summary about the hospital was published in the Sept. 24, 1850 edition of the Transcript.
It was reported in this summary that “the gentlemanly physician Dr. R.M. Stansbury” said that 68 patients, including 52 from the city, were being cared for at the hospital.
It was also mentioned in the same summary that a “new and admirably constructed house was in (the) process of erection near the hospital, in which a portion of the invalids were to be placed.”
Although the Sacramento Hospital may have existed for a longer period of time, it continued to serve patients until at least late 1850.
Sutter’s Fort Hospital
In October 1849, another hospital, which was known as Sutter’s Fort Hospital, opened in one of the bastions of the fort with Dr. W.G. Deal and Dr. James S. Martin serving as its physicians.
Two months later, Dr. Benjamin R. Carman replaced Deal at the hospital, which had also then-recently undergone repairs for the winter.
In its April 16, 1850 edition, the Transcript noted the following information regarding the hospital: “The salubrity of the location is evident to everyone. The hospital being in a large adobe building, it is exempt from that extreme heat, which is incident to this climate during the summer.”
Masons and Odd Fellows Hospital
Another early hospital at Sutter’s Fort was the Masons and Odd Fellows’ Hospital, which was located in the southeast corner of the fort on property that was purchased by Deal in August 1849.
Under the heading, “City Hospital – Charity Movements,” an early report about this hospital appeared in the Dec. 8, 1849 edition of the Times, as follows:
“The Odd Fellows have purchased one corner of Sutter’s Fort and have since been joined by the Masons in their work of benevolence. Their arrangements for its government are good; each association have (sic) elected three trustees – the sixth elect a seventh, who is to be a Mason and Odd Fellow both. The Board thus formed have (sic) exclusive control over the affairs of the hospital. These two institutions of charity and the hospital of our city will soon be able, we hope, to relieve in a measure the sufferings of the unfortunate.”
The Transcript reported on May 2, 1850 that since the hospital’s opening, Deal was serving as the institution’s physician, minister, trustee and friend “without hope of reward, save that reward so freely flowing from an approving conscience.”
The following day, The Times informed the public that the hospital had a debt of $15,000 and would not be able to continue its operation without the assistance of liberal aid.
The article noted that Deal had contributed $2,000 and Brannan donated $500 toward saving the hospital, which benefitted both members of these societies and others.
Additionally assisting in the early efforts to save the hospital was a benefit that was held at the Tehama Theatre on Tuesday evening, May 7, 1850. A portion of the $1,129 raised through the event was contributed to the cause of lowering the hospital’s debt.
The benefit featured a spirited presentation of the “Lady of Lyons,” a performance by several men from Donnelly’s Minstrels, and a capital farce of “A Day in Paris.”
Another successful benefit for the hospital was presented 10 days later by Rowe’s Circus Company at the Pacific Theater.
An announcement regarding the hospital appeared in the June 25, 1850 edition of The Transcript, as follows: “Yesterday, before the Masonic procession had disbanded, a large collection was taken up of one hundred and seventy dollars and a subscription of nine hundred, in aid of the Masons and Odd Fellows’ Hospital.”
Furthermore, as a donation to the hospital, the Sacramento firm of Dewey & Smith relieved the hospital of its debt of $350 in July 1850.
It was also during this time that Dr. McClure was serving as the hospital’s resident physician and attendance in the general ward cost $35 per week.
The Transcript reported on July 16, 1850 that since the previous October until several weeks prior to the report that seven to 20 patients were being treated at the hospital.
The Board of Trustees members for the hospital during 1850 were: Deal, president; Dr. John Frederick Morse, secretary; Colonel A.M. Winn; Chief Justice Hastings; Captain Cunningham; and Judge Doughty, treasurer.
The Masons and Odd Fellows’ Hospital continued to survive through volunteer subscriptions throughout the majority of its existence, which continued until at least October 1851.