Sunday, May 19, 2024
Healing history: a powerful tale unfolds.

Healing history: a powerful tale unfolds.

Ouray’s former miner’s hospital subject of newly released Historical Society book

The stone building at 420 Sixth Ave. in Ouray has plenty of stories to tell.

Built in 1887 as the St. Joseph’s Miners’ Hospital, it now helps keep local history alive as the home to the Ouray County Museum and Historical Society.

But tracking those stories down and putting them on paper has been a monumental task for the Ouray County Historical Society, and after a three-year push by at least 10 staff members and volunteers, the organization published “Ouray’s Historic Hospital: From Healing to History” in July.

“We felt that the history of the hospital and its journey into becoming a museum was important because it was such a fixture in the early days of mining,” said Glenda Moore, who serves on the society’s board of directors and edited the book.

The book is based on a 20-page pamphlet written and published by longtime local historian Doris Gregory in 1980, said Robert Stoufer, who also serves on the society’s board of directors and also edited the book.

Stoufer started working on updating and expanding Gregory’s research more than three years ago, he said, after OCHS Director Maria Jones reached out to him about the project. Since then, at least 10 people have contributed by writing, editing, researching and designing the book, with Jones at the helm and without whom “this book would not exist,” Stoufer said.

The three-story hospital was built in part thanks to a publicity campaign by Solid Muldoon editor David Day. Day wrote editorials in the now-defunct newspaper asking the public for money to build a hospital for miners, even garnering a $25 donation all the way from Sussex, England.

“I think the agitation of David Day and the fact that people outside this country understood the plight of the health of the miners became a motivation for it,” Moore said. “There were thousands of miners up the mines being injured from avalanches or (mine) blasts.”

Eventually the mining companies started donating to fund the hospital – with their donations published in the Solid Muldoon – and the building opened in August 1887, staffed by the Sisters of Mercy.

But being so closely tied to the mining industry had its own set of problems, including economic woes. At one point the building’s mortgage was taken over by Thomas Walsh, who was flush with cash after opening the Camp Bird Mine.

The hospital changed ownership several times and eventually stopped taking patients in 1963. After sitting empty for several years, the newly-formed Ouray County Historical Society purchased the building for $15,000 nearly 50 years ago.

One of the challenges in putting together the book was sorting through the sheer amount of information about the building, Stoufer said.

“There was so much information, but you would start looking for a specific item of information and it would be difficult to find,” he said.

Those hunts for information also lead to unexpected finds, including a story about how a former hospital doctor was credited with creating the first-ever first aid kit for mines.

Readers can expect to learn about the building’s history, including the doctors who worked there and the babies born there as well as recollections from people who visited the hospital. Almost every page of the book contains photographs, Stouffer said.

“Ouray’s Historic Hospital: From Healing to History” is currently available for purchase at the museum. An open house to celebrate the book is scheduled for 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday at the museum, 420 Sixth Ave. For more information, call 970-325-4576.

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About Thaddeus Tran

Meet the incredible Thaddeus Tran, an esteemed author on our blog with a passion for history and heritage. Thaddeus delivers captivating posts that take readers on a journey through time. With his wealth of knowledge and impressive research skills, he offers valuable insights and fascinating stories that shed light on the past and inspire a deeper appreciation for our shared heritage. Follow him to discover the secrets and treasures of history!

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