City Directories and History: 1908 – City Hospital (117 Clay Street), Ms. Nannie Bryce, Ms. Ada Johnston and Ms. Ora Lemmond listed as nurses at the City Hospital.
The Herald reported on June 13, 1896 – “That Dr. T. A. Crawford was discussing the idea of a new hospital for Rock Hill. He met with a surgeon of the Southern Railroad, who would like to see a hospital in this area for use by the railroad employees.”
The Herald reported on Oct. 17, 1896 – “That the Kings Daughters had a celebration of their seventh anniversary at the home of their President, Mrs. J. M. Hunter. The society is now engaged in the praiseworthy effort to establish a charity hospital and they have already secured a very encouraging sum of money by giving entertainments.”
The RH Record reported on Nov. 11, 1907 – That the Rock Hill Private Hospital has changed hands. “The physicians of Rock Hill met last week and decided to buy the private hospital, which has for some time been owned by Dr. Fennell and Dr. Stevens. The purchase price is $6,000. and the deal has been consummated. The doctors will meet tonight to organized the RH Hospital Association, and hope to organize a board composed of both men and women. There is a strong feeling the Rock Hill needs a larger and more substantial building for its hospital. ”
The Rock Hill Record of March 1, 1909 – “The Rock Hill Private Hospital Building was sold. It is described as being on the East side of Clay Street and located on Lots 11,12, and 46 on the map of the property of A.E. Hutchison made by W.W. Miller in 1901. After the hospital was closed, W.L. Roddey sold the building to W. Harris Williams with a clause that if it was no longer used by the RH Private Hospital, the building would be sold at auction and the proceeds would be used to repay Mr. Roddey for his initial investment. Dr. W.W. Fennell was Pres. and Owner of the hospital when it was closed.
The RH Record reported on March 25, 1909 – “The old hospital property was sold at public auction this morning and was bid on by Mr. Charley Stewart for $5,076.”
The RH Record reported on March 29, 1909 – “Capt. W.L. Roddey has said whatever proceeds come to him from the sale of the Rock Hill Private Hospital will be given to the King’s Daughters and possibly to a local monument to the Confederate heros.”
This article describes the development of Rock Hill’s first hospital. Little has been published about this pioneering effort. It is mentioned in The Roddey Family by Louise Pettus (1998), but extensive research in newspapers and other sources has been required to develop the story. The hospital was located on what is now Charlotte Avenue, and in today’s terms would have been across the street from the Salvation Army near the Southern Railroad. It was called the Rock Hill Private Hospital, the Rock Hill City Hospital and the Rock Hill Public Hospital in various sources.
As Rock Hill developed as a small village in the 1850s, it began to attract doctors to serve the population. Two of the earliest physicians were Dr. Robert H. Hope and Dr. William Barron Fewell. Most doctors had offices in their homes. These offices were often called “hospitals,” but had none of the characteristics we would today recognize as a hospital. Those who were seriously ill or required specialized treatment would be transported to a larger city. Dr. Thomas A. Crawford, who came to Rock Hill to practice in 1878, partnered with Dr. William Francis Strait in an office in a small house on Elm Street. Dr. Strait was known to have performed surgeries on the kitchen table. Dr. W. W. Fennell came to Rock Hill in 1897 and used his first home on Elm Street as a “hospital.” The pattern continued well into the twentieth century, with Dr. David Lyle working from his home on Hampton Street and Dr. Robert E. Sumner from his home on Marion Street, each of which was known locally as a hospital.
The first true hospital in Rock Hill was the brainchild not of a physician but of local businessman Capt. William Lyle Roddey. He was a major investor in the city’s manufacturing, textile, and banking businesses and was also interested in the welfare of the community. Concerned that there was no real hospital in the growing city and that medical care was often not available to people of lesser means, Roddey proposed the development of a city hospital in 1901. The Rock Hill Journal of June 1, 1901 reported on Roddey’s plan. It stated that Roddey “conceived the idea of establishing a hospital for the better curing of the sick and afflicted among the poor and has generously given $3,000 to be put into the buildings.” The donation of this amount in 1901 would be equivalent to over $80,000 in today’s money. The King’s Daughters, a civic organization of ladies in the community, gave $800 to help furnish the building. An organization was formed, named the Medical Society of Rock Hill, to raise $1,500 to purchase a lot for the facility. The proposed name was the Rock Hill Public Hospital. This was quite an ambitious undertaking for a period when there was no local, state, or federal funding for public health.
Within a few weeks of the announcement of the hospital plan, a site became available. The estate of Capt. A. E. Hutchison, recently deceased, held an auction of his properties. These included a number of lots on Main Street, rural properties, and the land around the Hutchison home on Clay Street (today’s Charlotte Avenue). The Rock Hill Journal reported on August 21, 1901 that the building site for the Rock Hill City Hospital had been selected “in front of the residence of Capt. A. E. Hutchison.” The cost was $587, and securing the electrical and water service to the site would bring the overall cost to an estimated $800. This was well under budget, and the article contained a list of citizens who had already contributed about $330 to the Medical Society of Rock Hill for the land purchase. The lot was purchased on an installment plan, with a series of payments due. Construction began in August or September of 1901. The architect for the building was H. E. White of Rock Hill, who designed many local buildings. (Rock Hill Herald, June 11, 1902), and his fee for designing the building was $25.00 (Rock Hill Herald, June 28, 1902).
The hospital was referred to variously as the Rock Hill Private Hospital or the City Hospital. It seems at some point that the City Council was requested to support the operation of the institution once completed. Because City Council minutes are unavailable for this period, it is difficult to determine if the Council ever agreed to provide public funds according to the original plan.
By late October, the roof was on and the building was taking shape, according to the Rock Hill Journal of October 26, 1901. In November, a reminder was placed in the Rock Hill Herald that funds were still needed for the land purchase, the total pledged to date being $437.25. The Journal reported on November 13 that work on the building was going well and it was expected to be completed by January 1. The Rock Hill Medical Society met and elected officers, including Dr. J. E. Massey, Sr. as President, Dr. T. A. Crawford as Vice President, and Dr. J. E. Massey, Jr. as Secretary/Treasurer (Rock Hill Herald, December 1, 1901). The Medical Society in late March planned a banquet to be held within two weeks to mark the opening of the hospital (Rock Hill Herald, March 26, 1902). Although construction had been complete, the funds to pay for the property had still not been received.
There was evidently some opposition within the community, or at least suspicion that the hospital was a scheme to enrich the doctors. The funds for the property purchase were very slow in accruing. Capt. Roddey evidently felt a degree of frustration. On May 3, 1902, he placed a long letter in the Rock Hill Herald:
“The City Hospital”
The agreement under which the proposed city hospital was to be organized provides for the purchase of the lot by the citizens, the furnishing of the building by the King’s Daughters, and its erection by Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Roddey. The building has been completed and the King’s Daughters have shown their generous appreciation of the necessity and advantage of having a creditable hospital by arranging to handsomely furnish it. The hospital is now ready to be turned over to the city as soon as the citizens, under the terms of the agreement, shall subscribe and pay in, the amount necessary to secure the lot. This has not been done up to this time, and it is to be hoped there would be a prompt and generous contribution from the community at large thus enabling those in charge to present the hospital to the city at an early date.
Wm. L. Roddey”
By June, the funds had still not been received. Roddey, in another letter to the newspaper, sounded a stronger note. “The delay in raising the money to pay for the lot is such as to leave the inference that the good people of Rock Hill do not believe that the time has arrived when the city needs a hospital. It becomes necessary for me to state that if the purchase money for the lot is not raised on or before the 4th of July next, in accordance with the original proposition, I will withdraw my offer to give the building to the city.” (Rock Hill Herald, June 11, 1902). The editor in the same edition stated that the building has been completed, “being a substantial structure after the latest design for the purpose for which it was intended.” The fund for the lot purchase had reached $471.25 in pledges, of which only $190.25 had been paid. The King’s Daughters had already paid for furniture for the operating rooms, beds, tables, bath tubs, and bath fixtures, and the items were in storage.
On June 21, a letter appeared in the newspaper from “A Subscriber” questioning the hospital project. The writer questioned how the building was to be maintained, and requested an itemized statement of the proposed cost for operation and where the funds will come from (Rock Hill Herald, June 21, 1902). This writer was evidently reflecting some public distrust of the whole process. A long letter to the Herald from several physicians followed on June 28. It was signed by physicians J. E. Massey, T. A. Crawford, J. R. Miller, A. S. Lynn, T. L. Cornwell, J. H. Massey, W. G. Stevens, J. M. Hunter, and W. W. Fennell, all members of the Rock Hill Medical Society. It stated that the hospital building was completed and furnished. Instead of being a profit-making business for the physicians, “The object of the proposed Rock Hill City Hospital is beyond all else – charity.” It was anticipated that there would be an annual appropriation from the City Council to help in operations. The physicians would donate their time for treatment of those occupying free or endowed rooms, while a few rooms were reserved for paying patients. The letter included a full budget for the erection of the hospital, showing a need for $561.06 in additional funds to pay for the lot, architectural fees, and connection to the water supply.
The hospital finally opened and provided service for the citizens of Rock Hill for about seven years. The Rock Hill City Directory of 1908 gives the street address for the “Rock Hill City Hospital” as 117 Clay Street (Charlotte Avenue).
The hospital was a great step forward in the provision of medical service for the citizens of Rock Hill. The building included eight wards, an operating room, an x-ray room, a nursery, a dining hall, and charity wards for 16 patients (both whites and African Americans were to be served). Spaces were reserved for those who could pay, but the primary focus was for charity patients. Dr. J. Roddey Miller was chosen to be President of the hospital. Dr. Miller was born between Ebenezer and Tirzah and received degrees from Erskine College and the Medical University of South Carolina in 1891 as first honor graduate. He was Capt. Roddey’s nephew. In later years, he served as City Medical Officer and Chairman of the Board of Health. Other physicians known to serve patients in the hospital included Dr. W. W. Fennell, Dr. Arthur Lynn, Dr. J. E. Massey, Dr. J. A. Biggers, and Dr. T. R. Carothers.
The Rock Hill Private Hospital operated for about eight years. It evidently had financial difficulty. The Rock Hill Record reported on March 8, 1909 that there would be an auction sale of the Rock Hill Private Hospital in front of the National Union Bank on March 25th. The property was purchased by Dr. W. W. Fennell. Later that year, Dr. Fennell purchased a large lot on Academy Street (now North Confederate Avenue) and erected a modern and fully-equipped hospital known as the Fennell Infirmary. Dr. Fennell and his partners would become known regionally as outstanding surgeons, and the Fennell Infirmary gained a wide reputation.
At some point, the ownership of the Rock Hill Private Hospital building passed to three physicians, Dr. J. E. Massey, Dr. I. A. Biggers, and Dr. T. R. Carothers, and they converted it into a rental residential property. The Rock Hill Herald reported on February 27, 1914, “Fire last night completely destroyed the main building of the old hospital at 112 Clay Street and damaged the west wing. The building was occupied by Mrs. J. E. Hinkle…It was erected as a hospital, with the intention of turning it over to the city. A private hospital was conducted but failed about five years ago, when control was secured by the present owners, since which time it has been used as a dwelling.” Unfortunately, no photograph of the building has been found.
Although the Rock Hill Private Hospital operated for only a few years, it was an important step forward in the provision of medical services for the community, and represented an enlightened attempt to extend medical care to all citizens, regardless of ability to pay. Rock Hill would not have a publicly funded hospital until the creation of the York General Hospital in the Ebenezer community in 1940.
(Research, written and contributed to R&R by P.M. Gettys – 2016) See an updated article by clicking on the History Thread icon to the right:
*** R&R has recently learned of a previous attempt to open a hospital in 1896. The paper reported on April 25, 1896 – “Dr. J. A. Meldon, is one the right track. He is trying to promote a sanitarium to be conducted on a cooperation plan by the physicians of the city. He has plans for a handsome ten room house to contain both paying and charity wards, apothecary shop and all the conveniences of a perfectly arranged hospital. We understand that he is meeting with the approval of the Rock Hill Medical Society and of the King’s Daughters who have signified their willingness to pay for one or two wards.”
*** The RH Record reported on Feb. 19, 1904 – “That Ms. Livingston, the head nurse of the private hospital, left for NY, where she will take a postgraduate course in Dr. Gill Wylie’s, Bellevue Hospital. The physicians at the hospital paid her expenses for the trip. She will receive training on the conduct of the nurse training schools, and on her return the training school of the private hospital will be opened.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on March 25, 1904 – “Mrs. M.C. Matthews of Smith’s Turnout entered the Rock Hill private hospital, where she had a successful operation.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on May 24, 1904 – “Mr. J.M. Ivy was taken from his home on #339 Park Ave., to the Rock Hill Private Hospital. An appendectomy was done by Dr’s. Fennell, Stevens, Miller and McMillan. Mr. Ivey is doing well.”
The Rock Hill Record on March 5, 1908 reported, “that young ladies are wanted to take a course of training at the Rock Hill City Hospital. They should apply to Ms. Kell, Supt.”
The Rock Hill Record reported on April 27, 1908 – “Mrs. B.A. Scruggs of Kershaw is the new matron at the Hospital and has moved here with her daughter, Elizabeth.”
The RH Record reported July 30, 1908 – “The doctors of the city who are the owners of the local hospital held a meeting and decided to discontinue the operation of the same. It has not been a paying institution for some period. Dr. Fennell, however, has already completed plans to give this region a hospital. As a temporary location, he has rented a dwelling house from Mr. J.M. Cherry, located at the rear of his home on Oakland Avenue and is now caring for his patients there. Dr. Fennell contemplates the erection of a hospital building later on…. Aug, 3, 1908 – “Dr. W.W. Fennell has rented the RH Hospital, and is now in complete charge of the institution. He has a large and growing practice and as a surgeon has need of a hospital.”
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