On Thursday, July 19 the Milford Museum unveiled their newest exhibit Legacy of Caring. The new feature explores the history of Milford Memorial hospital and innovation in healthcare in the local community. Focusing on the individuals that brought health care needs to the forefront of the conversation in the 1900s, the exhibit also displays medical equipment, literature and photos of past practices.
“There were several individuals that saw a very serious need for medical services in Milford. During this time, if someone needed serious medical attention, they would have to be put on a cot and placed on a train to Wilmington,” said Claudia Leister, Executive Director of the Milford Museum. “I want people to realize that it all started with an idea, with one person seeing a need and through their influence in the community, made it happen.”
The idea for a hospital to care for the sick in Milford and the surrounding community was conceived in 1905 while Mrs. Mary Louise Donnell Marshall (wife of Dr. George W. Marshall) was visiting her son, William, an intern at the Delaware Hospital in Wilmington. She knew that many patients died because there was no local hospital for treatment of serious medical cases. These patients had to be transported to Wilmington by cot in the train’s baggage car. By 1907, Mary Louise had gathered her friends to form a local Red Cross chapter. This Ladies’ Auxiliary sponsored tea’s, motion picture shows and a charity ball. Their most successful fund-raiser was a doll bazaar whose profit yielded $200. This money allowed them to equip three rooms on the second floor of the Masonic Temple at 12 N.W. Front Street with emergency care equipment for four patients. After several months of service, the Masons had other uses for the rooms; the hospital was forced to close, and the equipment was placed in storage in the Marshall Drugstore.
Since the hospital needed operating funds the Board made a “request for the donation of $1.00 from everyone in town which would ensure the permanency of the hospital”. On April 12, 1909, the new hospital received its first patient. Conflicting records indicate that the first patient was either Robert Hudson, Jr. a grade school student whose hand was damaged by an exploding dynamite cap, or a boy whose foot had been caught in a mowing machine and required amputation. Medical care was provided free of charge by Dr. George W. Marshall and Dr. William Marshall, Jr.
In 1910, the hospital reopened on the top floor of the Central (now Windsor) Hotel at 24 NW Front Street. Proprietor Fred Kramlich offered the third floor ball- room to house seven beds and space for an adjoining operating room. Services were still $1.00 a day. In 1912, the hospital was again forced to close due to financial problems. During the 1912-13 session of the General Assembly of Delaware, House Bill #194 authorized the establishment of the Emergency Hospital of Milford. In 1914, Dr. William Marshall offered the Board of Trustees of the newly incorporated Emergency Hospital the rent-free use of his building at 110 N.W. Front Street. This hospital had 12 beds. The hospital was administered by Drs. “Wid” and Sam and was open to all doctors and their patients with no restriction on color or creed. A year later an addition was built in the back increasing the capacity to 35 patients.
The hospital closed once again in 1918 when Drs. William and Samuel Marshall were called into service during World War I. During this time the Board of Trustees of the Emergency Hospital bought a brick house on the north side of N.W. Front Street where Berry Funeral Home now stands. They opened the new Milford Emergency Hospital on April 22, 1921 with 43 beds. A year later, the Drs. Marshall withdrew from the staff and re-opened their original hospital under the name “Marshall Hospital”. Consequently, Milford had two hospitals, working independently of each other, from October 1921 to the Spring of 1934.
By the late 1930’s it had become apparent that the Milford Emergency Hospital needed to expand. A financial drive was undertaken by the hospital Board of Directors under the leadership of Dr. G. Layton Grier, for the purpose of erecting a new building. Through the generosity of Dr. G. Layton Grier and his family, property on Clark Avenue was donated for a hospital and a new brick 100 bed institution was opened on April 9, 1938.
“[From this exhibit] I want people to leave with the knowledge that things happened in this community because an individual recognized a need and took action,” said Leister. “There are still people here that have the foresight to look into the future and realize we need to do things now to better our community; we need to encourage those people.”
Breaking ground in 2016, the new Bayhealth Sussex Campus, which will include a six-story hospital with an expanded emergency department, additional operating rooms and all private patient rooms, is set to open in early 2019. In addition, Nemours Children’s Health System is planning a separate structure on the campus in order to offer pediatric specialty services as well.
The Milford Museum is located at 121 S. Walnut Street, Milford, DE. It is open 10am – 3:30pm Tuesday through Saturday, and 1pm – 3:30pm on Sunday. Closed on Mondays and Holidays. Admission is FREE. For additional information, individuals are encouraged to call 302-424-1080.
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