It’s hard to imagine the early settlers coming into a wilderness with so few of the conveniences we now take for granted. It’s nice to learn that, although quite primitive by our standards, almost from the very beginning there were doctors, nurses, midwives, clinics and hospitals along the Iron Range.
I compiled the information in the following article from several sources: “Hibbing, Minnesota 1893-1968” a souvenir book organized by the 75th Anniversary Committee; “Hibbing On the Move” published in 1991 by the Jubilee Committee; “Hibbing, Minnesota” published in 2001 by the Hibbing Historical Society; and “Dr. Dana Rood” article published Jan. 1, 2000, in the Hibbing Daily Tribune as part of the special Millennium edition.
~ Mary Palcich Keyes
The Ojibwe people who lived in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota, and earlier indigenous groups who had lived here before the Ojibwe, had medicines and treatments for ailments. As the great forests were leveled and mineral prospectors moved in, the medical know-how of the native peoples was replaced by Western medicine.
In 1898, Dr. Dana C. Rood, Hibbing’s first physician, opened a one-room log-built hospital. The hospital was a “detention hospital” used mostly to isolate patients with contagious diseases such as tuberculosis, typhoid, diphtheria and the less-deadly German measles. To serve the lumberjacks and growing number of early miners, Dr. Howard R. Weirick soon arrived to work with Dr. Rood. Both of these doctors were active in civic affairs in Hibbing, with Dr. Weirck being elected mayor for several years.
A new idea took hold here at the very beginning of the 20th century. The Oliver Mining Company charged each miner a fee of $1 a month. Each miner was thus assured of such medical care as he would need and for an additional 50 cents he could purchase life/accident insurance.
At this time the population of Hibbing was growing rapidly and, with many mining locations surrounding the town too, more medical care was required. The Oliver Mining Company built a new three-story hospital at the corner of First Avenue and Center Street in North Hibbing.
Named the Rood Hospital, it had a lovely veranda and large windows in each of its rooms although most medical care was still administered in people’s homes or in the clinic area of the hospital. Nonetheless, for people in need of surgery or suffering from a contagious illness, the new Rood Hospital was ready.
In 1902, another doctor arrived in Hibbing. Dr. Bertram Adams established the Adams Hospital and Clinic in 1908. Like the other doctors in town, Dr. Adams was on call any hour of the day or night to ride out in a horse and buggy over rough roads to administer care to those suffering.
Well-respected for everything from thoughtful advice about civic events to masterful playing of the organ, he, like the other doctors, was deeply involved in the development of Hibbing.
1903 found a young African-American woman named Hattie Mosley arrived in Hibbing. Dr. Weirick reportedly went to a meeting in Duluth and promised high wages to nurses willing to come north to Hibbing. Trained as a nurse and midwife, Hattie Mosley answered the call to come to Hibbing.
Besides working mostly with Dr. Weirick’s patients in the clinic, she also went to people’s homes where her reputation soared. She faithfully followed the orders of the doctors, but she also used home remedies to bring comfort to her patients.
A heroine during the flu epidemics in 1914 and 1917, she set up a temporary hospital ward in the school gym where she cared for people tirelessly. She willingly cared for those suffering from highly contagious tuberculosis and also often stayed with a family to do the cooking and cleaning if the mother needed to be sent to the hospital.
In 1920, with the move of Hibbing underway, the Oliver Mining Company financed a new hospital in the new town site. The old Rood Hospital was donated to the YWCA and moved to a location in the new town across from the Public Utilities. The new Rood Hospital, located between Third and Fourth Avenues along 21st Street and facing towards the Village Hall, consisted of 35 beds and a clinic. Immediately behind this new hospital would live two doctors: Dr. Weirick, who built a stately residence there, and Dr. Bullen, who had a beautiful home moved in from North Hibbing.
Heading up the Rood Hospital Clinic at the time of the town’s move was Dr. Robert Bowen. This clinic had been located for several years just north of the North Hibbing Cemetery in a building which also housed a detention hospital for those very contagious patients who required isolation. The new Rood Clinic was located at the southeast corner of Howard Street and Second Avenue East.
With advances in medicine, including new machines and laboratories, the Rood Hospital in downtown Hibbing was rapidly outgrowing its space. In the years just before America entered World War II, the Oliver Mining Company, Pickands Mather Company, and Snyder and Hanna Mining Companies donated money to expand the hospital to 132 beds.
When the newly renovated and enlarged hospital reopened in 1942, title was transferred to a religious order of nuns, the Benedictine Sisters, and renamed Hibbing General Hospital. The Adams Hospital in North Hibbing closed at this time and Dr. Adams was elected the first chief-of-staff of the new Hibbing General Hospital.
At the same time, the Rood Clinic was re-organized under the name Mesaba Clinic. In 1957, it would move into a new, expanded space at the far east end of Howard Street, across from the St. Louis County Courthouse.
In 1942, Dr. Adams would oversee the building of a new Adams Clinic located on Third Avenue and 23rd Street. He and his wife, Vida, built their new home on 23rd Street just behind the clinic.
By 1953, Hibbing General Hospital had again outgrown its footprint. A public campaign raised over $1 million for adding new wings to the hospital along 21st Street. This project included removing Dr. Weirick’s house at the corner of Third Avenue and 23rd Street.
Dr. Bowen’s house became the home for the Benedictine Sisters who nursed in and managed the hospital. New operating rooms, laboratories and patients’ rooms were part of the renovation, which increased the number of beds to 190.
In 1970, a committee made up of medical professionals and civic leaders from Hibbing and Chisholm began meeting to discuss the possibilities of a brand new hospital. It was clear that Hibbing General Hospital needed to grow again and the downtown location would not allow for that. The Chisholm Memorial Hospital also needed upgrades.
On a future “Years of Yore” page, read about the sites considered by this committee for the current hospital in Hibbing which, just like the town, would need to move.
The following items are taken from the Hibbing Daily Tribune or the Mesabi Ore, which are on microfilm at the Hibbing Public Library and/or Iron Range Resource Center at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm.
May 16, 1918
Struck by one train as she was attempting to get out of the way of another, Miss Hazel Speece, fifteen-year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Speece, prominent residents of Floodwood, was instantly killed yesterday afternoon at four o’clock. Miss Speece was crossing the Duluth, Missabe railroad tracks when she became confused by the trains. Mr. Speece is the president of the Meadowlands State Bank. The tragic death of the youngster has caused sorrow to many friends in the little farming community and in Hibbing, where she is well known.
July 1, 1958
Two small fires were handled by the Hibbing Fire Department last night, Chief Hugh Riley reported. A wooden cover over an electric stove, not turned off, burned in a trailer house at the Jones Trailer Court. A short in a neon sign at Foley’s Café at 3:50 a.m., believed to have been caused by lightning, started a small fire which produced smoke damage at the Elks Club.
August 9, 1974
Gerald R. Ford intoned the solemn oath today as 38th President of the United States, hoping to heal the wounds and divisions inflicted by the scandal that drove Richard M. Nixon from office.