The Thanksgiving Hospital and Orphan House of the Holy Saviour

Susan Fenimore Cooper

A Centennial Offering. Being a Short History of Cooperstown. ... Edited by S. M. Shaw. (Cooperstown: Freeman Journal’s Office, 1886), pp. 180-184.

Note: These short articles appear in A Centennial Offering. ... , among others on specific topics relating to locak history submitted by local residents. — Hugh C. McDougall.

[May be reproduced for instructional use by individuals or institutions; commercial use prohibited.]

The Thanksgiving Hospital.


A brief mention of the main facts connected with its establishment, and history to date:

After the close of the civil war, some Christian people in Cooperstown suggested providing a small Hospital for the needy sick, as a Thank-offering for the restoration of Peace and the preservation of the Union. The suggestion met with general favor. The physicians entered with interest into the plan, offering their services. The first steps were taken. Subscriptions were procured. A Fair was held by which about $1,000 were raised. In 1867 a house on Elm street {181} was purchased, and remodeled according to a plan of Dr. Horace Lathrop. The house was double, with a basement, and two stories and a half high; the lot was 75 feet front by 158 in depth. The price was $3,500.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1867, the house was solemnly dedicated to the service of God, and the relief of the poor and suffering, by a religious service, in which Rev. Dr. Buel, Rev. Mr. McHarg, Rev. Mr. Peasley, and Rev. Mr. Clayton, took part. Owing to the unusual severity of the winter, and the scarcity of workmen, it was found impossible to open the building for patients until the following spring.

In January, 1868, the Hospital was incorporated. Five Trustees were elected to serve five years, viz.: Dr. H. Lathrop, Rev. Mr. McHarg, Mr. Elihu Phinney, Mr. F. G. Lee, and Miss S. F. Cooper. Mr. Henry Scott was elected Treasurer. All persons who contributed $10 the previous year were entitled to vote. The work of the Hospital was carried on by five Lady Managers, with a house keeper, a nurse, an assistant, and a man under their direction. The number of beds was sixteen. Diseases of the gravest nature were treated, and severe operations were performed. Among the diseases cured were paraplegia, from poison, peritonitis, chronic diarrhoea, varicose ulcer, fractures, matritis, ulceration of the stomach. Among the many operations successfully performed by Dr. Lathrop, Dr. W. T. and Dr. M. A. Bassett, were the removal of cancerous tumors, polypus of the throat, and vesico vaginal fistula, on a patient of 75, by Dr. Lathrop. Patients were received from all the towns in Otsego county, and also from several adjacent counties. About two-thirds of the patients recovered. Among those who died were homeless ones, admitted as incurables. The moral and religious influence of the house was greatly blessed to many of the patients.

The funds for carrying on the work were provided by annual subscriptions, amounting to $600, partial payments by patients who could afford to make them, annual collections in different churches, voluntary contributions, and annual payments by the Comptroller of the State, in proportion to the number of days’ relief granted to the sick, varying in this case from $300 to $600. At that date all incorporated Hospitals received aid from the State fund. Among the most generous contributors to the Thanksgiving Hospital were Mr. Henry Frederick Phinney, Mr. Elihu Phinney, Mr. Edward Clark, who at one time gave $1,000; others, of less means, were also very liberal contibutors. Kind sympathy and material assistance were also received from the different towns and villages in the county: Richfield, Cherry Valley, Milford, Springfield, Fly Creek, and others.

The work was carried on successfully until 1875, when the financial {182} panic caused a loss of many subscriptions and voluntary contributions; and about the same time the policy of the State changed and Hospitals no longer received aid in that way. Eventually it became necessary to close the Hospital, temporarily, for want of funds to meet current expenses. The Trustees also passed a resolution by which any needy sick person may receive aid from the interest on the Hospital Fund, by vote of two Trustees, provided not more than $200 is expended in this way during any one year, and confining the benefit of this sum to the sick, exclusively. Many persons have been relieved from this Fund since the Hospital closed.

The Hospital Fund, with the accumulated interest, now amounts to $5,328.16. It is the earnest hope of those most interested in the original Thanksgiving Hospital, that the work may be renewed at a favorable time, in the form of a Cottage Hospital, bearing the same name, under the charge of a trained nurse, whose duty it shall also be to train a succession of respectable women for nursing one or two at a time. Qualified nurses are greatly needed in Otsego county.

January, 1886 — S.F.C.

Orphan House of the Holy Saviour

The Orphan House of the Holy Saviour, a Home and Industrial School for Orphans, Half-Orphans, and destitute children, was incorporated by Act of the Legislature, March, 1870. AT the annual Convention of the Diocese of Albany, September, 1870, the Orphanage was adopted as a Diocesian work, and “earnestly commended to the sympathy, and active support of the Diocese,” and the erection of a suitable building was recommended.

The first ground purchased was the house and farm on the lake shore known as the Masters’ farm, then belonging to Mr. Henry B. Walker. But the distance from the village, two miles, being considered too great, another site, a hill side on Railroad St. was purchased by the Trustees, twenty acres of land, at a cost of $5,000. In April, 1871, a small cottage, adjoining the ground purchased, was rented for a temporary home, and Ostober 1ˢᵗ the work was solemnly inaugurated by a religious service, held at the cottage by Bishop Tuttle of Utah, and the Rev. D. Hillhouse Buel. The Matron and one little girl were the only members of the family at that date; but the cottage filled rapidly, and the following year, November 1ˢᵗ, the twelve children were removed to a double cottage on Beaver St., owned by Horace C. Fish. Mrs. E. M. Stanton became Matron at that date, and continued to labor most faithfully for the children until her death, August, 1884. November 1ˢᵗ, 1874, the family of twenty {183} children were removed to a larger house on Lake street, recently occupied by Mr. E. Countryman, and at that time owned by Mr. Elihu Phinney, of whom it was leased. This house could accommodate 40 children. Sunday, November 8ᵗʰ, a religious service inaugurating the advance in the work was held by Bishop Tuttle of Utah, at the new home.

November 7ᵗʰ Mr. Charles McLean, then Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, called on the Superintendent of the Orphanage, and expressed the wish of the Board to visit the Institution. November 18ᵗʰ the entire Board came to the house, inspecting the building and the children, and inquiring into the details of the work; they professed themselves much gratified. The requested that the Board might be invited to the house every year. This request has been carried out. As early as 1872 individual Supervisors had suggested that the county children should be sent to the Orphanage. During the session of 1876, after consulting the Trustees of the Orphanage, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution that as many of the County children as could be admitted should be sent to the Orphanage. In accordance with this resolution, as many of the children as could be accommodated were received at the Orphanage; the remainder were sent to a temporary home at Milford.

In 1876 a generous contribution of $1,000 was given to the Orphanage by Mr. Edward Clark and a few friends of his connected with the Singer Company. In 1879 a renewed application was made by the Superintendent of the Poor for the admission of all the County children to the Orphanage. Mr. Edward Clark, who then owned the house, having kindly consented to enlarge the building for this purpose, it was decided to receive the children. January, 1880, all the girls were sent to the Orphanage, but by a change of plan on the part of the Superintendent of the Poor the boys were sent to the county home at Milford.

The necessity for a larger and more convenient building having become very clear, the Board of Trustees at their annual meeting, June, 1881, passed resolutions authorizing the collection of funds for building, and the purchase of a favorable site. About $10,000 having been collected or pledged, eight acres of land bounded by Beaver street, Susquehanna avenue and the river, were purchased for $3,000. An excellent plan for a brick building was prepared by Mr. R. W. Gilson of Albany, the architect. In August, 1882, ground was broken for the new building a simple service being held on the spot by the Orphanage family, on the occasion. Otober 5ᵗʰ, 1882, the corner-stone was solemnly laid by Bishop Doane, in the presence of the Trustees and many friends, the Orphans taking part in the service. {184} September 22d, 1883, the house being completed, a service of Dedication was held in the school-room by the Bishop, a number of clergymen and other friends being present, and the Orphans taking part in the services by singing and recitations. A few weeks later the entire family moved into the new home. On this occasion a debt of $600, due for rent on the house on Lake street, was kindly canceled by Mr. Alfred Corning Clark. January 1ˢᵗ, 1884, all the county boys were received at the Orphanage.

August 14ᵗʰ, 1884, Mrs. Stanton, after an illness of several months, was taken from the children she had so kindly cared for. On the evening of her funeral diphtheria appeared in the family. There were twenty-two cases and two deaths. The disease was caused by defective drainage. The children were cared for with the utmost devotion by the three grown persons in charge; and watched over most faithfully by their kind physician, Dr. W. T. Bassett. No nurse could be procured in the neighborhood, and no one from the village was willing to come to the house to work. At the end of several weeks, a trained nurse from Bellevue Hospital came to take charge of the sick children. Great pains were taken to prevent the disease from spreading to the village, and happily there was no case outside the Orphanage family.

September 14ᵗʰ, while there were still two patients in the infirmary, fire broke out in the furnace cellar, and spread rapidly. The fire department were soon on the ground, and the neighbors rallied most kindly to the relief of the family. In an hour the flames were subdued. The cellars and several rooms on the first floor were seriously injured. The whole building was in very great danger. It was with thankful hearts that those in charge were able to gather the Orphans in their own dormitories at night, without injury to life or limb. The repairs of the house, costing $600, and a change in the drainage, were completed in a few weeks. Since that date the children have been remarkably healthy, and the work has gone on successfully with Miss E. E. Stickney as Matron.

The number of children at present is 81; during the last year there have been 107 in the family. Receipts of the year from churches, individuals and board of children, $6,685.34. Disbursements for provisions, fuel, lights, clothing, shoes, salaries and wages $6,862.63. Deficit, including unpaid bills, $500. Endowment fund, $50. Cost of lot and building $20,000, of which $16,000 have been paid and $4,000 remain unpaid on mortgage.

January 1886. — S.F.C.