A Long History of Community Caring

Previous Healthcare

Early area healthcare consisted largely of home remedies and traveling medicine men who would periodically visit, and advertise their arrival in advance as well as giving information on their qualifications, special medical talents, magical potions and successes. They would also give guarantees of good health. Frontier medicine was extremely practiced in this area as was characteristic throughout the U.S. at that time. After the first settlers arrived, qualified physicians began migrating to Princeton and the surrounding townships around the mid-nineteenth century. They came from the East Coast and large Midwestern cities and Canada, as well as from European countries such as England, Scotland and Ireland. Population expansion, religious affiliation and development of industry attracted them to the area. By the end of the 1800’s the influx of doctors to the county increased significantly and, in 1893 the Bureau County Medical Society was chartered with forty physicians as members. Although the physicians treated many patients in their offices, they would also travel great distances to the homes of patients. Occasionally a physician would convert several rooms in his home to house a few acutely ill patients, providing them with nursing care and closer medical treatment and supervision. It was not until June of 1903, however, that a hospital was opened in Princeton. Two brothers, Drs. L.D. Hickman and H.V. Hickman, who were osteopathic physicians, obtained loans and purchased a home on Park Avenue East from Hermas Gray. This was to be a resting place for osteopathic patients. Their interests were in x-ray and surgery. Expensive and up-to-date equipment was purchased. However. due to personal illness, financial problems and lack of support the brothers closed their doors on their hospital after one year of operation.

In 1905, the closed institution was purchased privately and successfully operated by a physician named Dr. Blackburn who opened it as a private hospital and ran it for three years. During that time it received the support of Dr. Scott, from Princeton, and other area physicians; Drs. Hess and Horner from Tiskilwa and Dr. Lewis of DePue. Miss Alm was the surgical nurse, Miss Sodenberg, second nurse and Miss Holmberg, third nurse.

It next was purchased and privately run by Miss Cox for two more years until an accident patient contracted small pox. Nine patients were in the hospital at the time. Two nurses also came down with small pox. Although it had received support from the community for five years, the epidemic of small pox in one of the wards resulted in two deaths and the closing of the facility once again.

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Julia Rackley Perry

Although Julia Rackley Perry, of Malden, Illinois, had suffered with illness for several years and had required two surgeries prior to her failing health from May, 1912, her death was unexpected, but peaceful, on December 29,1913. She had been born on June 7, 1858, the daughter of George and Calesta Rackley, and married Jesse A. Perry on October 18, 1877. They had one child, George Nathan, who died at the age of nine years and two days. She was devoted to her home, a lover of music, was active in her churches (the Congregational Church of Malden until its closing and the Methodist Church), and had many friends. In her later years she displayed a “deep interest in the immortality of the soul” and arduously searched scriptures for light upon life beyond death. It was the religious side of her character, and her desire to give to others that provided the spirit in which she showed through her will. She left a will that provided $25,000 to be held in trust and administered by Mabel S. Priestly, Hubert A. Clark and Cairo A. Trimble to be held in trust with the income used for the benefit and assistance of worthy poor people in Bureau County, Illinois. It had the provision that, if within five years after her death, either the trustees or the City of Princeton, IL should make plans for the construction or endowment of a public supported hospital in Princeton that would use the entirety of her funds. At that time $25,000 was bequeathed for establishing a hospital and the remainder was to be invested by the executor and the income paid to Mrs. Perry’s husband and, upon his death, the remainder given to the hospital. Other amounts bequested were: Jesse A. Perry, husband, homestead and life use of the $25,000 aforementioned; Christian Children’s Home, Council Bluffs, IA, $5,000; Illinois Humane Society, $5,000; George F. Rackley, Malden, $1,000; Freeman Rackley, Boone, IA, $1,000; Fred Robbins, Barre, VT, $1,000; Florence N. Perry, Malden, $1,000; A.M. Perry, Cambridge OH, $1,000; Sadie Seymoure, Chicago, IL, $1,000; Kate H. Blackburn, missionary, $1,000; Catherine Carter, Malden, $500; Hattie Bell, Malden, $500; and Man Devoe, Chicago, $500.

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Hospital Built

The Julia Rackley Perry Memorial Hospital was officially founded on May 29, 1916 when an ordinance was passed by the City Council for the establishment and maintenance of a public hospital in the City of Princeton, Illinois. There was also provision for the appointment of a Board of Directors. This action was taken after a great majority of the citizens of Princeton voted in favor of a tax-supported public hospital in April 1916. Two years before, the issue had been brought to the people but was defeated.

In October, 1917 the old hospital property was purchased for $4,711.58. Parker N. Berry was the architect and the contract for the building was given to W.F. Peterson of Chicago on July 25, 1918 for $88,730. After months of unavoidable delays caused by labor and transportation shortages and innumerable problems that confronted the building committee, the hospital finally opened on June 17, 1920; ten years after closing in 1910. Conditions became crowded as admissions increased. H.H. Priestly, H.U. Bailey and C.A. Trimble served as trustees under appointment of the mayor and commissioners of the City of Princeton until 1929. An Advisory Board was formed and named to assist the management of the hospital. The seven members appointed by the City Council were Mrs. H.M. McKee, Chairman; Mrs. C.A. Omen, Mrs. M. J. Eggah, Miss Mable McClenahan, A.H. Ferris, H.H. Priestley and Mrs. S.L. Bradley. The committees were named as follows: House: Mrs. H.M. McKee, Mrs. C. A. Omen, Miss Mabel McClenahan, Mrs. J.M. Eggan, A.H. Ferris and H.H. Priestley. Ground: Mrs. S. L. Bradley, Mrs. M.J. Eggan, Mrs. Florence Perry, H.U. Bailey and T.P. Gunning. Culinary: Mrs. C.A. Omen, Mrs. M.J. Eggan, Mrs. Florence Perry and Miss Mabel McClenahan. Finance: Mr. Ferris, Dr. Gunning, Mrs. McKee, Mrs. Omen, Mrs. Bradley, Dr. Flint and Mr. C.A. Trimble. Medical: Dr. Flint, Dr. Barrett and Dr. F.B. Schroeder. Executive: Mr. Priestley, Mr. Trimble and Mr. Bailey. Room was made for 28 patients and 5 babies. Miss Kathryn Pond was superintendent, assisted by Miss Teresa Kinsella. An informal reception was held to acquaint the public with the hospital; however, much was still needed to complete the hospital. When a request went out to the community for assistance people responded with everything from furniture to live chickens to help out. Members of the Needlework Guild voted to devote their annual collection to the hospital and was able to donate 1254 articles of linen. Neddy Nedved became the first baby born at Perry and records show that the hospital had 32 admissions within the first two weeks of opening. Additional nurses were added to the staff. Credit for the success of the hospital was given to Miss Pond for her hard work and wonderful personality. The operating room and x-ray department had the latest equipment. However, more funds were badly needed several months after the opening and a door-to-door fund drive was held, headed by B.M. Gibbs. W.O. Stevens gave a day’s receipts from the Apollo Theatre. A total of $3,306.77 was raised. Valuable aid was given from the Woman’s Auxiliary of which Mrs. C.V. Fields was president, Mrs. Emma Carlson was secretary and Mrs. C.A. Best was a chairwoman. The Auxiliary work included mending and making curtains, bed linens, towels, table linen, gowns and all related supplies. They met each week with each church sending workers. Success for this project was largely credited to Mrs. Florence Perry and Mrs. W.E. Sapp. Seventeen elm trees were set out around the hospital drive by the Princeton Post No.125, American Legion in memory of 17 area men who had died in the line of duty. Memorial rooms were designated as follows: First Floor: 101 O.B. Harrauff, 109 F.C. Bollman, 100 “In Memory of Samuel M. Knox”, 108 Princeton Fire Department. Second Floor: 100 The English Lutheran Church, 202 “In Memoriam Lorella B. Cushing”, 201 The Westminster Guild of the Presbyterian Church, 204 Kasbeer Junior Household Science Club, 205 Mrs. Eli Mathis, 206 Mrs. Watts A. Johnson, 207 Garner May, 208 Heaton’s Point Household Science Club, 209 Congregational Church Guild, 211 Mrs. C.P. Gardner, 217 Kasbeer Senior Household Science Club.

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Hospital Damaged by Fire

On December 23, 1920 the hospital was damaged to an extent of $1500. The roof of the old building was burned, as well as a few rooms. The superintendent and nurses handled the emergency, with quick fire control from the Fire Department, without the patients even knowing until after the fire was extinguished, thus preventing panic. Insurance covered the loss, which was repaired by A. Omen. Furniture, bedding, canned fruit and jellies and chickens for Perry’s chicken yard were donated throughout the years. At that time patients were being brought in from all over the country for operations and treatment. Interest in the hospital was spurred greatly by Mrs. H.M. McKee who wrote weekly articles about the hospital for publication in the local newspaper, the Republican. The hospital become so crowded that it became necessary to occasionally put cots in the ends of the corridors to provide for the overflow. It was then the hospital board made the decision to erect a new addition. A new east-wing was added to the building and completed July 17, 1931 at a cost of $45,000. The architect was Schmidt, Gardner and Erikson of Chicago, and the contract was given to C.A. Omen. Trustees at that time included H.U. Bailey, Josef T. Skinner and J.C. Larson, all of whom had been appointed in 1929. The wing was made possible by accumulated interest, earnings and gifts from various sources. A solarium was provided by the Needlework Guild, at a cost of $2,000. This was dedicated to the soldiers and sailors of World War I. An endowment of $1,500 for the upkeep was also given by the same organization. Through the efforts of Mrs. Carey Johnson, two flags, an American flag and an American Legion flag, were presented by the American Legion and placed on either side of the memorial bronze table at the entrance. Harry Swanson gave an electric clock for the solarium, as well as three other clocks for various areas of the building. The top floor of the new wing was devoted entirely to a maternity unit that included an obstetrical room, a nursery and rooms for the mothers. The nursery had a soundproof ceiling and was isolated so that patients would not be disturbed when the infants cried. The Kasbeer Junior Household Science Club, which had always taken a great interest in the nursery, sent linen and other gifts and gave $100 for new basinets. The first floor was for patients and the basement was made into badly needed nurses’ quarters. The 28-bed capacity was increased to 41 beds and 12 bassinets for babies. Gifts received were: 1923 Chautauqua $100, 1925 Mrs. Helen G. Dayton Estate $1,000, 1927 H.A. Clark Estate $200, 1929 Mildred E. Martin Permanent addition $7,000, 1929 Mildred E. Martin Endowment $3,000, 1929 J.M. Stevens Memorial $15,000, 1935 Viola Mercer $10,000 and 1937 Effie W. Parker $833.69. In 1935 the Rotary Club of Princeton decorated and refurnished the reception room at the entrance of the Hospital. Mrs. C.C. Barrett and Mrs. O.V. Shaffer are to be credited with decorating this much-used room. In 1937 a need for further expansion was identified and a grant was secured from the Federal Government for $22,900, conditional upon raising the additional funds by the City to make a total of $50,000. A municipal bond issue of $13,000 was approved by voters of the City and the balance of $14,100 was raised from gifts and City funds. In 1938, a west wing hospital addition was completed but not equipped. It included nine additional beds, new operating rooms, preparatory rooms, x-ray room, laboratory and other needed space. By October, 1939 the entire project was completed and included new x-ray and sterilization equipment and surgical rooms; the conversion was made of the old original hospital building at the rear into the nurses’ quarters and kitchen. Funds were made available from the Federal government, the City of Princeton, and short-term loans made possible by citizens, who were repaid in later years.

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1940 – 1960 Decades of Challenge and Change

The next twenty years were crucial in the hospital’s development. Changes had to be made in order to keep up with the increasing demands of medical care. More facilities, including beds, were needed. In 1950 an extensive financial drive was conducted throughout the City and Bureau County. A total of over $300,000 was raised and these funds, together with many other special gifts, which had been received by the hospital, made possible the remodeling of the center wing and the construction of an addition to the east wing, which was completed in 1954. This increased the capacity of the hospital to 66 beds and 16 bassinets and added new administrative offices, x-ray and laboratory facilities.

When yet another expansion needed to be done to keep up with the rising needs and technology contributions and pledges in a similar drive in 1959 totaled another $300,000. The funds were used for the construction of the new 44-bed wing. Construction was completed that same year and, in the process of construction, the original house that served as a hospital had to be razed. The 1960’s brought on an accelerated chain of events. In view of the growing need for improvements and additions, the need to a new facility became obvious. There were two phases of development. The building was completed in 1969. A basement and two floors were occupied in 1969.

The third floor was completed in 1976 for a surgical inpatient unit providing a total bed capacity of 105. The Medical Office Building completed during the summer of 1978, adjoins the hospital on the north side along Park Avenue East. The 1978 building’s cost was $3.2 million. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare granted $934,000 and a loan in the amount of $1,790,000 was received from the Farmers Home Administration of the Department of Agriculture. The balance was funded by contributions and money from the hospital’s operating fund. This facility now houses Medical Rehabilitation, Perry Home Medical Supply, Physicians’ Offices, Bureau Valley Hospice, and the Hospital’s Administrative Office.

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Growth and Change

During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s the hospital was enriched with an influx of new physicians from various fields of medicine. Since that time Perry has over 100 physicians on staff with specialties that include: allergy and asthma, anesthesiology, cardiology, emergency medicine, family practice, gastroenterology, general surgery, gynecology, internal medicine, nephrology, oncology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, pathology, physiatry, podiatry, pulmonology, radiology and urology.

A new $6.5 Million Emergency Department/Outpatient Services wing and renovation (Phase I) was completed and opened in December, 2005. Phase II construction which consisted of transforming and renovating the “old” Emergency Department into an Outpatient Pre- and Post- Surgical area was completed in May, 2007.  Phase III construction is complete and included a new Hospital Chapel; renovation of the main lobby, which provides better handicap accessibility; and the refurbishing of the Business Office and Hospital Cafeteria.  The Auxiliary Gift Shop was relocated in the main lobby and has a wide selection of new inventory.  A conference room on the lower level was enlarged for additional meeting space and mechanical equipment was upgraded.  The canopy at the main entrance of the hospital was also given an updated and fresh look.  Perry’s next phase of construction will consist of the renovation of patient rooms on second floor.  A start date for this construction has not yet been set.

Perry Plaza, which is currently owned by the hospital, has offices that are currently being leased out to; the Bureau County Health Department; Access Services; and North Central Behavioral Health Systems. Perry’s industrial linen services business is also housed in that building.

Services at Perry include the Perry Memorial Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic; Medical Rehabilitation Department which offers Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapy, Sports Medicine, Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, Aquatic Therapy, Continence Therapy, Lymphedema Therapy and more; a full-service Laboratory; Radiology Department with the latest radiological equipment; Sleep Center; Emergency Department; Respiratory Care; Surgical Services; Special Procedures Center which includes both an Endoscopy Unit and Pain Clinic for treatment of chronic pain through such methods as RFA (radio frequency ablation); and much more!

Additionally, Perry Memorial Hospital has been able to take advantage of an offer that was made to small, rural hospitals in order to receive better reimbursement under Medicare. By applying for and receiving the designation of a Critical Access Hospital, Perry has been able to receive cost based reimbursement for Medicare patients’ hospital expenses. Previously, Medicare had been paying approximately just 37 cents on the dollar to the hospital. While the hospital is licensed for 89 beds, this designation requires that the inpatient hospital census usually be restricted to 25 patients. However, that number does not include patients in observation, E.R., new babies, and other such arrangements. Special designations can also be made during times of outbreaks of flu, inclement weather that prohibits a previously scheduled discharge of patients, etc. Because of this designation, a larger demographic base of patients, enhanced patient services and technology and cost containment, Perry is experiencing unprecedented growth and is looking to the future to be ready for an even larger trend in outpatient services. Through technology, advanced procedures and patients’ wishes for a return to home after treatment, it is expected that the future will continue to bring added growth in outpatient areas.

Throughout the years many dedicated community members, members of the boards of directors for the hospital and foundation, physicians, area businesses, organizations, volunteers, auxiliary, staff, administration and others have continued the legacy of helping Perry provide quality, compassionate healthcare services. This article of history is dedicated to those too numerous to mention who have, though dedication, hard work, perseverance and a commitment to serving others, contributed time, talents or financial assistance that has endeavored Perry Memorial Hospital to be the strong and growing hospital it is today. As Perry moves forward in growing its physical plant and services we thank all of those – past, present and future – for their support. Perry is proud to be your hospital!

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