LP’s first hospital was Holy Family Hospital

June 7, 2017 GMT

There are numerous stories that tout the virtues and sometimes non virtuous events that marked the county’s history. In my researching the history of La Porte County I came across articles of people, places and events that defined the county’s history. Some of the articles referenced the first person to do this or that. Others announced the first time an event or opening occurred. This is the latest in a series of articles that may bring a smile or frown to your face, or cause you to say “Oh my gosh,” or “I didn’t know that.”

Before there was a hospital in the city of La Porte, nursing nuns of the Order of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, and the Ancilla Domini Order from nearby South Bend, came to La Porte to nurse in private homes.

Nursing, however, was not the only calling these sisters fulfilled. The illness of the mother of a household was serious business, and the Ancilla Domini sisters found themselves filling in the roles of the mothers. They would wash and feed the children, send them to school, bake bread, do the family laundry and even make breakfast for the father before he went off to work.

The need for a hospital was particularly evident to Father Anthony Messman, then pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. With an increase in the community’s population and a need for more sophisticated, concerted care, the Father, with the help of Meinrad Rumely, founder of the M. and J. Rumely Co., and other concerned citizens, purchased in 1900 La Porte’s first hospital. It was located on the corner of E and Second streets and was named Holy Family Hospital.

A frame dwelling sporting 14 rooms, Holy Family Hospital was under the direction of five sisters from the Ancilla Domini Order. The first patient admitted was Ambrose Higgins, who suffered from virus flu. For the first two months, Higgins was Holy Family’s only patient. Business, however, picked up.

Hospital records also show a variety of disease and illness was treated at La Porte’s hospital – including everything from alcoholic insanity to typhoid fever to syphilis and “cocainism.” (Herald-Argus, April 29, 1980)

The year 1927 marked the first time in the 36-year history of the Columbia Yacht Club of Chicago to Michigan City race that seaplanes patrolled the course. Three United States naval planes from Great Lakes Naval Training Station (Illinois) circled the city and then landed on the waters of west beach. Three hundred yachtsmen took part in the race on sixty sailing boats. After refueling, the planes took part in patrolling the course. Walter J. Eden, commodore of the Columbia Yacht Club, along with Captain S.R. Johnson, of the Michigan City Coast Guard Station, and a News reporter boarded one of the planes to patrol the course. The U.S.S. Willlmett and the sub chaser 412 also patrolled the course. (News, June 17-18, 1927)

“That pretty Iittle suburb with that pretty Iittle name, Snarltown,” (tongue in cheek) was the scene of a blazing conflagration on a Tuesday about 2 a.m. The area referred to was in the Hoosier Slide district, the entrance to where the NIPSCO generating station now stands. It was the habitat for some unsavory characters who lived in shanties, some barely habitable. There were a number of good-size buildings there. Then there was Mahogany Hall and Crystal Palace, two of the most picturesque structures in the neighborhood, destroyed. The fire started from some mysterious cause in the shanty occupied by Big Ida Cox and a couple of other girls and “the inmates to hustle out in double quick time” in order to prevent being scorched. Nearly all their clothing and other effects were destroyed. Another house nearby and unoccupied caught fire and fast being consumed when the fire department arrived. The flames were soon extinguished, but nothing was left except a few posts. The buildings were owned by Mrs. Mary Switzer and were not insured.

Arnold Bass is past president of the La Porte County Historical Society.