'New' hospital celebrates 50th year
The history of St. Mary’s Hospital really begins with the arrival of Dr. Wesley Orr to Cottonwood, Idaho in 1912.  He urged the Sisters of St. Gertrude to build a hospital to care for the acutely ill patients in the area.  In 1927 the Sisters were awarded a house in a bankruptcy case which they converted to a hospital.  Those renovations created a four bed patient ward, a room for four bassinets, a nurse’s station, an X-ray room, waiting room, chapel and accommodations for the chaplain.
When the renovations were completed on November 3, 1930 Our Lady of Consolation Hospital first began serving patients with some of the sisters serving as nurses. Sr. Rose Schraecher was the bookkeeper and admissions clerk and Sr. Veronica Ottinger worked as the dietitian. That would make this also the 85th anniversary of the first Cottonwood hospital.
Nine years later, in 1939, due to consistent overcrowding, the sisters decided to build an annex to the hospital.  It doubled the space, added a modern surgery unit and an electric elevator to the three story building. That year saw 1515 admissions, 577 surgeries and 2534 outpatients treated.
In 1957 the name was changed to St. Mary’s Hospital and in 1960 the hospital conducted its first disaster drill.  In the early 60’s it was evident the physical facility could no longer be considered state-of-the-art.  The Sisters took a big risk when they made the decision to construct a new hospital.  A pledge drive was started and an application to receive federal Hill Burton construction funds was submitted.  The names of the 400 people who pledged were engraved on a plaque in the hospital lobby.  In 1963 the Sisters bought former school property for $700,000 and construction began.
On March 18, 1965 a dedication celebrated the new 24 bed facility which included four extra rooms for long term Sister care, a residence for other Sisters and a chapel.  It also contained a new lab, x-ray rooms, an OR and a number of other modern features. On March 21 the move from the old to the new facility began with the first patient being a premature baby who rode over in an ambulance.
In 1965 six licensed practical nurses graduated at the hospital.  That same year four rooms were set aside for long term care.  The cost was $10 per day, plus medicine.
Ambulance services were turned over to the hospital for insurance reasons and in 1972 the SMH Guild donated $500 towards the purchase of an ambulance .  The SMH EMT service was established that same year.  The clinic at Nezperce opened in 1979 and the hospital’s first health fair was held which attracted over 300 people. The Kamiah Medical Clinic opened in 1983 and, shortly afterwards, the Cottonwood clinic began seeing patients in the rooms that formerly served as sleeping rooms for the Sisters.
In 1982 the Lions Club laid a helipad and helicopter transports joined the ambulance service as one way to transfer patients to tertiary care units in other locations.  
St. Mary’s Hospital joined the Benedictine Health System in 1989.  By 1995 the art of medicine had changed.  Hospital stays were reduced and many procedures that had been done on an inpatient basis were now being done on an outpatient basis.  
Shortly afterwards, the Craigmont Clinic opened bringing the number of satellite clinics to four.  SMHC also began collaboratively providing medical care at the medical clinic in Elk City.  During this time SMHC began administering the Grangeville Physical Therapy Clinic.  When the outpatient Cottonwood PT Clinic was established in the refurbished Orr Building on the SMH campus the space was arranged to include a wellness center for use by patients, former patients and employees.  A third PT clinic was established in Kamiah in the late 1990’s.
In 1998, Clearwater Valley Hospital and Clinics in Orofino became an associate member of the Benedictine Health System, Duluth, Minnesota.  The two hospitals formed an equal partnership with a joint management team to form a regional healthcare system. 
In May, 2002 after years of planning SMH held a community groundbreaking for their new 12,000 square foot, two story medical clinic which houses 12 exam rooms, two nursing stations, a procedure room and physician offices.

From the front page of the March 18, 1965 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle.

The hospital as it looks today from nearly the same angle.

Additional buildings added are the Orr Building and the Clinic building.

A 2-page congratulatory ad from local businesses. It would have been nice to see the whole thing but we would have had to tear apart our archive to do so.

A couple of congratulatory ads from a couple of the contractors.

From the March 18, 1965 Cottonwood Chronicle:
Ceremonies and Open House will Highlight Program
By John J. Hanley
Chairman of Hospital Dedication Publicity Committee
The dedication of the new $700,000 St. Mary’s Hospital, built to serve the Camas prairie communities surrounding Cottonwood, Idaho, will be held Sunday, March 21, at 3:00 p.m. The public is cordially invited to attend the ceremonies and open house conducted tour to be held from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The program will begin with raising of the Flag, assisted by the Cottonwood Post, the American Legion and St. Gertrude’s Academy Band.
Participants in the ribbon cutting ceremony have been invited from the various communities. They include:
Raymond Terhaar, Idaho County Commissioner, Greencreek; Mayor Walt Ruhoff, Cottonwood; Mayor Dale Clovis, Craigmont; Mayor Cecil Uhling, Ferdinand; Mayor John Nickel, Kamiah; Mayor Lyle Billow, Nezperce and Mayor George Klein, Grangeville.
The Most Rev. Sylvester W. Treinen, D.D. Bishop of Boise, will bless and lay the cornerstone and give the dedication address. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. M. Verhoeven, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Cottonwood, will deliver the invocation. 
Introductions are to be made by August E. Hoene, chairman of the Hospital Advisory Board and the address of welcome will be given by Mayor Walt Ruhoff of Cottonwood.
Final acceptance of St. Mary’s Hospital by the owners, the Sisters of St. Benedict, on March 4, 1965, marked the culmination of a campaign begun in 1962, when it was decided the old hospital should be replaced.
At that time the Advisory Board composed of August E. Hoene and Cletus Uhlorn, Cottonwood; Tony Arnzen, Ferdinand; Charles H. Wilkins, Craigmont; Raymond Terhaar, Greencreek; Henry Haener, Grangeville and W. Wade Wilson of Kamiah, was chosen to conduct a fund drive. Some 400 subscribers, whose names will be inscribed on a plaque placed in the lobby of the hospital, and living in the communities to be served by the hospital, pledged and donated $151,000.00. Through the assistance of U.S. Senator Frank Church, U.S. Representative Compton I. White, Jr., State Representative Tony Wessels (and others) .needs were summarized and submitted for Hill-Burton matching funds on Jan. 18, 1963. This was acted on favorably by the Idaho Hospital Advisory Board on July 19, 1963 and by the State Board of Health on August 2, 1963. Bids for construction were let March 31, 1964 by the Sisters of St. Benedict to Gus J. Bouten, contractor, Freesz & Lund, Seattle. Planning was done by the architectural firm of Maloney, Herrington, Freesz & Lund as supervising architects. . . .

Cottonwood, Idaho 83522


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