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Sickness and poverty are akin; and the civic conscience, under primitive conditions, has provided for the two afflictions in one institution.A very early Act of Michigan Territory for the support of the poor, February 1, 1809, when William Hull was governor, provides that the overseers of the poor in the several districts within the Territory shall relieve and support all the poor, lame, blind, and sick, and shall provide for them houses, nurses, physicians, surgeons, in such cases as they shall judge necessary.
Antonie, which had been erected by popular subscription at a cost of ten thousand dollars. While patients were received mainly on order from the director of the poor, others could secure board and attendance by the week at prices not greatly differing from present time hospital rates. Mary’s Hospital has 330 beds, besides operating an out-patient department.
Michigan, however, is unique in that it both lies on an international frontier and has a bi-peninsular shoreline.
The Straits were fortified by a stockade and a blockhouse, as soon as frontier trading began, and the earliest semblance of a Michigan hospital appeared in some crude quarters for the sick men of the garrison. Alex Harrison, of The Gage, a boat that was unloading at Detroit wharf, contains these stories: “October 11, 1785. Durett came on board in place of Butler, gone to the hospital.” A report on barrack conditions at Detroit of 1790, June 24, describes the hospital as one room entered by two doors, equipped with twenty-one single berths and having one chimney.
Kundig, priest of Holy Trinity Church, was quick to realize the emergency, for so great was the general terror that sometimes when one person was attacked in a house, the rest of the family would flee, leaving the victim to the care of physicians and nurses.
Many people hurriedly left town, but the people of surrounding towns were afraid of them.
The hospital has not been a feature of the American frontier; nor has the professional nurse been a pioneer figure.
The doctor, with his saddle bags, was in evidence early.Seven years before Michigan arrived at statehood in 1837, a public Act authorized the establishment of county poorhouses with a superintendent.The seeds of the county infirmary, the home for the sick that civic charity provides for the poor, are found in this legislation; they, however, were seeds of slow germination.Wayne County had been authorized to establish and operate a poorhouse two years before the General Law; although immediate action did not follow.And it was specified that the directors might admit lunatics and other diseased persons, if the disease were not contagious.Nothing more was contemplated by this than the letting out of cases to families that were willing to take them cheap.