The Golden General Hospital and the Maternity Hospital.

A hospital that helped build a community

Colleen Palumbo looks back at how important a hospital can be to a growing community.

Early explorer David Thompson first came into the Columbia Valley in 1807, accompanied by a small party which included his wife Charlotte Small and their young family. There is no doubt that David Thompson would have carried simple medical supplies or remedies with him as he had no idea when he might be close to medical help.

Thompson had by 1807, spent the majority of his life in the wilderness of Canada, and was a trading partner with the native people that he met along the way and would have had the opportunity to have gained a great deal of knowledge of the medicinal practices of the native people.

By 1882, Major Rogers, and other C.P.R. surveyors were camped at the bottom of the Golden Hill at “The Cache”. The cache was a solidly built log cabin built to guard the surveyor’s camp supplies from the bears, of which there were many. Those early explorers relied heavily on these caches to provide supplies when everything had to be brought into the area by horse, or on a man’s back. This cache became the basis of the early or historic if you will, downtown core.

As the rail progressed so did the camps to house the men working on the construction of the line. Accidents were many and each of these camps had to have some kind of access to health care.  The first camp in the area was in Field, followed by Golden and then Donald.

The camp in Golden was located at Hospital Creek, (near the present day Ponderosa Hotel) where a small tent town sprang up overnight. One of those tents was a hospital.

Here, in addition to ordinary casualties, the victims of an outbreak of smallpox were treated, and some of the dead buried nearby. With completion of this section of the railway the camp at Golden was abandoned. However, people were settling in the area and by 1892, a group of those settlers got together to discuss bringing a doctor to Golden. There wasn’t much to attract a doctor to the area, just a tumbled down log hospital with no windows that was located at Donald.

The C.P.R. used their influence to persuade the BC Government that a hospital was needed and the government offered $2,000.00 contingent on the local residents coming up with the other $1,000.00. Worried that the C.P.R. would use its considerable influence to have the hospital built at Donald instead of in Golden, Captain Francis Armstrong went to Victoria and guaranteed the necessary $1,000.00 from the community. The community quickly raised $1,500.00 and construction of the hospital began.

With a plan in place for a new hospital, the Hospital Board started advertising for a doctor. Through the hard work of this first Hospital Board its members were provided with one of the first medical and hospital plans ever devised in B.C. Fees were set at $1.00 a month or $10.00 a year, for which sum full medical and hospital care was provided.

A doctor fresh out of medical school answered the ad and was soon moved to Golden and practicing at the hospital. The hospital at that time had enough room for nine patients and in the summer they used the verandah for extra beds.

In 1908, a second building was erected just for maternity patients and the maternity nurse was replaced by two practicing mid-wives. A covered walkway extended between the two buildings.

The grounds around the hospital were well kept. One janitor, George Murphy, kept cows and cultivated a vegetable garden, while Sam, the cook, looked after chickens, so the patients were well supplied with fresh produce. Dr. Ewart, who joined Dr. Taylor in 1913, often worked in the flower gardens in his spare time.

Things have changed a lot over the years but while the science of health care has changed, Golden has managed from its earliest days to keep a hospital open and a dedicated group of health care professionals ever present.