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Report of Deseret Hospital Dedication, July 17, 1882

“The Deseret Hospital. Dedication Services,” Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, UT), July 17, 1882, vol. 15, no. 200, p. [2].

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The featured document is a report of the July 17, 1882, dedicatory proceedings of the Deseret Hospital, which was established by the Relief Society. A movement to establish a hospital in Salt Lake City operated by Latter-day Saints had begun by at least the early 1870s. In 1872 the Deseret News asked, “Shall we have an hospital?” The newspaper noted that St. Mark’s Hospital, founded earlier that year by the Episcopal Church partly in response to the needs of the mining community, was an excellent facility, but “its capacity is altogether too limited for this large and growing city.”1 Private hospitals also attempted to meet some of the need.2

The desire to found a Latter-day Saint hospital corresponded with a growing call for Latter-day Saint women to receive medical training.3 Some women, such as Romania B. Pratt, attended established medical schools in the eastern United States with support from church leaders and the Relief Society. When Pratt returned to Utah in 1877, she opened an office in Salt Lake City, taught classes in “obstetrics and feminine diseases,” and also advocated for the establishment of a local hospital.4 She argued, “In every growing community there seems to soon develop the need of a hospital devoted more especially to the interest of women and children, and this is now being felt among us.”5

Eliza R. Snow promoted the establishment of such a hospital as she visited local Relief Societies. At a conference in Spring City, Utah, she “spoke of having a hospital that could be controlled by those of our own faith that there could be a place where the young girls could be taught to administer herbs in faith and become good, efficient nurses and understand the human system.”6 In 1880 a letter to the editor of the Woman’s Exponent complained that no action had yet been taken to found a hospital despite frequent discussions.7 Latter-day Saint women, including leaders of the Relief Society, soon began making concrete plans along with church leaders to establish a hospital.8 Reflecting later on the work of establishing the hospital, Eliza R. Snow explained, “With the approval of the First Presidency, we commenced the Hospital as no women on earth except Latter-day Saints would have undertaken so gigantic an enterprise—i.e., with nothing. But we had faith in the support and liberality of our brethren and sisters.”9

Funding for the hospital came from a variety of sources, including subscriptions, donations from Primary children, and benefit concerts. In-kind contributions provided the hospital with some of the coal, blankets, pillows, quilts, towels, and other materials it needed to operate.10 Circulars were sent to local church leaders soliciting financial assistance to pay expenses. Fundraising was a constant effort for members of the hospital executive board even after the facility opened.11

On July 17, 1882, apostle Franklin D. Richards dedicated the Deseret Hospital.12 By the end of that year, the hospital could accommodate from thirty to thirty-five patients. During its first months of operation the hospital served, on average, between twelve and twenty patients per month.13 Deseret Hospital remained open for twelve years, treating illnesses such as typhoid fever, rheumatism, diphtheritic tonsillitis, and other maladies.14 In 1886 the staff treated 334 patients.15 By 1890 the hospital was showing signs of trouble, as its staff treated just over one hundred patients that year.16 By 1894 Deseret Hospital closed its doors.17


dedication services.

This morning, at 11 o’clock, a number of ladies and gentlemen interested in the establishment of a hospital for the care and treatment of the sick, under the auspices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assembled at the building on Fifth East Streets, between East Temple and First South,18 to attend the dedication and the opening of the institution.

Presidents John Taylor and Jos. F. Smith were present, also President W. [Wilford] Woodruff, Apostle F. D. Richards, Prest. of the Stake Angus M. Cannon and Counselor Jos. E. Taylor, Mayor W. [William] Jennings, Elders L. John Nuttall, Joseph Horne and Chas. W. Penrose, the officers of the Institution, physicians, ladies of the Relief Society, etc.

Dr. Seymour B. Young announced the programme of the services.

A select choir led by Prof. C. J. Thomas sung the hymn on page 410.19

Prayer was offered by Prest. W. Woodruff.

Choir sang hymn on page 136.20

Dr. Seymour B. Young read the circular of the institution as follows:

President—Eliza R. Snow Smith.

Vice-President—Zina D. H. Young.

Executive Board—M. Isabella Horne, Marinda N. Hyde, Phoebe Woodruff, Bathsheba W. Smith, Jane S. Richards, Ellen B. Ferguson, M. D., Romania B Pratt, M. D.,

Secretary—Emeline B. Wells.

Treasurer—Matilda M. Barratt.

Chairman Visiting Committee—Elizabeth Howard.

Finance Committee—Sarah M. Kimball, Priscilla M. Staines, Priscilla Jennings, Annie G. Sharp, Sarah Jane Cannon, Hannah T. King, Elizabeth Groesbeck, Ellen Dinwoodey, Elizabeth H. Goddard, Sophia W. Taylor.

Resident Physician and Surgeon—Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson.

Visiting Board—Dr. Seymour B. Young, Dr. W. [Washington] F. Anderson.

Visiting SurgeonEye and Ear, Nose and Throat—Dr. Romania B. Pratt.

Clinical Registrar and Dispensary Clerk—Mary F. VanSchoonhoven.

Matron—Mary Ann McLean.

Honorary Committee—The Stake Presidents of the Relief Society are members of the Honorary Committee, each one to represent the interests of the hospital in their respective locality.

Deseret Hospital board of directors

Deseret Hospital board of directors. Circa 1882–1884. The board of the first Latter-day Saint hospital included prominent Relief Society members. Front row, left to right: Jane S. Richards, Emmeline B. Wells. Second row: Phebe Woodruff, Mary Isabella Horne, Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, Nancy M. J. Hyde. Back row: Dr. Ellis R. Shipp, Bathsheba W. Smith, Elizabeth A. Howard, Dr. Romania B. Pratt. Photograph by Charles R. Savage. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

articles of association.

Article 1.—This Association has for it♢ object the e[s]tablishment21 and management of a Hospital for the sick and injured.

Article 2—The Executive Board shall have the entire control of the domestic management, shall supervise the expenditures, and make such rules and regulations for the government of the Hospital as shall best promote economy, good order and harmony in all its departments.

Article 3—The Medical Board shall control the medical and surgical department, and present a report at each meeting of the Executive Board.

Article 4,—Any lady member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in good standing, may become a member of this Association by the payment of one dollar annually. Such name and amount to be sent to any member of the Board for proposal, and to be voted upon at the next monthly meeting.


To the Presidents of Stakes, Bishops, Presidents and members of the Relief Society, Superintendents and Presidents Y. L. and Y. M. M. I. Associations.

The urgent necessity which has long existed in our midst, of a place where the sick and suffering, who have a claim upon our sympathy and care, can receive the medical and surgical aid which they require—in connection with the administration of sacred ordinances in their behalf, has impelled those who feel this need most deeply, to an earnest and determined effort in this humane direction, with the sanction and approval of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

We, who have taken upon us the responsibility of inaugurating this work, make a special appeal to all who are able and willing to aid in securing to those who are the proper subjects for the benefits of this Institution, the medical and surgical care and personal comfort which they require in the period of extreme sickness, and in event of those accidents and emergencies to which all are at any time liable.

In order to assist in meeting the current expenses of the Hospital, it has been suggested that each Relief Society and Mutual Improvement Association subscribe statedly one dollar per month to the Hospital Fund, such amounts to stand as a credit in favor of any member of the Society or Association who may require the benefits of the Institution.

For the furnishing and outfit of the Hospital we appeal to the liberality of our brethren and sisters for donation, of money, provisions, bedding, furniture and domestic utensils.

The Board of Managers expect to establish, in connection with the Hospital, a School, for the purpose of educating midwives and training nurses for the sick;22 a class whose services will be welcomed both by the public and by the medical profession as efficient aids to the accomplishment of the chief end of all hospital work—the care and cure of the sick.

May the Spirit of Him, to whom the sick and afflicted never appealed for help in vain, influence the hearts of those who are favored with an abundance of this world’s goods, to a generous response to this appeal, knowing that such gifts are doubly blessed, blessing both the giver and the receiver.

E. R. Snow Smith, President,

E. B. Wells, Secretary,

E. B. Ferguson, M. D., Res. Surgeon.


1. This Hospital is designed for the care and treatment of the sick and injured, more especially among the Latter-day Saints, and for the reception of critical cases of accouchement.

2. The price of board and medical attendance, except in the free beds, shall be from $6.00 upwards per week, according to the requirements of the case. All fees to be paid weekly, in advance.

3. The free beds are designed only for those who are unable to pay for services rendered. Persons wishing the benefit of these must have a recommendation signed by the Bishop and President of Relief Society of the Ward in which they reside.

4. All applicants for admission other than accidents, and those persons desiring advice or treatment from the hospital surgeons must present themselves at the Hospital for examamination between the hours of 9 and 11 a.m.

5. No wines, liquors or spirits shall be brought into the Hospital without the consent of the attending surgeon or matron.

6. Patients in free beds shall render, when able, such assistance in nursing as the surgeon in charge may direct.

7. Nurses shall follow implicitly the instructions of the surgeons, matron, and those in authority.

8. No nurse shall leave the patients in her charge at any time without permission from the surgeon or matron.

9. Visitors will be admitted to the Hospital every day from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., but only one at a time to any patient, unless by special permission.

10. One section, consisting of three ladies of the Visiting Committee, shall be appointed monthly by the Executive Board to visit the Hospital at least twice in every week, to confer with and advise the matron, and shall reporl to the Board at the regular monthly meeting

11. Stated meetings of the Executive and Medical Board shall be held in the Hospital on the first Monday of every month at 11 a. m. Three members and the officers present shall constitute a quorum and their decisions shall be final.

12. Vacancies may be filled by the Board by a majority vote at any regular meeting.

13. At the semi-annual meeting, reports from the Visiting Committee, Medical Board and Finance Committee, of the work of the past half year shall be presented to the Board to be incorporated by the Secretary in the semi-annual report of the Hospital, to be presented to the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.23

president john taylor

Said his sympathies were extended to the ladies in their labors of love for the establishment of this hospital, where the sick of the Lord’s people could be attended and have the benefit of the ordinances of the Church as well as skillful treatment. Accidents were numerous in these troublous times and sickness was prevalent. It was right that we should have a place where the sick could be efficiently tended. Several of the ladies present had acquired a knowledge of those principles which were needful in proper attention to the sick, which he was pleased to recognize, for it was in accord with our religion to acquire all useful in[f]ormation24 to deal with disease, and physicians should not be bound by rigid rules, but act as directed by the Lord, because there were so many phases of the same disease and so much difference in the constitutions of mankind. At the same time we were commanded of the Lord to “seek out of the best books words of wisdom,” and to seek knowledge by learning.25 Yet we must not forget to call in the aid of faith, but while we acquire all the intelligence possible to be attained, at the same time we must exercise faith that the blessing of the Lord might be upon our efforts. The officers of the Association and all connected with it, had his best wishes, and he felt that they would have the blessing and favor of God. They should not neglect to avail themselves of all possible sources of knowledge, but seek for it in every direction. He closed by blessing the officers, physicians and attendants, and all connected with the hospital.

prest. joseph f. smith

Endorsed the remarks of President Taylor. This was a step quite necessary to be taken. It was in the interest of the afflicted and the poor. He would have been pleased if the institution could have been started in a better place. It was but a small beginning, yet it was better than none at all, and he expressed the hope that success would attend it, and that perfect union, harmony and good feeling would prevail among all who had the conduct of its affairs, so that the good spirit of the Lord might be with them, and that while they exercised all the skill that was possible, they might be so sensitive to the whisperings of the spirit of the Lord that they would be able to obtain the power of God for the benefit of the sick, and that they might be guided in the channel of the best success. He believed that the Latter-day Saints had the right to obtain the blessing and direction of the Lord in all their affairs, and especially in such labors as those for the benefit of the afflicted. He invoked the blessing of the Lord upon the efforts of the institution, its officers and all who should receive the benefits thereof.

Apostle F. D. Richards offered the dedicatory prayer,

President W. Woodruff coincided with what had been said, and congratulated the sisters upon the progress of another labor of love connected with the Relief Society. That society, like other features of the Church and Kingdom of God was organized to stay. He endorsed with all his heart the principles enunciated of looking to the Lord. We needed revelation. Men’s ideas of medicine changed materially. The course of practice pursued when he was a boy would not be followed now. He related incidents in illustration of this, and showed the necessity of the guidance of the Almighty in the treatment of the sick. He was thankful that we would now have a place for the treatment of the afflicted, where the Elders could walk in and freely administer the ordinance for the healing of the sick, and he felt that this institution would grow and increase and accomplish the purpose desired.

prest. angus m. cannon.

Was gratified that the Sisters had been led to take the course which had resulted in the establishment of this hospital. They had been very faithful in their efforts in that Relief Society which was established by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Here was a place where the afflicted of the Lord’s people could be watched over in a proper way and could be administered to by the good Samaritans. God had set His hand to establish Zion in its beauty and power, and he felt that this beginning would be looked back to as the germ of something much greater, which would reflect credit upon all engaged in it. He trusted that more extensive grounds would soon be obtained. He related an incident in his experience, showing the necessity and blessing of reliance upon the Lord for the healing of the sick. He hoped that the institution would be sustained by the faith and the means of the people.

mayor wm. jennings

Considered that this hospital was much needed in this Territory. The sisters had done a good work. We had become a large community, and people of all classes were among us, also many who were afflicted from various causes. In some of the isolated places of the Territory there was a lack of medical skill, and here was a place to which cases might be brought for treatment which they could not obtain where they lived. Here the sick could be treated in a way that they could not be among persons not of our faith. He hoped the ladies would keep in view, as he believed they would, the fact that this hospital was not for speculation but for relief. He hoped this building would prove large enough for many years to come. It would have his support, both by his faith and his means.

elder c. w. penrose

Said there was no need for any remarks from him concerning the objects of this institution nor the benefits to follow from it, these had been well set forth by those speakers who had preceded him. He would say, however, that the institution had his sympathy and support, and he believed it would be successful. Some persons might wonder why Latter-day Saints who believed in healing by faith, needed a hospital. He showed that faith and science were not incompatible. That, according to the revelations of God, knowledge was to be obtained by study and also by faith;26 so with the treatment of the sick; the means ordained of God as remedies should be used and at the same time faith be exercised. They who had sufficient faith could be healed by faith. They who had not faith were to be nourished and treated with proper remedies, and these, it was written, should be used with “prudence and thanksgiving,” with judgment and skill, but “not by the hand of an enemy.”27 Therefore skill should be acquired by study. Women had always been recognized as good nurses, but only of recent date as skilled physicians and surgeons. He was glad at the progress of public opinion. He congratulated the ladies on the good work they had accomplished.

Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson was then set apart as resident physician and surgeon under the hands of the brethren, Prest. John Taylor officiating; Dr. Romania B. Pratt was also set apart as visiting physician and surgeon, Prest. Joseph F. Smith pronouncing the blessing; Mrs. Mary Van Schoonhoven was set apart as dispensing clerk, Prest. W. Woodruff being mouth; Mrs. Mary Ann McLean was set apart as matron, Apostle F. D Richards officiating.

The doxology was sung and the Benediction was pronounced by Prest. Joseph E. Taylor.

Mayor Wm. Jennings showed that he was in earnest in his promise of material support by handing a check for $500 to the Treasurer. It is hoped that his liberality will be imitated by other men of means. The institution is in every way worthy of the support of all humane persons and especially of the people called Latter-day Saints.

Cite this page

Report of Deseret Hospital Dedication, July 17, 1882, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, accessed July 25, 2024