|City/Town: • Clinton
|Location Class: • Hospital
|Built: • 1933 | Abandoned: • 2007
|Status: • Under Renovation
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz
Clinton Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian Hospital
The early months of 1931 were filled with buzz in the paper about the brand new Indian hospital built on Clinton’s east side. Congress had passed the Interior Department bill that would provide an appropriation for the construction of what would officially be named the Clinton Cheyenne-Arapaho Indian Hospital and simplified to Clinton Indian Hospital.
The Indian Bureau gave details of the project noting there would not be any advertising of bids or letting of a contract and that the work would be done under an open market procedure. The campus was to cost around $90,000 with work beginning in March 1932. F.L. Swearingen would lead as project superintendent overseeing roughly a hundred laborers. The campus would include a 37-bed hospital, a nurses’ home, a physician’s home and a garage at the start.
All the buildings were to be made of brick, that was until concerns started being raised that there might not have been enough funds allocated to make that happen. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs at the time responded that it was with every intention to construct fireproof buildings. And so brick was the winner. Work started earlier than expected at the end of February with the construction of material sheds and work offices as well as excavation of the land. The concrete foundation for the hospital building was poured on April 4th. The location gave the grounds a “commanding view over the surrounding territory.”
The proposed opening date was fall of that year but that day would come and go. Installation of the fixtures didn’t even happen until November. The reason for the delay was figuring out the water and sewage lines. Finally, in August of the following year two WPA allotments were given to install the water supply and sewer systems for about $2,500. Also included in the package was funding for a dairy barn totaling about $1,800. And just as the year came to a close the hospital was officially ready for opening. Dr. H.N. Sisco was the opening superintendent of the facility and was excited to welcome all the new patients. He gave the following statement
“This hospital is a general hospital. It will receive both medical and surgical patients. Provision is made for maternity cases. Contagious and infectious diseases will be taken only in so far as their presence can be made safe for other patients. Tuberculosis suspects are invited to come to the hospital for examination and diagnosis. Trachoma will be grattage and other treatment supervised. Those needing tonsil operation will receive attention. The insane will go elsewhere. Childrens’ diseases will receive special attention. A dental clinic will be held at the hospital at least once a year. It is expected that the eye specialist will visit the hospital to give attention to the cataract and other serious eye conditions. Venereal disease cases especially if complicated will be received so long as they are to a menace to other patients. The simple cases however will be handled through the dispensary. Whatever the disease may be we want the hospital to stand for service to those in need. We want the Clinton Indian Hospital to be a real health center not alone a place where disease is treated, but a place where people learn to live, so as to prevent disease.”
Clinton Indian Hospital Throughout the Years
Staff at the hospital were like family, it was a community within the community. Nurses would often hold going away parties when one would move on to the next chapter of their life. One going away party was for nurse Lillian Sailer who had been transferred to Dulce, New Mexico in 1940. The nurses and staff put on entertainment with a handkerchief show in the nurses’ home. Accordion solos were played by Mrs. Harris, while guitar and vocal was done by R.D. Coy along with many others joining in the festivities.
With the type of closeness felt by staff and patients you can imagine the sinking feeling that came when rumors started buzzing in the mid-50s that the hospital might close. A report had been underway to access whether or not closing would be a better financial option. But a report given to Congressman Wickersham from Bryce Harlow who was the Administrative Assistant of the President at the time. But it seems the hospital avoided closure and over the next few decades progressed rather well.
The Clinton Indian Hospital was blessed with a brand new $500 binocular microscope for laboratory use. Dr. Harold E. Stoner, Medical Officer in charge as of 1954 and staff were ecstatic about the new TBV – 8 Bausch Lomb microscope that would replace a previous one that was 15 years old. It took six months to secure the new piece of equipment and was well worth the wait.
Dr. Robert Streicher was the Medical Officer in charge towards the end of the fifties. This would also be the end of the line for him as he was set to return to New York. John P. Slocum another medical officer on staff would succeed him. Slocum would leave the following year to be assigned elsewhere by the US Public Health Service and be replaced by Dr. Darrell Cannon.
The end of these buildings would come in the early 2000s when another facility was built just west and all operations moved there. This facility was closed down and eventually boarded up with no plans of revitalization in sight. That is until January 26, 2022 when finally after 15 years the United States Dept. of Health and Human Services signed a quit claim deed to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes for the 14.69 acres and all the buildings.
On April 8, an official transfer ceremony of the Clinton Indian Hospital to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes was held where many were invited to attend the event and share stories of how they remember the former Clinton Indian Hospital. It is just the start of the journey ahead to repurpose the structures into something grand once again.
These photos were obtained with special permission from the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes. This is private property, those that attempt to go on the grounds will be prosecuted for trespassing.
US Indian Hospital, photograph, Date Unknown; (https://gateway.okhistory.org/ark:/67531/metadc1592094/: accessed August 23, 2022), The Gateway to Oklahoma History, https://gateway.okhistory.org; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society.
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