• Remember The Gorman Hospital Or Sanitarium?

    Some Even Called It The Blackwell Hospital

     I was born there as were many of you. As a child, I thought the old building as grand as any building could be, big trees and, although I’m not sure when the alligators left the grounds, I was always sure that they just might be behind the next beautiful old tree.


    And then when I was six, I decided to jump out of a swing and over a fence, with the end result being that I cut off my ring finger. The most horrible scene I’ve ever made in public in my life was thrown in the operating room of that old hospital as someone tried to put a cloth over my nose to put me to sleep.

    Today, I came across a photo that my grandfather must have saved for well over 60 years, and it reminded me that I needed to write about that beautiful old hospital, the building that (by the time I remembered it and tried to visit it as an adult) had long been gone, taking so much of so many of us with it.

    October 10, 1931

    October 10, 1931

    It all began with two men, two brothers, George (1882-1955) and Edward Blackwell (1890-1956), who grew up in Eastland County, Texas and who at least in my mind were way ahead of their time for small town country doctors. Both were educated at the Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, and both returned to establish area practices, eventually both marrying Brogdon sisters, Frankie and Bessie.

    Names of those in the photo above.

    Names of those in the photo above.

    And then something called WWI intervened, and the Blackwell brothers went off to serve in the Army Medical Corps. After the war, believe it or not, both decided to continue their medical studies, with George heading to New Orleans to specialize in what we would call ENT today and Edward in Baltimore learning as much as he could about care for expectant mothers and newborns. They both then returned to Gorman to begin the building of the facility that would make both them and it Texas icons.

    The sanitarium was forced to open its doors sooner (I think late 1919) than the Blackwells had planned due to the outbreak of flu. Remember the flu of the late teens? Nothing was ready, but the Drs. Blackwell rounded up plenty of cots, and their wives became cooks as they all worked to take care of flu victims.

    By 1920, the Blackwell Hospital, as my grandfather would always call it, was born; however, it did not bear much resemblance to the building of my memory. When it opened, the building that was located on West Roberts Street in Gorman, Texas held two stories and (I think) 3 rooms for patients with a kitchen and one indoor bathroom. What really set the Blackwell facility apart from all other country hospitals was its x-ray room and its operating room. Both were unheard of in that part of the state, according to Granddad, who enjoyed visiting with the brothers.

    The entry porch that I remember thinking so lovely was not a part of the original building. It was added some years later along with a lobby that doubled as a waiting room and a few more patient rooms. And this was the way the hospital grew, with a few rooms or a wing at a time.

    Sometime in the late 1930s, the son-in-law of Dr. George Blackwell, Dr. David Rodgers, joined the Blackwells as a doctor at the hospital and by the time that I can remember, he was the senior doctor on staff. Right there in Gorman, it is said that Dr. Rodgers delivered almost 9,000 babies during his tenure at the hospital. His name is still the one that comes to mind for so many when the subject of Gorman and the great old hospital come up in conversation.

    It was in 1947 that  the four story hospital that I remember came into being. It was a facility of over 50 beds, the largest in Central Texas, and it was known for the kind care it gave to both patients and their families, always providing a cot for those who came to stay with their loved ones. My own family was the recipient of this kind care, care that they never forgot,  when my great-grandfather, William Isaac Davis, was taken there to die in 1940.

    It was in the late 1980s that the grand old structure was razed, leaving nothing but a historical marker to indicate the once glory days of a little country town and its hospital that grew to be one of the best in the state of Texas.

    Marker Reading

    “Site of Blackwell Hospital. Much of Eastland County’s medical history can be traced to the work of two brothers, George and Edward Blackwell. George (1882-1955) attended Baylor Medical College and Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, where Edward (1890-1956) also attended. Both men returned to Eastland County after receiving their degrees. In 1907, George wed Frankie Brogdon, and in 1913, Edward wed her sister, Bessie. The two young physicians served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War I. Following the war, the brothers opened the Blackwell Clinic in downtown Gorman. They soon realized the need for patient care facilities, and in 1919 they built Blackwell Sanitarium, later known as Blackwell Hospital, at this site. Frankie and Bessie prepared meals at the new facility, which utilized its own livestock as a source of meat, eggs, milk and butter. Nurses performed medical service, as well as housekeeping tasks, and the brothers treated patients at both the clinic and the hospital. Contemporary to the hospital’s opening, two large oilfields began drawing scores of new residents to the area, and the hospital continued to grow to meet demand. The brothers, who eventually moved their clinic to the hospital facilities, began to specialize and add new physicians to the staff. These included Dr. David V. Rodgers (1910-1971), George Blackwell’s son-in-law who joined the staff in 1938 and assumed hospital leadership in the late 1950s. In 1971, hospital administrators completed a larger building elsewhere. Having grown to become a four-story brick edifice, with doctor and dental offices, clinic and laboratory, the old Blackwell Hospital building remained vacant until its demolition in 1989.”

    Hospital Staff Photo

    About Fredda Jones

    Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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    19 Responses to Remember The Gorman Hospital Or Sanitarium?

    1. Missy Jones says:

      I have fond memories of the Blackwell Hospital at Gorman. We thought we were taking a long trip when we had the occasion of visit there. First of all, was the trees and the alligators to the right of the building. Hey, for a country kid, this was as good as going to the zoo. And the kindness of the nurses and attendants to all patients and families. My Daddy, William C. Cox was hospitalized there in 1959, and when I got to the hospital, my dear mother had been sitting up with him at night, and they had a very comfortable cot in the room for her and brought her full meals when they brought the patient’s meals. Also, a nurse working there was LaVerne Farquahar, who later worked in Abilene at the Snow clinic, and later was a 2nd. Lt, Army nurse in WW II and was killed at a hospital at Anzio (Italy) beach when Germans shelled a very well marked hospital. Others worked there from our area. this is important history. Missy Cox Jones

    2. Missy Jones says:

      One other thing, the article mentions a dental clinic. My dear sister, Geneva Cox Mercer went to this dentist, and in fact had full dentures made there. If you have ever had impressions made by a dentist for a plate, partial or etc., you will know what she is talking about. She told the Dentist after the impression was made ( which is a big glob of something warm put into your mouth )
      that the impression was so terrible. He said, “it’s all in your mind”. She told him, “It felt like it was all in my mouth.” She said he nearly fell to the floor laughing.

    3. Missy Jones says:

      One other nurse that worked at the Gorman Hospital was Myrtle Weaver Burns. She worked for a number of years, and her sons were Weaver Jessy Burns, Bill Burns and Gene Burns.

    4. Mary Peacock says:

      My husband and my older sister were born there, 1939/40.

    5. Kay Cozart says:

      My mother in law worked in this hostipal for many years, Denzle Cozart..My husband was born here also and two of our nephews.

    6. Bette Cox Harris says:

      the three Cox sisters were born there…1946, ’48, ’50. My grandmother Lucille Cox died there. My “aunt” (my mothers first cousin) Mary Kirk worked there for years. It was a part of everyone’s life for years. A great place and greatly respected.

    7. Julia jackson says:

      2 of my grandmothers worked their for many years. Alice Eakin as an nurse & Maude Stacy in the kitchen, I have so many fond memories from the hospital.

    8. Lennetta Sloan Box says:

      There is nothing left now but a marker . I remember the old style elevator that had the door you pulled to manually, with a lattice type front.

    9. Jill Hudson says:

      Wonderful read! I have lived in Gorman all my life and am probably one of the many 80’s kids that caused the buildings demise….we just couldn’t help but daring each other to go in! I have heard so many wonderful stories and so many tragic stories of the old Blackwell Sanatorium. My mother was not only born there, she had her tonsils removed twice by Dr Rogers. Her surgery and week long stay cost my grandparents $75, my grandmother didn’t let her stay overnight though, she would bring her home at night and return her the next day! If I had the means, I would use them to restore the nurses house that still sits next to the old hospital site, gorgeous architecture back in those days.

    10. Karen Hallmark Turner says:

      I was born there in 1952. My mom Lavelle Hallmark worked there for many years. I loved to go see here and visit with Dr. Rogers. He always had time to visit. It was so much fun riding in that pull door elevator.

    11. Trudy Newton Spears says:

      My parents are Dean and Louise Newton they both were born at Blackwell. They married in December of 1959 and in August 1960 my Mom gave birth to my twin sister and me. We were two months premature weighed 5 lbs 2 ozs together. Dr. Rogers delivered us and at the time did not think we would live through the night Daddy didn’t take that comment too well! Well, we did live it is thanks to the care of the Doctor and Nurses. Our nurses were twin sisters too! They were Georgie and Frankie Stacy they have both passed on now and many times I’ve wished we could have visited with them and hear their stories of when we were born.

    12. Helen Ruth(Collins) Oglesby says:

      I really enjoyed reading all of these comments.Dr. Brogdon & Helen remoddled the old Nursing home & lived in it untill they moved to Weatherford. We played many Bridge games there with Ed & Marilyn Harrison & E. G. & Betty Henderson.Those were the good ole days.Joe Collins was the adm. of the hospital from 1954 til 1965 .

    13. jweek says:

      Jane Gilbert Traweek
      I was born there in 1948. Delivered by Dr. Audie Brown who was my mother’s uncle by marriage. My grandmother, Alice Thompson, died there in the early ’50s. My mother’s step-brother was Dr. Brogdon who’s mother married my grandfather, C. J. Thompson.
      Mother got me a brick when they were tearing down the old hospital. It has always been a joke that I was born at the “Sanitarium”!

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