I’ve embarked on several ventures during my lifetime, but October of 2014 brought a new challenge when I was asked to participate in the Tombstone Travels, portraying Irene Cherrington, wife of Dr. J.S. Cherrington, the co-founder of Logan’s first hospital.
And so on a chilly afternoon in the Oak Grove Mausoleum, where the Cherrington family are interred, I shared some of the knowledge I had acquired through a year’s research on two amazing men. Following one of my presentations, a group came up and introduced themselves as members of the Cherrington family. Naturally I was elated and asked if they could give me more information about their illustrious ancestors. The spokesman of the group kindly responded, “We’ve learned more about our family today than we ever knew. “
What had prompted my interest in this family? A hospital bill and receipt I had found after my mother’s death. Each service is itemized, such as “3 days hospital for baby — $6.45.” The total bill came to $70.51, but there was something else. At the end of the bill I noticed these words, “Arrangements with MHC,” followed by a reduction of $5.45.
My father, a very practical man, thought it unnecessary for a baby to be born in a hospital. However, Dr. M.H. Cherrington, very progressive in his thinking, insisted that the hospital was the best place for both the mother and the baby and offered my dad a deal. He would reduce the bill if Dad agreed to my being born in the hospital. Now I realized the reason behind my frugal lifestyle. I had come into this world a discounted baby!
I began wondering about these men, and my curiosity led me to some lengthy and interesting research as I perused death certificates, wills, numerous newspaper articles, the LDS website, and our local records office, as well as having conversations with my family.
The Cherrington brothers grew up in Gallia County, hard-working farm boys and members of a prominent family. They were cousins of President Lincoln since their great-grandmother and Lincoln’s mother were sisters.
John Summerfield, Jr. graduated from the Ohio Medical College in 1897, having had extensive training in surgery. Following his graduation, J.S studied in eastern medical schools and abroad, including Johns Hopkins University, Harvard, Boston City Hospital and many other famous medical centers.
Murat Halstead Cherrington, the younger of the two brothers, entered Ohio Medical University and graduated with high honors with a degree in medicine and surgery. He first practiced medicine in Meigs County as a country doctor and then came to Logan in 1901 where he built a large practice. M.H. had the vision for a hospital in Logan and enlisted his brother’s help. M.H. was a star half-back on the medical college’s football team and was the first football coach at Logan High School in 1906.
In 1907 the brothers purchased the Robert Wright homestead on Main Street (now the site of the High Rise building) for $6,500, and the Cherrington Hospital officially opened on April 1, 1908.
The first operation in the hospital was the next month. Always seeking to learn new developments in medicine, both doctors alternated in taking postgraduate medical courses every two years at Columbia University, New York Postgraduate College, Northwestern University and the Mayo Clinic.
In 1916, having outgrown their bed capacity, a new and modern addition was built bringing the capacity to 50 beds. From its beginning, the hospital also had a training school for nurses. The Oct. 29, 1946, Logan Daily News mentions that a group of nurses came for J.S.’ funeral and to recognize the alumni association of the Cherrington Hospital Training School.
In 1944 the doctors announced that they were closing the hospital. They wrote, “For the past 36 years we have operated a modern hospital and have demonstrated that Logan, and surrounding county can support and should have hospital services near home where needed attention can be had in a few minutes.”
J.S. died in 1946 from injuries in an accident. He fell in the family cemetery in Gallia County while cleaning a grave and then drove himself home to be treated by his brother. The newspaper states that he had one of the largest funerals in the history of Logan with many physicians as honorary pallbearers.
M.H. died on Sept. 20, 1954. The paper said he had practiced medicine in Logan for 49 years. In his will he left the brick property on the northwest corner of Mulberry and Hunter in which he had his office to the First Methodist Church. I was surprised that his funeral didn’t have as much news coverage as that of his brother but have concluded that there are two good explanations. M.H. had already retired from medicine before he passed away, but more important, he died during fair week. The fair always gets major coverage!
The Rev. Jerry Spears, former pastor and friend, eulogized J.S. at his funeral. Since I think what he said applies to both men, I will paraphrase. “They sought to know how to be good physicians and sincerely practiced the best they knew. In their general practice and in surgery, they believed that a man is not only responsible for what he knows but for what he has the opportunity to learn. Thus, they never ceased to travel in quest of knowledge and experience. Logan can be proud to have had them for all those years!” Amen, Rev. Spears!
Karen Kornmiller writes a bi-weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.