MMHA: History
Our Island Hospital 1924-1949
By Emily Kent

At the conclusion of the “Great War”, the Canadian Red Cross Society was left with surplus money on hand, and conceived the idea of using it to establish “Outpost Hospitals” in places where they were much needed, and which have proved a great boom. The communities thus served, would have had little chance of hospitalization otherwise.

The late Miss L. Grenville, Public Health Nurse for northern Ontario for fifteen years, appealed to the Red Cross Society to especially consider the great need of St. Joseph island, pointing out its isolation, particularly in spring and fall.

Miss Wilkinson, then Superintendent of Outposts, came to our Island and held a couple of meetings, one at Richards Landing, and the other at Carterton Hall. This latter meeting was a get together of the Women’s Institute Branches of the Island. There was a good representation from the different branches; and Miss Wilkinson stated plainly the proposition the Red Cross would make with the Island people.

A suitable building was to be provided, and rent paid by the Island folks. She also asked the Women’s Institute to equip the hospital, and keep this equipment up. A general meeting was called at Richards Landing later, attended by only Island people, where the matter was fully discussed. At this meeting the late Mr. Henry Fremlin, who was the Reeve of St. Joseph Twp. at the time, promised the Council would pay the rent for a suitable building, and provide the fuel. Several of the gentlemen present offered very generous donations to the Women’s Institutes, if they would undertake the equipment; and with such encouragement, those present consented to do it.

A Board was appointed, comprised of two delegates from each Institute Branch, with Mrs. F.B. Kent, President, and Mrs. Ira Holmes, Treasurer, and also Miss Nena Ross, Secretary. A house belonging to Mr. Fred Brason of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario was rented by the Council and opened as a three bed hospital late in October 1924. For the first year the Red Cross Society made arrangements directly with the Council regarding rates to be collected. The Women’s Board was the only one working steadily at the time for the hospital, meeting every month, and thus keeping in touch with the needs. It soon saw that more accommodations for patients would be necessary, and a building would have to be purchased and remodeled to suit our purposes.

The Ontario Government was applied to for a Charter for the new board to be known as “The St. Joseph Island Hospital Association”. The members signing the application were: P. Chesterfield, W.J. Armstrong, E.E. Rains, E.M. Kent and G.E. Case, M.D. The Charter was granted on November 21, 1925, and those signing the application were made, by the Charter, the first directors of the company.

A drive was put on for money to purchase a building, and the amazing sum of $2,472.82 was collected from August to December 28, 1925. About half of this amount was donated by residents of our Island, and the other half from summer guests, who so very kindly and generously gave donations. Llewellyn Beach residents gave generously to Mr. P. Chesterfield, one of our collectors (who deserved special credit for giving so much of his time and energy to this work). He met with a hearty response everywhere. Mrs. M. Matthews also gave a special gift of $100.00 before leaving in September. The ladies of Llewellyn Beach also made and donated a quantity of garments that fall for our hospital use. This practice has been kept up each year since, with Mrs. Matthews providing generously with the material and entertainment for the workers from all parts of the Island. This has proved of untold help to our Auxiliary Board’s work.

In August 1926, the late Mr. M. Matthews paid in a sum of $269.95 from Llewellyn Beach residents. This practice also prevailed every year since. The Island people are indeed grateful for the many gifts received over the ensuing years.

The residence of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Richards was selected for the hospital building and purchased from Messrs. Allan and Campbell, who owned it at the time. The purchase price was $2,250.00. After a few alterations were made, it served very nicely for our Island hospital, until destroyed by fire in March 1929.

In memory of Mrs. John Richards, a granddaughter, Miss Daisy Foster of Sault Ste. Marie, Mr. T.J. Foster, her father and Mrs. Griffith, a sister of Mrs. Richards, took complete charge of the private room, furnishing it beautifully, as the “Lucy Richards Room”. The private room has been kept as a memorial ever since. I believe it was connections of this family, who really were the first to discover the beauty of Llewellyn Beach.

The first Annual Meeting of the Hospital Association was held in the Town Hall, August 1926. In the minutes of this first meeting, we find well loved names of Llewellyn Beach, and note the inspiration they gave. A special committee of Mr. Chesterfield and Mr. M. Matthews was appointed to draft By-laws for the guidance of the Hospital Association. A Nominating Committee was also appointed to nominate Directors to carry on the work of the Association; and we note Bishop Wise, as one name on this committee. Bishop Griswold presided at the meeting. Bishop Griswold was appointed formally as Honourary President later, which position he held until his death. This meeting adjourned for one week, and at the continued Annual Meeting, the By-laws were read and adopted in full by those present. We fully appreciate Mr. Matthews’ talented work in this connection, and Mrs. Matthews who assisted and typed out the By-laws. The first Board of Directors, as appointed at the meeting, was composed of Reverend H. Heard, P. Chesterfield, E.M. Kent, W.J. Armstrong and John Gibbs.

In 1928, a Branch of the Red Cross was formed in connection with our hospital by urgent request of the head office at Toronto. Later the Women’s Auxiliary Hospital Board amalgamated with the Red Cross Branch. All monies raised by the Auxiliary Board are now paid to the Treasurer of the local Red Cross, and used only for our local hospital in equipment and up-keep.

After the burning of our hospital, a feeling of consternation prevailed; but an emergency meeting was called the next day and held in Mr. W.J. Armstrong’s store. As a good deal of the equipment was saved, it was decided to rent the Anglican Parsonage (which was unoccupied at the time) and resume the hospital work there, until re-building could be arranged. After some minor alterations to the interior, the care of patients was resumed and carried on very successfully there for some time. Of course, some new equipment, such as a washing machine, a heater and several other articles found missing, had to be replaced.

The boards now felt they were faced with a big problem in rebuilding. The paid-up insurance amounted to $3,300 in all, ($2,500.00 on the building and $800.00 on contents) and was set aside for the Building Fund, but this amount seemed so inadequate when plans for a proper building for a hospital were considered.

At the Annual Meeting in August of that year, the bonds of love and gratitude were more firmly cemented than ever, between the Llewellyn Beach colony and our Island people, when Mrs. M. Matthews sent her proposition by her son and Bishop Wise to the meeting, offering to build the hospital for us, as a memorial to her late husband, who had passed away so suddenly the fall before. Words fail us in expressing the deep love and gratitude we feel for this generous gift. The Hospital Board pledged itself to raise an “Endowment Fund” for the Hospital, to ultimately reach the sum of $12,000.00 to ensure the continuance of the Matthews Memorial Hospital and its wonderful work on our Island. The building has already proved a blessing to so many, and we can only show our gratitude by doing our very best to keep up our part of the work.

The Board is also grateful to Llewellyn Beach friends for so many comforts for the hospital; Bishop Wise and Miss Matthews for four adjustable beds, also generous donations for the sterilizer and many other things, and to Miss Mamie Grindley of Neebish Island for surgical instruments and cases.

A very valuable gift in the early days of our hospital work was a fund placed (in memory of her mother) by Mrs. W.C. Orrell to defray the expenses of very young children and elderly women patients. This fund proved a great blessing for many needy families. In addition to this, in September 1934, Mrs. Orrell also donated an X-Ray machine with installment complete, in our new hospital building. It is difficult to express our gratitude and thankfulness for this wonderful gift, which was greatly needed, and the price of which was quite prohibitive to our present Hospital Board.

Our insurance money was placed in the Endowment Fund, which is now $6,300.00, but still a long way from our objective in connection with that Fund, but we hope for brighter times soon, and perhaps a better showing for our Endowment.

The Red Cross year, from September 30, 1933 to September 30, 1934, recorded one hundred and fifteen patients admitted to the hospital, with a total of 1419 hospital days. There were two Goitre Clinics with a good attendance of children each time, one Tonsil Clinic with nine operations, one Well-Baby clinic and one Chest Clinic with doctors from Toronto in charge of the latter. Our hospital has each year proved its great usefulness.

In the fall of 1937, Mrs. Matthews presented the St. Joseph Island Association with the deed to the adjoining property on the southeast side. She followed this with an offer of $1,000.00 towards a residence to be built on this property by the board. This house was built in the summer of 1938, and has since been used as our Doctor’s residence. To date, March 1949, the Endowment Fund has reached approximately $9,000.00.