Friday, March 15, 2019

The history of Illinois Training School for Nurses at Cook County Hospital, Chicago.

The Illinois Training School for Nurses (ITSN) was established September 21, 1880 by a group of prominent Chicago women dedicated to the prospect of training young women to care scientifically for the sick.
The old Cook County Hospital. Original building when school entered on May 1, 1881. Administration building (center) finished in 1882.
Twenty-five directors, all female, headed the project. Prominent among these were Sarah L. Wright, Dr. Sarah Hackett Stevenson, Margaret Lawrence, Lucy L. Flower, and Elizabeth B. Carpenter.
Illinois Training School for Nurses - Nurses Home.
Considerable political opposition to the plan was based on the belief that modest young women of good moral character were not suited for a profession which required a rigorous education, long hours of work, and intimate contact with strangers. However, on November 13, 1880, the Chicago Medical Society passed a resolution affirming its support for ITSN. On December 1, the Cook County Commissioners and the Training School reached an agreement that the county would pay the school to provide trained instructors and student nurses to staff one medical and one surgical ward of the Cook County Hospital.
Illinois Training School for Nurses student's room.
Illinois Training School for Nurses student's room.
On May 1, 1881 the first pupil nurses began working in the wards, replacing untrained male nurses who had held their positions through political appointments. Later that year, the school began providing nurses for the lying-in ward[1]. Other wards followed shortly: in 1882 all remaining female and medical wards; in 1883 the surgical wards; in 1893 the contagious disease hospital; in 1897 the skin and venereal wards. Eventually, ITSN provided nursing service for every ward of Cook County Hospital. Working so closely with one of the world's largest public hospitals, the Illinois Training School for Nurses attracted many prominent pioneers in nursing education. Superintendents of ITSN included Mary Brown and Edith Draper from New York's Bellevue Training School, Mary C. Wheeler, an early ITSN graduate, and Laura Logan, who helped establish the University of Cincinnati school of Nursing. Under the leadership of women like these, ITSN gradually added to its curriculum many special programs and pioneering innovations, including private nursing, a visiting nurses service, post-graduate and dieticians' programs, and affiliation with other nursing schools.

First graduates from the Illinois Training School for Nurses; Spring & Fall of 1883.
1) Sophie Falk, 2) Melissa J. Bartles, 3) Angie Bean, 4) Phebe Brown,
5) Anna Steere 6) Helen Nutting 7) Janet Topping
Private nursing was begun in April, 1883 as a service to the sick outside the hospital. Trained student nurses were dispatched to work full time in private homes, thus filling a genuine need within the community while simultaneously raising additional funds for the school.

Crerar nursing, begun in the fall of 1892 through a bequest of John Crerar, was a particularly important service in the years before the widespread activities of the Visiting Nurses Association. Crerar nurses, who were ITSN students, provided nursing care in the homes of low-income families who paid a minimal fee to the school. In this way, ITSN was able to provide a community service as it trained students. Private nursing and Crerar nursing were important public relations measures that helped create public support for a school which increasingly depended on contributions and bequests to purchase buildings and expand services and training.
Illinois Training School for Nurses - Nursery
In May, 1885, ITSN agreed to provide nurses for the Presbyterian Hospital. This service was interrupted in November for financial reasons but was resumed in 1888. It continued for fifteen years until 1903, when the increasing size of both Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals made it impossible for ITSN to staff both facilities.

In 1895, ITSN began admitting a few post-graduate nurses. In 1920 a post-graduate course for dieticians was established, for which a college degree was a pre-requisite.
Medical staff including Dr. F.A. Besley holding infants at the Illinois Training School for Nurses.
Affiliation was begun in 1905. This program allowed students from smaller schools to spend their final year of training at ITSN, working in the wards of Cook County Hospital and gaining a breadth of experience unavailable in smaller hospitals. Dixon Hospital, Brokaw Hospital of Bloomington, Passavant of Chicago, and the Moline Hospital were some of the early participants in the program.

With its many special programs and innovations in the field of nursing education, ITSN was long interested in improving education for nurses and elevating their professional status. The quality of education at ITSN was consistently upgraded over the years through the addition of more required medical and scientific coursework, a greater breadth of practical experience in the hospital wards, and an increase in the length of time required to receive the nursing certificate, from 24 months to 36 months.
Illinois Training School for Nurses
Graduation Pin
In 1926, after much exploration of the issue, ITSN reached an agreement to merge its corporate identity with the University of Chicago (U of C). In return, U of C would later establish a nursing school which would award its graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree. ITSN continued to operate independently until 1929, when the merger took effect and ITSN ceased to exist. All ITSN property and assets reverted to the University of Chicago and ITSN contracts with the Cook County Commissioners were terminated.

The County Commissioners, who had relied almost entirely upon ITSN nurses to staff the Cook County Hospital, established its own training school to perform the same function. The County rented the former ITSN facilities from their new owner, the University of Chicago, hired the former ITSN faculty to staff the school, and allowed ITSN students to transfer with full credit to the Cook County School of Nursing (CCSN). Although CCSN appeared to be a continuation of ITSN, the Illinois Training School had actually ceased to exist as a corporate identity upon its legal merger with the University of Chicago. The name of the Illinois Training School for Nurses was to be perpetuated in a scholarship fund for the University of Chicago's School of Nursing.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Lying-in (or confinement) is an old childbirth practice involving a woman having bed rest in the postpartum period after giving birth.

"History of the Illinois Training School for Nurses, 1880-1929." Published 1930.
In my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®

Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby (1812–1873) was a midwife, frontier doctor, dentist, herbologist, and scientist in southern Illinois.

Anna Bixby
Anna Pierce was the daughter of farmers, who had moved from Philadelphia and in 1828 settled in southeastern Illinois, close to what would become the village of Rock Creek. After finishing school, Anna travelled to Philadelphia to train in midwifery and dentistry, but on her return to Illinois she became the first physician in Hardin County and consequently, a general practitioner for her community. Anna Bixby may also have been the first female doctor in the state of Illinois. Others claimed she was a midwife from Tennessee. She married to her first husband, Isaac Hobbs.

She did thorough research of milk sickness, which was causing a good deal of fatality among both people and calves, including Anna's mother and sister. Noting the seasonal nature of the disease and the fact that sheep and goat milk were not affected, she reasoned that the cause must be a poisonous herb. However, she was unable to determine the precise cause.
Dr. Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby discovered that White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) or Milkweed  was the cause of milk sickness from grazing cows eating the wild plant which fatally poisoned the milk consumed by frontier settlers.
The solution to the problem came almost by accident when she chanced to meet in the woods an elderly Indian woman that the local people called “Aunt Shawnee.” She was a herbalist and healer and showed Anna a plant, White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), that we now call “milkweed,” which had caused the same symptoms as the milk sickness did in her own tribe. The plant had killed many of the Shawnee cattle and she told Anna that it was probably what she was looking for.

Experiments on a calf confirmed the toxic effect of Snakeroot. When cattle consume the plant, their meat and milk become contaminated and cause the sometimes fatal condition milk sickness. The milk cows themselves did not fall ill but the other cattle, and the people, who drank their milk fell victim to the toxin.

One of the most notable and tragic cases of the "milk sickness" was that of Abraham Lincoln's mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who died at 34 years old in 1818. As hard as she worked though, she was unable to stop the scourge.

The plague was finally wiped out. However, despite Bixby's efforts, it was not until 1928 (55 years after her death) that research confirming her discovery was published. Her position as a frontier doctor and a woman would have made it hard for her to gain respect from the medical profession of the time.

After Isaac Hobbs died, Anna Pierce Hobbs married her second husband, Eson Bixby, who turned out to be a notorious outlaw around the region of Cave-In-Rock, on the Ohio River.

Anna Hobbs Bixby died in Rock Creek, Hardin County, Illinois in 1873.

THE LEGEND OF ANNA BIXBY: Buried Treasure & Ghost
According to local legend, Anna Bixby left a treasure trove concealed in a cave named after her. The treasure is supposedly buried in Rock Creek, Hardin County, Illinois, and has never been found. 

The next great incident in Anna’s life, which took place during her second marriage to Eson Bixby, who it is believed was involved in a number of criminal enterprises. The legend does have some elements of truth, which originated in the book "The Ballads of the Bluff" by Judge W.M. Hall, who allegedly had a diary that belonged to Anna Bixby. Historians have since disputed much of the story, although it was believed that Hall was simply passing along stories that he had heard. Here is the basic version of the story:
Legend holds that John Murrell and his gang, along with James Ford and other disreputable characters, distilled whiskey and made counterfeit money (coiners) in Cave-in-Rock in Hardin County that has since become known as Bixby’s Cave. Enos Bixby, Anna’s husband, took over after these men were driven out or killed and continued their operations, along with committing robberies (river pirates) and stealing timber. Bixby married Anna when she was an old woman because he hoped to steal her money from her. Finally, he attempted to kill her by tying her up with ropes and heavy chain and pushing her off a bluff. As it happened though, she fell into a tree and managed to escape. Not long after, Anna died suddenly and she was buried with the rope and chain that her husband tried to kill her with. Her ghost has haunted her burial site ever since, often appearing as a shimmering light.
But, despite the popularity of the tale, it only contains elements of the truth. The time period when all of this allegedly occurred seems to be the biggest problem with the story. Bixby’s Cave did (and does still) exist, however after 1811 it is unlikely that it would have been big enough to house a moonshine distillery and certainly not a counterfeiting operation. The cave was heavily damaged in the 1811 earthquake that rocked the New Madrid Fault at that time and afterward was much less accessible than it had been before. Several of the men who were involved in the criminal aspects of the story were dead long before Anna married Eson Bixby and others who allegedly worked together were children during the time of the opposite criminal’s heyday. If the story had involved these men, then it would have had to have taken place in the 1820’s. This seems odd since Anna’s first husband died in 1845 and Anna survived to until 1873. 

On the other hand, recent historians believe that the story may have occurred in some fashion but it was told and re-told using well-known outlaws as the key players in the tale, when the real culprits may have been much lesser known. There were counterfeiters (coiners) operating in Hardin County at the time and it has been learned that Anna’s second husband was involved with criminals. 
Counterfeiters used a coin die, for the making counterfeit coins from cheap metals or restamping Mexican coin denomination.
In 1935, the Hardin County Independent newspaper published what was likely a more accurate account of Anna’s escape from her murderous husband. The writer of the account, Charles L. Foster, had left Hardin County in the 1880’s but had grown up in the Rock Creek area, a few homes away from Anna Bixby. He had been born in 1863 and vaguely remembered Eson Bixby when he was alive, which seems to date the escape to the late 1860’s, in the years following the Civil War. 

According to the account, a rider came to the Bixby household late one night during a terrible thunderstorm. He called out to the house that someone needed Anna’s medical skills and of course, she immediately came out. She mounted the rider’s second horse and they rode into the woods. The trail was shrouded in darkness, thanks to the heavy storm clouds overhead, and Anna soon became disoriented and unsure of their route. However, at one point during the ride, she looked over and when a flash of lighting illuminated the night, Anna saw the identity of the mysterious rider -- it was her husband Eson.

When he realized that she had discovered his identity, Bixby brought the horses to a halt and he quickly bound her hands and gagged her. It was obvious that he intended to do away with her and Anna began to panic. When she heard the jingle of chains being removed from his saddlebags, Anna became so frightened that she began to run, dashing into the dark woods. As she plunged into the forest, her fear became even stronger as she realized that she had no idea where she was. The storm continued to rage, sending rain lashing down on her and causing the wind to whip through the trees in a wild fury. Anna ran for some distance and then suddenly, the ground beneath her vanished and she tumbled over a large bluff and crashed to the ground far below. The fall broke the ropes that bound her hands but also broke some of her bones, seriously injuring her. Nevertheless, she managed to crawl a short distance to a fallen tree and slithered in behind it.

A few moments later, a light appeared in the darkness at the top of the bluff and Eson Bixby came into view carrying a burning torch. He climbed down from the top of the rocks and searched around for Anna, but he did not find her. After a few minutes, he returned to his horse and rode away. 

Once he was gone, Anna began crawling and stumbling out of the forest. It took her until sunrise to find a nearby farmhouse but when she reached it, she found herself at the doorstep of friends -- only a few houses away from her own. They quickly took her in and she told them the story of what had happened.

Bixby was soon arrested and taken to the jail in Elizabethtown. He escaped though and vanished for a time. He was later captured again in Missouri, but once again, he escaped. This time, he disappeared for good and was never seen again.

Anna lived in the Rock Creek community of Hardin County until 1873 when she died, she was buried next to her first husband and only a simple “A” was inscribed on her headstone. But there are those who believe that Anna, or at least her spirit, lives on.

The legend of Anna Bixby states that her husband wanted to do away with her because of a fortune that she had managed to collect over the years. What may have amounted to a “fortune” in those days may have been much smaller than what we would consider to be a fortune today, but most believe that it was a large amount of money. The legend further states that when Anna learned of Eson’s greed, she hid the money away somewhere, just before he attempted to do away with her. It is believed that the hiding place for the treasure was the cave beside Rock Creek in Hooven Hollow, which was also said to have been the hiding place of outlaw gangs. 

The cave is still known as Anna Bixby Cave today. Along the bluff, in the vicinity of the cave, where people have reported seeing a strange light appear over the years. The large, glowing light moves in and out of the trees and among the rocks, vanishing and then re-appearing without explanation. It is believed that the light may be that of Anna Bixby, still watching over the treasure that she hid away years ago.

One of the most detailed accounts of the Bixby ghost light was collected by folklorist Charles Neely in his 1938 book Tales & Songs of Southern Illinois. The story of the spooklight was told by Reverend E.N. Hall, a minister who once served the Rock Creek Church and who had a number of the brushes with the uncanny in this part of Hardin County. One evening in his younger days, Hall and a friend of his named Hobbs, walked over to a nearby farm to escort two of the girls who lived there to church. When they got to the house, they found no one home. It appeared that the girls left without them and the two young men stood around for a few moments, wondering what to do. 

They stood at the edge of the yard as they talked and looked toward the darkened house. The house itself stood on a short knoll with a hollow that ran away from the gate to the left for about 100 yards and then joined with another hollow that came back to the right side of the gate. Hobbs was looking eastward along the bluff when he saw what appeared to be a “ball of fire about the size of a washtub” going very fast along the east hollow.

At first, the young men thought that it might be someone on a horse carrying a lantern, then realized that it was moving much too fast for that. The light followed the hollow to the left of the gate and along a small curve where one hollow met the other. It followed the opposite hollow and came right up the bank where the two men were standing. It paused, motionless, about 30 feet away from them and began to burn down smaller and smaller and then turned red as it went out. Finally, it simply vanished.

The two young men decided not to go to church. They went directly to the farm where they had been working and went to bed. The next morning, at the breakfast table, they told Mr. Patten, the farmer they had been working for, what they had both seen the night before. He laughed at them and said that it had just been a “mineral light” carried by the wind. He had no explanation though for how fast the light had moved or for the fact that there had been no wind the previous evening. He could also not explain why the light seemed to follow the two hollows and then stop in place and burn out.

Later, Hall had the chance to speak with the woman who owned the farm, a Mrs. Walton, and to ask her what the light might have been. She then told him the story of Anna Bixby, who had owned the property before she had, and explained that to protect her money from her criminal husband, she had hidden her fortune in a cave that was located on the property. Mrs. Walton always believed that the spooklight was the ghost of Anna Bixby checking to see that her money was still hidden away. She had seen the light herself on many occasions, always disappearing into the cave.

Hall asked her, if she knew so well where Anna’s money was hidden, why she had never bothered to go and get it. “I would,” Mrs. Walton answered, “if I thought that Granny Bixby wanted me to have it.”

A historical marker has been mounted in Anna Bixby's honor at Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, near her home. 

In southern Illinois, the Anna Bixby Women's Center in Harrisburg, Illinois, gives shelter and services to area abused women and children.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Dr. Richard Eells', house was an Underground Railroad stop in Quincy, Illinois.

On Aug. 21, 1842, Dr. Richard Eells heard another knock at his back door. This time it was Charley standing there, his clothes still wet from his swim across the Mississippi River.
Dr. Richard Eells House, 415 Jersey Street, Quincy, Illinois, it is the oldest standing two-story brick house in Quincy, and used as an Underground Railroad Stop.
A few days earlier, the slave had run away from his owner, Chauncey Durkey of Monticello, Missouri. Dr. Eells had to act quickly, for he knew the slave catchers would be coming soon. Eells told Charley to wait for him in the carriage house. Eells then ran upstairs to his bedroom to get dry clothes for Charley.

Quincy was Stop Number One on the northern route of the Underground Railroad out of Missouri. From Quincy, slaves were quickly and secretly moved from one "station" (hiding place) to another, heading north and east to Chicago and eventually Canada, where slavery was no longer permitted. All "conductors" who helped the slaves go from one station to the next risked their own freedom and fortune, for aiding an escaped slave was breaking federal law.

Eells knew he could not hide Charley in his home at 415 Jersey Street. Just across the river lay Missouri, a slave state. At this time it was legal for slave catchers to leave their state and enter a free state (Illinois) to capture runaway slaves. The doctor had long been associated with the abolition movement in Illinois. In 1839 he had been elected as president of the Adams County Anti-slavery Society. In 1843 he would be elected president of the state anti-slavery society. His home would be the first place the slave catchers would look for the runaway slave.

Charley changed into the dry clothes while Eells prepared the carriage. They then headed east toward present-day 24th Street. The carriage turned north along the cemetery (today's Madison Park), apparently headed to the Mission Institute near 25th and Maine. The Mission Institute was run by Dr. David Nelson who trained Christian missionaries there.

At night it was a meeting place for abolitionists. Slave catchers were already near the area watching for the runaway. They saw the carriage of Dr. Eells approach, and saw Charley lift his head from beneath a buffalo robe. The men tried to stop the carriage, but to no avail. Charley jumped out of the carriage and ran across the cemetery. He was captured later that night and turned over to the brother of Chauncey Durkey. Dr. Eells swiftly turned his carriage around and returned home. Sadly, we know nothing more of what happened to Charley.

The Quincy Whig of Saturday, Aug. 27, 1842 reported: "The second day after the occurrences alluded to above – which was Tuesday last – a warrant was issued for the apprehension of Dr. Richard Eells – an old and respectable physician of this city, a well known abolitionist; in fact, one of the principal head men of this misguided sect in this county, and one of their candidates for the Legislature at the late election, on the charge of harboring, secreting, and assisting the slave spoken of to run away from his lawful owner."

Dr. Eells was released on bail and was to appear at the Circuit Court the next month. When his wife became ill, Dr. Eells requested that the trial be delayed. The state of Missouri, under Gov. Thomas Reynolds, requested that Eells be tried in Missouri, a dangerous situation for any abolitionist, to be tried in a slave state. Eells then used the Underground Railroad himself to go to the Chicago area for a while. In January 1843, Gov. Ford of Illinois signed the extradition order, to send Eells to be tried in Missouri, but because of so much abolitionist pressure within his own state, he rescinded the order in February 1843. Eells returned to Quincy. In April, 1843, Judge Stephen A. Douglas found Dr. Eells guilty and fined him $400. The case was to be appealed to the Illinois State Supreme Court. In February 1844, the State Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling, with three justices dissenting.

Dr. Eells died on a steamboat near Cincinnati, Ohio, on October 4, 1846. Abolitionists appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court in an attempt to end slavery. The executors of the Eells estate were represented by Salmon P. Chase and William Seward (later secretaries of the treasury and state respectively in the Lincoln administration). In 1852, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Illinois State Supreme Court's rulings. This is the first case from Quincy that went to the United States Supreme Court. A copy of the Supreme Court case can be seen at the Eells house today and on the Historical Society's website.

Because of its significance to the history of the Underground Railroad, and because all the information is documented in the county, state, and federal courts, the National Park Service has designated the Dr. Richard Eells House at 415 Jersey Street, Quincy, an official Historic Underground Railroad Site.

History vindicated Eells long ago, but it wasn't until Wednesday, December 31, 2014 that the law did the same. As part of a wide-ranging clemency action, Gov. Pat Quinn formally pardoned Eells and two other 19th-century abolitionists convicted of assisting escaped slaves.

"It's important for all of us to remember heroes who spoke up and acted at great risk to themselves for what was right, even when they knew it was not what the law would support," said Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, who helped to lead the clemency effort. "I think we need more reminders of that."

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.