Doctors and medical care often gauge the permanence of a frontier community. The presence of a doctor in a small town suggests a stability similar to a developing religious congregation. So, the existence of the medical profession in pre-1900 Elk River seems appropriate. The interesting detail of medical history in Elk River is the relative late arrival of a hospital or clinic.
|Hospital announcement from the|
Sherburne County StarNews,
August 23, 1923
The Sherburne County Star News reported in 1923 of the incorporation and opening of a hospital in Elk River. Prior to this opening, doctors in Sherburne County made house calls. There were no hospitals in the county to send desperately ill patients. Dr. Arthur Roehlke served as the primary physician with Marie DeBooy serving as the administrator at this new hospital.
With great fanfare the hospital purchased and remodeled the interior of the Andrew Davis residence. With two private rooms, two wards, a surgery and administrative offices, the building promised to house and care for up to 12 patients. It appears the hospital was too selective about the patients it would treat. In an announcement published in August 1923, the hospital offered care for obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and general medicine. Yet, “no contagious or objectionable diseases accepted” the announcement concluded. In spite of the selectivity, the first patient for the hospital was admitted. “To Miss Kate Noot, of Bailey Station, goes the distinction of being the first patient at the new hospital,” the newspaper reported.
Elk River may have been a very healthy community, or the hospital may have been too selective regarding patients. By March 1924, after only seven months of business the hospital closed permanently. “At no time,” the newspaper reported, “have there been enough patients to pay the expenses.”
Elk River clearly exhibited the stability of a permanent community; capable of supporting a hospital. Yet, the first attempt at a medical clinic quickly failed. In 1924 a hospital with a resident medical staff remained a future goal for Elk River.