Throwback Thursday: 'Casper gets her hospital' - Aug. 31, 1910

By Kristy Bleizeffer Aug 21, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday is a weekly series celebrating Wyoming Medical Center’s long and rich history in Natrona County. This post was adapted from "Wyoming Medical Center: A Centennial History" by Rebecca A. Hunt, Ph.D.

Construction on Casper's first public hospital began in March 1910 and the State of Wyoming accepted the completed work on Aug. 31, 1910. By comparison, construction of the McMurry West Tower, set to open Sept. 27, took more than two years.

Construction on Casper's first hospital began in March 1910 and the State of Wyoming accepted the completed work on Aug. 31, 1910. By comparison, construction of the McMurry West Tower, set to open Sept. 27, took more than two years.

A parade passes by the hospital as it marches up Conwell Street to the cemetery on Decoration Day in 1912.

A parade passes by the hospital as it marches up Conwell Street to the cemetery on Decoration Day in 1912.

In the late 1800s, Casper health care consisted of a handful of pioneer doctors who visited patients in their homes and sometimes performed simple surgeries in the kitchen. Many doctors came to Casper, stayed a couple of years and moved on. Others, like Dr. John Leeper, planted roots and became involved in town affairs. Leeper served as mayor from 1918 to 1919.

As for hospitals, Natrona County had a handful of options:

  • Dr. Leeper and druggist Wilson Kimball opened Casper's first private hospital in 1893 on Center Street. The Casper Derrick newspaper reported it had nine rooms (including Dr. Leeper's office and an operating room) and could care for 10 to 12 patients at a time. "Everything is scrupulously neat, the mattresses are as soft as wool can be made and every facility for rapid recovery seems to be given the patients," said the paper reporter. "Strangers and others who are taken sick in this section of the country with no proper place to be cared for will greatly appreciate the opportunity offered them by the opening of the Casper hospital.
  • Dr. L. G. Powell also apparently opened another private hospital in 1893, but few details were reported by Wyoming papers.
  • Grandma Harrison's house was apparently a convalescent home or a private hospital. Like Powell's hospital, few details were reported.
  • In 1885, Central Wyoming ranchers banded together to run the abandoned hospital at the Fort Fetterman army post west of Douglas. Cowboys had $1 a month deducted from their wages, and large companies - such as Carey Cattle Company of Natrona County, - paid $100 per month for the right to seek medical care.
This photo shows the operating room of Wyoming State Hospital, Casper Branch.

This photo shows the operating room of Wyoming State Hospital, Casper Branch.

By the turn of the century, Casper was growing. Not only had it become a rail and agricultural center, its oil industry was attracting national attention. Businessmen started talking about the need for a public hospital, not tied to any one doctor.

On March 16, 1906, a railroad crash cemented the idea. Ten people died and 16 injured when a train hit a washed-out culvert west of town. They were treated in a makeshift hospital at the Episcopal Church.

Construction began on the Wyoming State Hospital, Casper Branch in March 1910 on what was then the east edge of town near Highland Park Cemetery. Construction took just six months, completed by Aug. 31, 1910.

By comparison, our McMurry West Tower has been under construction for two years. It is scheduled to open on Sept. 27.

Save the date!
* What: McMurry West Tower public open house. Take a self-guided tour and enjoy free appetizers from The Market Place, our new expanded kitchen and dining area.

* When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27

* Where: McMurry West Tower at Wyoming Medical Center. Park in the West Parking Garage which has direct access to the tower, or take advantage of our free valet service and pull right up to our new front door on Second Street. We’ll take care of the rest.

* Info: To read more about our West Tower and its patient features, click here.

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