Two Hospitals Become One

1912 Sacred Heart Hospital

The city of Havre was incorporated in 1893 when James J. Hill was building his Great Northern Railway, running from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Seattle. Fort Assiniboine, located just six miles southwest of Havre, was established in 1879 by the United States government, as a grand pioneer outpost. The only doctor was stationed at the fort and the only hospital was established for the military. In 1911, the fort was closed and when epidemics of diphtheria, measles, and scarlet fever, arose, the settlers built a "pest house" to isolate victims of contagious diseases, which was a common practice in those early days. The people of Havre recognized a "dire need" for a hospital, so they appealed to the Sisters of St. Francis, who came to the rescue, and on February 18, 1912, ten days before Hill County was created, the new Sacred Heart Hospital was dedicated.

Sacred Heart Hospital

In the spring of 1909, the Rev. Frederick Eberschweiler, S.J., then pastor of St. Jude's Parish in Havre applied to Mother Leonarda of the Sisters of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity, American Provincial at Buffalo, New York. It was not until 1911 that the three sisters assigned could come to Havre to begin their hospital work. The articles of incorporation were drawn up in May 1911, and the following February 1912, the hospital was ready for occupancy. It was dedicated on February 18, 1912. Unfortunately, defective wiring caused a fire in 1913, which destroyed the building. All patients were safely removed to the public school building across the street, where temporary quarters were set up by courtesy of the City of Havre.

In 1916, plans were drawn up for a new 125-bed hospital. The former hospital was remodeled and used for a nurses home with the hospital laundry located in the basement. The Sacred Heart School of Nursing admitted its first students in 1921. In June 1922, it received full accreditation from the State of Montana. In 1931, when the new hospital was built, the nursing school moved into the renovated former hospital. During World War II, the school formed a cadet nurse corps; with the completion of the graduating class of 1954, Sacred Heart School of Nursing ceased to function.

Kennedy Deaconess Hospital

It had been a dry summer in 1916, but optimism was high with a record of good crops, continued interest in the acquisition of land, and the surrounding area growing. For several years, people talked of building a Protestant Hospital. The people thought this was a good idea since at that time only one hospital existed to serve an area of almost 500 miles with only one hospital bed for every 300 people! Through many obstacles, finally, in August of 1926 a new hospital was built by Kennedy-Deaconess Hospital Association of the North Montana Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Havre, Montana. The first medical staff consisted of Dr. MacKenzie, president; Dr. Burke, vice president, and Dr. Hamilton, secretary. Dr. Houtz was elected record inspector. The hospital opened under the superintendence of Miss Ruth Robertson. Miss Donna Watts was assistant superintendent. When Miss Robertson resigned in 1930, Miss Watts replaced her and held the position until May 1946. In 1958, a new addition was built to Kennedy Deaconess Hospital. For several years, all equipment that was purchased was to improve patient care. The number of doctors in the area increased.

Two Hospitals Become One: Northern Montana Hospital

In December 1965, a letter from the Sacred Heart Hospital, relative to a proposal for developing a single general hospital in place of the two existing facilities, was written. An announcement was made by Sacred Heart Hospital that they would be closing June 30, 1968. A new board was formed to operate the two hospitals, dissolving the relationship with the Methodist and Catholic churches, leasing the Sacred Heart facilities and operating out of the two facilities, Sacred Heart and Kennedy Deaconess, under the new name of Northern Montana Hospital, a new corporation. Then the planning of the new hospital began and it is a long story in itself. In June 1975, a new $6.5 million hospital was completed and ready for occupancy. Kennedy Deaconess Hospital served the area well, as did the Sacred Heart Hospital. When the need arose to provide an extension of services, rather than expensive duplication, thousands of man hours were donated by leaders in the community in order to provide, through their commitment, extended health care with modern facilities. That committment continues to this day.

Health Care in Havre (referenced from Grits, Guts, and Gusto: A History of Hill County published by the Hill County Bicentennial Commission 1976)