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By Sterling McGinn

In the early days of Luce County, there was no official hospital. Doctors made house calls and surgeries were occasionally performed at the patient’s home. Medical equipment and instruments were crude, and many home remedies and tonics were used and advertised.

When a doctor was summoned to a home (sometimes in a very remote area), they traveled by horse and carriage or sleigh, later transitioning to automobiles. Newberry doctors would also travel to other local communities by train.

In the early 1930s, a Grand Marais man invented a snowplane made from a boat-shaped tonneau, which was powered by an airplane motor. The machine transported doctors to inaccessible areas in the winter. Though the machine attracted the interest of a local businessman, the contraption was never successful.

One of the first attempts at operating a clinic in the area was reported in an early Newberry News article. Local physician Dr. F.W. Neal offered tickets to medical residents granting the buyer board and nursing for up to one year in his makeshift clinic. The location and the years in operation are not known.

During the Spanish Influenza epidemic that raged in the country in 1918, the John St. or Ward School located on the 200 block of West John Street was temporarily turned into a hospital. The desks and other furniture were removed for the installation of cots and other necessary material. The Newberry school system was closed for a total of six weeks.

With the growing number of Spanish Flu patients in this area, the Newberry Hotel (which became the Falls Hotel in 1946) was also transformed into a hospital to accommodate the large number of patients.  According to an article in the Newberry News of October 25, 1918, “Friday afternoon the autos were busy bringing in the most serious cases and by evening some sixty patients were being cared for in the hastily improvised hospital.” It was evident that Newberry was in need of a permanent medical facility with proper price transparency requirements

Several years after the Spanish Flu epidemic, the first official hospital in Newberry was established and opened on February 1, 1923 by doctors R. E. Spinks and H. E. Perry. The two doctors opened a clinic above the Bohn and Perry Drug Store on the west side of the 200 block of Newberry Avenue. This drug store was later known as the McNab Drug Company.

Newberry finally had a hospital conveniently located in the downtown district. The accessibility, however, was not convenient. The only way to enter the new hospital was up a long flight of stairs located between the post office and the pharmacy. Patients who weren’t able to climb the stairs were usually carried up on a stretcher.

Many accounts of accidents reported in the Newberry News stated the victims who were injured by a motorcycle were picked up and taken to the Perry and Spinks hospital. It’s hard to imagine a patient who suffered an automobile accident being carried upstairs to be treated at the hospital, but it happened. You can ask lawyers for injury claims, if you need the best attorneys after an injury. It is also advised to contact experienced TBI attorneys to help you get the claim and represent your interests.

Newberry native Dr. George F. Swanson returned to Newberry, joined the firm and purchased an interest in the hospital. Dr. Perry moved his office to his home near the Masonic Lodge.  Several years later, Dr. Matthew A. Surrell, another Newberry native, returned home and purchased Dr. Perry’s interest.

Dr. Henry E. Perry was nearing retirement at that time. For many years, Dr. Perry was responsible for maternity cases in the area and many babies were named after him.

The upstairs clinic continued to operate for 15 years. In 1938, a special election was called by McMillan Township to authorize the sale of the old John Street school for the use of a clinic.  The second floor of the building was removed and Drs. Spinks, Surrell, and Swanson opened the hospital a year later.

While the Perry and Spinks Hospital was in use, Dr. Robert E. L. Gibson was operating a private practice from a residence on East Truman. Gibson came to Newberry from Central Lake, Michigan in 1913. Dr. Gibson purchased the M. E. Buerman residence, originally located on the site of the present Newberry High School. When the school was to be erected in 1926, the home was moved one block to the south on the corner of West Avenue B and Newberry Ave.

His son, Robert E. Gibson started practicing at the Truman Avenue location in 1937. On December 31, 1938, the Robert E. L. Gibson residence on Newberry Ave. suffered a fire. The second floor and other sections had to be rebuilt, and in 1941, R. E. Gibson opened up an eight-bed hospital there.

In December of 1944, the Newberry Clinic was sold to Dr. Robert E. Gibson. He closed his Newberry Avenue clinic and transferred his patients to the new location. He eventually sold the Newberry Clinic to the Village of Newberry and the four townships in the county in 1949.

In march of that year, a 12-member hospital commission was appointed. The name was changed from the Newberry Clinic to The Tahquamenon General Hospital. The commission continued to run the hospital until 1952, when Marie Hartel was hired as administrator.

In 1951, Dr. R.P. Hicks came to Newberry and operated a practice above Sherman’s Drug Store. He later moved to the hospital, and in 1953 Dr. Lawrence P. Grennan became his medical and surgical partner. The Tahquamenon General Hospital continued to operate until 1966.

In 1962, the citizens of Luce County voted to approve a bonding issue to cover half the cost of the construction of a larger hospital. The federal Hill-Burton funds covered the balance and construction began in 1964.

Newberry native and businessman Sidney D. Foster approached the Helen Newberry Joy Foundation committee, hoping to secure additional funding for the project. The directors of the committee agreed to the request and nearly a quarter of a million dollars was donated toward the hospital.

The donation was used to reduce the number of bonds to be paid off. The other portion was used to complete the new hospital landscaping.

Helen Newberry Joy was the daughter of the Village of Newberry’s namesake John Stoughton Newberry. He was an investor in the Detroit, Mackinac and Marquette Railroad and was the director of many industries in Detroit. Helen Newberry Joy died in 1958 and was a benefactor to many.

The construction continued, and 16 months after the groundbreaking ceremony, the $870,000 hospital was officially dedicated on November 6 and 7, 1965.

The two-day celebration was a proclaimed a Day of Joy for Newberry. The years of planning and organizing for a new and modern medical facility was now a reality. The official opening of Helen Newberry Joy Hospital didn’t take place until February 15, 1966. The old Tahquamenon General Hospital was turned into the Helen Newberry Joy Hospital Annex and was eventually demolished.

The new hospital continued to grow and in 1974, the Joy family contributed $500,000 for a Cardiac Care Unit for the hospital. Over the years, many additions and modernizations have taken place at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital. On October 22, 2014 the contents of a time capsule, which was placed in the cornerstone in 1964, was revealed at an open house.

Over its 138-year history, the town of Newberry has witnessed much progression in the line of medical care. From its pioneer doctors using primitive practices, Newberry’s medical care has evolved into modern medicine and facilities.