Winds of Change: An Improvised Hospital
On the night of Aug. 21, 1883, Samuel Whitten, the mayor of Rochester, had assembled a group of volunteers to begin rescue and relief measures. Townspeople carried lanterns as they pulled the dead and injured from flattened homes. Fires had been ignited by toppled lamps and lightning, and they needed to be extinguished. Aid poured in including food, clothing and money from Minnesota citizens and eventually from surrounding communities, as far away as Chicago.
Rommel Hall, a dance hall, was transformed into an emergency hospital and 34 patients were brought there for care. Emergency help was extended to 233 families and 101 men. Dr. David Berkman (son-in-law of Dr. William Worrall Mayo) was appointed steward of the emergency hospital, and the elder Dr. Mayo and his sons, Dr. William J. Mayo and Charles H. Mayo, and a number of Rochester doctors took charge of the patients.
Dr. W.W. Mayo realized that the task of caring for patients around the clock would require more helpers. He called on Mother Alfred Moes and her Sisters of Saint Francis, who were trained as teachers not nurses, to tend to the patients. The Sisters responded and remained responsible for patients until the temporary hospital closed.
By then, Mother Alfred recognized that the growing city of Rochester needed a hospital. Mother Alfred's vision for a hospital -- a place for active medical intervention -- was revolutionary for its day. As late as 1890, there were only three hospitals in Minnesota outside of the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The winds of change began to stir. Mother Alfred sought Dr. W.W. Mayo's involvement in the building of a hospital. At first reluctant, not too much time would pass before Dr. Mayo and his sons would be involved in the planning and staffing of a permanent hospital.