Indian Reservations 100 years ago

The 1913 Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs offers a look back in time at the state of Indian Reservations.

          In that year, some 300,000 Indians lived on reservations. The total Indian population was 331,250 (excluding Indians in Alaska).  All the reservations combined covered an area as large as the New England States plus the State of New York. Collectively, their lands were valued at $900,000,000. The timber on reservation land had an estimated worth of $80,000,000.

          The annual Indian death rate (all causes) was 32.24 deaths per 1,000 Indians. Among the total United States population, the annual death rate was 16 per 1,000 persons. Tuberculosis was a growing problem across the nation. Among Indians, 32% of all deaths were due to tuberculosis compared to 11.2% for the general U.S. population.

          Ten thousand Indian children had no schools available.



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Denver National Recuperation Camp, Part 3

“On Armistice Day, 11 November 1918, the capacity of Army General Hospital No. 21  in Aurora, Colorado was reported at 380 beds. New construction underway was 50-percent complete and would add 736 beds.”
          After the war ended, the patient load decreased. Local officials worried about keeping the facility open. Fortunately, Colonel Roger Brooke of the Surgeon General’s Office saw Denver as the best site for a permanent Army tuberculosis hospital.
          On June 26, 1920, Hospital No. 21 was “redesignated” by the War Department as Fitzsimons General Hospital. The name honored William Thomas Fitzsimons, the first U.S. Army officer to die in World War I. In 1920, 60% of the total 3,442 admissions at Fitzsimons  were for tuberculosis treatment.
          Fitzsimons became the largest active military hospital in the world and the largest tuberculosis hospital in the United States.
          The facility closed in 1999 and the grounds are being redeveloped for civilian use as the Anschutz Medical Campus and the Fitzsimons Life Science District.

Information and quoted material from the Historic American Building Survey, by Emily Thompson Payne, Intermountain Regional Office, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado, August 2009

Denver National Recuperation Camp, Part 2

The Red Cross Building sat at the center of the entire post known as Army General Hospital No. 21 in Aurora, Colorado.  It was built in the shape of a cross like the organization’s emblem. “…a landscaped quadrangle much like one found on a typical college campus” surrounded the building.
         All campus buildings were of stucco and hollow tile construction. The Mission Revival style was then standard for Army posts in the southwest. “Walls and ceilings were covered with asbestos plaster board and two coats of wall plaster. Floors were generally of maple, sometimes pine, and covered with two coats of white paint.”
          The main infirmary was designed for “perfect ventilation and maximum sunshine, two factors considered essential for the treatment of tuberculars.” Windows could be opened wide for ventilation and patients’ beds could be wheeled onto open porches on the south side.
          A coal-fired central steam plant heated the entire facility. In cold weather three rail carloads of coal were required daily. Steam lines ran through concrete tunnels under the sidewalks. At least no one had to shovel snow as it melted immediately on the warm walkways.
          Cost of the first 48 buildings on the campus of Army General Hospital No. 21 (later known as Fitzsimons General Hospital) was $1,750,000. The 25 additional buildings  added in late 1918 came at a price of  $1,285,000.

Information and quoted material from the Historic American Building Survey, by Emily Thompson Payne, Intermountain Regional Office, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado, August 2009

Denver National Recuperation Camp 1918

Aerial view of Army General Hospital No. 21 about 1920

Not long after the United States entered World War I, the Denver Civic and Commercial Association (later the Denver Chamber of Commerce) began a campaign to land a military base in their city. The U.S. War Department, however, considered such an inland location to be inconvenient.
          As soldiers began returning from the trenches of Europe with respiratory and pulmonary conditions, city leaders promoted Denver as a perfect site for a recuperation camp. The cool, dry air and high number of days with sunshine were regarded as beneficial to patients with tuberculosis. The Jewish Consumptives Relief Society, Agnes Memorial Sanatorium, plus National Swedish, Craig, and Bethesda hospitals, all located in the mile high city, were already treating victims of the “white plague.”
          Colonel George E. Bushnell, a medical officer with the Surgeon General’s Office, had recovered from tuberculosis during a two year stay in Denver. He visited the city in November 1917 to inspect possible locations for a military hospital.
          Bushnell chose a 594 acre site eight miles east of Denver where A. H. Gutheil operated a landscape nursery. The location was accessed by two major roads: Colfax Avenue and Montview Boulevard. Water was available and a railroad connection could be made with the Union Pacific’s Sable Junction tracks located just a mile away.
          Construction of Army General Hospital No. 21 began in May 1918.
          Plans called for 48 buildings, including: general administration, two-story officers’ tuberculosis wards, officers’ quarters, nurses’ infirmary, operating pavilion, garages, officers’ recreation building, post exchange, central infirmary for 300 patients, two-story tuberculosis ward, isolation ward, a surgical ward, two-story hospital corps barracks, laboratory, storehouses, guardhouse, shop buildings, general mess and kitchen, officer patients’ mess and kitchen, officers’ mess and kitchen, nurses’ mess and kitchen, attendants’ dormitory, hospital corps mess, pump house, power house, Red Cross headquarters, officers’ recreation quarters, chapel, incinerator, and fire station. In addition, the Gutheil family residence was remodeled for the Commanding Officer’s Quarters.
                    By October of 1918, 25 more buildings were added to the plan. These included 16 open air wards plus additional quarters for officers and nurses. Later additions included a school building and two “curative shops for physical reconstruction work.” 

Information and quoted material from the Historic American Building Survey, by Emily Thompson Payne, Intermountain Regional Office, National Park Service, Denver, Colorado, August 2009

Photograph courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Collection