Their story is our story.
Hospital traces to humble beginnings
The square clapboard house at 81 Oregon Street fit only a few patients. Surgery was done in the kitchen. Its only nurse lived in half the tiny building with her husband and five kids.
But in 1908 when George and Fern Hall moved to Bend, there was nothing resembling even a clinic. The town’s only doctor, Urling Coe, MD, ran his practice from a buggy and a few hand bags.
Yet Mrs. Hall’s little hospital was a seed from which St. Charles Health System grew. A handful of other small hospitals came and went through the first half of the 1900s. None, however, left the same legacy.
Fern Hall wasn’t a school-trained nurse. She had no degrees or certificates. She learned her profession on the job, becoming what was called a practical nurse. In Coe’s memoir, “Frontier Doctor: Observations on Central Oregon and the Changing West,” he writes she was perfect for the job.
“She was one of those rare individuals born to be a nurse: energetic, hard-working, sweet-tempered, levelheaded and kind-hearted, and she loved nursing,” Coe wrote.
Between epidemics of typhoid fever, a baby boom and many grisly injuries, the demands were more than one man with a medical bag and a horse could handle.
“We did not have all of the equipment that even a small hospital should have, but Mrs. Hall knew how to get along with little, and her whole heart and soul were in the work, and that is what counts,” Coe wrote.
In the spring of 1909, Dr. Barnard Ferrell, joined Coe in practice and worked in Hall’s hospital. Bend quickly outgrew the hospital. When Hall moved to Portland in 1914, Coe and Ferrell took it over. They moved the hospital to a remodeled house at 930 Broadway, now called Brooks Street. On April 15, 1915, the Bend Bulletin reported on the new hospital. The story made a comment without elaboration about the future.
“It is understood that arrangements are being made to have one of the nursing orders of the Catholic Church establish a branch here and that when this is done the hospital will be turned over to the sisters for operation,” the paper reported.