Jennie Stuart Medical Center
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Who Was Jennie Stuart?
Born Of Heartbreak
"Country Doctor Had Dream For Hospital Here"
 
From a dream born of heartbreak and the knowledge of a serious community need, Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital had its beginning. Dr. Edward Stuart, a pioneer physician who practiced medicine in his home in Fairview, donated the money necessary for the building of the hospital soon after the turn of the century.
 
The institution was to bear the name of his beloved wife, Jennie Vaughn Stuart, and the money used was Miss Jennie's savings. She was not only the inspiration for the hospital's beginning, but she also made possible the financing.
Dr. Stuart, born in 1828, conducted his medical practice in the shadow of the Jefferson Davis Monument. The Stuart house still stands in Fairview.
 
His work gave him a full understanding of the need for medical facilities in the area -- an understanding that became more personal as the result of his wife's death. While in Hopkinsville on business, Miss Jennie fell and suffered a broken hip.
 
She was taken to the old Hopkinsville Infirmary where facilities were called "primitive" and where, several days later, she died. Himself a cripple, Dr. Stuart laboriously had climbed steep stairs daily to visit his wife.
 
During his visits, Miss Jennie frequently asked Dr. Stuart if he still had her keys, which she usually kept tied around her waist. He indeed had the keys. After her death, and with the help of a relative, Dr. Stuart entered Miss Jennie's room at their Fairview home. It was a room she had kept locked and had spent much time "just puttering around," as she would say. The object of her "puttering" was found to be her savings.
Miss Jennie apparently had saved every penny she had ever received, including earnings from selling eggs, butter and milk, and from her investments. The saved money included many gold pieces that the doctor had given her. The gold pieces were found hidden in gas pipes in the back of a closet; other money was found behind pictures in the house. It was all labeled with dates and amounts, and totaled approximately $25,000. It was that amount, with some additional funds and with his other possessions, Dr. Stuart gave toward the construction of a new hospital: Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital.
 
The hospital was incorporated in 1913 and was completed in 1914. It was a small brick building and was furnished with equipment from Dr. Stuart's office and from gifts to the hospital. Miss Wanda Williams served as the hospital's first superintendent. Miss Williams, a pioneer nurse and teacher, wrote of her memories of those early years. She wrote of Dr. Stuart planting trees on the hospital lawn and of him transplanting roses from Miss Jennie's garden.
 
The hospital Miss Williams directed included twelve private rooms and four wards of four beds each. Beds in wards were $3.00 a day and private rooms were $4.50. Miss Williams called it a place where "the orphan child or the poor man or woman may have the same care that is provided for their more fortunate fellows."
 
Dr. Stuart was born near Antioch Church. His maternal grandmother, Mary Shanklin, was the midwife at the birth of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Dr. Stuart graduated from St. Louis Medical College in 1851 and began his medical practice in the Crofton area. After two years, Dr. Stuart moved his practice to Fairview and continued it there for more than 67 years. He was a Methodist, a Mason and a Democrat. He and Jane "Jennie" Vaughn had two children: May, who died in her 20s, and Willie, who died in infancy.
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320 W. 18th Street
Hopkinsville, KY 42240
Or P.O. Box 2400
Hopkinsville, KY 42241-2400
(270) 887-0100 Or
(800) 887-JSMC (5762)

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