#Lookback: Riverton Hospitals

A County 10 series in partnership with the Fremont County Museum System
where we take a #Lookback at the stories and history of our community and
presented by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

In the beginning, Riverton’s medical needs were fulfilled by small private hospitals. The first hospital in Riverton was named the Riverton Cottage Hospital. It was owned and operated by Henrietta Petersdorff. Henrietta was born in Germany but eventually settled in Indiana, with her husband, Frank, until he passed away. After her husband’s death, Henrietta found it hard to support her children with her husband’s pension and her nurse’s wages. In 1906, Henrietta and her daughter Helen entered the land drawing for land around Riverton. Henrietta’s name was drawn, and her family moved to Wyoming. Before Henrietta opened her hospital, she was known in the community as a traveling nurse who cared for the ill and helped doctors deliver babies. Every year, Henrietta held a party for all the children that she helped deliver. 

To satisfy the communities’ need for a hospital, Henrietta and her daughters worked together to purchase property at the corner of Fremont and Broadway. They built a large white house on this piece of land that would become the first hospital in Riverton. The Riverton Cottage Hospital was opened on October 18th, 1916. The hospital was heated with hot water, had an operating room, and would accommodate ten patients at once. The Cottage Hospital was in operation until the death of Henrietta Petersdorff in 1920. After its life as a hospital, Henrietta’s daughters, Martha, and Helen lived in the home until their death. In 1981, the building was moved from its original location to Paradise Valley by Bill and Shirley Stevens.

After the Petersdorff House, there were a few other hospitals housed in peoples’ homes. One hospital, mentioned in the November 12th, 1925, issue of the Riverton Review, was organized by Margaret Minogran of Casper. She leased a house in the Ash Grove addition and remodeled the home to become a hospital. In the November 5th, 1936, issue of the Riverton Review, a hospital was opened by Mrs. Doris Brown. This hospital was a two-story house with accommodations for ten patients and an operating room. The first floor contained an apartment for Mr. and Mrs. Brown, a reception area, and a patient ward that could accommodate up to four beds. The second floor had the operating room and three patient wards that could accommodate two beds each.

In 1944, representatives from civic groups in Riverton formed a committee to discuss the creation of a community hospital. The chairman of the committee was Leslie P. Jensen. One committee member was the daughter of Henrietta Petersdorff, Martha. From the hospital committee, five members were selected to raise money for the new hospital building. By 1945, the committee had raised $15,000. With this money, the committee approached the Fremont County Commissioners for additional funding. The committee received the okay from County Commission to take the issue of the community hospital to the public in the form of a bond. In the 1946 election, the public passed a $110,000 bond with a margin of 4 to 1. 

The cost for construction of the hospital was going to be $200,000, so the government gave $62,000 to get closer to the total cost of construction. Soon after the bond was passed, construction began on the new hospital. On December 1st, 1949, they held a dedication ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the hospital. People from the veterans’ organizations and from the Masons attended the ceremony to dedicate the hospital in honor of veterans. On November 26th, 1950, the hospital opened to the public. An article in the November 30th, 1950, issue of the Riverton Review shows that the first patient received at the hospital was Mrs. Harry B. Coen and the first surgical patient at the hospital was Ken L. Sehnert. According to the article, the first baby born at the Riverton Memorial Hospital was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Donald E. Wilbert.

Next up for the Fremont County Museum

December 3, 9-5 pm at the Dubois Museum, Pioneer Museum in Lander & the Riverton Museum

“First Fridays” Lander State Farm – Riverton State Farm

December 4, 11-4 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Christmas Open House”

December 11, 1-4 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Christmas Open House”

December 11, 1-4 pm at the Riverton Museum, “Toy Building”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

December 17, 6:30 pm at the Dubois Museum, “Christmas Caroling at the Museum”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

December 18, 5-7 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “Old Fashioned Christmas Open House”

              Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

Thru December 30, 9-5 pm at the Pioneer Museum, “The Arapaho Way” By Sara Wiles

              Photography on exhibit in the Western Gallery through December

Thru October 2022, 9-5 pm Monday-Saturday, at the Pioneer Museum, “Hurrah for The Cowboy: Men of the Open Range” Art Exhibition

The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander, and the Riverton Museum need your financial support. In the current economic environment, the museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits, and services that have become their hallmark over the last four years. Please make your tax-deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.  

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