It was not built in time to possibly save Isadore Douglass from a tragic death.
The first hospital at Fort Dodge was just about as "primitive" as the sod dugout the Douglass' moved into when they arrived at Fort Dodge. It had a flat earthen roof and a dirt floor. It was dank and moist and infested by rodents.
It wasn't until after Isadore's death from cholera in the Douglass' crude dwelling in 1867, that troops completed a much improved one-story stone hospital. Stone for this, and other late 1860's Fort Dodge buildings, came from an area 11 miles northwest of the Fort near the Hodgeman-Ford County line.
The new hospital included the Post Surgeon's office, exam room, dispensary, washroom, kitchen, dining room, quarters for the hospital steward and a 12-bed ward. Wood burning stoves heated the facility and candles or oil lamps provided lighting.
When it came to treatment of African-Americans, separate and not equal was the norm. The five-bed ward for them was a wood frame building 25 yards west of the main hospital. Patients had use of separate sets of outhouses located 30 yards to the north. A fence encircled the entire complex.
Over the years the Army made improvements to the hospital. Lightning rods were added in 1877 and, in 1880, builders installed a porch on the south and east sides of the main building.
Conditions were not ideal, especially by today's standards, but the health of the soldiers and families was generally good. An exception was the 1867 outbreak of cholera which soldiers marching from Forts Riley and Leavenworth in northeastern Kansas to New Mexico carried to all outposts in between. A whopping 20 of the 30 cases at Fort Dodge resulted in death. This same outbreak took the life of Isadore Douglass and sickened her base commander husband, Henry, and infant son, Charles.
The most common complaint treated by post surgeons was diarrhea which comprised 16 percent of their caseload. They treated injuries including burns, broken bones, lacerations, contusions and gunshot wounds - generally accidental rather than incurred in battle. Illnesses including dysentery, bronchitis, pink eye, hemorrhoids, nerve pain, rheumatism, pneumonia, scurvy, ulcers, sexually transmitted diseases, diphtheria, flu, tuberculosis and cholera were common. Exhaustion, stress and alcoholism were among the mental health problems reported at the Fort.
Fort Dodge closed in 1882 and, in 1890, the State opened the Kansas Soldiers Home. The Home added a two-story structure to the west side in 1901 and the entire building served as a hospital until 1928. The hospital now houses the Kansas Soldiers Home administrative offices.
Most of this information is from a sign to be erected at the hospital by the Dodge City/Fort Dodge/Cimarron Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association.