Jennie Stuart Memorial Hospital was the dream of Dr. Edward Stuart, a pioneer physician who practiced medicine in his home in Fairview, Kentucky. His dream became a reality shortly after the turn of the century when his beloved wife became the inspiration and legacy for a new hospital.
Dr. Stuart was born in 1828, near Antioch Church. He 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 conducted a modest medical practice in Fairview for the next 67 years, where The Stuart House still stands. He married Jane "Jennie" Vaughn, and they had two children: May, who died in her 20s, and Willie, who died in infancy.
Through his dedication to serve the community, Dr. Stuart realized the area truly needed a hospital to care for those who were ill. This realization became more personal when his wife, Jennie Vaughn Stuart, fell and broke her hip while on a business trip to Hopkinsville.
Miss Jennie was taken to the old Hopkinsville Infirmary which was quite primitive at that time. Dr. Stuart, himself physically handicapped, climbed steep stairs daily to visit his wife during her stay. She would frequently ask him if he "still had her keys", which she usually kept tied around her waist. The keys were to a room in their home which she usually kept locked and spent much time "puttering around", as she would say. Several days later, Miss Jennie succumbed to her illness and passed away. After her passing Dr. Stuart and a relative entered the room Miss Jennie spent so much time puttering in. They were surprised to have found a considerable amount of savings in various hiding places. Miss Jennie had accumulated approximately $25,000, all labeled with dates and amounts. She saved earnings from selling eggs, butter, milk, and from her investments, which included many gold pieces the doctor had given her. She had hidden her treasures in gas pipes in the back of a closet, and behind pictures.
With the discoveries from his beloved wife, and some additional funds, Dr. Stuart donated the money to begin construction of a much needed hospital. The Jennie Stuart Memorial 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. The hospital’s first superintendent, Miss Wanda Williams, was a pioneer nurse and teacher. Her memoirs reflect a dedicated Dr. Stuart who could be seen planting trees on the hospital lawn and transplanting roses from Miss Jennie’s garden.
At that time, the hospital had twelve private rooms and four wards of four beds. Beds in wards were $3.00 a day and the private rooms were $4.50. Miss Williams referred to it as 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".
Today, Jennie Stuart Health cares for approximately 50,000 patients a year. We are proud of a history that was the dream of a country doctor to build our hospital, and a legacy born of heartbreak from the loss of a beloved wife and mother.