Muncy Valley Hospital’s origins began with the ‘Noble Mansion’
The history of the Muncy Valley Hospital and the Auxiliary is a compilation of research from Linda Poulton at the Muncy Historical Society and from published reports from “Connections” a publication printed in the mid 80s through the hospital. This is the first part in a series on the hospital’s history.
MUNCY – It started in 1920. Officially, the first hospital in Muncy was opened to the public on September 19, 1923. In October of 1920, the founding fathers were Dr. George Metzger of Hughesville, Dr. A.P. Hull of Montgomery, Dr. Alvin Poust of Hughesville, Dr. D.E. Kiess of Hughesville, Dr. Charles D. Voorhees of Hughesville, Dr. T.T. Gilmore of Picture Rocks, Dr. H.F. Baker of Muncy, and Dr. T. K. Wood of Muncy. Author Linda Poulton reports in the August 2003 edition of Now and Then, that the physicians met in the home of Dr. James Rankin in Muncy to revive the medical association of the 1860s and 70s.
“The primary objective was to form an association of medical doctors to the lower end of the county.”
Other doctors joined them. They were Drs. C.G. Renn and Derr from Lairdsville, W.C. King from Muncy and Joseph Corson from Hughesville.
Dr. George Metzger was elected president of the newly formed “Muncy Valley Medical Association.” The first meeting held a discussion on fees and costs for their services and medical visits to a person’s home. Now and Then states, “It was agreed a $2 charge would apply to visits within a radius of one mile from the center of each borough, and an additional $1 for the first mile beyond this radius and fifty cents for each succeeding mile.”
Membership grew to include Dr. Persing from Allenwood, Dr. Niple from Turbotville, Dr. Jesse Gordner from Jerseytown, and Dr. H.K. Davis from Sonestown.
Two years later in October of 1922, a committee was appointed to establish a hospital, and it was then decided that the “Noble Mansion” would be a desirable location.
The Noble house was owned by Hezekiah Noble who married Jane McLean Brown and they had 8 children together. The family acquired some wealth through the mercantile business and a general store, marketing and shipping lumber to Baltimore and Philadelphia with their canal boats. Hezekiah passed away in 1869 and his eldest son Ernest took over the business with his brother-in-law, H.V. Peterman. Their business was located where Muncy Bank and Trust now stands on the northwest corner of Main and Water Streets.
In 1893 Ernest Noble was one of the organizers of the Muncy Electric, Heat and Power Company. He has contributed money towards a pants factory, a coal yard business and his influence gave him the title “Merchant Prince of Muncy.” His home was built in the late 1800s on East Water Street and the Muncy Luminary described it as a “large commodious house” that included hot running water and electric lights. After the Nobles’ passed away, heirs put the home up for sale and Martha and Harriet Heydenreich purchased it for $5,844 which included the house, a barn and 30 acres.
The Noble Mansion was secured as a hospital in November of 1922 and the Association decided to purchase only the large three story brick house and the immediate grounds for $5,250 of which $3,000 could be left as a mortgage. They hired a firm of architects to convert the home into a medical facility.
It was estimated back then that the Muncy Valley had a population of 12 to 15,000 and each town had its own doctor. The nearest hospital was 12 miles or more away.
In December of 1922 the renovations on the house were completed and the Muncy Valley Hospital now had 20 beds, was privately funded and started with $11,000 plus $1,800 in capital. The physicians signed notes to pay off the old mansion and provide suitable fixtures which put them in debt for many years to start. “It was a frequent occurrence to borrow money for the hospital payroll and expenses,” wrote Poulton.
When the hospital opened on September 19, 1923, the doctors had to donate part of their income to the hospital and if a patient did not pay their bill, the physicians paid it to keep the facility going. They could not afford free care and in emergency cases, they had no choice as they were committed to provide health care at all times.