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Portrayal of Abigail Geisinger reveals hospital’s history

By Staff | Sep 19, 2018

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Glenn Williams and Meg Geffken converse at the Taber Museum in Williamsport following program on Abigail Geisinger.

WILLIAMSPORT – Glenn Williams and Abigail Geisinger, (aka) Meg Geffken, discuss events connected with early days at the now famous hospital, The Geisinger Medical Center.

Geffken’s program, presented at the Thomas T. Taber Museum in Williamsport on September 13, covered Abigail’s life as well as the early history of the hospital founded in Danville, first with 44 beds on 13 acres of land.

Abigail had many family members die young including her mother when Abigail was an infant, and at 42, her father died when she was 15. Her first husband died of disease during the Civil War.

The childless widow wed George F. Geisinger, a well-to-do businessman and entrepreneur. Following his death, she decided to fund a hospital in Danville which opened in 1915 two weeks prior to schedule due to an outbreak of typhoid.

As Abigail was first widowed by a Civil War soldier, she contacted national leaders during WWI, volunteering to care for any wounded soldiers transferred to the hospital.

The recent program was held last week so that attendees were given the opportunity to share their connections with Geisinger.

In the 1950’s, Glenn Williams, an engineer, was part of the Williamsport based M. L. Smith Company who updated the hospital’s sewage system. In the 1970’s, Williams returned as an engineer for water installation. “When digging across old route 11, we unearthed the town’s trolley tracks,” Williams said.

More connections with Geisinger were revealed when Williams said his sister Peg was born there. The Williams’ family moved frequently settling in towns where his father installed updated looms in silk mills. At one point, the family resided in Hughesville. Glenn and his wife the former Mary Ann Rood, have been attending the museum’s series on WWI as the wife’s father was in the Army.

Mr. Williams is a volunteer at the Taber Museum. Geffken, of Columbia County, has given several first-person accounts of various women in history, among them Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Beatrice Potter and Queen Victoria.