Note: This content comes from the book Camden County Medical Society, 1846-1956
The founding of a hospital for the care of the sick and injured in the Camden area had long been a project in the mind of Dr. Richard M. Cooper, who practiced medicine in this vicinity for over thirty years. He died in 1874 without having actually seen the work started.
His twin brother, William D. Cooper, to whom the doctor bequeathed his estate; and his sisters, Sarah W. and Elizabeth B. Cooper, knew of his wishes and continued to talk and plan toward this end. William Cooper survived his brother Richard by only a few months. His sisters, together with his surviving brother, Alexander Cooper, designated the land to be used for this purpose and a Board of Managers consisting of Albert W. Markley, Charles P. Stratton, Rudolphus Bingham, Dr. Thomas Cullen, Joseph B. Cooper, John W. Wright and Peter L. Voorhees was appointed to carry out the venture.
These gentlemen applied for a charter, and an act of incorporation from the State Legislature was granted on March 24, 1875. The Cooper family conveyed the land, which was valued at $50,000, and established a fund of $200,000 for the purpose of building and operating the hospital.
Plans were drawn and building started. The hospital was completed in 1877, but the cost was such that, even with additional contributions from the Cooper family and other interested friends, there were insufficient funds to open and operate the hospital, although, in all, approximately a quarter million dollars had been given to build and endow it.
Ten years after its construction, the hospital was opened. During this time the invested funds and properties had increased sufficiently to warrant this step, even though an additional $30,000 was needed to refit the plumbing, and add a separate building for the laundry and other necessities.
Dedication exercises were held on August 11, 1887. Nurses had been secured, and a staff appointed. The physicians appointed to attend were Doctors H. Genet Taylor, A. M. Mecray, D. P. Pancoast and W. A. Davis.
The surgeons were Doctors E. L. B. Godfrey, O. P. Gross, Dowling Benjamin and J. F. Walsh. Dr. Joseph H. Wills was the first pathologist. Dr. Harry B. Jarrett was Resident Physician
The staff was duly organized and the various duties and assignments made.
One of the earliest services instituted was the Dispensary or Out-Patient Department.
The hospital grew and the table-like reports submitted showed increasing numbers of patients, and variation in diagnosis.
In 1890 Miss Rachael Bourke, a graduate of the Massachusetts General and McLean Hospital, was secured to act as Chief Nurse. The Training School for nurses was started and became almost immediately successful. Miss Bourke stayed on for thirteen years, and the Nursing School was developed as the hospital grew
The first published report was issued in 1892. At that time it was noted that there had been 2927 in-patients and over 16,000 out-patients treated at the hospital over a five year period. Doctors E. A. Y. Schellenger and Paul M. Mecray were Resident Physicians at this time, and assisted in compiling this report.
In each of the succeeding reports there is noted, as there is today, a need for more beds and other facilities.
The Nurses’ Home was constructed in 1902 and opened early in 1903. Additional beds were added, and in the space vacated other facilities came into existence.
In 1907 the north wing was built. This permitted a laboratory, x-ray department and dining rooms on the first floor. An operating room suite occupied the second floor and two small wards were situated on the third floor. These housed the obstetric and women’s medical departments.
In 1911 a modern fireproof building was erected on the Sixth Street side for the housing of the out-patient department and rooms for private patients. This building now houses the men’s medical department and a private floor for women.
In April 1921 the old laundry and power plant burned, and was replaced by a new power house with an entirely separate laundry. In 1924 the old porches at the east end of the old building were razed and replaced by a brick and reinforced concrete addition, which increased the bed capacity in the old wards and provided a children’s department on the ground floor.
Mr. S. Canning Childs, one of the founders of the American Stores Company, gave the Ann Canning Building in memory of his mother. This building provided three floors for private and semi-private patients. A finished basement gave additional facilities to the rapidly growing out-patient department. It was opened in 1927.
Our services to the community were ever increasing, often under great difficulty, but the call was always met and the work done.
In 1939 the Campbell Soup Company gave and erected the new pavilion on Sixth Street, across the front of the old building, in memory of Dr. John T. Dorrance. This modern six story building houses operating rooms, a new children’s department, three floors given over to the care of private and semi-private patients, and a modern laboratory space, staff rooms and library on the first floor.