Project Canterbury

Where is the hospital, and How is it supported?

Chairman Westchester Archdeaconry Committee
Pelham Road, New Rochelle

October 22, 1908

[Text from typescript draft, courtesy of files in the
Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.]

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008

These questions are from time to time asked of the managers of the Westchester Missionary Branch of the Woman's Auxiliary.

In 1895 this Association adopted for its work among Indians the building of a missionary hospital in Arizona on the Indian Reservation given by the government to the Navajo tribe, numbering about 16,000 Indians, who wandered over the length and breadth of the tract with their flocks of sheep and ponies.

By the advice of the Bishop of Arizona, the Association decided to place this hospital for the Indians at Fort Defiance Arizona, a government station not garrisoned now, where an Indian school had been established. The Fort was under the agency at that time of an army officer, Lieut. Plummer, Eighth U. S. Infantry.

A government physician was also stationed there.

The suggestion of Bishop Kendrick that a "Mission Hospital" rather than a "Mission Station", should be erected, was warmly approved by Lieut. Plummer, as many sick Indians came to the Fort, who, after they had seen the government physician, he was obliged to send away, having no accommodations for them there. Another warm advocate for the hospital plan was Herbert Welsh, Esq. of Philadelphia, well known for his interest in the Indian cause, through his interest and work for the Indian Right's Association.

At a council held on October 20, 1895, at the NAVAJO Agency the Chiefs and Headmen of the tribe, met for the purpose of conveying a tract of 40 acres of land to the Protestant Episcopal Church, on which to build a hospital. Note, that the gift was [1/2] given to the "Protestant Episcopal Church", not to the Westchester Branch, nor to the Bishop, nor to Miss Thackara.

The document was drawn up by Lieut. Plummer, representing the United States Government, and signed by both himself and the Bishop. A copy of the original document is in the possession of the Bishop. The Westchester Hospital is therefore endorsed by the Protestant Episcopal Church, by the Bishop of the Diocese in which it is erected and has also the approval of our own Bishop Greer. Miss Thackara, who was working in the Government School at Fort Defiance, through the influence of Bishop Whipple, was now appointed by Bishop Kendrick to take full charge of the work. She has proved herself an heroic Christian woman as well as a gentle lady, with characteristics of firmness and fidelity which fit her eminently for the position of matron or superintendent of the hospital. She has won the confidence, not only of her Bishop and supporters, but also that of these Navajo Indians in an unusual way.

To her is due under God, the development and success of the Hospital.

How Is The Hospital Supported?

At a meeting held at the residence of Mrs. John C. Jay, in New York, in 1888, when Miss Cornelia Jay presided, assisted by Miss Schuyler, it was resolved to inaugurate the work of the Woman's Auxiliary in the parishes of Westchester County, the association to be known by the name of the "Westchester Branch of the Woman's Auxiliary to the Board of Missions".

Delegates were present from the parishes of Rye, New Rochelle, Port Chester, Westchester, White Plains, St. John's and St. Paul's Yonkers, Irvington, Pelham, St. Paul's Sing Sing, Mt. Kisco, Scarsdale, St. Mark's Tarrytown, Pelhamville, Wilmot, Montrose.

[3] A vote was taken as to the advisability of forming this Association, with the result of an unanimous decision in its favor. Three managers were then elected: For the Hudson line, Mrs. Wm. Casey; Harlem line, Mrs. Winthrop Cowden; New Haven line, Miss F. Schuyler; Miss Jay continuing to act as President.

The first county meeting was held at Rye, a large number of delegates attending. Archdeacon Van Kleeck presiding and many of the clergy were present to represent home missions. Work for the Indians was then selected, which resulted in the building of an Indian hospital in Arizona at Fort Defiance, which met with general approbation. Bishop Kendrick having urged the building of the hospital at this place. Many meetings were now held in Westchester parishes to present the cause to the clergy and delegates, which were also largely attended, Archdeacon Van Kleeck, our valued advisor always presiding by special request, and bringing into the work the influence of his ripe Christian character.

By invitation of the committee, these meetings were addressed by the Bishop of Arizona, Lieut. Plummer and Herbert Welsh, Esq., the originators of the work. These speakers fresh from the field aroused much enthusiasm and interest in the work, not only as a means of helping the sick, but also as the best method of reaching this tribe with the Gospel.

By the steady work of the parishes and through generous gifts from many friends in New York and elsewhere, the hospital was finally built and paid for; the money given always generously, willingly and lovingly, in small or large sums, all equally valuable in the sight of Him who thought much of even the widow's mite. From its inauguration the hospital work grew steadily under the care at first only of Miss Thackara and the [3/4] government doctor, with a few Indian helpers. The Indians soon learned to love the place where they were sure of a welcome when bringing their sick on litters or on their ponies, and they looked upon it as their own. Miss Thackara always allowed them to camp on the place, and gave free access to the wards where their relatives and children looked so comfortable and happy and were so tenderly nursed if suffering. One among them, young Philip, a converted and baptized Indian, became an object lesson to all, by his patience and gentleness and happiness while waiting till the Great Good Shepherd should call him to himself. His most prized earthly treasure was a watch which he had long desired like that of his friend, Clarence, Miss Thackara's right hand young Indian, in charge of the hospital team. Members of the Westchester Committee sent him one, which he kept by his side until his death and asked to have it buried with him. It is hard for Miss Thackara to have them suffer. In another letter she recalls an incident of a young Indian mother worn out with the care of the baby she loved so well, whom Miss Thackara had brought from the ward to give her a bed, and bade her lie down on the hearth before the warm fire in her little sitting room, while she folded the baby in her own arms and sat down by the mother, only after a while to find the little baby had fallen into a sleep no more to wake on earth.

As the work increased in the number of patients to care for, the Board of Mission allowed the hospital aid in paying the salaries of Miss Thackara and a nurse, of whom quite a number from time to time helped her, some very efficient, but not able to remain. She has been of late often much embarrassed by the lack of funds to meet the running expenses of the hospital, ever increasing with the increase of patients. Indian workmen must be paid weekly, and the bills for food monthly. If funds [4/5] do not come, she writes one of her midnight letters, having no time in the daylight, when nurses and assistants have left to return home, so she waits till all is quiet and the patients attended to for the night. If there is need to stay with them for the night in the absence of nurse or assistant, she cannot get the letters ready for the early mail, and so it comes that many of her letters are unanswered. The assistant in the household left her in May and her nurse in August and she was still without help on the fourth of October, the date of her last letter. She writes of having to do kitchen and laundry work during this time herself, often before, with only the help of her Indian girl Matty.

When last here she asked if the kind Westchester ladies could get water brought into the little washing room in the hospital as it all had to be carried in and carried out, increasing labor with the increase of patients. The Westchester Committee willingly came to her help again and in her last letter she writes that every dollar has been spent to advantage.

Before returning to the Hospital after her last visit to New York, she mentioned to two of her friends her longing desire that a little chapel could be built on the hospital grounds, where simple services could be held on Sunday and the baptisms (which are frequent) and the Holy Communion could be administered when the Bishop paid the hospital his visits as visitor. He has just returned from a week's visit there now. On the death of Miss Jay the following year, from overwork for missions, it was proposed that a "Cornelia Jay Memorial Chapel" be erected on the hospital grounds, which met with a ready response from her many relatives and friends. The greater part of the $5,000 required [5/6] for the completion of the building is already in hand. Any further donations should be gladly received by the treasurer, Mrs. J. A. SCRYMSER, 107 East 21st Street, New York. Bishop Potter of New York was among the first to send a gift of $100, thus stamping our Hospital work with his approbation, also.

Chairman Westchester Archdeaconry Committee
Pelham Road, New Rochelle, Oct. 23, 1908.

Project Canterbury